Shelf Talkers: Ideas for Christmas 2017!

tagged : Shelf Talkers

It’s happened every December for the last few years. There will be a morning early in the month when I wake up before the alarm with a strange, unsettled feeling, a sense that there is something missing in my life. The first time it happened, it took me most of the morning to identify this absence; in subsequent years it was clear from the start: I miss being a bookseller in December.

I was a bookseller for a long, long time, a proud independent. I loved it. I loved hosting events, and making new discoveries, I loved the feeling of being part of something larger than myself, something significant, something culturally important.

But one of my favourite parts of the job was December.

I feel I’m not alone in this. I think if you were to poll booksellers, most would say that December was their favourite time of the year. It’s not just that December is the point where everything comes together for the whole year, when the shelves are full of a year’s worth of new books, and the store is full of people looking to find that perfect gift. It’s the joy that comes in putting people together with that ideal book, the crosstown collegiality that reveals itself, once again, for the sake of the customer. It’s the way the month seems to build, every day busier, crazier than the last, until that strange calm that descends on the afternoon of December 24th. It’s the camaraderie that develops, the stolen moments of conversations with colleagues, the group lunches, the quiet moments, at the end of the day and the end of the month. It’s the moments of magic that happen, the moments where everything comes together.

And there’s the joyful weirdness. One of my favourite moments from my bookselling Decembers came after I posted on Facebook—during a hydration break— a desperate plea to the universe for a coffee with Baileys (coffee with Baileys is what December in bookselling tastes like, a Proustian trigger back to my earliest days, when we kept a bottle behind the counter). Less than half an hour later, a woman I had helped earlier in the day returned to the store with a Starbucks to-go cup and a sly grin. “I just wanted to say thank you,” she said, “So I brought you a little treat.”

One of my favourite moments from my bookselling Decembers came after I posted on Facebook—during a hydration break— a desperate plea to the universe for a coffee with Baileys (coffee with Baileys is what December in bookselling tastes like, a Proustian trigger back to my earliest days, when we kept a bottle behind the counter). Less than half an hour later, a woman I had helped earlier in the day returned to the store with a Starbucks to-go cup and a sly grin. “I just wanted to say thank you,” she said, “So I brought you a little treat.”

Like I said, magic. Sometimes, the universe hears you.

Right now, booksellers across the country are going full-tilt, their feet growing more sore by the minute, their minds full of reordering plans and remerchandising ideas, but focused, always, on those key moments when they can make somebody’s list a little shorter, their day a little better.

Some of the dedicated booksellers of the Shelf Talkers column, though, have taken a few moments to weigh in with some of their recommendations for festive giving this year, books they are confident will be perfect, for that perfect person.

And if the ideal book isn’t here, you know what to do: they’ll greet you with open arms as you come through the door, and ask “What can I help you with?” It’s what they do. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I miss it.

**

 

The Bookseller: Jenn Hubbs, Curiosity House Books (Creemore, Ontario)

The Picks:

For the middle-grade reader:

Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts, by Esta Spalding, illustrated by Sydney Smith

This is the second book in the series, chronicling the further adventures of the Fitzgerald-Trout siblings who live on a tropical island and who are far smarter than the adults around them. Part Pippi Longstocking, part Lemony Snicket, this series continues to delight (and Books 1 & 2 would make an excellent holiday gift)!

**

For the teen reader:

The Winnowing, by Vikki VanSickle

Fans of The X-Files and Stranger Things will love this paranormal book from VanSickle. Mysterious abilities, a top-secret research lab and missing kids will keep you hooked, and an action-packed ending will leave you wanting more.

**

For the adult reader:

The New Farm: Our 10 Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution, by Brent Preston

Environmentalist and foodies alike will appreciate The New Farm. While ostensibly a memoir about how a couple from the city managed to make their way from starting out to running a successful organic farm, there’s more to it than that. Preston asks us to consider where our food comes from, and how it has grown, and why it is so difficult for healthy food to make it to those who need it most. Mixed with more serious topics are humourous anecdotes about life on the farm, and Preston is honest about his own flaws.

**

 

The Bookseller: Lee Trentadue, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)

The Pick: Powered By Love: A Grandmothers' Movement to End AIDS in Africa, by Joanna Henry with Llana Landsberg-Lewis, edited by Michele Landsberg, photographs by Alexis MacDonald

We are all very excited this Christmas to promote this wonderful book which describes work that African grandmothers did in stepping in to take care of the orphans left in the A.I.D.S. crisis there. One of the Canadian grandmothers featured in the book is from Galiano Island, and we are all so very proud of the work that Jean Way has done on this project. Royalties from sales will go to the Stephen Lewis Foundation to continue the support for this project.

**

marrowthieves

The Bookseller: Sue Saunderson, Blue Heron Books (Uxbridge, ON)

The Pick: The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves is written with the depth and cadence of traditional oral storytelling. It is a reminder of the quiet strength, courage, and humanity that is our indigenous peoples. A must-read that is both timely and heartbreaking in its relevance.

**

firstwebrunch

The Bookseller: Colin Holt, Bolen Books (Victoria, BC)

The Pick: First, We Brunch, by Rebecca Wellman

It is not uncommon for the newly arrived to Victoria to make disparaging comments about the lack of night life here. Though they may be right, it is important to note that just because we aren’t staying up late, we don’t particularly want to get up early. What we excel at is a nice leisurely brunch. Rebecca Wellman has assembled this fantastic book of more than 60 recipes from local cafes, bistros, brewpubs and bakeries. Filled with stunning photography and stories of the people that run some of the best eateries in town, First, We Brunch is the perfect book for any readers that love food, or need a bit of help deciding where to meet friends around 11ish.

**

The Bookseller: Rob Butterfield, Galiano Island Books (Galiano Island, BC)

The Pick: The Georgia Straight: The 50th Anniversary, by Doug Sarti
A very thoughtfully compiled collection of back issues and sentimental odes to a publication that has been Vancouver's only counter-cultural anchor for the past half a century. For any life-time residents, long-time dwellers or shiny new transplants to the city of Vancouver, this publication (which is easily found for free anywhere about the city) is an invaluable map to the cultural pillars and happenings all around town and beyond. It is an acclimating touchstone for anyone to tune in, turn on and sink into.

 This toast to one of the coolest things to ever come out of little-baby forever changing, adolescent Vancouver shows just how consistently thoughtful the folks gluing it together have taken the care to impress and inform us. Of such a shape shifting city, having this record of roots, pride and purpose should be enough to make you feel like part of the first act in a story that still could someday end up being the great tale of a magical natural setting, home to the world's most unique melting pot. The Georgia Straight has and will be the tome of the tale.

What an artful, playful, concerned and loving bunch these writers and editors have been for us. Let's hope they can release another boundlessly colourful version of this book in another 50 well earned years. It's always been an easy to spot, sidewalk giant of the street to me.

 

December 4, 2017
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