The Best Books to Give as Presents This Holiday
2022's must-reads make perfect stocking stuffers.
The Best Books for Christmas 2022
The Immortal King Rao
by Vauhini Vara
The Saskatchewan-born Vara, a former tech reporter at The Wall Street Journal and business editor at The New Yorker, combines her considerable subject expertise with a wildly imaginative premise. Her ambitious debut novel toggles between past and future, chronicling the rise of the title character, a visionary tech CEO who manages to link human thought to the Internet, and the fate of his daughter, Athena, who is growing up on a dystopian hothouse earth and grappling with her father’s troubled legacy.
The School of Mirrors
by Eva Stachniak
Stachniak is a genius at conjuring opulent worlds of the past: the jewel-drenched court of Catherine the Great, the lush and sensuous Ballets Russes and, in her newest novel, the glittering abundance and artifice of 18th-century Versailles. This ornate work of historical fiction is about the real-life Parc-aux-Cerfs, a house in the town of Versailles where Madame de Pompadour trained young women to become mistresses for Louis XV.
The Naked Don’t Fear the Water
by Matthieu Aikins
In 2016, after years spent reporting in Kabul, Aikins—a New York Times Magazine writer and future Pulitzer Prize winner—left his passport with a friend and assumed a new identity so he could learn what it’s like to travel as a refugee. Then he joined his long-time translator on a refugee journey out of Afghanistan. The resulting narrative is both a feat of geopolitical journalism and a gripping odyssey. In one harrowing passage, Aikins and his translator crowd onto a dinghy without enough life vests to cross the treacherous Aegean Sea.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Best known for her atmospheric hit novel Mexican Gothic, Moreno-Garcia returns to spooky territory with this retelling of H.G. Wells’ 1896 sci-fi classic The Island of Doctor Moreau. Moreno-Garcia has created a chilling and thrilling remix in which the titular daughter—Carlota Moreau—lives on a Mexican ranch where her mad-scientist father has created human-animal hybrids destined to work as chattel on the hacienda. Eventually, of course, Carlota begins asking questions about her father’s nefarious activities, while external forces converge on the estate and the hybrids begin to assert their own independence.
Sari, Not Sari
by Sonya Singh
Manny Dogra, the heroine of Singh’s fizzy debut novel, is the CEO of a successful company we can’t believe doesn’t exist in real life: Breakup, which helps people gently dump their partners. The rom part of this rom-com comes in when Manny, who grew up completely detached from her Indian heritage, teams up with one of her clients, Sammy Patel, who provides an immersive boot camp on South Asian culture. The pair then gets thrown into all sorts of predictably swoony situations.
Check out the best rom-coms on Netflix right now.
The Last Chairlift
by John Irving
Irving, who turned 80 this year, covers roughly the same time span in his enormous new novel—clocking in at 912 pages, it should last you the holiday break and beyond. The story follows “Little Ray,” a one-time competitive skier, and her son, Adam, a burgeoning writer who is obsessed with finding his absentee dad. Long-time Irving fans will appreciate a bingo card’s worth of his narrative trademarks, including snowy New Hampshire winters, mommy issues, the Vietnam War, east coast prep school and plenty of tortured masculinity.
by J.M. Miro
Miro is the nom de plume for the acclaimed Canadian novelist Steven Price, who has temporarily abandoned literary fiction in favour of a new series of historical fantasy novels in the vein of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. The first instalment, as moody and as smoke-stained as a Victorian cobblestone alley, is about a group of children with magical gifts, known as the Talents, who come together at a mysterious Scottish estate and pool their powers to escape the shape-shifting evil that’s chasing them. Think of it as a 19th-century version of the X-Men.
by Sheila Heti
Heti’s third novel starts out ordinarily enough, chronicling the life of Mira, a young art critic and writer in Toronto, as she works, falls in love and figures out who she is. But when her father dies, the story ascends into a poetic, meandering, deeply weird meditation on grief and God and the cosmology of the universe; in one tangent, Mira enters a leaf (you have to read it to get it). It’s not for everyone, but lovers of metaphysics and beautiful language will surely appreciate the ride.
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by Ainslie Hogarth
When Abby’s depressed mother-in-law takes her own life and seemingly begins to haunt her bereaved son, Abby decides to exorcise the demon herself. In this delightfully twisted horror novel, Hogarth takes the old cliché of the mother-in-law from hell and transforms it into something tangible and terrifying—and, as a bonus, features some delightfully disgusting domestic-goddess recipes (chicken à la king, jellied salmon).
Find out why you should always read before bed (even if it’s a thriller).
Son of Elsewhere: A Memoir in Pieces
by Elamin Abdelmahmoud
The soundtrack to The O.C., Muslim identity and the strange beauty of Highway 401 were formative factors in the emerging selfhood of Elamin Abdelmahmoud. The BuzzFeed News writer’s affable and empathetic memoir describes his experience emigrating from Khartoum, Sudan, to Kingston, Ontario, in the early 2000s at age 12.
Read the heartwarming story of one Muslim family’s first Canadian Christmas.
A Magic Steeped in Poison
by Judy I. Lin
Harry Potter has his wand. Daenerys Targaryen has her dragons. And Ning, the heroine of Judy I. Lin’s debut novel, has tea, which in her world is imbued with magical properties. Lin has created an enchanting young-adult fantasy saturated in Chinese mythology, court intrigue and just a smidge of romance, as Ning enters a competition to find the kingdom’s most gifted shennong-shi, or tea master, a kind of Great British Bake Off for the art of the brew.
Psst—this is the best Harry Potter movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Where the River Narrows: Classic French & Nostalgic Québécois Recipes From St. Lawrence Restaurant
by J-C Poirier
Poirier has spent the last 20-odd years cheffing in Vancouver—currently at the acclaimed St. Lawrence Restaurant—but his roots are Québécois. He pays homage to his heritage in his first cookbook, crammed with more than 125 gorgeous (and gorgeously photographed) dishes, including pâté en croûte and tarte au citron flambée au pastis, plus Québécois classics like tarte au sucre and, of course, tourtière.
Check out 10 classic Canadian foods—and the best places in the country to find them.
Are You Sara?
by S.C. Lalli
There’s something inherently vulnerable about getting into a car with an Uber or Lyft driver—a risk we all regularly take in exchange for modern convenience. This thriller taps into the worst-case scenario, following two young women (one named Sarah and one named Sara) who both order rideshares after a night at the bar. When Sara finds Sarah murdered on her doorstep, she tries to get to the bottom of what happened, and figure out if the killer was really after her.
If this novel sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll want to add these Canadian true crime podcasts to your playlist.
A Ballet of Lepers
by Leonard Cohen
Unlike many other posthumous releases, you can count on Cohen’s to be worth the wait: before his death, he said that the title novella, which was never published, was likely better than The Favourite Game, a novel he published during his lifetime. This collection also includes a radio-play script and a handful of short stories, written both in his usual stomping grounds of Montreal and on the Greek island of Hydra, where he impulsively bought a house for $1,500 in 1960.
Check out five-must see Montreal attractions for Leonard Cohen fans.
I Was the President’s Mistress!!
by Miguel Syjuco
Syjuco has turned that most flimsy of forms—the celebrity memoir—into a dagger-sharp satire of sex, influence, wealth and politics. His latest novel is built around interview transcripts with the fictional Vita Nova, a Filipina Marilyn Monroe and ex-paramour of the fictional, scandal-plagued Philippines president Fernando Estregan. She tells the story of her life and many loves in a raucously entertaining literary romp.
Now that you know the best books for Christmas 2022, check out our great Canadian gift guide for 50 inspired gifts under $50.