Windows into Other Worlds: Gifts for the 2022 Holidays, North American Authors

To give a book is to give a window into another world. Here are five gift ideas for the 2022 Holidays. Today, North American authors. See last week for British authors.

First, a mystery/detective suggestion:

The Sweet Goodbye by Ron Corbett, 2022. Corbett has been nominated for both the Edgar and Arthur Ellis awards. The Sweet Goodbye is a complex tale of deceit and retribution set in the wild timberlands of Maine. Like Ian Rankin, Corbett doesn’t dish out genteel whodunits. However, Corbett’s fictional violence isn’t gratuitous; it’s part of life in the hinterland. [Be aware: The Sweet Goodbye may not suit fans of cozy mysteries.]

On Foot to Canterbury: A Son’s Pilgrimage by Ken Haigh, 2021. Shortlisted for the 2021 Hilary Weston Prize (Nonfiction). Do you have a traveler, hiker, or lover of English history and literature on your gift list? On Foot to Canterbury recounts a walk from Winchester to Canterbury, England, hiking the Pilgrims’ Way. The book delves deeply into England’s past. Haigh weaves together three main threads — travel memoir, English literature, and English history — producing a vibrant tapestry. 

Stray Dogs by Rawi Hage, 2022. Shortlisted for the Giller Prize. Stray Dogs is a collection of sharply-etched stories ranging from Beirut to Montreal to Baghdad. All are sparsely told; all unfold with a quick, addictive pace. Full disclosure: A few of the stories didn’t grab me, but I’m hard to please. 🙂 Regardless, Stray Dogs delivers far more delights than disappointments.

American War by Omar El Akkad, 2017. El Akkad won the 2021 Giller Prize for What Strange Paradise. American War is told with taut, clean prose. The novel’s apocalyptic post-oil storyline brings to mind Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The plot is inventive and disquieting. The post-oil world is artfully rendered. NB: The first 100 pages get mired in a few ruts. After that, the novel takes off.

A Season on Vancouver Island by Bill Arnott, 2022. Arnott is the award-winning author of numerous travel books and novellas. If your prospective giftee has visited Vancouver Island or plans to, present them with A Season on Vancouver Island, a travel memoir for all seasons. Arnott’s writing is humorous, poetical, and illuminating. For those yet to visit one of the world’s most majestic islands (and its surrounding archipelago), the book will whet their appetite and inform their journey. For those who’ve been there, the book will bring them back – to, as Arnott describes it, the language of ravens and the sound of sea-wash.

Windows into Other Worlds: Gifts for the 2022 Holidays, British Authors

To give a book is to give a window into another world. Here are four gift ideas for the 2022 Holidays. Today, British authors; next week, North American authors.

First, a mystery/detective suggestion:

Arthur & George by Julian Barnes, 2005. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize (Barnes won it for The Sense of an Ending, 2011). Arthur & George should appeal to aficionados of detective fiction as well as literary fiction. The novel retells the story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes’ creator) championing a lowly solicitor named George Edalji. Arthur & George aired as a TV mini-series in 2015.

Lessons by Ian McEwan, 2022. If you know someone who likes long, contemplative novels, Lessons could fit the bill. {NB: It weighs in at 448 pages, which could be too long for some.} Like Julian Barnes, Booker-prize winner McEwan is an elegant stylist. Lessons features a worldly plot and vivid detail, such that a social anthropologist could read it hundreds of years from now and form a solid picture of the novel’s era: post-WW II.

Elizabeth Finch by Julian Barnes, 2022. In Elizabeth Finch, Barnes has created a memorable character, a stoic, erudite Londoner. Finch is a beacon of light to the novel’s protagonist. She propels him to write a study of Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate. NB: The novel is a philosophical exploration as much as a contemporary narrative. If your prospective giftee favours novels salted with metaphysics or antiquity, Elizabeth Finch is sure to please them.

Inside Story by Martin Amis, 2020. McEwan, Barnes, and Amis are considered three of the best British authors of the post-war period. Although subtitled A Novel, Inside Story is largely biographical. Amis regales readers with unique insights, both frivolous and cerebral. He grew up in a time and place of, let’s say, amorous exuberance (Swinging London, 1960s-70s). The novel uncorks womanizing and braggadocio, but also poignancy, self-doubt, and generosity of spirit. If your giftee admires inventive prose and unabashed characters, this is a book for them.