Should I Gift It? The Day 6 holiday book guide

Day 6 books columnist Becky Toyne offers up seven handpicked selections for your holiday shopping list.
An employee searches the shelves at Bookbarn International in Somerset, England. ( Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

There's something wonderful about giving a book that's selected deliberately and precisely for someone in your life. That said, there are so many good books to choose from that sometimes selecting the right book can be overwhelming. So let us help.

Every year we ask our Day 6 books columnist, Becky Toyne, to come up with a few books that would make great gifts.

This year, she's picked two books about post-apocalyptic futures, a period noir, a cute but cautionary kid's tale, a pair of poetry collections, and a bio about Joni Mitchell.


The gift of fiction

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan is the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won a Pulitzer Prize and was also a YES on a previous edition of "Should I Read It."  Her new novel, Manhattan Beach, is quite a departure from Goon Squad, though there are some goons in the book.
It's a historical novel that opens in America during the Depression and continues throughout the Second World War.  It tells the story of a plucky young woman whose father mysteriously disappeared when she was a child. She grows up to become a diver in the naval yard, where she slowly figures out what happened to her father.
It's a great read. I think it will appeal to so many people. It's literary historical fiction, but it's also more commercial in the sense that it's a compelling page-turner.
Also, as a bonus, it came out in hardcover and softcover so you can choose something more "gifty" or something at lower price point.

American War by Omar El Akkad (Penguin Random House Canada)

American War by Omar El Akkad

American War by Omar El Akkad is one of the big buzz books of the year. It came out in April and it's showing up on a bunch of year-end 'best of' lists.
The book is about a second American civil war, which breaks out in 2074. This time it's an environmental war. Climate change has wreaked havoc on the the eastern seaboard of the United States. Florida is gone. Louisiana is gone. The capital has moved from Washington to Columbus, Ohio.
The Middle East is no longer the centre of oil, but the centre of solar panels, and it's too hot for anyone to live there.
The reason that oil - or the lack thereof - is relevant is because fossil fuels have been outlawed. It's this ruling that tipped the U.S. into war. A number of southern states have decided to secede because they wanted to defy this law.
It's also the story of Sarat Chestnut, who is six years old at the beginning of the book. Her family lives just outside the seceded southern states, but her father is killed and the war is so close that her mother decides they need to move. Sarat's mother takes her children to a refugee camp where they stay for many, many years. As the story unfolds, Sarat grows up, becomes radicalized and eventually becomes a terrorist.

Cherie Dimaline is the author of The Marrow Thieves. (Cormorant Books / Dancing Cat Books Publishers (DCB))

The Marrow Thieves By Cherie Dimaline 

The Marrow Thieves, which won the Governor General's Award for Young People's Literature, is another dystopian novel set in the future. However, this one set in Canada.  
In the future, people have lost the ability to dream. More accurately, no one except the Indigenous population can dream. People who can't dream are hunting the Indigenous population to harvest their bone marrow, which holds the cure for the rest of the world.
That's the main theme. It's a pretty dark premise. On top of that, The Marrow Thieves is a coming of age story about a 15-year-old boy named Frenchie.  He develops a familial relationship with the co-survivors, and his new-found family are constantly trying to outpace 'the recruiters' who are trying to round them up and take them into what is, essentially, a residential school.
The plot unfolds through flashbacks, and storytelling, and education of the people in the group.

The gift of poetry

the sun and her flowers by Rupi Kaur (Simon & Schuster Canada)

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur has sold more than two million copies of her new book of poetry. The Sun and Her Flowers has been at the top of the bestseller list for nearly three months, which is a huge accomplishment for a book of poetry.
Kaur, who is Canadian, has invigorated the poetry game and has become a global sensation in the process.  Some of that is thanks to her eight million Instagram followers.

There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker (Penguin Random House Canada)

There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker

In addition to The Sun and Her Flowers, Toyne recommends There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker, which appeals to the same kind of poetry reader.
Morgan Parker is a young woman and her book, like Flowers, deals with themes of femininity, body image, empowerment and trauma. These are very personal poems, but there is also a lot of pop culture too. There are poems about Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, there are Marvin Gaye lyrics, and the epigraph to the book are lyrics by Kendrick Lamar.
It came out in the spring and it has been reviewed very favourably everywhere from NPR to the Washington Post to VICE to Buzzfeed to the Oprah magazine, so it really has hit all of the buttons from highbrow to the more commercial side of publishing.

The gift of non-fiction

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe (HarperCollins Canada)

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe

Reckless Daughter is a biography of Joni Mitchell written by Syracuse University professor and music critic David Yaffe. It's clear in every sentence of this book that Yaffe is a huge music nerd and a huge fan of Joni Mitchell.
The book is effectively a love letter, but one of the things that works so well is that Yaffe isn't above acknowledging when Mitchell tells him something that doesn't quite add up. For example, he'll unpack a story about the inspiration for a song. Then he'll weave a comment about how she debuted the song a years before meeting her supposed muse. He also used music lyrics by Mitchell, Carole King, David Crosby, James Taylor, Prince and more to tell parts of the story. If you love Joni Mitchell, the book really is an exhaustive trip through all of her music and it's a fantastic read.

The gift of pictures

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake (Eleven 05 Communications)

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

This is a heartwarming picture book about a little boy who is getting undressed for his bath. He really wants to be independent so he tells his mother he can do it himself, and so she leaves the room and he gets stuck in his shirt. Still Stuck is the story of the little boy imagining how his life might play out if he never gets out of his shirt.
You don't see his face for 90 percent of the book, just nipples and his chubby belly, which kind of looks like a face. It's a darling little picture book for ages 3 to 7.

The gift of giving

Queen Elizabeth II at Combermere Barracks in Windsor 08 December 2003, where she recorded her Christmas Day message to the Commonwealth. POOL ROTA PA (Photo credit should read FIONA HANSON/AFP/Getty Images) (Fiona Hason/AFP/Getty Images)

We have all seven books on Becky's list to give away. For your chance to win, e-mail us at and tell us which book you're most looking forward to reading this holiday. Put BOOKS in the subject line and please remember to include your mailing address with your answer.

We'll pick two winners at random.

*While the Queen is an avid reader, she has never won or entered a Day 6 book giveaway (unless she's entered using a pseudonym). 

To hear Becky Toyne breakdown her full gift guide, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.