Winter, with its long nights and its forced sequestration, is a perfect time for books. Whether you take on a big reading project, or use the time to catch up with old favourites, or merely try to keep up with the new releases, winter is ... well, it’s basically peak season for book geeks. None of that feeling “I should really be outside” nonsense.
And here to help minister to your winter reading needs, our dedicated independent booksellers weigh in with some of their picks for the darkest of seasons. Put the kettle on and settle in.
Robert J. Wiersema
The Bookseller: Mary-Ann Yazedjian, Book Warehouse Main Street (Vancouver, BC)
The Pick: The Horrors: An A to Z of Funny Thoughts on Awful Things, by Charles Demers
Charles Demers is well on his way to being the King of Comedy in Canadian writing. His razor-sharp, self-deprecating, intelligent humour is such a pleasure to read; I've loved each of his books and this one is no exception. Charlie has the amazing ability to make you burst into laughter while reading an account of him coming to terms with OCD, or having a poignant moment with his brother on the anniversary of their mother's death. This is the dark, funny, perceptive, and poignant book you didn't know you needed.
It’s that time of year again, that most wonderful time, when the evenings are long, and the air is full of the sound of Year-End Best-Of lists. What, you were expecting carolling?
Sure, the holidays are swell and everything, but as a booklover, the turning of the year is a time to look back, to recall what books brought me joy and, more significantly, to look at other peoples’ lists and see what I missed.
My book budget goes out the window in December, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.
The Year-End Best-Of list has become as much a tradition as turkey dinners and fighting with your family around the table. David Gutowski has, at the time of this writing, more than a thousand such lists aggregated over at Largehearted Boy (and yes, I’m spending altogether too much time there).
But the lists, at least in their more formal iterations, are also a recurring cause of frustration. Open a newspaper, flip through a magazine, click a link, and what do you find? Writers talking about the best books of the year. Reviewers boiling a year’s work down to a handful of favourites. Media figures weighing in with their choices. It’s as if, in the wake of the major prizes, everybody gets to contribute their voices.
Well, almost everyone.
Who don’t you find, as a rule?
Sure, there’s the occasional broad-based piece: Quill & Quire usually consults with a few booksellers for an article, and Publisher’s Weekly did a great job with a survey of American booksellers last we …
You know how there are people who talk about reading cookbooks in bed, just for the pleasure of the reading? Susan Musgrave's A Taste of Haida Gwaii is precisely the kind of cookbook they're talking about. For example, the chief appeal of the following recipe for Dulce de Leche Buttermilk Ice Cream is not actually the inevitable delicious, but lines like, "When things end up burnt in my kitchen there isn’t usually a happy ending. My burnt messes never end up starring in a Winning Desserts of the World cookbook. They go over the cliff onto the riverbank where the ravens and eagles do daily fly-by’s hoping for a fiasco in my kitchen."
But yes, enjoy the ice cream too. Technically (by which we mean seasonally, and not by the school calendar) there still remain weeks and weeks of summer.
I have combined Smitten Kitchen’s Buttermilk Ice Cream and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream recipes to come up with a recipe that is the best of both worlds.
1 cup (250 mL) heavy cream
3/4 cup (190 mL) dulce de leche (purchased, or homemade, see Aside)
6 large egg yolks
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla or one whole vanilla bean, scraped and simmered with the cream
Pinch of salt
Sprinkling of edible gold flake …