Day 6

Should I Gift It? The 2018 Day 6 holiday book guide

Day 6 books columnist Becky Toyne delivers her annual holiday book list, with suggestions for book lovers of all kinds.

Looking for the perfect gift? Books columnist Becky Toyne has you covered

The president of the union representing library workers in B.C. says she's worried that self-checkouts are minimizing the opportunity for librarians to interact with their patrons. (Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
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Books are easy to wrap.

That's one reason Day 6 books columnist Becky Toyne suggests giving them as gifts to your friends and family this holiday. 

Toyne has hand-picked seven titles that will suit everyone you're buying for this year — whether they're into fiction, memoir, young adult or picture books.

Here's what's on her list this year:

Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart

Gary Shteyngart is the author of the novel Lake Success. (Brigitte Lacombe/Penguin Random House )

This novel is about the figurative — and literal — road trip of a hedge fund billionaire named Barry. In the book, he has left his "trophy wife," storming out in the middle of the night with nothing but a suitcase full of expensive watches. 

Barry knows he's about to be investigated for "dirty trading," so he ditches his credit card and gets on a Greyhound bus, "with this sort of romantic notion of finding his high school sweetheart and connecting with her," Toyne recalled.

"The other major story line in here is that Barry has just found out that his three-year-old son is severely autistic," Toyne said. "He can't cope with that."

It's "a fun, fast-paced satire, with a lot of empathy," she added. Lake Success was named one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post.

Beirut Hellfire Society by Rawi Hage

Rawi Hage is one of Canada’s most celebrated writers. His latest book is set in 1978, in the early days of the Lebanese civil war. (Penguin Random House Canada, Babak Salari)

Beirut Hellfire Society, shortlisted for the 2018 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, is set during the Lebanese civil war and is intended as a book for "mourning for all of those who have been impacted by war or lost their lives in war." Beneath that is a story about death, bodily autonomy, society and goodness, Toyne told Day 6.

The book's main character, Pavlov, is an undertaker who's been recruited into a secret society that cremates the bodies of people who were rejected for traditional Christian burial practices, "because of their sexuality or because of their lifestyle choices," Toyne said

"For a novel that involves so much death and sadness, it is vibrant, very operatic and funny at times," Toyne said. It's "a very important book and a book very much about our times."

Dear Evelyn by Kathy Page

Kathy Page's latest book is the novel Dear Evelyn. (Biblioasis, Billie Woods)

"Hands down one of my favourite books of the year," Toyne said about Dear Evelyn, the 2018 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction prize winner.

It's a historical novel, set mostly in the 20th century, about a 70-year marriage.

"It's so brilliant [and] it's so touching and heartbreaking and compelling. I cried my eyes out," Toyne said. "It's fantastic."

Buffy Sainte Marie: The Authorized Biography by Andrea Warner and In Pieces by Sally Field

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography is written by Andrea Warner. In Pieces is a memoir by actor Sally Field. (Greystone Publishing, Grand Central Publishing)

Buffy Sainte Marie's biography is written by Day 6 music contributor Andrea Warner and chronicles the life of the outspoken performer.

Toyne recommends it alongside another of this year's most popular memoirs, In Pieces by Sally Field.

"I read these two books close together and found so much in common between them, I almost think that they would make a nice pairing as a gift," she said.

The two memoirs are stories of women born in the 1940s who become famous at a young age in the 1960s.

"They both share stories about having to find the balance of being a working woman and a wife and a mother, and making choices about your career, and having a difficult childhood and then channelling that into the work that you do as an adult," Toyne said.

The Indigenous People's Atlas of Canada

Three of the volumes of the new atlas focus on First Nation, Métis and Inuit peoples, while the fourth atlas cover the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and residential school. (Royal Canadian Geographical Society)

This atlas was produced by the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, but it is entirely written by Indigenous educators and community leaders.

"This was a result of a recommendation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it's a federally funded book," Toyne said, adding that it's written for young readers up to 18-years-old.

"It's beautiful. It's a slip case edition, with four books. Three of them are one each for the Inuit, the First Nations and the Métis people, and include pieces about culture, about history, tradition and also about contemporary concerns like the environment, climate change, education," she said.

"The first half of fourth book is the atlas, and it's a map of Canada, but not with the modern and provincial boundaries that we know. It shows all of the treaties and all of the nations. The second half of that book really speaks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

The book retails for about $100, and given the size and scope of the series, "I think it is a really good deal," Toyne added. "It's just the kind of thing that ought to be in every Canadian library and home."

Sleep, Sheep! by Kerry Lyn Sparrow 

Illustrations by Guillaume Perreault

Sleep, Sheep! by Kerry Lyn Sparrow and illustrated by Guillaume Perrault. (Kids Can Press)

Sleep, Sheep! is the story of a young boy named Duncan who doesn't mind going to bed, but has lots of toddler questions once his head hits the pillow, like, "Can I have a glass of water?" or he says, "I'm too hot," or "I'm too cold."

"And so one night his mum fills his room with everything he could possibly ask for. So when he tries to stall bedtime, there's nothing he can ask for — it's all already there, and she says, 'Try counting sheep.'"

That works until the 68th sheep asks for a glass of water and the sheep does everything that the child does before bed.

"It's brilliant," Toyne said. "I have a two-year-old and this is highly approved by him in our house."

Win a Book

We have a bunch of the books on this list to give away. If you'd like to enter to win one, click here to send us an email and tell us which of the books on the list won a Rogers Writers' Trust Award.


To hear the full interview with Becky Toyne, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.