Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Best of the best, in case you still need a gift idea

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OK, we give up. We can't limit ourselves to 10.

Of the thousands of books released in 2012, below are the ones Free Press reviewers say they liked the best.

If you hurry, you might be able to get a last-minute gift idea.

Here are their recommendations, with excerpts from their reviews, divided into fiction and non-fiction and listed alphabetically.

Non-fiction:

Barack Obama, by David Maraniss

"Fascinating. Maraniss presents the story of Barack Obama as one of family, history, race relations, and identity."

-- George MacLean

 

Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo

"An astonishing work of narrative journalism that reads like a novel but stands firm in its commitment to the facts."

-- Faith Johnston

 

Bruce, by Peter Ames Carlin

"The whole paints a less attractive portrait of the rocker, but it's actually a relief, certainly it's more relatable, to see the very human Springsteen emerge from the chrysalis of a contrived image."

-- Julie Carl

 

Canadian Women and the Struggle for Equality, by Lorna R. Marsden

"Marsden is expert in her analysis of women's struggles to achieve equality in this country."

-- Brenlee Carrington

 

Consider the Fork, by Bee Wilson

"This is an amazing journey into cooking technology from prehistory to the present that is at once profound and entertaining."

-- Pat Allen

 

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco

"Chris Hedges writes about (and Joe Sacco draws) the dispossessed of the United States, the people who are the waste products of a corporate culture that puts profits before people, and provides some hope for the future."

-- Lawrie Cherniack

 

Elsewhere, by Richard Russo

"Replete with compassion, wit and heartache, this engaging memoir by a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist chronicles the life of his mother, a complex, tragically-flawed woman seen through the unblinking eye of her devoted son."

-- Bev Sandell Greenberg

 

A Geography of Blood, by Candace Savage

"It's a book with perfect pitch, combining careful observation, history and imagination into a wonderfully modulated account of life in a harsh corner of our near neighbour [Saskatchewan]."

-- Gene Walz

 

The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King

"King uses stories to turn history upside down. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that he presents history with a candour and honesty rarely found in usual accounts of the interaction of aboriginals and non-aboriginals."

-- Ron Kirbyson

 

Johnson's Life of London, by Boris Johnson

"The former journalist and current Conservative mayor of London, England, has written a delightful tub-thumping travel advertisement for his home town, a kind of history's greatest hits, including his favourite hobby horses."

-- Ron Robinson

 

The Last Viking, by Stephen R. Bown

"Canadian historical writer Stephen R. Bown's tension-packed narrative relives the illustrious career of the most accomplished polar explorer of all time."

-- Ian Stewart

 

Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, by Steve Coll

"Anyone who cares about how we are governed or the future of our children should read this book."

-- John K. Collins

 

Quiet, by Susan Cain

"In her highly readable ode to introversion, American lawyer, writer and introvert Susan Cain looks at the range of ways introverts can take on a stronger leadership role and advocates for taking more time to consider our decisions."

-- Julie Kentner

 

The Tower of Babble, by Richard Stursberg

"A dose of tough love from insider and self-proclaimed tough guy Stursberg, a self-serving but entertaining memoir-cum-polemic that is certain to infuriate the CBC's strongest adherents."

-- Duncan McMonagle

 

Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

"Cheryl Strayed's story of a summer spent on the arduous 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail is ... a healing memoir for readers who'd rather stick needles in their eyes than read a healing memoir."

-- Bob Armstrong

 

Fiction:

 

The Age of Hope, by David Bergen

"Bergen does what Carol Shields did a generation earlier: he takes up -- with neither condescension nor false sentimentality -- the life of a seemingly insignificant woman his mother's age."

-- Reinhold Kramer

 

Bring up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel

"Truthful and rigorous, Bring Up the Bodies is a rich and satisfying read for anyone who prefers intellectual stimulation to the rose-tinted fantasies and bodice-ripping of lesser writers of this genre."

-- Debbie Patterson

 

Canada, by Richard Ford

"It is planned and executed with the skill of a veteran who knows his craft. And it has an ending that justifies the stately and deliberate pace that leads to it."

-- Morley Walker

 

Carnival by Rawi Hage

"The overall sense of the piece is a celebration of literature, but at the same time, Carnival is about the harsh, raw, senseless world that inspires books, driving home the fact that truth is -- unavoidably -- stranger than fiction."

-- Christine Mazur

 

Dear Life, by Alice Munro

"All of the CanLit icon's strengths are on display in these 14 stories that beautifully recapture a bygone time in her favourite part of the world."

-- Dave Williamson

 

419, by Will Ferguson

"A mixture of intrigue, storytelling, parenthood, sorrow, vengeance and fun. It reads a little bit like a Ludlum spy saga, a little bit like a Dickens character novel, a little bit like an Oscar-seeking movie."

-- Laurence Broadhurst

 

The Emperor of Paris, by C.S. Richardson

"The book is a metaphorical feast for the senses, each sentence offering up some little detail -- a richly hued peacock feather, a dash of raspberry jam -- to linger over and savour."

-- Paul R. McCulloch

 

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

"Flynn, a former U.S. pop-culture magazine writer, has penned a dark, funny, scary book about a relationship gone wrong that is a study in emotional manipulation."

-- Jill Wilson

 

The Imposter Bride, by Nancy Richler

"The question of identity lies at the heart of Montreal author Nancy Richler's beautiful new literary novel, a meticulously rendered character study about Jews in post-Second World War Montreal."

-- Sharon Chisvin

 

The Purchase, by Linda Spalding

"Pretty much all Spalding's principal characters are complex, and cerebral, without being either educated or intellectual. Actions, for good or ill, are reflected in rich inner lives, slaves included."

-- Douglas J. Johnston

 

Ravenscraig, by Sandi Krawchenko Altner

"The former Winnipegger has researched and written a wonderful Winnipeg-warts-and-all historical romance set mostly in the 1900s. It's a brash, two-faced Winnipeg, but still a recognizable one."

-- Ron Robinson

 

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich

"As is customary in Erdrich's fiction, The Round House brings alive the daily realities of contemporary aboriginal culture, while showing how the traces of its long history in the Americas are everywhere apparent."

-- Neil Besner

 

Shadow of Night, by Deborah Harkness

"With the first two instalments of this utterly thrilling trilogy, Harkness is right on point in creating an epic work of literary fantasy."

-- Jennifer Pawluk

 

Trust Me, I'm a Banker, by David Charters

"In this hilarious, ripped-from-the-headlines novel about an oversized ego gone wild, Brit David Charters draws on his own experience as a banker that might serve as a red flag to investors."

-- Harriet Zaidman

 

What You Get at Home, by Dora Dueck

"This locally penned collection of short stories contains beautifully evocative portrayals of women who find the strength to deal with the challenges life throws their way."

-- Cheryl Girard

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2012 J10

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