Books to read this winter

Multiple books stacked on top of each other sit on a table.
A look at some of the books Briana is reading this month. Instagram photo by Brianna Peterson

By Brianna Peterson

Brianna Peterson is a mom of three and a resident of the Kitchissippi area. She runs an active book-related Instagram account @capitalcityreader. Brianna compiled a list of some of her favourite books to help KT readers get through the gloomy winter season.

Nothing says cozy like being snuggled under a blanket by a fire, with a hot beverage, a delicious treat and a great book, while big snowflakes fall just outside your window. In Iceland, there is even a tradition of gifting each member of a household a book on Christmas Eve, after which everyone curls up reading their respective treasures for the remainder of the evening. This tradition, known as Jolabokaflod, is an idea we’ve adopted in my household and its an annual delight, even for those people who aren’t typically readers! So where do you start on your book gifting? I’m here to help!

For the busy mom that used to love reading, but is now very short on time: I’m recommending the 2022 release “Small Things Like These” by Claire Keegan, which is a quiet, contemplative slip of a novel (117 pages!), but its beautiful, impactful and perfect for the Christmas season. Another option is the classic “84, Charing Cross Road” by Helene Hanff, which captures a real-life correspondence between a New York-based avid reader and a London-based bookseller. It’s about 100 pages, but will have any reader sighing, crying and laughing out loud as they take in this decades-spanning friendship, formed around books.

For the non-fiction aficionado: I’m recommending “21 Things you may not know about the Indian Act” by Bob Joseph, which is short, accessible, informative and helped me to better understand the context (both past and present) around Indigenous reconciliation. Another option is “Rouges: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels, and Crooks”, which is a collection of essays by Patrick Radden Keefe (who wrote last year’s excellent “Empire of Pain”). From El Chapo, to a corrupt vintage wine dealer to Anthony Bourdain, Keefe offers fascinating insights into the lives and dealings of some intriguing real-life personalities.

For the difficult-to-shop-for mother-in-law: I’m recommending “The Matchmaker’s Gift” by Linda Cohen Loigman, which is a sweet novel that jumps between the perspectives of two woman living in 1920s and 1990s New York City, respectively. This is a chaste and charming historical fiction tale that explores the Jewish matchmaking tradition, as well as the life of new immigrants in New York’s Lower East Side.

For the young, new chapter book reader that still loves a good illustration: I’m recommending “Mia Mayhem” by Kara West, which is a series of books about Mia Macarooney, a seemingly regular 8-year-old, who has some pretty impressive super powers. These are a lot of fun and there are, at present, 13 different adventures to keep your little reader busy.

For the fantasy-loving, but easily frightened 9-year-old: I’m recommending “The Clockwork Crow” by Catherine Fisher. This is an early middle-grade book that blends just the right amount of mystery, suspense and magic for kids that might still be a little too young for the Harry Potter novels, but a little too old for “Mia Mayhem”. This one had my kids hooked from the first page and begging consistently for “just one more chapter?!”

For the discerning reader that prefers award-winning books: I’m recommending “The Sleeping Car Porter” by Suzette Mayr, which just won the 2022 Scotiabank Giller Prize. This is an excellent historical fiction novel that tells the story of Baxter, who criss-crosses 1920s North America as a train porter, encountering questionable characters, facing societal injustices and discovering his identity along the way.

For the social justice crusader: I’m recommending “The Trees” by Percival Everett, which was published in late 2021 and mixes super short chapters, mysterious happenings, gruesome murders, (maybe) ghosts, historical reckonings and razor-sharp satire to create an extremely propulsive reading experience. This book, which was shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize, is not for the faint of heart, but it offers sharp social commentary in an accessible and unputdownable package.

One of the best things about book gift giving is that you can support local independent booksellers. Whether its these or other books on your radar, make sure you check out the excellent local proprietors, such as The Spaniel’s Tale, Hintonburg Kids or Bouqshop Ottawa, all of which sell locally and have a fantastic selection. They can provide knowledgeable recommendations. Happy reading!

– Brianna

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