Shorter days. Longer sleeves. Lower temperatures. The slow creep of winter is hard to ignore, especially this year, when at-home pastimes aren’t just enjoyable but essential. We’d never come between you and a loaf of sourdough—or, for that matter, between you and a vodka tonic—but we propose very good books as a chaser. (Very.) And we all know that books make excellent gifts at this time of year (or any time of year)! To facilitate this, we’re having a Holiday Sale! All titles are now 25% off until December 23rd, and as a bonus, we’re offering free shipping within Canada on all orders over $50.00. The Book*hug Elves have also created a thoughtful selection of holiday book bundles for you, your loved ones, and/or the mysterious next-door neighbour who you’ve seen reading Shani Mootoo. In addition to all of this, we’ll be curating a selection of reading wish lists, or gift guides, that will feature some of our favourite fiction, nonfiction, and poetry titles, all of which you can find in our online shop. As a tip, we encourage you to shop early so that your books can arrive in time for the holidays.
Today’s reading wish list is short and sweet because we’re talking about short stories. These books use brevity to their advantage: they encompass, in miniature, the physical world (as in Brad Casey’s The Handsome Man) and generations of political and personal history (as in Alex Leslie’s We All Need to Eat and Derek Mascarenhas’ Coconut Dreams). Far from a genre for the faint of heart, short stories invite the reader to surrender their expectations. To live in a universe on its own schedule. Any or all of these collections would make a perfect gift for the short story lover on your holiday shopping list.
Two’s company, three’s a crowd—and sometimes it’s more than that. In The Third Person, a collection of uncanny short stories by Emily Anglin, a sequence of tense professional and personal negotiations between two people is complicated when a third person arrives. Anglin’s darkly humorous stories contemplate situations in which characters refashion themselves to fit a new competitive milieu. Within these triangulated microworlds, disorienting gaps open up between words and reality: employees dissolve from job titles, neighbours overstep comfortable boundaries, and voices distanced by space or time make their presence felt. Anglin’s debut collection explores the uneasiness that builds among these separate but entangled lives.
“Prepare yourself for ‘spontaneous empathy,’” writes Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author Johanna Skibsrud, “and for specters, knowledge brokers, and an oddball cast of characters who feel, at once, both familiar and strange. Reading Emily Anglin’s The Third Person is like watching the opening sequence of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.”
The Handsome Man is a collection of linked stories that follow several years of the life of a young man as he is drawn around the world: from Toronto to Montreal, New York, Ohio, New Mexico, British Columbia, Berlin, Rome, and Northern Ontario, along the way meeting hippies, healers, drinkers, movie stars, old friends, and welcoming strangers. He isn’t travelling, however; he’s running away. But as far and fast as he runs, the world won’t let him disappear, and each new encounter and every lost soul he meets along this journey brings him closer and closer to certain truths he’d locked away: how to trust, how to live in this world, and most of all, how to love again.
“Brad Casey’s fiction debut is a gem that celebrates little blips of happiness and small, elusive moments of genuine human connection,” writes author Guillaume Morisette. Sofia Banzhaf, author of Pony Castle, adds that Casey “takes you on an unforgettable journey through life’s wilderness,” and that the book is “about the dream of youth, the desire to squeeze every last shimmering drop of life out of the present moment.”
We All Need to Eat is a collection of linked stories from award-winning author Alex Leslie that revolves around Soma, a young Queer woman in Vancouver. Lyrical, gritty, and atmospheric, the stories slipstream through Soma’s first three decades, exploring one young person’s journey through mourning, escapism, and the search for nourishment. Madeleine Thien, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing, writes that “We All Need to Eat is a stunning inquiry into the sharpness of the world as it collides with the fragility—the ambiguities and possibilities—of the self,” and that “this bold and searing collection is a wonder.”
In his debut short story collection, Coconut Dreams, Derek Mascarenhas takes a fresh look at the world of the new immigrant and the South Asian experience in Canada. In these stories, a daughter questions her father’s love at an IKEA grand opening; an aunt remembers a safari-gone-wrong in Kenya; an uncle’s unrequited love is confronted at a Goan Association picnic; a boy tests his faith amidst a school-yard brawl; and a childhood love letter is exchanged during the building of a backyard deck. The collection weaves through various timelines and perspectives to focus on two children, Aiden and Ally Pinto, who tackle their adventures in a predominantly white suburb with innocence, intelligence and a timid foot in two distinct cultures.
“Like all proper enchantments, these vignettes are dark, light, strange, and vivid such that they delight and charm in equal portions,” writes Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, author of All the Broken Things. Author Kim Echlin offers an equally favorable warning: “Prepare to be delighted.”
In Just Pervs, Jess Taylor’s sophomore story collection, contemporary views of female sexuality are subverted, and women are given agency over their desires and bodies. Through these characters, sex is revealed to be many things at once: gross, shameful, exhilarating, hidden or open—and always complicated. Reminiscent of the works of Maggie Nelson, Mary Gaitskill and Chris Kraus, the stories in Just Pervs explore the strange oppression and illumination created by desire, the bewilderment of adolescence, and the barriers to intimacy both discovered within and imposed upon ourselves.
“Jess Taylor’s stories are a lot of fun, but more importantly they push up against misconceptions about what it means to be a sexual woman,” writes Fawn Parker for 49th Shelf. Quill & Quire writes that “Taylor’s prose is beautiful and cutting,” and that “these stories are cruel and unflinching about everything: characters, events, even the recurring Toronto scenery.”