Books·Gift Guide

12 books for the outdoor enthusiast on your holiday shopping list

Do you have nature lovers among your friends and family? Check out these books that could be the perfect holiday present!

Got nature lovers among your friends and family? Check out these 12 books that could be the perfect holiday present!

Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

Finding the Mother Tree is a memoir by Suzanne Simard. (Bill Heath, Allen Lane)

Biologist Suzanne Simard discovered the reality of the interconnection and intelligence of the forest. She's been able to find out that the trees are indeed whispering to each other — communicating not through the wind, but through the soil. Her new scientific memoir, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, describes her life and research. 

Finding the Mother Tree was the grand prize winner for the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Competition and a category winner for the mountain environment and natural history award.

Simard is a B.C.-based author and academic who grew up in Canadian forests as a descendant of loggers. She is a professor in the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia. 

Why 'mother trees' are crucial in fighting climate change

2 years ago
Duration 2:29
UBC scientist Suzanne Simard researches how the oldest trees in forests nurture, communicate and protect younger seedlings.

Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee

Two Trees Make a Forest is a book by Jessica J. Lee. (Hamish Hamilton, Ricardo A. Rivas)

Two Trees Make a Forest is a nonfiction book that explores how geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories. A chance discovery of letters written by her immigrant grandfather leads Jessica J. Lee to her ancestral homeland, Taiwan. There, she traces his story while growing closer to the land he knew. Throughout her adventures, Lee uncovers surprising parallels between nature and human stories that shaped her family and their beloved island. In the memoir, she also turns a critical eye on colonialist explorers who mapped the land and named plants, and both relied on and often erased the labour and knowledge of local communities.

Two Trees Make a Forest won the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction and the adventure travel category for the 2021 Banff Mountain Book Competition. It was also a finalist for Canada Reads 2021, when it was championed by singer-songwriter Scott Helman.

Lee is a British Canadian Taiwanese author, environmental historian and winner of the RBC Taylor Prize Emerging Author Award. She also wrote the memoir Turning.

Jessica J. Lee's 2021 Canada Reads contender, Two Trees Make a Forest, In Search of My Family's Past Among Taiwan's Mountains and Coasts.

Watermelon Snow by Lynne Quarmby

Watermelon Snow is a book by Lynne Quarmby. (McGill-Queen's University Press)

Watermelon snow is the name given to snow that goes pink or red from a species of ice loving algae. Watermelon Snow is also the name of Canadian scientist Lynne Quarmby's latest book. It's about a recent adventure trip she took on a schooner full of artists in the high Arctic. Her years of climate change activism hadn't achieved what she had imagined, and she was deeply concerned about the future of the planet.

Quarmby is a Canadian scientist, activist and politician. She is a professor and chair of the department of molecular biology and biochemistry at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.

Lynne Quarmby talks to Shelagh Rogers about her book, Watermelon Snow.

Land-Water-Sky / Ndè–Tı–Yat'a by Katłıà

Land-Water-Sky / Ndè–Tı–Yat'a is a book by Katłıà. (Fernwood Publishing)

Land-Water-Sky / Ndè–Tı–Yat'a is a fictional composite novel with six parts. The experimental work imagines what it would be like if Indigenous legends were part of contemporary life, making mischief and reminding us of the importance and power of Indigenous history, culture and sharing stories.

Katłįà is a Dene writer and activist from the Northwest Territories. Land-Water-Sky / Ndè–Tı–Yat'a is her first novel. 

Katłįà Lafferty on her debut novel, Land-Water-Sky / Ndè-Tı-Yat’a.

Blue Sky Kingdom by Bruce Kirkby

Bruce Kirkby is the author of Blue Sky Kingdom. (Douglas & McIntyre)

Bruce Kirkby's life had become one of distraction — he realized he was looking mindlessly at his phone and social media for hours. It was a cycle that he was determined to overcome and break. With an eye on refocusing his life, in 2014 Kirkby embarked on a six-month journey with his family, travelling to and living in the Himalayas. Their destination: an ancient Buddhist monastery in the remote Zanskar valley, one of the last places where Tibetan Buddhism is still practised freely in its original setting. He wrote about the experience of avoiding modern distraction in Blue Sky Kingdom.

Kirkby is an adventurer, photographer and author from British Columbia.

Bruce Kirkby on his latest book, Blue Sky Kingdom: An Epic Family Journey to the Heart of the Himalaya.

This One Wild Life by Angie Abdou

This One Wild Life is a book by Angie Abdou. (ECW Press, Arsenal Pulp Press)

This One Wild Life is the story of a mother and daughter bonding over hiking. When Angie Abdou sees her daughter becoming more introverted, she decides to give them a challenge one summer: to hike a different peak near their Fernie, B.C., home each week. 

Abdou is a teacher, writer and frequent columnist for The Next Chapter. Her first novel, The Bone Cage, was a finalist on Canada Reads 2011. Her other books include In Case I Go and Home Ice.

TNC columnist and author talks to Shelagh Rogers on her latest memoir This One Wild Life.

Ice Walker by James Raffan

Ice Walker is a book by James Raffan. (Simon & Schuster, Jason van Bruggen)

In Ice Walker, explorer and adventurer James Raffan asks readers to look at the Arctic through the eyes of a polar bear named Nanu and her family. As climate change changes the Arctic, the bear must figure out how to find food and shelter for her family. The landscape that is warming up, and precious ice is melting rapidly and everything is changing.

Raffan is a writer, teacher, geographer and adventurer. He has written more than 20 books, including Circling the Midnight Sun, Emperor of the North and Summer North of Sixty. His work has appeared in several Canadian media outlets, including the Globe and Mail, Canadian Geographic and CBC.

James Raffan talks to Shelagh Rogers about his book, Ice Walker: A Polar Bear's Journey Through the Fragile Arctic.

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Bewilderment is a novel by Richard Powers. (Dean D. Dixon, Random House Canada)

Taking place in a "near-present," Bewilderment is a portrait of the love between a bereaved father and his sensitive son Robin — who was partly inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg. The novel combines the immediacy of a recognizable dystopian reality, including the climate crisis and the threat of species extinction, with imagined life on other planets. 

Bewilderment was a finalist for the 2021 Booker Prize

Richard Powers is an American novelist whose works explore the effects of modern science and technology. He won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Overstory in 2019.

Powers spoke with Eleanor Wachtel about his passion for writing novels that explore our relationship with the natural world. His new novel, Bewilderment, is a finalist for the 2021 Booker Prize. This conversation is presented in partnership with the Vancouver Writers Fest and the Toronto International Festival of Authors.

Weeding by Geneviève Lebleu

Weeding is a comic by Geneviève Lebleu. (Conundrum Press)

Weeding is a graphic novel and satirical portrayal of feminine archetypes in the social landscape of the 1960s. Martha hosts a group of middle-aged women at her suburban home on an autumn afternoon. The day takes a sudden turn when Elisabeth, an estranged friend, turns up unexpectedly — and she isn't the only unwanted guest at the tea party. 

Geneviève Lebleu is a multidisciplinary artist from Québec City and is currently based in Montreal. Her work was featured in various events, exhibitions and festivals.

A Short History of the Blockade by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson

A Short History of the Blockade is a book by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. (University of Alberta Press, Zahra Siddiqui)

A Short History of the Blockade was a lecture given by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, as part of the CLC Kreisel Lecture Series. In A Short History of the Blockade, Simpson uses Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg storytelling techniques to look at Indigenous blockades through the lens of the beaver, an animal known for building dams, which are natural blockades. A Short History of the Blockade looks at the intersection between culture, politics and nature and posits that dams, and blockades, are world-building and life-giving practices that have the potential to shape, or reshape, life as we know it.

Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, activist, musician, artist, author and member of Alderville First Nation. Her work often centres on the experiences of Indigenous Canadians. Her other books include Islands of Decolonial LoveThis Accident of Being LostDancing on Our Turtle's Back and As We Have Always Done

Renowned Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar and artist, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson talks about the philosophy and ethics that undergird Anishnaabe worlds in her 2020 Kreisel Lecture entitled, A Short History of the Blockade: Giant Beavers, Diplomacy and Regeneration in Nishnaabewin. *Originally aired on April 16, 2020.

Not on My Watch by Alexandra Morton

Not On My Watch is a book by Alexandra Morton. (Random House Canada, Chris Corday/CBC)

Alexandra Morton is a biologist and activist with a mission: to save British Columbia's wild salmon. She's been dedicated to this cause for 30 years. Not on My Watch chronicles this long fight, but also provides a roadmap for those who want to take up the cause and protect other natural habitats themselves.

Morton is a biologist and activist known for her research on ocean-based salmon farming. She has authored more than 20 scientific papers on the impact of salmon farming. Not on My Watch is her first book.

Alexandra Morton had planned to devote her life to studying orcas, but when fish farms moved into her remote B.C. community, she couldn’t ignore their impact on wild salmon. The biologist has chronicled her decades-long crusade against open-net aquaculture in her new book, Not on My Watch.

Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Muller

Life in the City of Dirty Water is a book by Clayton Thomas-Muller. (Allen Lane, Thelma Young Lutunatabua)

A memoir by Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, Life in the City of Dirty Water covers his entire life: from playing with toy planes as a way to escape from domestic and sexual abuse and enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada's residential school system; to becoming a young man who fought against racism and violence, but also spent time in juvenile prison; to becoming a committed activist. Along the way, Thomas-Muller tries to remain tied to his Cree heritage and spirituality.

Thomas-Muller is a member of the Treaty #6 based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation located in Northern Manitoba. He's campaigned on behalf of Indigenous peoples around the world for more than 20 years, working with numerous organizations. 

In an adapted excerpt from his newly-released book Life in the City of Dirty Water: A Memoir of Healing, Cree author and activist Clayton Thomas-Müller reflects on his own family's history with residential schools, and the path forward.

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