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2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Book Lover

Published on November 29, 2019

A person in an orange hat and black coat browsing a table of books outside a bookstore

It’s that time of year again when the pressure to find the right gift for the book lovers in your life can feel downright stifling. Thankfully, this list has got you covered. Want a non-fiction book? Got it. Want to wow them with award-winners? On it. What about the up-and-comers? Did you have to ask? There are also book adjacent gifts that would make a literary enthusiast ecstatic.

Don’t forget: Festival Friends can save 15% on general books at the University of Toronto Bookstore all year round!


Commemorative Gifts for TIFA’s 40th

Write Across Canada: An Anthology of Emerging Writers curated by Joseph Kertes and Geoffrey Taylor

In an effort to support emerging writers, author and past Harbourfront Festival Prize winner Joseph Kertes teamed up with recently retired TIFA director Geoffrey Taylor to curate the Write Across Canada anthology. The writers featured in this book were selected by mentors working in creative writing programs across the country.What better way to celebrate a 40-year history than to tip the hat to the next generation of great writers?


Nightingale by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood has had a big year. She released The Testaments, the much anticipated and bestselling sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. She became a joint winner of the Man Booker Prize with Bernardine Evaristo (Girl, Woman, Other), and had a documentary made about her life (Margaret Atwood: A Word after a Word after a Word is Power). If you or someone else in your life is a big Atwood fan, why not get a limited edition copy of Margaret Atwood’s first edition chapbook, Nightingale? Only 450 copies were printed, and 150 of them were numbered and signed by the author herself. Six copies remain, so act fast!

A person taking a iphone picture of Emma Donoghue and a fanBecome a Festival Friend

Love books? Why not gift a loved one with a Festival experience? Reading is often solitary but live book events allow for bibliophiles to gather and share their love of reading as audience members. Becoming a Festival Friend offers perks like attending year-round events for free, discounted admission to the annual fall Festival and more. Call the Harbourfront Centre box office at 416-973-4000 to purchase a gift membership today.






The Award-Winners

Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris

Kate Harris’ Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road won the 2019 RBC Taylor Prize, which rewards Canadian non-fiction that “best combines a superb command of the English language, an elegance of style, and a subtlety of thought and perception”. Harris’ book chronicles her trip down the Silk Road on her bike in pursuit of the adventure she’s always craved for. It’s great for the adventurer in your life.


Theory by Dionne Brand

Theory is a novel about the clash between love and intellectual pursuit. Its narrator is a graduate student trying to complete an ambitious thesis but throughout the experience, three lovers enter their life and impact the direction of the thesis. This title won the 2019 Toronto Book Award and had previously won the award in 2006 for What We All Long For. This is a perfect gift for the reader in your life who loves to contemplate and interrogate ideas.


Five Wives by Joan Thomas

Joan Thomas won the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction for her novel Five Wives. It’s a fictional account of the real-life story of a small group of evangelical Christian missionaries and their families journeying to Ecuador to convert the local indigenous community. The husbands are killed and their wives are left to fend for themselves. This novel is for the reader in your life who’d like a nuanced dissection on faith and colonialism.


Days by Moonlight by André Alexis

Botanist Alfred Homer travels through southern Ontario during “hour of the wolf” where the real world and the imagination blur. Homer along with Professor Morgan Bruno, a friend of his parents, visit towns where Black residents only speak through sign language during the day, werewolves roam and other peculiar happenings take place. Days by Moonlight by André Alexis won the 2019 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize this year. It’s a fantastic pick for the person in your life who likes their fiction just a little bit strange.


Reproduction by Ian Williams

In Ian Williams’ Reproduction, Felicia and Edgar, a teen island girl and a lazy heir, meet through the death and near death of their mothers. Grief pulls these two together and out comes a son. 14 years later, Felicia and Army are living in an unconventional family when Edgar re-enters their lives. Reproduction was the winner the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize and it’s great for the reader who enjoys experimental storytelling.



The Debuts

Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji

The first book to be published under Vivek Shraya’s VS. Books imprint, Shut Up You’re Pretty is a collection of short stories following Loli from her childhood to adulthood as she navigates relationships, her Congolese-Canadian identity and having to deal with the pitfalls of society’s expectations of womanhood. Shortlisted for the 2019 Rogers Writers’ Trust of Canada Fiction Prize, this book is an excellent choice for the reader who enjoys sharp observations and devouring stories in parts.


The Chai Factor by Farah Heron

Engineer Amira Khan vows to not date until she finishes her graduate thesis but when she goes back to her family home for peace and quiet, she finds a barbershop quartet practicing in the basement apartment. Amira and Duncan butt heads as they fight for opposing goals but who doesn’t love it when enemies become lovers in a romance novel? The Chai Factor is a great read for the romantic in your life.



Fireweed by Tunchai Redvers book coverFireweed by Tunchai Redvers

“i am femme, i am fireweed”

A collection of poetry, Fireweed is about trauma and adolescence. Tunchai Redvers of the Deninu K’ue First Nation explores being Indigenous, and two-spirit intergenerational residential school survivor. It’s an illuminating read for the poet in your life.


Chop Suey Nation: The Legion Cafe and Other Stories from Canada’s Chinese Restaurants by Ann Hui

In 2016, Ann Hui wrote an article about Canada’s small town Chinese restaurants. In Chop Suey Nation, Hui weaves in her own family’s history from how they came to Canada to operating their own restaurant, The Legion Cafe, before Hui was born. This time of year is for food and family, which makes this book a fitting gift.

There Has to Be a Knife by Adnan Khan book coverThere Has to Be a Knife by Adnan Khan

After hearing about the suicide of his ex-girlfriend, Omar Ali copes by turning to petty crime. His indiscretions lead the RCMP to pressure him to become an informant at a mosque, which result in insomnia and rage that fuel a quest for the suicide note Omar’s convinced his ex-girlfriend left for him. There Has to Be a Knife by Adnan Khan is great for the reader with an interest in examining societal expectations place on brown men.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Check out TIFA’s Top Ten Books to Gift in 2018 for some inspiration.


2019 Holiday Gift Guide for the Book Lover

Published on November 29, 2019

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