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Books that make ideal last minute Christmas gift suggestions

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Last minute Christmas gift suggestions – With Christmas just a mere few days away, and you are still scrambling for some gift ideas for a friend, relative or loved one, there is nothing like a book, especially an attractive, illustrated hardcover that could grace any coffee table in the home. Here are four diverse choices that could make it to your last-minute Christmas gift list.

On and Around Montreal’s Three Mountains: The Green Heart of Montreal by Mackay L. Smith (Infinite Books, $46.95)

Veteran author and photographer Mackay L. Smith certainly has a passion for Montreal, its history, and its preserved heritage, and he transcended it into four pictorial tomes that focused on the historical richness of Montreal’s landmarks and districts, whether it be McGill University, Sherbrooke Street or the Golden Square Mile.

For his fifth book, Smith has literally centred his focus on the major piece of greenspace that forms the nucleus of the city: Mount Royal. From every direction, Smith gives a richly illustrated history of Mount Royal’s three summits, and the many houses, buildings, structures and monuments that are sprinkled throughout the mountain, and the stories behind them, whether it be the lookouts, the CBC transmitter tower, the Mount Royal Cross, Beaver Lake, the Cartier Monument and St. Joseph’s Oratory, to name a few. Through diligent research (concise, informative texts) and 110 contemporary and historic photos (thanks to the Notman Collection at the McCord Museum), Smith tells a fascinating story of how a dead volcano turned into a much cherished piece of historical greenspace (that was transformed into a much used public park thanks to Frederick Law Olmsted, the same man who developed New York City’s Central Park). A must have volume for Montreal history buffs and former Montreal residents who always enjoyed Mount Royal’s majestic natural beauty all year round.

Whiskey in A Teacup by Reese Witherspoon (Touchstone, $45)

Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon (“Legally Blonde”, “Walk the Line”, “Sweet Home Alabama”) maybe Hollywood royalty these days, but she remains faithful to her down home Deep South roots and values, which were imparted upon her by her grandmother Dorothea, which combined the qualities of beauty and strength.

And Ms. Witherspoon has used these values that she learned through her life outside of Hollywood, especially when it comes to raising her family, living her everyday life, cooking and entertaining at home.

In her book Whiskey in A Teacup, Ms. Witherspoon, in such aesthetically eye-catching detail, shows how you can live a simple down home life from how to celebrate holidays, to how to enjoy watching the Kentucky Derby, to having your own Southern book club, to home décor, to even a good old fashioned family road trip.

And there is a good selection of Ms. Witherspoon’s favorite Southern recipes, where you can make and enjoy such mouth-watering dishes as cornbread chili pie, pecan crusted chicken skewers, mint juleps, thick breakfast biscuits (with or without the gravy) and lemonade stand-style lemonade.

Garnished with plenty of beautiful photos, this book is as lovely and charming as Reese Witherspoon herself.

Bobby: My Story in Pictures by Bobby Orr

(Viking, $37)

Throughout his 12-year Hall of Fame career in the NHL, Number 4 Bobby Orr never seemed to rest on his laurels.

And throughout those 12 years in pro hockey (mostly with the Boston Bruins), Orr set the bar high for a new generation of defencemen, led the Bruins to two Stanley Cup championships, and compiled countless NHL records and Art Ross trophies.

A firm believer of the photograph as a means to capture those special moments in one’s life and career, he delved into his vast collection of photos to produce Bobby: My Story in Pictures, a perfect companion volume to his best selling memoir that was published a few years ago. Through many never-seen-before photographs, the books shows the many faces of the private and public Bobby Orr, from his beginnings growing up in Parry Sound, Ontario, to the beginning of his pro career with the Oshawa Generals, to reviving a dormant Boston Bruins team, to capping off his career with the Chicago Blackhawks in the late 70s.

And of course, no photographic autobiography of Bobby Orr is complete without the iconic photo of Orr taking a flying leap the moment after he scored the winning goal against the St. Louis Blues during the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals. However, he included one photo following that moment that has never been seen, which showed dejected Blues players Glen Hall and Noel Picard moments after Orr scored the winning goal, as his Bruins teammates piled upon him off camera.

This book is a wonderful illustrated tribute by the man who defined professional hockey in the modern, post-1967 expansion era, and truly showed a genuine love of the game, even 40 years after he hung up his skates.

Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts From A Life, edited by Michael Katakis (Scribner, $47)

Ernest Hemingway is one of greatest writers in modern American literature, who showed through vivid descriptions and prose that was filled with simple word economy, the glories of the macho life that was filled with fun, adventure and danger, whether it be fighting a war, bull fighting, deep sea fishing, or safari hunting in Africa through the pages of such classic novels like The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms.

Hemingway was not only the living embodiment of his many writings, but was also a complex, troubled individual to boot. Thanks to the Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Library, this book gives a new face to the literary and personal side of Ernest Hemingway through plenty of rare photos, letters and artifacts, from being an ambulance driver in Italy during World War I; to his early days as a newspaper reporter for the Toronto Star; to being part of the Lost Generation in Paris during the Roaring 20s; to witnessing and reporting the Spanish Civil War and World War II; to relaxing, sporting and fishing in Key West and Havana; to his torturous final years in Ketchum, Idaho, where he tragically died in 1961.

This book is the ideal companion that should give readers a better understanding of Ernest Hemingway’s world, and what drove him to write such unforgettable works that were filled with so much machismo and daring adventure.

By: Stuart Nulman – info@mtltimes.ca

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