Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

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

  • Print

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.


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




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

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.