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Season's Greetings

May wondrous sights, radiant lights, glimmering greetings and a pleasurable season be yours over the holidays. Books are always on our mind, and nothing warms the spirit like a good read over the winter months. Here are some titles the Wordfest team is most excited about.

Winter Reading

Jo Steffens' Picks:

A book I would recommend: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (McClelland & Stewart) takes readers on a steadily accelerating wild ride into a perfectly imagined world of malfeasance and murder in a 19th century NZ gold-mining town.

A book I would love to read: Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown and Company) is high on my Christmas list of books I would like to receive and read. Similar to Catton she writes wonderfully intricate and fully-realized neo-Victorian novels.

Terry Cho's Picks:

A book I would recommend: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Penguin). I'm not ashamed to admit that I've only read this book for the first time this year. It's a classic and once you read it you'll know why. In a time when people can get flustered about getting the right gift, this book may ground you and assure you that there are some things money just can't buy. It also reaffirmed my belief that there are few exceptions to the rule: the book is always better than the movie!

A book I would love to read: The Secret History by Donna Tartt (Vintage). There has been much buzz about Donna Tartt's recently published The Goldfinch and, while the book's inspiration and synopsis interest me, I'm not sure I want to delve into a 700+ page book from an author I've never read anything by. My remedy: to read Tartt's highly acclaimed, much shorter, debut novel, The Secret History. The book centres on a group of eclectic college students bound together by a mysterious incident involving death and possibly murder.

Kajsa Erickson's Picks:

A book I would recommend: 70% Acrylic 30% Wool by Viola Di Grado (Europa Editions). The novel compels you on a journey through Chinese language lessons, dark encounters in a sea cave, the importance of a Björk poster and a ditch, and the relationship between a grieving woman who collects holes and her flute-playing mother who speaks only with her gaze. The counterpoint of surprising humour and impending danger, told with Di Grado’s formidable use of inventive language, made it a read that I could hardly put down.

A book I would love to read: Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook by Calgary authors Pierre A. Lamielle and Julie Van Rosendaal (Whitecap Books). Lushly illustrated and photographed, this collection of recipes inspired by Lewis Carroll’s story and characters is interlaced with excerpts from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I’m looking forward to trying some whimsical delicacies such as Cheshire Cat’s Grinny Grainy Mustard Rarebit, Alice’s “Eat Me” Cakes with Blackcurrant Icing and The Queen of Hearts’ Jam Tarts.

Sandra Paire's Picks:

A book I would recommend: A Beautiful Truth by Colin McAdam (Hamish Hamilton). Told simultaneously from the perspective of humans and chimpanzees (an innovative approach), the book is beautifully written, at times brutal and at other times deeply moving. It is a wonderful meditation on the meaning of family, the lure of belonging and the capacity for survival.

A book I would love to read: I Forgot to Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia by Su Meck (Simon & Schuster). The author suffered severe brain injuries 23 years ago that erased all her previous memories. This is her story. Meck wrote an editorial in New York Times Magazine in 2011 that piqued my interest. Her memoir will be released in February 2014, and I cannot wait to read it.

Cassandra Paul's Picks:

A book I would recommend: Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska (Doubleday Canada). This is a non-fiction recollection of a recovering alcoholic's relapse that coincides with the birth of her first child. This book was a quick read and one that left me with conflicting emotions of empathy, judgment and vulnerability.

A book I would love to read: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Vintage Canada). I picked up a few books at the festival that I am eager to start reading, and this one is at the top of the list. I love books that make me want to learn; and based on reviews I have read, I already want to know everything about Chechnyan culture and history!

Volunteer Mary Peet's Picks:

A book I would recommend: The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (NYRB Classics). Father and Grandmother are spending the long Scandinavian summer on their own small island. This is a series of vignettes -- not really short stories -- showing the special relationship between a young girl and her grandmother.

A book I would love to read: Matadora: A Novel by Elizabeth Ruth (Cormorant Books). Having read Hemingway and other male authors about matadors, the female point of view will be interesting.

Everett Wilson's Picks:

A book I would recommend: On the Political by Chantal Mouffe (Routledge). Have you ever thought, "Why can't our politicians just get along and focus on running the country?" The feeling that politics could benefit from less conflict and more cooperation is a sentiment shared by many. Too many people see it this way, in fact, according to Mouffe who warns how this popular "wish" fundamentally misunderstands what it means to be political, and could even be harmful to democracy if realized.

A book I would love to read: In Praise of Love by Alain Badiou with Nicolas Tuong, translated by Peter Bush (New Press). In an age that too-often encourages risk-free relationships and the pursuit of empty pleasures, love is apparently under threat. This elegant defence of one of philosophy's most mystifying phenomena was born out of a conversation between Badiou and Tuong during the Avignon Festival's "Theatre of Ideas" series in July 2008. There's a quote from Plato in the preface that ultimately sealed the deal for me. I had to add it to my bookshelf.

Suggest your own books!

Now it's your turn. Earlier this season, we asked our Twitter followers to suggest some titles for winter reading, and @janetsomerville, @bookishwanderer and @WhyFolkRadio shared some great book recommendations. We would love to collect more suggestions from friends of Wordfest. Share some of the books on your wishlist, and enter in a draw for a book prize in the New Year. If Wordfest collects enough responses, some of your suggestions could appear in an upcoming newsletter featuring Wordfest audience picks for the New Year!

Click to Suggest Books!

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