1. For the sister who craves sharp dialogue with a dash of the supernatural
It’s hard to find a more lovable protagonist than 16-year-old Jared, cracker of killer one-liners, baker of pot cookies beyond compare and protector of just about everyone who crosses his path, be it his ailing dad, his flighty mom, the elderly couple next door, or the hockey-star ex-boyfriend of a girl he has a crush on. Meanwhile, nobody seems to have Jared’s back, except for maybe a meddlesome raven that follows him around and sometimes talks to him… Son of a Trickster, by Eden Robinson, $32.
2. For the millennial, by the millennial
Kaur’s first poetry collection, milk and honey, which she self-published on Amazon, was a runaway hit, landing on the New York Times bestseller list for 52 consecutive weeks. The Canadian’s sophomore outing explores similar themes as her first book does, of love and loss and trauma and healing, and is similarly adorned with Kaur’s own illustrations. The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur, $20.
3. For the brother who loves epic literary tales
This is a story about a brother and sister, mostly being raised by their grandparents in the American South; about their mom, who takes the kids off to collect their father after he is released from prison; and about the ghosts that still haunt the family. Characters as distinct are scarce in fiction; Ward’s writing is both complex and utterly fluid. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward, $35.
4. For the uncle who relishes a yarn with more twists than a Chubby Checkers record
CBC journalist Dakin noticed things were off with her family when she was a kid — twice her mom uprooted Dakin and her younger brother, Ted, moving them thousands of miles away without any warning. Only when she was in her 20s did Dakin’s mom tell her why: They’d been on the run from organized crime, with whom her father had once been involved. Not only that, but they were all still being followed by shady characters. Or… were they? Mystery rolls in like the tide in this story — without fail, over and over. Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood, by Pauline Dakin, $25.
5. For the nephew whose favourite albums came out in the ’70s
Here is a window into the life and times of one of Canada’s most celebrated artists, as well as her relationships with the other folksingers who defined her era: Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Leonard Cohen and David Crosby. Yaffe uncovers the stories behind many of Mitchell’s most beloved songs, as well as her unfiltered version of events with her many famous lovers and friends. Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, by David Yaffe, $35.
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7. For the niece who dreams of travel — and saving lives
Recounting his experiences as an emergency physician in both Toronto’s downtown St. Michael’s Hospital and the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Maskalyk delivers a vivid and compelling sense of the emotional urgency in the ER — which is the same no matter the continent — for patients, the people who love them, and the people who are trying to keep them alive. Life on the Ground Floor: Letters from the Edge of Emergency Medicine, by James Maskalyk.
8. For the aunt who loves war stories
Here is a collection of essays from vets of multiple conflicts — World War II, the Korean War, the peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, and of course Afghanistan. Among them are Captain Kelly S. Thompson, who walked for three kilometres on a broken leg to prove she belonged in the army, and Master Corporal Lisa Ouellette, a paramedic who fought her profound fear of Ebola to save hundreds of lives in Sierra Leone. What they show is that heroism comes in many forms, not least of which is accepting help from others. Everyday Heroes: Inspirational Stories from Men and Women in the Canadian Armed Forces, edited by Jody Mitic, $25.
9. For the devotee of hockey heroes — and wisdom gleaned from the game
Gordie Howe was old-school; maybe in some ways, too old-school — he felt it necessary to stand up every time a woman entered a room, for example. But he lived according to a strict regime of principles: generosity, hard work, humility and patience among them. In Nine Lessons, the one Howe son who never played professional hockey reflects on the more important things he learned from his dad, in a tribute that offers sweet inside stories that fans will lap up. Nine Lessons I Learned from My Father, by Murray Howe, $30.
10. For the cousin who revels in a perfect combo of history, true crime and social justice
In the 1920s, the Osage Indian nation were among the richest people in America, being as their land sat atop one of the country’s largest oil deposits. Then they started dying, by the dozen, and it fell upon the relatively newly formed FBI to investigate what would ultimately turn out to be a conspiracy to strip the Osage of their prosperity. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann, $39.
11. For the friend who comes through with a home-cooked meal when you need a little TLC
In the aftermath of her brother’s death and breaking up with her fiancé, food writer and former New Yorker editor Nunn travelled across the country visiting and cooking with friends. Her writing sparkles with humour and honesty, and she offers up some of the best recipes she encountered on her heart-healing journey (in case your friend wants to try them out on you). The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart, by Emily Nunn, $35.