Gifted Reading

Four Canadian books to stuff inside a sturdy stocking.

Canadian Pie by Will Ferguson

Will Ferguson’s humour speaks to those who live off double-doubles at Tim Hortons and program their lives around    the NHL schedule. If Canada were to assign a pop-culture humourist, Ferguson would be the guy. But he is at his best when writing about his experiences in Canadian places that don’t get a lot of mainstream coverage. We can laugh about his fear of cougars as he travels to the B.C. coast, and how he tries to follow the Klondike Trail – with a wife and two kids in tow. (Viking Canada, 400 pp., $32) -Steven Sandor

Cool Water by Dianne Warren

Set in fictional Juliet, Sask., Dianne Warren’s novel contains characters reminiscent of any small prairie town, but her ability to intertwine their stories gives more depth to each life. Although the residents think they know everything there is to know about their neighbours, the reader’s view into each mind – from a bank manager unable to help financially struggling clients to a beyond-middle- aged couple denying they’re in love – shows how little they know about one another. (HarperCollins, 328 pp., $31.99) -Caroline Barlott

The Beggar’s Garden by Michael Christie

A man leaves roasted chickens and clothing in dumpsters for his homeless grandson; a young car thief escapes to the open road with his newest acquisition; an abandoned husband finds solace in assuming the role of money manager for a homeless beggar. These are just three of the nine short stories in Christie’s 2011 Giller Prize-nominated collection, each elucidating the disconnection the main characters have to mainstream society. Christie pens their lives with vivid characterization and clarity of detail. (HarperCollins, 261 pp., $24.99) –Kim Collins-Lauber

Mordecai: The Life & Times by Charles Foran

The thoroughness of Charles Foran’s biography of the revered, though often resented Canadian writer can’t be understated. He goes beyond Mordecai Richler’s birth to profile Richler’s Rabbi grandfather, a writer of Jewish folklore, and never overlooks the influences of his peers and enemies, from adolescence on. Foran gives historic attention to each city where Richler dwelled and which fuelled his anti-nationalism, and even includes a map of Montreal’s Jewish quarters, the setting for many of his novels. (Vintage Canada, 800 pp., $24.95)  -Omar Mouallem

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