The Exclaim! Holiday Gift Guide 2014: Books

The Exclaim! Holiday Gift Guide 2014: Books
Sean Michaels, author of 'Us Conductors'
The holiday season is only a few weeks away. Before you rush off to pick up some presents, make sure to check out Exclaim!'s 2014 Holiday Gift Guide, which we will be rolling out in daily instalments this week.

Holidays are exactly the time to catch up on all those things you've been meaning to read that are longer than 140 characters. From a Giller shortlisted novel by (gasp) a music critic to some eats from Canadian music luminaries to mapping our your financial plan for world domination, these book recommendations can both fill the spare time and inspire some 2015 goals.

The Exclaim! Holiday Gift Guide 2014: Books

Us Conductors
(Random House)
By Sean Michaels

Shortlisted for Canada's most prestigious literary award, the Giller Prize, Sean Michaels' Us Conductors (pictured above) is a fascinating, fictionalized biography of Lev Termen, the inventor of one of the world's most intriguing instruments, the Theremin. Michaels' vivid, engaging and immersive prose revels in historical namedrops and inserts historical figures from Gershwin to Lenin. Yet while it traverses the glamour and glitz of New York in the jazz age of the Roaring Twenties, it also renders the unforgiving frigid brutality of the Siberian gulags.

While Michaels details the invention and playing of the Theremin with hands that do not actually touch the instrument itself, the novel mines and plays creative license with Termen's life as an inventor to go well beyond being a chronologically informative biography. Instead, Michaels arranges the novel in the form of a letter with Termen writing to Clara Reisenberg, his prodigious New York student of the Theremin and great unrequited love — who would actually go on to become a world famous Theremin player — in different periods of his life. This non-linear approach makes the juxtaposition of Termen's American and Soviet Union existences, perpetually populated by shadowy, secretive figures out of spy novels even more jarring, fleshing out Termen's intellectual brilliance and emotional naiveté. Richly layered, Us Conductors keenly extrapolates on the practical premise and theme of not touching the Theremin when playing it, querying whether transcending the intangibility of a reality we would like to create is actually possible.
Del F. Cowie

Zunior Eats Cookbook

Wondering what your favourite musicians eat when they're not on the road? Canadian online music store Zunior has the answer. For the site's tenth anniversary, founder Dave Ullrich compiled recipes from a host of Canadian music luminaries who paired their picks with an accompanying soundtrack. Sister and Plumtree siblings Carla and Lynette Gillis recommend their Quicksand Smoothie and Stevie Wonder's Innervisions. Follow it up with a roasted Cornish hen from the Tragically Hip's Paul Langlois, served with the Inbreds' Kombinator, and finish things off with Jay Ferguson's Hermit cookies (pictured above) and Tom Jones' Greatest Hits. All proceeds go to the Daily Bread Food Bank.
Ian Gormely

The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
(Hachette Book Group)
By Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer stunned everyone when she crowd-funded over million dollars for her 2012 album, Theatre is Evil. Now the former Dresden Doll singer and pianist is applying the skills she's learned. Part how-to, part memoir, The Art of Asking examines the role that both asking and giving plays in Palmer's relationships with her friends, family — including husband Neil Gaiman — and fans.
Ian Gormely

Brothas Be, Yo Like George Ain't That Funkin' Hard On You?
(Simon & Schuster)
By George Clinton with Ben Greenman

This eyebrow-raising title adorns the memoir from George Clinton, one of the most influential musicians of our time. Charting his rise from moving funny money out of a New Jersey barbershop to jobbing songwriter and eventual successful bandleader of Parliament-Funkadelic, Clinton's memoir is enjoyable on several fronts and features fond memories of Toronto, where Clinton briefly lived. While hedonists may be disappointed by the matter-of-fact relaying of sexual and drug exploits, those interested in exploring the organically imbibed musical influences and decoding the thematic meaning of the songs in Clinton's P-Funk Afro-futurist mythology will be richly rewarded.
Del F. Cowie

Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia
(Princeton Architectural Press)
By Adam Lerner

Years before he decided you must whip it, Devo co-founder Mark Mothersbaugh (pictured left) was making bold, surreal art in various media. This gorgeous hardcover compilation includes early postcards, screen prints, decals, and band ephemera as well as later paintings, photographs, sculptures and rugs. This comprehensive look in the mind that brought us soundtracks for Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums is must for Devo-tees, film lovers and art connoisseurs alike.
Stephen Carlick

Need more holiday gift ideas? Then check out our other sections on music, videogames, music ephemera and movies, as well as gifts for the "urban hipster", folk fan and hip-hop fan in your life.