Finding Great Gift Books Has Never Been Easier

Ah, the mid-December stress of needing to buy perfect presents for loved ones who are annoyingly hard to buy for WHILE you are totally rushing to get enough work in by year’s end. Thankfully, a solution presents itself: books. Getting just the right book for someone is so rewarding—more enduring, personal, and somehow less materialist than say, a kitchen gadget or ill-fitting piece of clothing.

Once you’ve committed to books-as-Christmas-gifts, there’s only one more challenge: how to choose ones that suit your intended and that you feel good about. As always, reviews, word-of-mouth from friends, book clubs, librarians, and passionate bookstore staff are great ways to find books that meet this challenge. So too are big award shortlists and media darlings; see the end of this post for some of these.

But in the last couple of years, some alternate “curatorial” or compilation resources have sprung up on the Web for book buyers that are well worth looking at. If you want to go outside of Giller/Canada Reads territory for your ideas, check out the following handy sites:

Advent Book Blog, created by Julie Wilson and Sean Cranbury. The blog’s slogans—“Helping You Buy Better Books” and “Great Books Recommended by Great People”—do a nice job of summing up what the site does. An annual December affair, Advent Book Blog showcases the faves of contributors associated with books, publishing, and creativity in general. The site’s About page explains its purpose like this:

 

 

“It’s like one of those cardboard holiday calendars with 25 pieces of chocolate inside them. Only this calendar is made of pixels and instead of being filled with chocolate it’s filled with book recommendations from awesome people.”

 

Canada Reads Indies by Kerry Clare of Pickle Me This. Kerry Clare had a dream:

“Imagine a group of smart people, of book experts, each with diverse and formidable talent that collectively is more than a little awe-inspiring. What incredible books might such readers recommend?”

Her dream came true: this year’s panel of experts—whom Kerry calls “champions”—include Sheree Fitch, Nathalie Foy, Chad Pelley, Carrie Snyder, and Robert J. Wiersema. Check out the site for their picks for 2010!

 

 

The Bookseer: Created by Apt Labs, The Bookseer “takes the last book you read, and searches a number of other sites—Amazon, LibraryThing and BookArmy—to offer a suggested list of books to read next. It does this using these services’ publicly available APIs.” In the pursuit of a great gift book, you could ask your intended receiver what their favourite recent read was, than plug this title into Bookseer to find something else they’d probably like.

One very endearing, non-techie thing we love about The Bookseer? Once they come up with a list of titles for you to consider, they also include this note: “Of course, you could go ask your local bookshop or your local library.”

 

 

As for the promised links to 2010’s big award shortlists/winners:

The Scotiabank Giller Prize Shortlist

Governor General’s Literary Award Winners

Various Writers’ Trust Award Winners

BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction award shortlist

Griffin Poetry Prize

Also check out:

Quill & Quire’s Top 20

The Globe and Mail’s Top 100 Fiction

The Globe and Mail’s Top 100 Non-Fiction

The Globe and Mail’s Top 100 Poetry and Graphica

Any good sources you think we’ve missed? Tweet them to @cdnbookshelf

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