Credit: Hepzi Rattray

Stocking your bookshelf this Christmas

By Reilly Dufresne

Cosy up with one of Reilly’s festive recommendations.

With his gravity-defying sleigh, eight flying reindeer, and the world’s most powerful passport, it looks as if St. Nick may be the only one travelling this Christmas. Of course, for those of us stuck at home, the holidays are not necessarily ruined. Many bibliophiles and homebodies have long enjoyed the peace of solitude. How do I know? While I aspire to achieve acceptance from the former, I most certainly belong to the latter. So, with these credentials – a love for stories and a greater love for silence – I propose two fantastic books and an essay that are worth reading over this quiet Christmas holiday. My hope is that these suggestions might fill your stocking or even take you on an adventure. At the very least, I hope these titles might sit on your bookshelf and impress your friends.  

As Christmas is often associated with the magic of childhood, my first seasonal suggestion is a children’s book: Nancy Smiler Levinson’s Snowshoe Thompson. After a snowstorm obstructs almost all forms of travel, a little boy must find a way to send a Christmas letter to his father. The boy’s only hope lies with backcountry skier, Snowshoe Thompson. Will the letter ever arrive? This heart-warming story is further enriched with Joan Sandin’s incredible illustrations. Sandin beautifully captures a winter wonderland and a boy’s persistent hope. In a word, Snowshoe Thompson is a treat. Of course, most of us know the danger of overindulgence at Christmas. We need a sobering orange in our Christmas stocking too. 

What we need is the peeled back truth of Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. Perez’s book, filled with hair raising facts and figures, investigates the jarring matter of discrepancy and representation in our modern world. How is medication, car-crash testing, and even snow-removal biased? Perez explains in detail. Granted, this is perhaps not your average book for cosying up to the fire. But make no mistake, once you begin reading, it’s hard to stop. 

Then there are those of us who like a surprise at Christmas – that little something you never expected. Mark Forsyth gives this unknown gift to us in his essay, The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting what You Wanted. A joy to read, this essay is perhaps best fitted for the practicalities of stocking-stuffing. About the size of a thoroughly squished sandwich, Forsyth’s essay is nevertheless jam-packed, full of humour and delight. His writing offers advice on how to secure fantastic reading material. Rules to go by: Forsyth makes a strong case for judging a book by its cover. He argues that there is great pleasure in bibliomancy (and there is!). Lastly, Forsyth encourages readers to embrace the unexpected – be it in a book from a bathroom or a bookshop. 

The books proposed in this article have been selected with care. They have been chosen with the hope that reading them will adorn your Christmas with a little bit of magic, intrigue, and delight – depending on which you choose, of course. It goes without saying that this holiday season is not what most of us expected. So, perhaps the best way to close the book on 2020 would be to open one. 


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