Royal Reads

In honour of Victoria Day approaching, we’re bringing you great books about royalty, crowns, romance and drama.

Four Sisters, All Queens

Marguerite, Eléonore, Sanchia, and Beatrice are the daughters of the countess of Provence. They’re also all queens of different countries in 13th century Europe. However, after their father’s death, they forget their creed of “family comes first,” and become rivals, all vying for same prize—the crown of Provence itself.

Find out more about the book from author Sherry Jones:

The Lady of the Rivers

Jacquetta, the Dutchess of Bedford, has the gift of second sight. When the throne of England comes under threat, it’s up to her to fight for her King, her Queen and for her own daughter Elizabeth. Part of the Cousins’ War series, which also includes The White Queen and The Red Queen, Philippa Gregory brings history to life in a story about adventure and passion. Preview the dramatic story.

Find out more about the book from author Philippa Gregory:

At the King’s Pleasure

Set in Tudor England, Lady Anne Stafford is in love with two men: her husband and King Henry VIII’s companion Sir William Compton. Her heart is torn when she realizes that she might have to choose between them. Peek inside the dramatic affair.

Queen by Right

Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, and her husband have gone through their share of tragedies and political challenges, but when King Henry VI is deemed unfit to rule, Cecily of York rises to the occasion to help her husband make the right decisions for both their family and country.

Find out more about the book from author Anne Easter Smith:

William and Kate

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since the world watched the spectacularly glamorous wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. But there was much more going on behind the media frenzy and in the years leading up their engagement. This book details their pasts, how they found love, how their kept their romance a secret and much more.

Find out more about the book:

Knit Your Own Royal Wedding

For those of us who still can’t get enough of the royal wedding, here’s a book that’ll both feed your fixation and challenge your arts and crafts skills. We’ve seen plates, posters and even Pez dispensers, but now you can hand-knit your own wedding scene with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The book comes complete with instructions and full-colour photos, great for both knitting aficionados and royal wedding enthusiasts alike.

100 years later… Read the extraordinary stories from Titanic survivors

To commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Titanic’s maiden voyage, we have a book that will add an important new dimension to our understanding of this enduringly fascinating and tragic story. Shadow of the Titanic is a collection of stories from those who survived the tragedy.

Shadow of the Titanic

Although we think we know the story of the famously luxurious and supposedly unsinkable ship, very little has been written about what happened to the survivors after the tragedy. How did they cope in the aftermath of this horrific event? How did they come to remember that night, a disaster that has been likened to the destruction of a small town?

Author and award-winning journalist Andrew Wilson draws on a wealth of previously unpublished letters, memoirs, and diaries as well as interviews with the survivors’ family members to bring life to the colourful voices of those who lived to tell the tale. Read an excerpt of the book today.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter and on Facebook.

Ten Reasons Why Books Make the Best Gifts (well, after puppies and private islands)

1)      Because other than those sparkly pencils and key chains with peoples’ names on them, books are one of the best gifts that you can find a uniquely suited one for every person on your list

2)      Because you don’t need to poke holes in the box so the book can breathe

3)      Because they are easier to wrap than a football or bicycle

4)      Because you can do all of your shopping in one spot

5)      Because you don’t have to feed them, plug them in, or put batteries in them

6)      Because “They have whole worlds inside them, and it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world.” –Neil Gaiman

7)      Because you can even find one for the person who has everything

8)      Because they never come in the wrong colour, size or style

9)      Because they don’t need to be assembled

10)   Because it shows the recipient that you took the time to think about who they are and what they are interested in

So what’s the trick? Picking the right book. Luckily for you, I have some suggestions for everyone on your holiday gift list.

For the Hockey Lover

Double Overtime

Double Overtime by Stephen Cole

Full of fun facts, crazy yet true stories, and chalk full pictures, this book is for every hockey fan of every team (even if you the gift-buyer don’t know anything about hockey!)

For the (New) Baker

 Baking with the Cake Boss

Baking with the Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro

Buddy, from TLC’s smash hit Cake Boss, is back with another book. For the novice baker, this book starts with the basics of baking – the simple yet noble sugar cookie – and advances to fantastically intricate themed cakes for home-baking pros.  This is one gift that both the recipient and the giver are bound to benefit from!

For the Extraordinary Women in Your Life

 The Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Strong, brave, resourceful, sensuous, caring, and giving – these are just some of the used words to describe the women of The Dovekeepers. A masterpiece that was five years in the making, the author of Practical Magic tells the beautiful and harrowing tale of four Jewish women in 70 C.E. Masada, Israel.

For Lovers of  iAnything

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs – the man who changed the world, whether we like it or not. Walter Isaacson’s biography, the only authorized biography of the Apple co-founder and innovator, tells the story of this intense personality whose drive for perfection can be seen in every one of his products and serves as a rollercoaster tale of ambition, obsessions, compulsion, creativity and innovation.

For Your Daughter, Niece or Little Sister

Dork Diaries Box Set

Dork Diaries Box Set by Rachel Renee Russell

This super popular series chronicles the oh-so-fabulous life of Nikki Maxwell as she navigates the halls of middle school, mean girls, BFF drama and first crushes. These spunky, funny, and relatable books are perfect for tween girl readers (and best of all, they are PG-rated so you don’t have to worry about your 11-year old niece reading vampire/immortal love scenes!).

For Almost Anyone (really, who doesn’t read Stephen King?)


11/22/63 by Stephen King

The incredible Stephen King is back in a brand new way. In 11/22/63, King tells the ultimate “What If?” story. What if you could go back in time and change history? King’s suspenseful and riveting tale of time travel to one of America’s most epic periods in history will have readers on the edge of their seats until the last page is turned.

The New YA Must-Have

 Clockwork Prince

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

With so many YA vampire/werewolf/warlock/immortal, etc, etc, etc books out there, it’s hard for the discerning gift-giver to know which one to choose for the teen on their list. Well look no further – Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series left young women begging for another adventure to go on, bad-boy to drool over, and smart, brave girl to read about, and with the second of the Infernal Devices series, Clare delivers.

For the 20-something Student

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides)

 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) by Matthew Inman

Perfect for the quirky-humored, google-searching  20-something, 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) offers up 4 Reasons to Carry a Shovel at All Times, 6 Types of Crappy Hugs, 8 Ways to Tell if Your Loved One Plans to Eat You, 17 Things Worth Knowing About Your Cat, and 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer.

Literary Non-Fiction

Rin Tin Tin

Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean

If you can’t get someone a puppy for Christmas, get this book instead. Rin Tin Tin has been getting rave reviews and for good reason. Whether you love dogs, old Hollywood, the entrepreneurs behind entertainment, biographies, history, or just a wonderfully written story, Rin Tin Tin delivers.

For the Book Club Lover

The Lady of the Rivers

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Witchcraft, royalty, betrayal and passion, The Lady of the Rivers delivers it all. This book, to be enjoyed in front of a fireplace and with a cup of tea, is sure to keep your favorite aunt, sister or friend company this holiday season.

Brain Food

Grand Pursuit

Grand Pursuit by Sylvia Nasar

In this epic yet readable narrative modern economics, Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind, tells the of how activist thinkers like Marx, Sydney Fisher, Irving Fisher, and Milton Friedman transformed not just the Western world, but the entire planet.

The New Children’s Classic

The Man in the Moon

 The Man in the Moon by William Joyce

“Meet the very first guardian of childhood, MiM, the Man in the Moon.” A beautiful and tender story of love, adventure, and enchantment, The Man in the Moon, will capture hearts both young and old.

The end of food as we know it?

Sitting down to an organic, locally-produced and nutritionally balanced meal – by which I mean scarfing a granola bar at my desk – I found myself reflecting on how food has determined the fate of human societies for the past 12,000 years. If your lunch isn’t prompting such musings, it’s likely you have not yet devoured Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, University of Guelph geography professor Evan D. G. Fraser and journalist Andrew Rimas’ sweeping history of food from the (not-so) Fertile Crescent to our contemporary food crisis.

 Cities, culture, art, government, and religion are founded on the creation and exchange of food surpluses. But eventually, inevitably, the crops fail, the fields erode, or the temperature drops, and the center of power shifts. Cultures descend into dark ages of poverty, famine, and war. It happened at the end of the Roman Empire, when slave plantations overworked Europe’s and Egypt’s soil and drained its vigor. It happened in the fourteenth century, when medieval societies crashed in famine and plague, and again in the nineteenth century, when catastrophic colonial schemes plunged half the world into a poverty from which it has never recovered. And today, even though we live in an age of astounding agricultural productivity and genetically modified crops, our food supplies are once again in peril.

 Check out Evan Fraser’s interview in the Globe and Mail to discover the three false assumptions our global food empire is built on.

 If you are in the Toronto area, come hear author Evan Fraser speak at Foodprint Toronto on July 31.

What are your concerns about the future of food? Leave a comment and let me know.

The Story of Prohibition

Have you ever wondered how it was possible that something as crazy as outlawing the transport, sale, manufacture and consumption of alcohol came into effect? That the Constitution of the United States was actually amended to restrict human behaviour?

Seasoned journalist Daniel Okrent has all the answers in his newest book Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.

Beginning with the liquor-soaked country that the U.S. was in the nineteenth century, the book explains three things: How Prohibition happened, what life under Prohibition was like, and what it did to the country. The book is told largely through the stories of personalities in American history large and small, ranging from Susan B. Anthony to bootlegger Sam Bronfman to H.L. Mencken and even a glimpse of Joseph P. Kennedy.

It’s a book rich with stories from nearly all parts of the country. Okrent’s narrative runs through smoky Manhattan speakeasies, where relations between the sexes were changed forever; California vineyards busily producing “sacramental” wine; New England fishing communities that gave up fishing for the more lucrative rum-running business; and in Washington, the halls of Congress itself, where politicians who had voted for Prohibition drank openly and without apology.

Through it all, Americans kept drinking, going to remarkably creative lengths to smuggle, sell, conceal, and, sometimes fatally, imbibe their favorite intoxicants.

Last Call is authoritative, meticulous, and thrillingly told. It stands as the most complete history of Prohibition ever written and confirms Daniel Okrent’s rank as a major American writer.