This holiday season, share the gift of a good book! Whether you’re looking for memoirs, history, or picture books, we have all that and more in our 2023 Gift Guide.
Books for the Voracious Memoir Reader
Memoirs invite readers to walk a while in the author’s shoes. From emotional, to heartwarming, and often humourous, these are true tales that pack a punch.
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Cooking Tips for Desperate Fishwives: An Island Memoir recently won Silver at the Taste Canada Awards for Culinary Narratives.
Part love story, part survival story, part meditation on family dysfunction, this offbeat memoir chronicles the unpredictable life of a young wife and mother on a remote West Coast island.
True to its title, Cooking Tips for Desperate Fishwives is a memoir infused with recipes, from the hearty Eastern European fare of author Margot Fedoruk’s childhood to more adventurous coastal BC cuisine.
Readers looking for a non-traditional memoir about a non-traditional life will find themselves pulled into Margot’s story, sailing alongside for the ride.
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Galena Bay Odyssey traces Ellen Schwartz’s journey from being a born-and-raised urbanite who was terrified of the woods to a self-determined logger, cabin-builder, gardener, chicken farmer, apiarist, and woodstove cook living on a communal farm in the Kootenays.
Part memoir and part exploration of what motivated the exodus of young hippies to go “back to the land,” this fascinating book explores the era’s naïveté, idealism, and sense of adventure. Now, almost fifty years later, Ellen reflects on what her homesteader experience taught her about living more fully, honestly, and ecologically.
Galena Bay Odyssey will keep readers fascinated from start to finish. This book is perfect for former hippies, homestead-curious, and anyone who has dreamed of running away to the wilderness.
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Rescued from a puppy mill in 2010, Freddie was a bright light in the lives of his human companions and the ultimate muse for biographer Grant Hayter-Menzies to explore the human–animal bond in his books. As Grant helped Freddie overcome the fears and traumas of his early years, Freddie in turn helped Grant through some of the most challenging years of his personal and professional life. Yet as Freddie sat quietly beside his human’s desk as he wrote, little did Grant know that his canine companion was about to face the hardest battle of his life.
Tracing their journey from Freddie’s adoption and socialization through his growing bond with Grant to his devastating cancer diagnosis in 2020, this book will resonate deeply with anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet. It reminds us of everything that animals can teach us about love, loyalty, and courage.
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After moving to Vancouver Island from the Prairies in 2001, author Carolyn Redl made it her mission to learn as much as she could about the Salish Sea and island living. Four Seasons by the Salish Sea evolved over twenty years of observation, curiosity, discovery, and delight at the natural wonders and seasonal ebbs and flows along this magnificent stretch of coastline.
This insightful and deeply informative book contains facts about plants, animals, history, parks, and communities. Beautifully illustrated with spectacular photographs by Nancy Randall, Four Seasons by the Salish Sea is a lovely keepsake for locals and tourists alike to live vicariously through the stories and photos.
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Every refugee has a story. This is the story of author Michael Andruff’s ancestors, who settled in Canada as part of a group of 116 privately sponsored Russian refugees. The Andriev family was driven from their homeland in 1924, as a result of religious persecution in Russia, when Michael’s father Nikifor was only 3 years old. Their new home, the aptly named Homeglen, Alberta, was a symbol of promise and prosperity.
Nearly a century after Nikifor’s arrival in Homeglen, his son Michael Andruff, reflects upon his family’s history, the legacy of the refugee experience, and the parallels of his father’s generation of refugees with people fleeing conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and, most recently, Ukraine, today.
In The Russian Refugees, readers will find more than a recounting of the legacy of the refugee experience but also a touching story about family and belonging.
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Books for Outdoor Adventurers
Looking for a gift for someone who can’t get enough of the great outdoors? From camping tips (and what not to do) to plant identification, these books will help them get the most out of their next adventure—or inspire them to get started.
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In 2014, twenty-four-year-old geography student David Norwell set off on a daunting kayak journey in search of purpose in his life. Before him lay more than 50,000 islands and 1,700 kilometres, stretching from Vancouver Island to Alaska. As David navigated the waters off the coastal British Columbia, he recorded his observations, musings, and daily activities in a notebook. The result is a one-of-a-kind, bestselling travelogue, filled with more than 700 original watercolour illustrations of land– and seascapes, local plant and animal species, camping supplies, and portraits of people he met along the way.
Shortlisted for the 2023 Banff Mountain Book Competition in the Adventure Travel category, A Complex Coast is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that will appeal to kayakers, naturalists, and anyone looking for adventure.
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Blisters and Bliss: A Trekker’s Guide to the West Coast Trail, 10th Edition by David Foster and Wayne Aitken, illustrations by Nelson Dewey
The 75-kilometre West Coast Trail (WCT) on Vancouver Island is rated as one of the world’s greatest hikes. Blisters and Bliss has been the trekker’s guide to the WCT since its first edition in 1989.
This revised 10th edition, once again, provides a practical and easy-to-use resource for the thousands of hikers who visit the WCT every year. Combining current and accurate information with hundreds of safety and planning tips, this is the ideal guide for novices and experienced trekkers alike.
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Camping British Columbia, the Rockies, and the Yukon: The Complete Guide to Government Campgrounds, 9th Edition by Jayne Seagrave
Western Canada’s quintessential camping guide—now in its 9th edition—lays the groundwork for anyone planning to get out of the city and explore the best that nature has to offer. Every frontcountry provincial, territorial, or national park campground in the region is listed alphabetically, along with clear maps and directions, more than 100 photos, and the latest health and safety regulations.
At a time when many people are itching to travel but still concerned with safety, Camping British Columbia, the Rockies, and the Yukon offers over 150 possibilities for campers of every age and experience level.
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Edible and Medicinal Flora of the West Coast: British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest, Expanded Edition by Collin Varner
The coastal Pacific Northwest is home to a multitude of edible and medicinal plant species, marine plants, and mushrooms.
Now revised and updated with additional species and recipes, Edible and Medicinal Flora of the West Coast, is a compact forager’s guide. It includes clear full-colour photography, descriptions, safety tips and warnings, as well as culinary and medicinal uses from both Indigenous and settler perspectives for every type of wild-growing flora species in the region.
Practical, user-friendly, and with an emphasis on safety, Edible and Medicinal Flora of the West Coast is an indispensable guide for beginner and experienced foragers alike (or the foraging-curious).
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The spread of invasive plant species is a growing concern across the coastal Pacific Northwest. Invasive plants compete for space with native plants, alter the natural habitat, and even interfere with the diets of local wildlife. Hundreds of these species are so commonly seen in our backyards, forests, and roadsides that many people do not even realise that they are not native to this region.
Designed for amateur naturalists, gardeners, and foragers, Invasive Flora of the West Coast is a clear, concise, full-colour guide to identifying and demystifying more than 170 invasive plant species in our midst, from evening primrose to Scotch broom.
Features colour photography, origins and etymologies, safety tips and warnings, as well as historical uses of the plants. This book is practical, user-friendly, and portable for easy, on-the-go identification.
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Books for Makers
If you are shopping for an artist or crafter, it can be tricky to know what to buy for them, especially if you aren’t crafty yourself. Whatever their medium or passion is, these books will provide them with ample inspiration.
Full of beautiful photography and engaging stories, these books really make a great gift for anyone curious about art and culture around us!
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Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands are a part of a unique geographical region that can grow and process its own raw textile materials. This book explores the region’s vibrant fleece and fibre community, including over 40 farms, and introduces the public to this growing land-based textile economy.
At a time when the global textile industry is one of the most unsustainable and exploitative industries on the planet, the public is looking for local alternatives to fast fashion. Part sourcebook, part stunning coffee table book, and part call to action, Fleece and Fibre creates new connections between farmers, raw materials, makers, designers, dyers, and wearers.
Fibre artists and the fibre-curious alike will find inspiration in the bestselling Fleece and Fibre, which is both informative and a call to action.
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Out of the Fire: Metalworkers along the Salish Sea by Pirjo Raits, photography by Dale Roth & Michele Ramberg
Winner of the 2023 Alcuin Society Book Design Award for Illustrated Prose, Out of the Fire: Metalworkers along the Salish Sea is a breathtaking celebration of contemporary artists and artisans who explore the creative possibilities of an ancient medium. From sculptors to farriers, forgers to blacksmiths, jewellers to metalsmiths, and weapons makers to welders, the twenty-four people featured in this book reflect the wide range of talent, skill, and ingenuity that exists on Canada’s southwest coast.
With more than one hundred spectacular colour and black-and-white photographs of the artists and their works, this book brings readers behind the scenes to look at those who choose fire as their tool and metal as their raw material.
Anyone who has felt called to create art will be enchanted by Out of the Fire.
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Bloom Where You Are Planted: 50 Conversations with Inspiring British Columbians by Beka Shane Denter
Bloom Where You Are Planted is a collection of interviews and photography that celebrates a group of innovative, hard-working, and diverse people. These individuals’ creative and business ventures inspire, support, and infuse others’ lives with purpose and positivity. These are people who are passionate about work, community, and giving back.
Readers looking for inspiration or direction will find each interview in Bloom Where You Are Planted compelling, insightful, and inspiring.
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Books for the Armchair Time-traveller
Got a bonafide historian, researcher, or a voracious history reader on your list? They can be tough to buy for, especially since they likely read a lot of history already. Fortunately, these gift ideas look at well-known histories (like the Second World War and the Canadian Pacific Railway) from a new perspective, uncovering forgotten aspects. These books make wonderful gifts for both a seasoned historian or a novice!
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New World Dreams is an in-depth exploration of how the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) created a vision for a burgeoning nation and played a leading role driving immigration to the Canadian West.
In addition to building the railroad that connected the country from coast to coast, CPR was also highly effective at selling the idea of a vast and rich land of opportunity and triggering a massive wave of immigration to what was dubbed the “Golden Northwest” (later the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta). No other independent corporation in the world made such a profound contribution to the creation of a national enterprise.
Illustrated with more than four hundred archival photos and colour advertisements, New World Dreams is the most extensive history of the Canadian Pacific Railway ever published. If you have a railfan or train buff on your gift list, this is the book to buy!
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A Different Track introduces readers to the largely unknown history of hospital trains of the Second World War. From the doctors and nurses who ran them to the factories that manufactured them, this book looks at how these trains quietly altered the fortunes of the world.
Author Alexandra Kitty was inspired to write A Different Track because her grandmother was a nurse on a hospital train during the Second World War. Like much of women’s history, their contributions were chronically underreported. This book highlights their work, especially the nurses who worked on hospital trains.
Readers who enjoy non-fiction, military, or transportation stories, will find A Different Track opens doors to an underexplored history.
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Room at the Inn: Historic Hotels of British Columbia’s Southern Interior by Glen A. Mofford, foreword by Greg Nesteroff
The last book by the late Glen A. Mofford, Room at the Inn reveals the long-forgotten histories of 40 historic hotels, hostelries, resorts, and roadhouses in the southern BC Interior.
Mofford shares the stories of the men and women who built, ran, and frequented these establishments, and how they contributed to their communities in various ways. They provided more than just a roof over the heads of weary travellers; they were often the sites of live entertainment, and places where community members could meet and socialize. Some even doubled as makeshift hospitals during wildfires and floods.
For readers who walk by old buildings and think, “if only those walls could talk, what stories they could tell,” Room at the Inn tells those stories through colourful anecdotes, meticulous research, and fascinating archival photography.
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A riveting work of creative non-fiction, Cathy Converse recounts the voyages of Frances Barkley (1769–1845), who as a young woman travelled around the world twice while on a trading mission with her sea captain husband.
Frances Barkley’s story is a remarkable one. Relying on her strength of character and wit, this young woman survived fierce seas, shipwreck, and capture by pirates. When Frances was approaching her seventh decade, at the behest of her daughter, she put pen to paper and wrote down what she could remember of her life with her husband in the merchant sea trade.
Frances Barkley: Eighteenth-century Seafarer is not simply a re-issue of Frances’s own reminiscences, but an extensive reimagining of her time at sea, supplemented by historical, geographic, and nautical research. Perfect for readers who prefer a more personal approach to history.
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The Premier and His Grandmother: Peter Lougheed, Lady Belle, and the Legacy of Métis Identity by Doris Jeanne MacKinnon
This unique biography is an intriguing look at the connections between Alberta premier Peter Lougheed and his Métis grandmother, Isabella Clark Hardisty Lougheed, exploring how Métis identity, political activism, and colonial institutional power shaped the lives and legacies of both.
Drawing on Peter Lougheed’s personal papers, family interviews, and archival research, author Doris Jeanne MacKinnon analyzes Lougheed’s political initiatives in the context of his own identity as a person of Métis ancestry. While there are several publications that refer to Peter Lougheed in the context of his role as premier, few of those publications have acknowledged his connection to an important Métis pioneer family and his connection to his Indigenous ancestors. The Premier and His Grandmother was reviewed by a Métis cultural teacher prior to publication.
Readers interested in history, politics, and reconciliation will want to discover this previously unexplored side of Lougheed’s life and work.
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For the Young and Young at Heart
You are never too young (or old!) to develop a love of books! This holiday season, give a gift that can lead to a lifelong love of reading.
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Ages 10–14 | Sixties Girl is a poignant coming-of-age story by award-nominated middle-grade author MaryLou Driedger. Inspired by how riveted her own grandkids were by stories of her youth, Driedger framed Sixties Girl in alternating timelines—with Laura recalling her 1960s childhood experiences to her grandson Will.
This vivid portrait of a Canadian childhood and adolescence is a deeply personal, heartfelt reflection on family and self-discovery, as well as an insightful commentary on an era that changed society forever. Sixties Girl is a decade in the life of an ordinary girl living in extraordinary times, from the Cuban Missile Crisis to Expo 67, from Beatlemania to miniskirts.
Sixties Girl would make a great gift from any grandparent to a young reader, or to read together.
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Ages 4–8 | Meet Kimiko Murakami (1904–1997), a brave and determined Japanese-Canadian pioneer and internment camp survivor. Born in British Columbia, Kimiko was part of a long tradition of Japanese-Canadian families who made their livings through fishing and farming in coastal BC. She and her family survived the hardships and injustices of the Second World War and the internment of Japanese Canadians. Through it all, Kimiko never lost hope.
This book celebrates Kimiko Murakami’s achievements and courage through vivid illustrations and a clear, informative, and inspiring narrative.
For families, teachers, and all readers working on diversifying their bookshelves and who are interested in unsung history, unique biographies, and want to read about female role models.
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Ages 4–8 | Meet Lilian Bland (1878–1971), the first woman ever to design, build, and fly her own airplane!
This delightful picture book celebrates the life of Lilian Bland, remembered both in England and in her adopted home of Quatsino Sound, on Vancouver Island, for her many achievements—especially her ground-breaking achievements in aviation.
Told with beautiful illustrations and a clear, inspiring narrative, Lilian’s story of adventure and creativity is sure to enchant young readers.
Any readers looking to add more female role models, women in STEM, and stories of individuals pushing against gender norms to their bookshelves will want to read Lilian Bland.
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Ages 4–8 | Blue Camas, Blue Camas tells the captivating story of how an important flower, cultivated on Canada’s west coast since time immemorial, came to symbolize the meeting of two contrasting ways of life and the perseverance of traditional knowledge against all odds.
The story takes place at the point of contact between a Lkwungen community and a group of Irish settlers, who see the land in very different ways.
This beautifully illustrated picture book offers children as well as adults the opportunity to discuss important themes of miscommunication, colonization, and biodiversity in an open and constructive way.
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Ages 8–12 | Heartwarming, whimsical, and inspirational, An Owl without a Name follows one young owl’s journey to discover who he is and where he belongs. It all started with an accidental tumble out of his safe nest into the unfamiliar and disorienting world of humans . . .
This middle-grade novel was inspired by a real-life owl who was injured in the author’s backyard and taken to the Alberta Birds of Prey Centre for rehabilitation.
Any child who likes animal stories, wants to be a vet, or is curious about wildlife rescue will enjoy following this little owl on his adventure.
P.S. An Owl without a Name’s small size makes it a great stocking stuffer!
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