PQL Holiday Gift Guide 2020

The holidays are certainly starting early this year. During the first week of November, I caught sight of my first Christmas light display of the year, and I’ve been hearing from friends and acquaintances that trees and decorations are already up and spreading homey joy. For myself, this early holiday cheer isn’t a bad thing. With all of us social distancing, staying home and minimizing contact with friends and family, we have to find pleasure in other ways. Sparking nostalgia for happy times past feels pretty good this year, and it’s a harmless mood booster to boot!

I’ve also heard from a lot of people that they’re already looking to finish up their holiday shopping much earlier than usual. They’re wisely looking to avoid crowds and lockdowns and postal delays, which might potentially impede their gift giving. So if you’d like to be one of those calm and organized shoppers, but still have gifts to buy for a few tricky readers on your list, we have your PQL Holiday Gift Guide right handy!

For the Novel-Loving Philosopher…

Charlene Elsby’s Affect is a novel unlike any other. A hyperrational graduate students interprets love, death, time and distance through a philosophical lens. Logic and Aristotelian concepts crop up—as do corpses—with somewhat disturbing frequency). It’s both brilliant and bonkers and makes for an entertaining and enlightening read.

[Buy this book »]

For the Feminist Poetry Fan…

The Blue Moth of Morning by P.C. Vandall is a smart and sassy collection of poems that subverts clichés, embraces absurdities and reveals honest emotions. It is full of wit and wordplay as well as double entendres and wink-and-nudge jokes that will make you chuckle even as you realize their truth.

[Buy this book »]

For the Empathetic Social Justice Reader…

Ed Seaward’s Fair tackles the difficult subject of one of North America’s most vulnerable populations: the homeless. In this debut novel, a young homeless man named Eyan finds friendship, and maybe hope, on the streets of Los Angeles in the form of an erudite and tragic figure known as ‘the professor’. As the professor introduces Eyan to the epic angelic war in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Eyan falls prey to the machinations of a malevolent gang of thugs. It is a story about hope, consequences, and the struggle to survive in an indifferent and violent world.

[Buy this book »]

For the Glamorous Old Hollywood Type…

Mary Pickford, Queen of the Silent Film Era is George A. Walker’s visual biography of the silent film star who became known as ‘Queen of the Movies’. Told through a series of wood engravings and title cards not unlike the silent films of old, the images in this book paint a portrait of a pioneering woman whose groundbreaking contributions to the motion picture industry paved the way to our modern conception of the movies. This book is an informative and beautiful piece of art in and of itself.

[Buy this book »]

For the Adventure Aficionado…

There’s nothing like a good heist to get the blood pumping! Nick Tooke’s debut novel, The Ballad of Samuel Hewitt, starts off with a daring horse theft and keeps the adventure alive with boxcar bums, a travelling circus, ruthless enemies, and a boy who goes a great distance to discover the meaning of home and family. Set in British Columbia’s interior during the Great Depression, this historical coming-of-age novel is action packed.

[Buy this book »]

For the Literary Sportsperson…

Calling all environmental appreciators, outdoor sportspeople and avid anglers! Robert Reid and Wesley W Bates have created a beautiful love letter to the sport of fly fishing with Casting into Mystery. This collection of essays, enlivened by a series of beautiful wood engravings, provides an encompassing appreciation of the sport of fly fishing, from the calm serenity of the environment to the thrill of the big catch to the appreciative and literary and musical odes dedicated to the sport.

[Buy this book »]

For the Political Junkie Who Likes a Laugh…

There’s no denying that the past four years have given plenty of fodder for American political satire. George A. Walker has cleverly entered the ring with this edition of The Hunting of the Snark, the classic nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll. Walker’s illustrations introduce a modern political spin, with the hapless crew recast to include President Donald Trump and his cronies. This book offers a hilarious way to memorialize the baffling political climate as well as a sharp new take on an old, familiar poem.

[Buy this book »]

For the Curious Writer-in-Training…

Have you ever wondered how a poem comes to be? In Jeffery Donaldson’s Viaticum, we are treated to a glimpse of a poet’s process. These ‘proto poems’ represent an exploration of big questions, such as life and death, language, time, science and religion. This book pairs especially well with Donaldson’s Fluke Print, in which several of the proto poems are fully realized in their final poetic form.

[Buy Viaticum »]

[Buy Fluke Print »]

For the Darkly Comic Darling…

Dim-witted thieves, serial killing shape shifters and deluded touring musicians are just some of the amusing characters to be found in Daniel Bryant’s debut story collection, Rerouted. Filled with supernatural creatures and otherworldly events, these stories are linked by the mysterious Benny Tak as well as a darkly comic vision that explores unexpected detours what happens when things get weird.

[Buy this book »]

For Someone Who Just Wants to Read a Good Short Story, Please…

If you just want a good, gimmick-free book to gift, look no further than Frances Boyle’s Seeking Shade. Spanning a variety of genres and styles, these stories explore the traumas, challenges and consequences of nuanced, fallible and very human characters. Thematically, many of the stories have to do with the ways we communicate our stories through art, whether it be dance, drama, literature or visual art. It’s a lovely, wide-ranging collection that is sure to please.

[Buy this book »]


Thanks for checking out our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide. We hope we’ve given you lots of great ideas to make your holiday season bright. Who knows–perhaps you found a present you want for yourself!

Happy Holidays,


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.