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Cover Image of Lucky: A Memoir by Alice Sebold published by Back Bay Books
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Gift Books for Holidays 2009

abstract:Warning: gratuitous naked hockey player photo explained later; do NOT let your imaginations run to Bruno-like movie segments. Oh those book-wormy Canucks... Even in winter, or perhaps because of the long winters, there is a new literary related news item every week. What am I talking about? Let's take them sequentially. First, the November prizes: the Scotia Bank Giller Prize and its competitor the Governor General (aka the GG) award ceremonies. In Canada it does not suffice to wait-n-see who wins either of these awards. If you are worth your salty Canadian back bacon you are expected to have read several titles on both short lists and have an opinion on each. Phew! Then on December first, the Globe and Mail newspaper comes out with its Globe 100, staff picks for the best books of 2009, a list that features both national writers and an excellent sampling of the best books from the two other culture connections, the USA and the UK. You barely scrape through the list, reading the short summaries provided on each and circling titles targeted as gifts for holiday shopping, when the CBC Canada Reads group announces the list of 5 novelists and 5 celebrity defenders who will compete in media debates to win the public's vote for the top spot as the 2010 Canada Reads title - meant to be read by all Canadians. It's pure gladiator stuff. I liken the pairing of authors with celebs to a hockey team that has their buff defenseman shouldering opponents into the boards when they skate close to the team's goal scoring forward. Someone once complained to me that men in Canada are turning into hermaphroditic frogs (capable only of asexual reproduction) because of the strong feminist culture, and I had to counter with a hockey reference: "Where else do men willingly give up their front teeth for a sport and have the courage to wear a hairstyle known as the mullet?" Now refocus your attention from, ahem hockey, to books. Here is BookBuffet's hot pick list gleaned from all-of-the-above book lists (and a few more) in 6 easy categories for your holiday shopping pleasure. "A book is a gift you can open again and again." –Garrison Keillor

article:

December 03, 2009
LITERARY
Raymond Carver: A Writer's Life
By Carol Slenicka, Scribner, 592 pages $35

Raymond Carver is possibly one of America's most noted writer-poets of the 20th century. He revitalized the short story saying "I am inclined to brevity and intensity". Compared to Hemingway, Chekov and Kafka. He was friends with the likes of John Cheever and John Gardener and shared the former's struggle with alcholism. He grew up in Yakima, Washington on the banks of the mighty Columbia River. He died of lung cancer at the age of 50. This book painstakingly goes through Carver's life with particular attention to the people in it who shaped his writing and rocketed his career. That would be Escquire editor, Gordon Lish and his marketing guru, Gary Fisketjon. His second wife is also credited with pulling him out of a decade of destructive drinking. "He was a materialist and a sensualist and a dreamer," writes biographer Carol Slenicka. This is a book for any literary person on your shopping list. Send me a copy! FICTION
The Golden Mean
by Annabel Lyon, Random House Canada

Shortlisted for the GG, Annabel Lyon's The Golden Mean is a wise and subtle journey into the Court of Philip of Macedon, the mind of Aristotle and his complex relationship with his pupil, Alexander the Great. In this glorious balancing act of a book, Aristotle emerges as a man both brilliant and blind, immersed in life but terrified of living.




NONFICTION
Burmese Lessons: A Love Story
By Karen Connelly, Random House, 480 pages

When Karen Connelly travelled to Burma in the mid-1990s, she planned merely to write a series of articles about an imprisoned dissident. Instead, she found herself writing a harrowing account of life under Burma's military dictatorship - the terror, the treachery, the brutality, but also the astonishingly resilient serenity, camaraderie and fatalism of the Burmese people. In the process, Connelly was forced to confront some of the most troubling questions any political writer must inevitably face: where is the line between being an observer and a participant, and what needs to be protected most: one's public writing or one's private life. An insightful, riveting book. Shortlisted for the BC Book Award, NonFiction.

BIOGRAPHY
Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau: 1968-2000
By John English, Knopf Canada, 789 pages, $39.95

In the second and last volume of his life of the most provocative, controversial, flamboyant and intellectually profound prime minister in Canada’s history, John English devotes nearly as much scrutiny to Trudeau’s personal life as to his political one. He examines Trudeau’s relationship to his mother, Grace Elliott, and his tempestuous marriage to Margaret Sinclair. This becomes the standard biography of Trudeau for the sheer scope and thoroughness of the research. And it’s a good read. -William Johnson


SPIRITUAL
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: A New Edition, Translation, and Commentary
as translated by Edwin Bryant, North Point Press, 672 pages, $35.00

With the current popularity of the practice of yoga, any person on your holiday shopping list who takes this seriously would breath your name as their daily mantra with this book as a gift. It is a classical treatise on the Hindu understanding of mind and consciousness and on the technique of meditation. It has exerted immense influence over the religious practices of Hinduism in India and, more recently, in the West. Writes the publisher: "Edwin F. Bryant’s translation is clear, direct, and exact. Each sutra is presented as Sanskrit text, transliteration, and precise English translation, and is followed by Bryant’s authoritative commentary, which is grounded in the classical understanding of yoga and conveys the meaning and depth of the su-tras in a user-friendly manner for a Western readership without compromising scholarly rigor or traditional authenticity. In addition, Bryant presents insights drawn from the primary traditional commentaries on the sutras written over the last millennium and a half."

ART
Jeff Koons: Hulk Elvis
By Scott Rothkopf and Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Rizzoli, 140 pages $80

The definitive survey of Jeff Koons’s Hulk Elvis paintings, including an extensive interview with the artist in his studio. From the outset of his controversial career, Jeff Koons turned the traditional notion of the work of art and its context inside out. Focusing on unexpected yet banal objects as models for his work, he eschewed typical standards of "good taste" in art, instead embracing what he perceives as conventional middle-class values in order to expose the vulnerabilities of aesthetic hierarchies and value systems. Koons’s declared strategies are to make art beautiful, to strive for objectivity, to give back the familiar, and to reflect, and thus empower, the viewer. The works of Koons’s series Hulk Elvis burst with energy and precision yet mystify with their complex permutations and combinations of figurative and abstract elements. A charged mix of inflatable monkeys, geishas, birds, the Incredible Hulk, and the Liberty Bell jostle against realistically rendered landscapes, gestural paintings, steam engines and horse-drawn carriages, negative silhouettes, and underlying dot screens.

CHILDRENSGreener Grass
By Caroline Pignat, Red Deer Press, 276 pages
This is the Angela's Ashes of young adult books. In an age when we question the sense of entitlement our youth exhibit, this book is a reminder that more important issues are at stake and a glimpse into this fictional world, so well written by Pignat, is an important reading experience. This book is the opposite of New Moon and the Twilight Saga.




COOK BOOK
SAVOUR WHISTLER by Sasquatch Books, $38,
This cook book is a collaborative effort with the top Whistler restaurants participating offering the visitor, resident and Winter Olympics enthusiast a deliciously useful souvenir to take home to experience again and again. Available January 2010. You can pre-order this book through us and use the gift voucher as a stocking stuffer. E-mail me for details paulas @ bookbuffet.com

 

 

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