Gift Ideas – 2012

A few years ago my brother-in-law gave me Moneyball by Michael Lewis and although I hate baseball, he said I’d still like the book. It was a fascinating read about taking a statistical approach to a game dominated by the gut instincts of baseball scouts. Being ignorant of all things baseball, it even turned into a bit of a thriller – would the Oakland A’s win the World Series with their kooky math and cheap, ragtag crew? (Spoiler alert – No)

When I get a book as a gift, I’d prefer that it resonated on some level with the person who gave it to me. I also recognize that sometimes you might want to buy a book for someone with vastly different reading tastes than your own. With that in mind I’m going to recommend a few potential gift ideas:

A Wild Stab For It – This is Game Eight From Russia – Dave Bidini and Brian Pickell (ECW Press)

Perfect gift for: People going through hockey withdrawal because of the NHL lockout.

I was in Chapters this past week and there was a table with 20 different books about hockey. This wasn’t one of them, which is ridiculous. 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of the 2012 Summit Series between Canada and Russia. A Wild Stab For It returns to 1972 and presents the series from a number of perspectives – from a Finn who rooted for Canada just because he hated the Russians to a Canadian man and Russian woman whose fascination with the other’s country started with the Summit Series (they eventually get married) to Scotty Bowman’s assessment of the machine-like Russian players compared to Canada’s beer-swilling, small town boys. My favourite chapter is one called “Dad” about one of Bidini’s third grade classmate’s, Jim Jones, who lost his father. Jones was chosen to go to the assembly room in the basement to check the score.

“Out of breath with excitement, I blurted out, ‘We tied it!’ Mrs. Davies was the first to head for the door and everyone else followed in a kind of scramble…Next thing we knew, Henderson scored. What I remember most is that we were all part of that moment. It was the first time since my dad died that I felt part of anything. It was a lucky day for me and Paul Henderson.”

An excerpt (what the pdf can’t show is the quality of the paper the book is printed on, it really is a beautifully made book) can be found here:

Doom – Love Poems for Supervillains – Natalie Zina Walschots (Insomniac Press)

Perfect gift for: Lit minded comic book lovers.

I often feel that poetry is something best left to teenagers and geniuses and this collection doesn’t change my opinion on that. This book is an ode to the evil people and places that populate the Marvel and DC comic book universes. I can’t remember the last time I read a book of poetry that I so eagerly wanted to see what came next. I read this in two sittings and it was fascinating how the poems addressed to these characters made me look at those villains from a different perspective (who would think of the Blob as a sexual being?). I smiled reading so many of these poems, there is so much love for the source material in here, any comic book fan will love this. This one is about Magneto:


the plate in my head fields fate

pluck the fillings from my teeth
pull the metal from my head

strip-mine me bare

A good companion gift for this would be a dictionary, because it’s filled with lots of $5 words.

An excerpt:

The Return – Dani Laferriere (Douglas and McIntyre)

Perfect gift for: The bookish friend that you can’t ever surprise because he or she has read everything.

This book was long listed for the Giller Prize last year and the first book I read in 2012. The only other person I know who’s read this book is the friend who came with me to see Dani at the IFOA on tour in Brantford (and he agrees that this is a fantastic book).

Laferriere is a Haitian Canadian writer. The titular return takes place after Laferriere’s exiled and estranged father dies in New York and he must accompany the body back to Haiti. It deals with family issues as well as the shadow of the dictator who ruled over Haiti during their period of exile, Baby Doc Duvalier. The book is written as a combination of poetry and prose, and though I wonder how much of the poetry was lost in translation, I still think this is one of the best books I’ve read in years.

This is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz (Riverhead)

Perfect gift for: Anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Yunior de las Casas, Diaz’s warped and magnified alter ego, is the thread that ties this book with Drown and The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. This is How You Lose Her is a short story collection that chronicles Yunior’s incessant infidelity and also gives us insight into Yunior’s origins. And although this isn’t revealed until the final story, the short story collection is actually a book called The Cheater’s Guide to Love, written by Yunior de las Casas. These are stories written to his younger, stupider self and the second person narration makes sense. In an early story, Alma, this is Yunior’s reaction to his girlfriend discovery of his infidelity after reading his journal:

“Instead of lowering your head and copping to it like a man, you pick up the journal as one might hold a baby’s beshatted diaper, as one might pinch a recently be-nutted condom. You glance at the offending passages. Then you look at her and smile a smile your dissembling face will remember until the day you die. Baby, you say, baby, this is part of my novel.”

The Walking Dead by Telltale Games

Perfect gift for: Anyone with an iPhone, iPad, PS3, Xbox, PC or Mac, but particularly anyone with an interest in narrative.

When I tweeted Telltale Games complimenting them on the series finale, I got tweets from strangers asking if I cried at the finale from people (I assume) trying to seek validation to their own reaction to game (I did tear up, the end is heartbreaking).

This is a game that changes depending on the decisions you make. You’re often faced with tough choices, deciding who to side with, who lives, who dies, to tell the truth or lie to the people you’re with. This is unlike any game I’ve ever played and the story hit emotional notes I’ve never experienced while gaming. There are moments from this series that stand out like the great moments in my favourite books and films.

(As of the 19th of December, Episode 1 is free in the App store. Get it!)


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