The 2023 Holiday Gift Guide For Book Lovers

The 2023 Holiday Gift Guide For Book Lovers

3:32pm

Friday, June 14, 2024

From chilling crime thrillers to imaginative short stories, and delicious culinary tales to heartwarming titles for kids, 2023 has been another great year of sharing stories, celebrating imagination and talking all things books. As the year comes to an end, the team at the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) has gathered some of the excellent books that have crossed our paths this year.

This curated gift guide is the perfect place to find that special gift for friends and family on your shopping list. Here’s a look at some of our team’s favourites!


Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu (Coach House Books)

Recommended by Amy Dennis, Head of Marketing
Kim Fu's Lesser-Known Monsters of the 21st Century book cover

This collection of 12 short stories landed on many “best books” lists of 2022, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the 26th Annual Danuta Gleed Literary Award. I listened to the first half of the book in audio form during a road trip, and its commentary on modern life sparked much debate among my passengers! The book spans the fringes of fantasy, horror and sci-fi to explore the evolving roles and expectations of human relationships, our increasing reliance on technology, and other creative, intriguing and even ridiculous implications of both. Fans of Netflix’s Black Mirror are sure to enjoy these tales, and since each story is a stand-alone instalment, it’s an easy read for busy book lovers to pick up and put down at their leisure.

The Farm by Héctor Abad (Steerforth Press)

Recommended by Antonio Arraut Rincones, Finance Coordinator
Book cover for The Farm by Héctor Abad

Travel to the vast mountains of my homeland, Columbia, this holiday with Hector Abad’s The Farm. This compelling read, rich with themes of love, legacy and violence, immediately captivated me. I found myself deeply immersed in a world of intricate family relationships and history as I followed the narrative of three brothers and the family farm left in their possession. An essential read in Columbian literature, The Farm is a title you won’t want to miss!

Whisper of The Seals by Roxanne Bouchard (Orenda Books Ltd.)

Recommended by Antonio Arraut Rincones, Finance Coordinator
The book cover of Roxanne Bouchard's Whisper of the Seals

Although the icy seas of Quebec’s remote islands might not be what you had in mind for “chilly weather” this season, Roxanne Bouchard’s Whisper of the Seals provides an excellent excuse to snuggle up near the fire. The award-winning author of The Corale Bride makes a powerful return with the third instalment in the Detective Morales series. Give the gift of suspense and thrill this year with this race-against-the-clock book that will constantly have you questioning how much you truly know and to whom you can entrust your secrets.

Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday by Jamaluddin Aram (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Recommended by Zain Ahmed, Programming Coordinator
Book cover for Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday by Jamaluddin Aram

Embarking on a remarkable literary journey, Jamaluddin Aram unveiled his talents with the debut novel Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday. From start to finish, I relished every page of the book, which offers charming insight into the lives of people living in Afghanistan. We can so easily forget that even in times of war and hardship, lives go on: people fall in love, families have fights and make up. Everyday life full of humanity, kindness and joy goes hand-in-hand with the troubles and hardships of life in times of conflict and war. This narrative starkly exposes how war – often thrust upon ordinary people – creates a profound disconnect between daily lives and the war machine operating around them. A great gift for those seeking to find comfort, peace and hope in unsuspected places.

Sunshine Nails by Mai Nguyen (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Recommended by Shae Loeffelholz, Toronto Lit Up Programme Assistant
The book cover of Sunshine Nails by Mai Nguyen

Say goodbye to the winter blues with this hilarious and heartwarming title. With its bright, sunshine-yellow cover, you’re guaranteed to be transported to the warmth of summer days. Alongside experiencing its fun and frills, this book encouraged me to explore concepts of striking depth, like the issue of gentrification and the pressures that stem from family expectations discussed within the novel. This debut novel is a phenomenal choice for any of the bookish people in your life.

The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society by Christine Estima (House of Anansi Press)

Recommended by Hani Yakan, Events Coordinator
Book cover for The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society by Christine Estima

History fans are sure to love The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society, a short story collection that traces the deep roots of the Arab immigrant experience in Canada since the 19th century. Serving as an intriguing exploration of heritage and resilience, The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society tells the stories of the women in one family as they try to find their place in Canadian society. The novel provided me with a newfound awareness of the often overlooked narratives of early Arab immigrants – Syrian and Lebanese – and the importance of honouring the integral role these communities played in Canada’s foundation for nearly two centuries.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings, edited by John Lorinc (Coach House Books)

Recommended by Amelia Beeser, Co-op Student
Book cover for What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings edited by John Lorinc

Nothing says the holidays more than getting together with loved ones over comforting plates of food! But how much do we really understand about the culture and history embedded in every bite? This question takes centre stage in the hit anthology What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings, as it explores the origins of dumplings and the unique variations that tie each culture to this adored culinary delight. Including the diverse perspectives of food writers, journalists, culinary historians and even musicians, this book is an exciting read for any food enthusiast. A word of caution: consider pairing this book with a snack, as its delicious recipes and descriptions are sure to make you hungry!

The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt (House of Anansi Press)

Recommended by Stephanie Fraser, Content & Community Coordinator
Book cover for The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt

If you are looking for a gentle read filled with humour, compassion and beautiful prose, Patrick deWitt’s latest novel is a must. The Librarianist explores the life of Bob Comet, a 71-year-old retired librarian who has lived a quiet life surrounded by and immersed in the world of books. While Bob seems like an ordinary and simple man from the outside, a volunteer opportunity at a senior’s centre cracks his life open, revealing the inner history he kept hidden away. A character-driven novel through and through, this book is another great read from the bestselling author of French Exit and The Sisters Brothers. Plus, this book was selected as part of TIFA’s 2024 Virtual Book Club Winter Season, so your giftee can connect with other book enthusiasts!


Young Readers

Finding gifts for the young ones in your life can be challenging, but don’t worry, TIFA has your back! Here are two selections from our very own TIFA Kids expert, one for little readers as they begin their bookish journey and the other for school-aged kids who love a good ghost story.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree by Vikki VanSickle and Illustrator Miki Sato (Tundra Books)

Recommended by Janet Smyth, TIFA Kids Programme Consultant
Book cover for How to Decorate a Christmas Tree by Vikki VanSickle and Miki Sato

The very best picture books are those that can be enjoyed by any age, and this story by Toronto-based Vikki VanSickle and gorgeously illustrated by Miki Sato is one of those. Deceptively simple and yet beautifully poignant, this is a story of family, memories and what we pass on to each other, all explored as a little girl decorates her tree for the holidays. The decorating is the opposite of a carefully curated tree with matching colours and bobbles, and is instead a deeply personal mismatch of popcorn, ornaments (homemade and gifted), brightly coloured lights, and the memories and stories attached. The detail in the stunning paper-cut artwork adds a layer to the written words as we follow mischievous Taffy the cat who is determined to ‘help’ with the decorating! Perfect for ages 3+.

Haunted Canada 12: More Frightening True Tales by Joel A. Sutherland (Scholastic)

Recommended by Janet Smyth, TIFA Kids Programme Consultant
Book cover for Haunted Canada 12 by Joel A. Sutherland

When Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol, the idea of sitting round the fire on a cold, winter night to hear a ghostly yarn was born. Switch off the TV and set aside devices and, instead, come together to share some spooky stories gathered by award-winning horror writer Joel A. Sutherland. This is volume 12 and who knew Canada had so many supernatural happenings? This latest collection includes a log cabin in Quebec haunted by a black cat, a disembodied sobbing at an old mill in Newfoundland and a spirit that plays pranks on unsuspecting guests at an inn in the Yukon. The creepy black-and-white illustrations and photographs add to the hauntingly eerie read. This will either inspire you to visit or avoid certain places as you plan your 2024 vacations. Perfect for ages 8+.


We hope you loved our 2023 recommendations just as much as we did, if not check out our 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018 holiday gift guides for some more inspiration. Happy reading!

From chilling crime thrillers to imaginative short stories, and delicious culinary tales to heartwarming titles for kids, 2023 has been another great year of sharing stories, celebrating imagination and talking all things books. As the year comes to an end, the team at the Toronto International Festival of Authors (TIFA) has gathered some of the excellent books that have crossed our paths this year.

This curated gift guide is the perfect place to find that special gift for friends and family on your shopping list. Here’s a look at some of our team’s favourites!


Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu (Coach House Books)

Recommended by Amy Dennis, Head of Marketing
Kim Fu's Lesser-Known Monsters of the 21st Century book cover

This collection of 12 short stories landed on many “best books” lists of 2022, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and won the 26th Annual Danuta Gleed Literary Award. I listened to the first half of the book in audio form during a road trip, and its commentary on modern life sparked much debate among my passengers! The book spans the fringes of fantasy, horror and sci-fi to explore the evolving roles and expectations of human relationships, our increasing reliance on technology, and other creative, intriguing and even ridiculous implications of both. Fans of Netflix’s Black Mirror are sure to enjoy these tales, and since each story is a stand-alone instalment, it’s an easy read for busy book lovers to pick up and put down at their leisure.

The Farm by Héctor Abad (Steerforth Press)

Recommended by Antonio Arraut Rincones, Finance Coordinator
Book cover for The Farm by Héctor Abad

Travel to the vast mountains of my homeland, Columbia, this holiday with Hector Abad’s The Farm. This compelling read, rich with themes of love, legacy and violence, immediately captivated me. I found myself deeply immersed in a world of intricate family relationships and history as I followed the narrative of three brothers and the family farm left in their possession. An essential read in Columbian literature, The Farm is a title you won’t want to miss!

Whisper of The Seals by Roxanne Bouchard (Orenda Books Ltd.)

Recommended by Antonio Arraut Rincones, Finance Coordinator
The book cover of Roxanne Bouchard's Whisper of the Seals

Although the icy seas of Quebec’s remote islands might not be what you had in mind for “chilly weather” this season, Roxanne Bouchard’s Whisper of the Seals provides an excellent excuse to snuggle up near the fire. The award-winning author of The Corale Bride makes a powerful return with the third instalment in the Detective Morales series. Give the gift of suspense and thrill this year with this race-against-the-clock book that will constantly have you questioning how much you truly know and to whom you can entrust your secrets.

Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday by Jamaluddin Aram (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Recommended by Zain Ahmed, Programming Coordinator
Book cover for Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday by Jamaluddin Aram

Embarking on a remarkable literary journey, Jamaluddin Aram unveiled his talents with the debut novel Nothing Good Happens in Wazirabad on Wednesday. From start to finish, I relished every page of the book, which offers charming insight into the lives of people living in Afghanistan. We can so easily forget that even in times of war and hardship, lives go on: people fall in love, families have fights and make up. Everyday life full of humanity, kindness and joy goes hand-in-hand with the troubles and hardships of life in times of conflict and war. This narrative starkly exposes how war – often thrust upon ordinary people – creates a profound disconnect between daily lives and the war machine operating around them. A great gift for those seeking to find comfort, peace and hope in unsuspected places.

Sunshine Nails by Mai Nguyen (Simon & Schuster Canada)

Recommended by Shae Loeffelholz, Toronto Lit Up Programme Assistant
The book cover of Sunshine Nails by Mai Nguyen

Say goodbye to the winter blues with this hilarious and heartwarming title. With its bright, sunshine-yellow cover, you’re guaranteed to be transported to the warmth of summer days. Alongside experiencing its fun and frills, this book encouraged me to explore concepts of striking depth, like the issue of gentrification and the pressures that stem from family expectations discussed within the novel. This debut novel is a phenomenal choice for any of the bookish people in your life.

The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society by Christine Estima (House of Anansi Press)

Recommended by Hani Yakan, Events Coordinator
Book cover for The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society by Christine Estima

History fans are sure to love The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society, a short story collection that traces the deep roots of the Arab immigrant experience in Canada since the 19th century. Serving as an intriguing exploration of heritage and resilience, The Syrian Ladies Benevolent Society tells the stories of the women in one family as they try to find their place in Canadian society. The novel provided me with a newfound awareness of the often overlooked narratives of early Arab immigrants – Syrian and Lebanese – and the importance of honouring the integral role these communities played in Canada’s foundation for nearly two centuries.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings, edited by John Lorinc (Coach House Books)

Recommended by Amelia Beeser, Co-op Student
Book cover for What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings edited by John Lorinc

Nothing says the holidays more than getting together with loved ones over comforting plates of food! But how much do we really understand about the culture and history embedded in every bite? This question takes centre stage in the hit anthology What We Talk About When We Talk About Dumplings, as it explores the origins of dumplings and the unique variations that tie each culture to this adored culinary delight. Including the diverse perspectives of food writers, journalists, culinary historians and even musicians, this book is an exciting read for any food enthusiast. A word of caution: consider pairing this book with a snack, as its delicious recipes and descriptions are sure to make you hungry!

The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt (House of Anansi Press)

Recommended by Stephanie Fraser, Content & Community Coordinator
Book cover for The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt

If you are looking for a gentle read filled with humour, compassion and beautiful prose, Patrick deWitt’s latest novel is a must. The Librarianist explores the life of Bob Comet, a 71-year-old retired librarian who has lived a quiet life surrounded by and immersed in the world of books. While Bob seems like an ordinary and simple man from the outside, a volunteer opportunity at a senior’s centre cracks his life open, revealing the inner history he kept hidden away. A character-driven novel through and through, this book is another great read from the bestselling author of French Exit and The Sisters Brothers. Plus, this book was selected as part of TIFA’s 2024 Virtual Book Club Winter Season, so your giftee can connect with other book enthusiasts!


Young Readers

Finding gifts for the young ones in your life can be challenging, but don’t worry, TIFA has your back! Here are two selections from our very own TIFA Kids expert, one for little readers as they begin their bookish journey and the other for school-aged kids who love a good ghost story.

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree by Vikki VanSickle and Illustrator Miki Sato (Tundra Books)

Recommended by Janet Smyth, TIFA Kids Programme Consultant
Book cover for How to Decorate a Christmas Tree by Vikki VanSickle and Miki Sato

The very best picture books are those that can be enjoyed by any age, and this story by Toronto-based Vikki VanSickle and gorgeously illustrated by Miki Sato is one of those. Deceptively simple and yet beautifully poignant, this is a story of family, memories and what we pass on to each other, all explored as a little girl decorates her tree for the holidays. The decorating is the opposite of a carefully curated tree with matching colours and bobbles, and is instead a deeply personal mismatch of popcorn, ornaments (homemade and gifted), brightly coloured lights, and the memories and stories attached. The detail in the stunning paper-cut artwork adds a layer to the written words as we follow mischievous Taffy the cat who is determined to ‘help’ with the decorating! Perfect for ages 3+.

Haunted Canada 12: More Frightening True Tales by Joel A. Sutherland (Scholastic)

Recommended by Janet Smyth, TIFA Kids Programme Consultant
Book cover for Haunted Canada 12 by Joel A. Sutherland

When Charles Dickens penned A Christmas Carol, the idea of sitting round the fire on a cold, winter night to hear a ghostly yarn was born. Switch off the TV and set aside devices and, instead, come together to share some spooky stories gathered by award-winning horror writer Joel A. Sutherland. This is volume 12 and who knew Canada had so many supernatural happenings? This latest collection includes a log cabin in Quebec haunted by a black cat, a disembodied sobbing at an old mill in Newfoundland and a spirit that plays pranks on unsuspecting guests at an inn in the Yukon. The creepy black-and-white illustrations and photographs add to the hauntingly eerie read. This will either inspire you to visit or avoid certain places as you plan your 2024 vacations. Perfect for ages 8+.


We hope you loved our 2023 recommendations just as much as we did, if not check out our 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018 holiday gift guides for some more inspiration. Happy reading!

3:32pm

Friday, June 14, 2024

To top