Terry Fallis shares his Canada Reads gift-giving plan

'Tis the season. I give a lot of books as gifts this time of year. It's partly selfish. Giving books means shopping for books, one of my favourite pastimes. I love to spend time in bookstores. Of course, for me, spending time in bookstores equates to spending money in bookstores. I see it as a classic win-win-win. I get to browse through my favourite stores, my family and friends get to unwrap book and I can help in my own modest way to keep the booksellers' lights on in challenging economic times.

This year, like Canada Reads, I've decided to go full-on non-fiction. So what better place to start on my gift-giving list than the Canada Reads titles themselves? (Let's just keep what follows between us, at least until after the presents are opened.)

The Game by Ken Dryden


I've been a hockey player and fan for most of my life. I grew up in the '70s when Ken Dryden was among the NHL's top goaltenders. In fact, when my twin brother Tim and I would play road hockey in front of our house nearly every waking hour, I would be Ken Dryden when it was my turn to "go in net." I would sometimes strike his famous pose that was so freighted with nonchalance, as he rested both his hands and sometimes even his chin atop his goalie stick. I looked a little ridiculous doing it and had great difficulty stopping the tennis ball in this position.

I'm giving Ken Dryden's The Game to my brother Tim and my older son, both avid hockey fans. Few sports books take you deeper into an elite player's mind.

Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre


I was heavily involved in the student movement during my university years. During that time, I carried my share of placards and suffered writer's cramp from signing petitions. Don't misunderstand me. I do not for an instant equate demonstrating for lower tuition fees with the dangerous game of political dissent in Chile during the Pinochet regime as captured so well by Carmen Aguirre in Something Fierce. But I'm familiar with the notion of standing up for something you believe in even though the stakes were of a different order of magnitude.

So I'll be giving Something Fierce to those in my circle who, if they'd been born in Chile, would surely have joined Carmen, her sister and parents in the resistance movement. They'll thank me.

On a Cold Road by Dave Bidini


Who hasn't dreamed of going on the road with a rock band? I certainly have, and still do on occasion. I played guitar and sang in a band at university. My band mates accused me of being a graduate of the Anne Murray school of singing and suggested we advertise for a front man with a growl. Andy Maize answered our ad and become our singer. I think it was his first band. You've heard him on the radio as the co-founder and lead singer of the Skydiggers, an amazing band with a strong cult following.

I wisely abandoned the notion of touring but Dave Bidini's On a Cold Road brought it all back. The Rheostatics are an amazing band, too, captured brilliantly in this book. It's a great read that I'll be giving to the struggling musicians in my family as a thoughtful glimpse inside a world most only dream about.

Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat


What a harrowing tale, so well told. I shared the stage with Marina Nemat at the Ottawa International Writers Festival a year or so ago. Hearing her speak, and reading her book, Prisoner of Tehran, leaves an indelible mark. It must. It is a story of rare courage and strength.

I'll be giving Marina's book to family and friends who perhaps, like all of us from time to time, need to be reminded that while we enjoy a relatively peaceful and free society, citizens of many other countries do not.

The Tiger by John Vaillant


Great books often push you out of your comfort zone and into the shoes of characters in the story. I've never been to the far east of Russia, but I feel like I've been there now that I've read The Tiger. Nor have I ever been a tiger, but I now have a powerful sense of what it's like to prowl the frigid forest and stalk a poacher. This is a book that reads like a thriller yet sheds so much light on so many issues.

I hope my father-in-law is not reading this blog post because he'll soon be opening John Vaillant's great book. He's a voracious reader and I know he'll be riveted by this yarn.

There, my list is complete. Shopping was easy this year. See you on the other side of the holiday break, when I'll be taking a closer look at each book in turn.


Terry Fallis is the author of The Best Laid Plans, a satirical novel of Canadian politics that won the 2008 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour and the 2011 Canada Reads title. It's currently being adapted as a six-part mini-series for CBC Television. His follow-up novel, The High Road, was a finalist for the 2011 Leacock Medal. McClelland & Stewart will publish his third novel in September 2012.

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