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The 12 books of Christmas

Retail stores are decking the halls, restaurants are booking parties, and neighbours are balanced precariously on ladders, adorning their homes with strings of lights.

Retail stores are decking the halls, restaurants are booking parties, and neighbours are balanced precariously on ladders, adorning their homes with strings of lights. With the holiday season right around the corner, it’s time for savvy shoppers to start compiling that all-important shopping list, and instead of resorting to the boring old scarf or gift certificate for your hard-to-buy-for brother or dad, why not offer up a literary gift: a book. We’ve compiled a list of 12 good reads for 12 different people on your shopping list, making two suggestions each week: husbands, wives, crazy uncles and aunts, teenage boys and girls, tiny tots, the boss, your American (pro-Obama) friend, the foodie, the family nature nut and local political junkie. Happy reading!


For the boss – How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, By Toby Young

As a gift for your boss, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People works best simply by leaving it on your superior’s desk.

The book itself isn’t necessarily a kick in your boss’s stomach, but it chronicles all the ways one can do that if they wish to assume an underling’s position at a major New York magazine.

The book is a memoir by Toby Young, a British journalist with the dubious distinction of having been fired by the Times of London, the Guardian, the Independent and Vanity Fair. Besides these publications he was also the editor of the Modern Review, a London magazine published every other month whose motto was “low culture for highbrows.”

Articles included near-academic treatments of philistine culture such as the Porky’s films and the collected works of Stephen King.

Beyond his experience as an editor, Young is quite possibly the most obnoxious man who ever hit the industry. But he at least deserves credit for being honest about it.

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People picks up as Young has been commissioned as a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, one of North America’s top cultural publications. There he finds himself trying to fit into the “hoighty-toighty” atmosphere of Conde Nast, a publishing company that also owns Vogue, Glamour and GQ.

Before coming to America he thinks his English accent will take him a long way with his female co-workers and those he meets in NY’s exclusive nightclubs. It isn’t long before he figures out that it takes more than an accent — he’s also lacking in money, a Greenwich Village home and abs you could grate cheese on.

To get a sense of Young’s obnoxiousness you need to think of a slimmer version of Ricky Gervais’s character from The Office. Though not particularly vindictive, Young is impulsive, offensive and blissfully unaware of his impact on others.

His idea of a good prank is to order a stripper for his boss on Take Your Daughters to Work Day. And luckily for him, there’s just no precedent for that transgression.

He thinks it a good idea to take a single remaining empty seat in the front row of a Calvin Klein fashion show. He also thinks it a good idea to get revenge on his boss when he orders him out of the seat.

All of this is difficult stuff to admit to, but rest assured, Young does it. He’s a brave man for it. And his antics, embarrassing as they are, are hilarious throughout. They make great fodder for a boss who wants to believe there are worse employees than the ones he has.

– Jesse Ferreras


For the child – A Baker’s Dozen, by Dr. Seuss


Recently my nine-month old discovered books, or at least pictures. We’ve been reading to her since birth, and it appears to have taken hold. Before bedtime she’ll grab book after book off the shelf until it’s empty.

The problem with most infant books is that they’re short, 20 pages at most, and have maybe 20 words on each page. I’ve read some of her books 50 times now, and frankly I’m getting a little bored. Even Elly seems ready to turn the page before I even get halfway through the words.

Enter Your Favorite Seuss: A Baker’s Dozen by the One and Only Dr. Seuss. This book contains 13 stories: And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, Horton Hears a Who!, McElligot’s Pool, If I Ran the Zoo, Happy Birthday to You!, Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book, Yertle the Turtle, The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, The Sneetches and Oh, The Places You’ll Go. There are introductory essays before each story, and a collection of Theodor Geisel’s (Dr. Seuss’s) artwork.

Although I worry what Elly’s little hands will do to the paper pages — most of her books are heavy cardboard for a reason — I know she’ll love the pictures, the cadence of the poetry, and the fact that mommy and daddy will be able to read to her for hours and hours without getting bored. And while the content is way over Elly’s head, that’s not really the point of reading to her just yet. I’m not teaching her to read or write, or opposites, or shapes and colours, or right or wrong. It’s about bonding, and creating a habit of reading and spending that time together before bedtime. And it’s about me — you want to give your child 100 per cent of your attention, and that’s much easier to do when you have great materials to work with.

Although it’s definitely not a book for toddlers, and is probably better for kids aged 3 and up, this is an essential collection for children of all ages, nine months to 35 years old.

–Andrew Mitchell