Fun and Unusual Books to Give This Holiday Season!

I love to receive books as gifts, as they often tell me as much about the person as the subject of the book. Did they get something that is truly "me" or something that is more them?

Here is a fun and varied list of books that I think might make someone on your list very happy!

A Year of Festivals: A Guide to Having the Time of Your Life Lonely Planet

If you ever want to get out of your rut, change things up and really live it up, I highly recommend this book.

There are the craziest things going on in this world and there is so much to see and experience - like the Saidai-Ji Eye, or the Naked Festival in Japan (oh my!) or the Battaglia Delle Arance (Battle of the Oranges), which is exactly what it sounds like!

There are exotic, yet tamer festivals such as the Carevale Venezia (Venice Carnival), complete with a Masked Ball and the Kiruna Snow Festival, for example. Located in Kiruna, Sweden, snow sculptures and many winter festivities take place here.

This beautiful photo-illustrated book is a feast for the eyes and the soul. It will inspire you to travel and see the world and perhaps take part in something that forever moves you and changes the course of your life.

Now that's what I call a gift!

The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World From Parkerization Alice Feiring

For any of the wine lovers and foodies on your list, this is a delightful read!

Fun and funny, wise and informative, this is what you want a wine book to be - accessible, yet educational, humourous without taking away from the story. And the writing is so sharp. It makes me want to be a better writer.

I don't want to tell you too much about it because it is such a fun read and I want you to enjoy it for yourself (you can read the synopsis and reviews online if you must). And it's small and not too long, which means that you'll be able to indulge reading it cover to cover over the holidays!

Just be warned, it will make you thirsty for wine, so perhaps pick up a bottle before digging into the book. It will make it all the sweeter, don't you think?

Hall of Best Knowledge Ray Fenwick

For those graphic novel lovers on your list, this is an unusual book that will keep the reader intrigued from first page to last.

I could try and explain it, but I think I'll leave this one up to the experts:

"Ray Fenwick has pioneered his own medium of storytelling, one best described as "typographical comics." Hall of Best Knowledge is presented as a handsome, personal journal written by an unnamed voice, referred to only as "The Author." Little is known about him; he makes occasional, derogatory references to a twin brother and younger sibling, but reveals little else. He clearly fashions himself a genius, writing with a faux-aristocratic air, and it is presumably his belief in his own genius that leads him to want to share his knowledge with the world. Each page features information such as "It hardly needs mentioning that riding a pony is no intellectual triumph.... If riding a pony is so fantastic, why have I never read of any renowned pony-riding genius? It is because such a person does not exist, making it a foolish waste of time unworthy of attention." These pearls of wisdom are lettered in an elegant, almost obsessive fashion, entirely hand-crafted and bedecked with Ionic columns and fleurs-de-lis."

See? I told you it was different.

So while the rest of the family is indulging the graphic novel lover in the typical titles, this will be the book that they remember, that keeps them up at night and has them wondering what does it all really mean?

Talk about a memorable gift!

Earth Matters: An Encyclopedia of Ecology Consultant Editor David de Rothschild

This is a fabulous book to give, as it is a kind of family encyclopedia about all that our earth encompasses.

With sections on Polar Regions, Temperate Forests, Deserts, Grasslands, Tropical Forests, Mountains, Freshwater, Oceans and Helping the Earth, it really gives you a sense of what is going on around the world and how our environment really works.

I have to say that reading through this, I learned more than any documentary I've watched on the subject. It is incredibly informative and the photos allow you to see things that you probably don't have access to on a daily basis, like the coral reef, mountain valleys and the cold desert ecosystem.

This is a wonderful gift for school children, but it is going on my reference book shelf in my office. It is a wonderful wealth of information on things that are incredibly important right now - like threatened rivers, the melting Artic and shark finning - and actually offers advice about what you can do to make a difference.

Just by reading this book, I am so much more knowledgeable then I was yesterday. There's a big difference right there.

Ms. Hempel Chronicles Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

It seems like half of the people we know have become teachers or are studying to be teachers these last couple of years.

And instead of getting them a mug with "Teacher" on it, I've got you one better.

This book is about Ms. Beatrice Hempel, who teaches 7th grade. She is new to teaching, so she is nagivating for the first time, the school landscape and the children who seem to know more than she does at times.

But she finds her way, sweetly at times. She figures out that the less work she gives the students, the less she has to do. And she incorporates debating into her classroom, because it requires only her listening and she doesn't have to schlep piles of reports home! Her journey of self-discovery is certainly something I think we can all relate to.

Certainly this is not just a book for teachers, but this is what I'm giving all the teachers in my life this year. And there's a lot of them!


If you haven't got yourself and everyone you know a copy of SHERBERT, be sure to add this to your list.

A magazine that was started by a couple of friends with the intention "to inspire and be inspired," this is the coolest magazine that you won't be able to find at the bookstore.

Made in limited editions, (I got 419 of 1000), the magazine includes drawings, photography and beautifully woven text that will indeed inspire you and perhaps get you picking up that journal that you abandoned in '96 or buying a small canvas on your way home from work to sketch out that painting that you've been wanting to do for the last 5 years.

I got issue #6 - The Personal Space Issue, which includes 43 artists and writers that will rock your world!

Along with stunning contents, enclosed with the issue is a postage paid postcard in which one side is blank for you to write and draw on it as you please. There is also a CD, sticker and a little wooden ruler that will become one of your most favourite items ever.

From front to back, this is completely and utterly a labour of love. It is apparent in each and every page. This is one of the most thoughtful things you'll see in your lifetime.

There is something so wonderful about being a part of something that means so very much, where now you have a limited edition, where you are now part of a community that gets you and where you can indulge in language and art and music and really, truly be the person that you've always wanted to be.

This isn't a mass-produced magazine that will give you advice on how to please your man or where to get flattering jeans.

This is the real deal.

Get yours now and be a part of something spectacular!

Stephanie Dickison

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