All stories relating to Books of the Year
Click on the thumbnails to find out which fiction titles mattered the most in 2012.
In the December 2011 issue of Q&Q, five book designers picked their favourite covers of the year.
Click on the thumbnails to find out why these covers were selected as some of the best of 2011.
Just as a pair of novels came to dominate the past fall’s literary awards season, so too has a pair of non-fiction titles, about tree-planting in the Pacific Northwest and a group of chimps living out their days in a Quebec animal sanctuary, emerged as the books to beat.
Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe (Greystone Books) by Charlotte Gill and The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery (HarperCollins Canada) by Andrew Westoll (both of which were named Q&Q books of the year for 2011) led the nominations for the 2012 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-fiction, the shortlist for which was announced in Toronto Tuesday morning. Both titles are also on the shortlist for the $40,000 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-fiction, which was unveiled last month.
The complete shortlist, as chosen by jurors Allan M. Brandt, Stevie Cameron, and Susan Renouf, is as follows:
- Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis (Knopf Canada)
- Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe by Charlotte Gill (Greystone Books)
- The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit by J.J. Lee (McClelland & Stewart)
- Afflictions and Departures by Madeline Sonik (Anvil Press)
- The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary: A Canadian Story of Resilience and Recovery by Andrew Westoll (HarperCollins Canada)
The winner of the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize will be announced at a gala luncheon in Toronto on March 5.
All the retailers Q&Q polled for their top Canadian cookbook picks are drooling over Velveeta éclairs and foie gras breakfast sandwiches, thanks to David McMillan, Frédéric Morin, and Meredith Erickson’s The Art of Living According to Joe Beef: A Cookbook of Sorts (Ten Speed Press). Inspired by the trio of trendy Montreal restaurants owned by McMillan and Morin, Joe Beef is not just a favourite for “restaurant people or those in know,” it’s also a “nice reading book,” says Barbara-jo McIntosh, owner of Vancouver’s Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks.
“It’s always fun when you know the place, too,” says Alison Fryer, owner of Toronto’s The Cookbook Store, who compares Joe Beef’s success to Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij’s restaurant-inspired Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey (D&M Publishers), which topped 2010 lists.
Less decadent but still delicious, according to retailers, are three popular Whitecap titles: Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan’s Spilling the Beans: Cooking and Baking with Beans and Grains Everyday, Nettie Cronish and Pat Crocker’s Everyday Flexitarian: Recipes for Vegetarians & Meat Lovers Alike, and Mairlyn Smith’s Healthy Starts Here: 140 Recipes that Will Make You Feel Great. While Jennifer McLagan’s ode to offal, Odd Bits: How to Cook the Rest of the Animal (HarperCollins Canada), might not be an average home chef’s go-to book, it’s a personal favourite with retailers.
Food Network Canada celebrities can’t be underestimated when it comes to cookbook sales. This season saw popular titles from several celebu-chefs, including Mark McEwan’s Fabbrica: Great Italian Recipes Made Easy for Home (Penguin Canada); Janet and Greta Podleski’s Looneyspoons Collection: Janet & Greta’s Greatest Recipe Hits Plus a Whole Lot More (Granet); Michael Smith’s Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen: 100 of My Favourite Easy Recipes (Penguin Canada); and Laura Calder’s Dinner Chez Moi (HarperCollins Canada). Anna Olson’s November release, Back to Baking: 200 Timeless Recipes to Bake, Share and Enjoy (Whitecap), is already in demand. Gail Norton of Calgary’s The Cookbook Co. Cooks says the waiting list for a November baking class with Olson was “a mile long.”
However, one of the biggest cookbooks of 2011 is a leftover from last year. Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming (Whitecap) is still riding high on the bestsellers’ list. Norton recalls that when Quinoa 365 was first released in April 2010 she thought former Whitecap publisher Robert McCullough was “nuts,” and conservatively ordered five. These days, she orders 20 at a time.
Will Ferguson’s Canadian Pie (Penguin Canada), a collection of essays and comic memoirs set across the country, has been selling well since its release in October, according to travel booksellers contacted by Q&Q.
Dwight Elliot, owner of The Travel Bug in Vancouver, says Ferguson’s backlist – including his 2005 book Hitching Rides with Buddha: Travels in Search of Japan (Vintage Canada) – continues to be popular among Canadians with wanderlust.
Elliot also pointed to John Vaillant’s The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival (Vintage Canada), published in 2010 but out in paperback this year, as a top seller. Winner of the 2011 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-fiction and recently shortlisted for the 2012 CBC Canada Reads competition, Vaillant’s unique non-fiction thriller explores Southeastern Siberia through the story of a murderous tiger.
At Ulysses Travel Books in Montreal, best bets of 2011 include a new edition of the phrasebook Canadian French for Better Travel (Ulysses) and a series of French-language cookbooks based on the popular documentary series Les Grands Explorateurs.
Ulysses bookseller Philip Opzoomer says outdoorsy travel books have been increasingly in demand this year. Fittingly, National Geographic’s Guide to the National Parks of Canada, released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada in 2011, has been a hit since its release in July.
Quillcast is a new podcast series from Quill & Quire featuring behind-the-scenes conversations with authors and publishing insiders. In this episode, the second in a two-part series on non-fiction authors, Vancouver writer Charlotte Gill speaks about her experiences as a professional tree-planter, the subject of her memoir Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber, and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe (Greystone Books), one of Q&Q’s 2011 books of the year.
Eating Dirt was shortlisted for the inaugural Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for non-fiction, and was recently longlisted for the B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.
Scroll down to listen to the episode, and click on the thumbnails to view photos from Gill’s life as a tree-planter:
Quillcast is produced with media partners The Walrus, Open Book: Ontario, and Open Book: Toronto, with support from Toronto Life. This project has been generously supported by the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Entertainment and Creative Cluster Partnerships Fund.
Creating lists of the year’s best books is an annual ritual in which I am frequently asked to participate. These requests never fail to make me uncomfortable: such judgments ultimately come down to matters of individual taste, and in any case, it is impossible for one person to read the sum total of books published in a calendar year, and therefore to make an informed decision as to what constitutes the “best.”
It is possible, however, to look back on a year’s worth of reading and identify a handful of books that rose above the pack, books that proved more affecting, more memorable, or more enjoyable than the rest. Not necessarily the best, whatever that might mean, but a group of personal favourites. With that in mind, here are five books that made an impression on me in 2011.
There’s no formula for choosing the books of the year. Some break ground, some tackle familiar themes with new energy. Some represent the best work from established authors, some introduce us to important new voices. And some are simply in-house favourites we feel deserve a little more attention. Together, these 20 books made the biggest impact in 2010.
Bookmarks: The Advent Book Blog helps you shop, The National Post picks a shadow Canada Reads list, and more
- Richard Lea at the Guardian blog: If you can’t get Roth, Palin, or Rowling on the Kindle, what can you get?
- David Suzuki’s garbage gets combed through for incriminating Kraft Dinner boxes, and now archeologists are looking at what the Bard may have tossed away
- The L.A. Times picks their 25 favourite books of the year and actually selects some – gasp – poetry! That provoked a hearty booyah from this cubicle
- Web 2.0 marketing guru and Bookmadam Julie Wilson has teamed up with Books on the Radio‘s Sean Cranbury to offer the Advent Book Blog: Great Books Recommended by Great People
- Those funny book blog dudes at the National Post noted this year’s Canada Reads pics and wondered, what should Canada also read? Get your answers in by 5:00 p.m. this afternoon and maybe you’ll be able to participate in the alterna-reads version of the popular CBC book debate show
Some book-related links:
- Crime and Punishment – the opera (The Moscow Times)
- War and Peace – the mini-series (The Moscow Times)
- A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – the Wii (kidding)
- More War and Peace, this time from critic James Wood (The New Yorker)
- The best (American) book covers of 2007 (The Book Design Review)*
- Read for fun, be smarter (Washington Post)
- Speaking of reading for fun, do pulp novels need hard times? (Bookforum)
* For the best Canadian covers of the year, as picked by some our top book designers, pick up Q&Q’s special “Books of the Year” December issue, coming very soon.