Charlotte’s Best Books for December 2019

Here are my 5 best book ideas for December 2019, including an 85-year-celebration of DC Comics good and bad guys (and women), Jonathon Van Ness’s primer for turning pain into positivity and Mary Berg’s entertaining-made-easy (really!) cookbook.

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Star Wars: Be More Leia + Be More Lando

You have some sort of gift-swap at work, right? Or with your book club? And you need a gift for your hairdresser, of course. As usual, I have a more creative idea than a bottle of bubbly: Be More Leia and Be More Lando (DK Publishing, 2019).

Be More Leia: Find Your Rebel Voice and Fight the System invites you to transform the world of work by asking yourself, “What would Leia do?”

Five chapters, from Defining Your Goals to Leading with Confidence offer the sort of you-can-make-a-difference advice you’d expect from one of the Galaxy’s smartest and most passionate rebels.

You know you can step in and make things happen so put your brain to use, not just your blather. Remember, as Leis says, “Somebody has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, flyboy.”

And don’t worry about what others think – true power comes from within so work it.  As Yoda advises, “Size matter not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Well, you should not.”

And walk tall. Remember who got you here – you – so let the naysayers know who’s boss. Leia’s advice? “I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but from now on, you do as I tell you, okay?”

Outwitting everyone else to make it to the top calls for a combo of networking, impress dressing and player skills. And who better to offer the sage counsel you’re looking for than smuggler-turned- galactic hero and snappy dresser, easy-on-the-eyes Lando?

Following the same format as Be More Leia, Be More Lando’s five chapters launch with Getting Started and close with Enjoying Your Success.

Half measures won’t take you to the top, so put everything on the line, even if that line is the edge of a black hole. So “Buckle up, baby,” Lando advises right from the get-go.

Learn to market yourself – look the part, walk the walk, and talk the talk. But the truths you put out depend on your POV, so make Lando’s mantra your own: “There’s no liars in this game. Just players.”

And remember. Once you reach the top, it’s tempting to reach for more. Nu Uh. Lando thinks that’s a bad idea: “Might want to quit while you’re ahead.”

These smart little get-ahead books are sold separately but don’t cheap out – wrap them up as a set.

Star Wars Be More Leia & Be More Lando by DK Publishing.
Star Wars Be More Leia & Be More Lando by DK Publishing.

DC Comics Year by Year

Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, retired cavalry officer and prolific pulp fiction writer, founded National Allied Publications in 1934, convinced that the fledgling comic book business was the wave of the future. When National Allied went bankrupt, Jack Liebowitz and Harry Donenfield acquired Wheeler-Nicholson’s share of the company on behalf of Detective Comics.

In June 1938, DC introduced Superman to a nation hungry for a hero and the rest is comic book history. DC Comics Year by Year (DK Publishing, 2019) is a visually stunning chronicle of 85 years of the comic book heroes and villains who have reflected our social consciousness in a shared universe, and shaped pop culture along the way. And it’s awesome!

Each chapter covers a decade, year by year.  And each year features a month-by-month charting of issue releases complete with story lines and cover art. And because of that shared universe thing, DC Comics Year by Year also includes the major stuff going on in the Real World at the same time.

For example, when Batman’s first self-titled comic debuted in the spring of 1940 – including Robin and introducing the Joker and Catwoman – the first McDonald’s opened in San Bernardino, California. Who knew?

Over the decades, we met new heroes and villains and the story lines and art became increasingly sophisticated. The DC Universe grew to include TV series and major movies – Watchmen in 2019 and the extraordinary Joker on the big screen.

DC Comics Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle is the kind of coffee table book you’ll look at again and again. And bonus – it includes two stunning prints – including one by Canada’s own Michael Cho. No spoiler alert here – you’ll have to buy the book!

DC Comics Year By Year is a perfect gift for Batman and Superman fans.
DC Comics Year By Year is a perfect gift for Batman and Superman fans.

Woman on the Edge

Morgan Kincaid stands on the crowded subway platform on her way home from work. She was a social worker at a not-for-profit but has been demoted to receptionist/office manager – her husband committed suicide after being convicted of a Madoff-worthy Ponzi scheme and everyone suspects that Morgan was in on it. Haven House doesn’t want her outfacing.

A stranger approaches her and begs, “Take my baby. Keep her safe.” The woman pushes the baby into Morgan’s arms and as the train shrieks into the station, she jumps.

The police take Morgan in for questioning, and she learns that the mystery woman is Nicole Markham, founder and CEO of the uber successful athleisure brand Breathe. With no witnesses to corroborate her story, Morgan becomes a suspect. And as she frantically works to prove her innocence, Morgan finds she, too, is in danger.

Woman on the Edge. Toronto-based Samantha M. Bailey’s debut novel, is an ambitious psycho-thriller with a lot of characters in play: a new mom battling post partum depression and trying desperately to keep a long-buried secret in the past were it belongs; her philandering husband, ambitious yoga-practicing second-in-command; social justice doctor now-estranged brother; and a baby-wanting widow punted to the curb by her life-destroying criminal husband.

Nevertheless, Bailey manages to keep a tight plot and time line, alternating between Morgan’s reality in the here and now, and Nicole’s reality till the moment she jumps. Woman on the Edge is a twisty page-turning read with some plot turns you won’t see coming.

You May Also Enjoy Reading…

Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey.
Woman on the Edge by Samantha M. Bailey.

Over the Top

Jonathon Van Ness, the irrepressible hair and grooming expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot, and host of the stream-of-consciousness podcast Gay of Thrones, is a force of nature.

Smart, funny and, as he is quick to tell you, gorge, Van Ness is a rainbow-coloured unicorn of positivity and joy. But, as his candid memoir Over The Top: A Raw Journey to Self-Love makes clear, he wasn’t always so effervescent. And for good reason.

Growing up as (maybe) the only queer kid in small-town Quincy, Illinois, Van Ness did not fit in. He was ridiculed, bullied and sexually abused.

“You try being an eight-year-old violin-playing gymnastics-obsessed geode-collecting stamp connoisseur who has to have all those things with him in order to feel safe and nurtured,” he tells us.

He just needed to get out, he thought, to find his authentic self and live his life on his own terms. Well, not as easy as he hoped.

He grappled with self-esteem and body image issues, depression and down-deep insecurity – hard to believe when you experience him today. To mask the pain, he engaged in risky sexual behaviour. He drank way too much, way too often. He used cocaine and methamphetamine – a lot. He went into rehab, multiple times. He contracted HIV.

“It wasn’t until I had lost everything I thought I wanted that I realized being an adult wasn’t about being ‘normal,’ or having a life that seems enviable to people from the outside,” he explains.

“So I’m telling my story – the whole story – to show that some masterpieces start off a mess. It’s not gonna be pretty, but it’s my truth, and if I don’t share it, I won’t be able to help others who are struggs to func.” 

Over the Top is a primer for transforming pain into positivity and learning to love yourself. Plus, it’s very entertaining!

Over the Top by Queer Eye's Jonathan Van Ness.
Over the Top by Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness.

Kitchen Party

Mary Berg, the Prosecco-bubbly star of CTV’s Mary’s Kitchen Crush and the first woman to win MasterChef Canada, wants to make it super simple for you to entertain this holiday with easy peasy recipes grand enough for celebrations and stress-less enough for a mid-week meal.

Kitchen Party: Effortless Recipes for Every Occasion was created, says Mary, “to banish any inflated pomp, circumstance and anxiety surrounding the idea of inviting people into your home.” And she makes good on that bold promise.

Before you get to the main event, Berg shares her pantry staples – food and things.  Then she offers a foolproof strategy for preparing for your party, from menu planning to a day-of play-by-play of what needs to be done when.

What follows are five chapters: Brunch Parties, Cocktail Parties, Dinner Parties, Special Occasion Menus and Party of Two.

Each chapter opens with beverages – come on, everyone wants a drink when they arrive! – including fresh twists on old favourites, alcoholic and non-. Then, a selection of appies, mains, sides and desserts that really are Cooking 101 uncomplicated.

Finally, Berg ties up entertaining with a shiny red bow offering eight of her favourite menus from a Backyard Brunch to a Low-Key Bridal Shower, It’s Thursday and Friends are Coming Over, and Double-Date Night.

So, no excuse. Throw a kitchen party this holiday. Or give this book to your bestie and get him or her to host it!

Kitchen Party by Mary Berg.
Kitchen Party by Mary Berg.

Written by Charlotte Empey. Illustrations produced on iPad Pro with Apple Pencil by Mark Scheibmayr.

Purchase Our Favourite Reading Accessories at Chapters Indigo

Get cozy with a new book while wearing these comfy reading socks and reading robe.

These scented candles and Ultrasonic diffusers will help you relax at home.

The Kobo eReader makes reading much more enjoyable and easier on the eyes. There are also great eReader accessories available, like the Kobo Sleepcover.

If you’re looking for something for the little ones in your life, we recommend checking out these great kids books, baby products and educational toys that will help develop your child’s love for reading.

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