Books provide an escape into your imagination, a time to relax the noise around you and travel into someone else’s world. Books let you learn about cultures and history. They let you immerse yourself in the beauty of words and adventures.
The pandemic has given us much more time to read, to do puzzles, play board games and be with family. The year 2020 has been tragic and horrible. But it has slowed us down, allowed us the time to do things as wonderful as cozying up by the fireplace with a good book and a glass of Okanagan wine.
Every year for the past 10 years, avid reader Monique Tamminga, editor of the Penticton Western News, puts out what she thinks are the best books of the year. This year, she has paired her book recommendations with delicious Okanagan wine, beer and local sweets.
BEST BOOK OF 2020
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is the kind of novel that sits with you for years to come. I held my breath through this entire book, devouring the novel just to see the heroine and her young son through to the other side.
Forced to flee Acapulco after the massacre of their entire family by the biggest cartel in Mexico, Lydia and her eight year old son Luca become migrants and begin a treacherous foot journey to the United States border. The book is steeped in controversy because the author is white. But it is a work of fiction and whether she had a right to write about something she hasn’t experienced herself — the book brings migrants’ sufferings into focus especially in a time when Trump built a wall and for what Immigration and Customs Enforcement continue to do to migrants by separating parents and children. American Dirt forces us to really think about these things and the human beings going through all of this.
**** Pairs nicely with the Lt. Gov.’s Wine of the Year: Upper Bench Estate Winery’s 2019 Riesling
CELEBRATING B.C. WINEMAKERS
The Wine Lover’s Cookbook: Recipes & Stories for the Wineries across British Columbia by Jennifer Schell. Okanagan’s own food and wine writer Jennifer Schell has come out with her third wine and food book celebrating the winemakers of B.C., their heritage and the food they cook. Of course her book includes what wine pairs best with these dishes. Schell’s The Butcher, the Baker, the Wine and Cheese Maker is a bestseller.
**** Pairs well with Painted Rock Winery’s 2017 Red Icon wine, named Decanter Magazine’s Wine of 2020
LOVE STORY TO THE HUMAN SPIRIT
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is the most beautifully written book I’ve read this year — a coming-of-age tale with words that just sing off the page about an innocent love story set in the swamps of North Carolina in the 1960s. It’s also a surprising tale of possible murder.
Kya Clark is a young girl who has been abandoned by her parents, siblings, school system, and the entire town to live in her dad’s broken down cabin, deep in the marsh with no running water or electricity. Mother Nature is Kya’s caretaker for most of her life until she meets a kind young man.
**** Pairs beautifully with Lightning Rock Winery’s 2020 Rose Pet Nat (Pet Nat is sparkling wine done the ancient way of combining the Champagne method’s two fermentations into one.)
Okanagan Strong by Mike Biden, Penticton’s best known freelance photographer and firefighter. Mike Biden has documented this historic year in photos. Okanagan Strong is a “tribute to the people of the Okanagan Valley who faced floods and fires and now are rising to meet the challenge of the global pandemic,” Biden writes in his introduction to the book. In this photo book, Biden has captured our Okanagan experience through the pandemic from empty grocery shelves to people coming together to help each other. For a copy of Mike’s book call 250-486-2112.
**** Pairs nicely with Slackwater Brewings What the Fog IPA, people’s choice winner in the 2019 Fest of Ale
CANADA’S BEST BOOK
How To Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongs has won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short-story collection which examines the immigrant experience of people from Laos living here in Canada. These shorts are a nice window into everyday living from a woman working at a chicken plant to a young girl going to school and asking her dad how to pronounce knife. Beautiful and tender, Thammavongs allows readers to walk in the shoes of new Canadians. *
*** Pairs well with Evolve’s Rose
His Perfect Wife by Natasha Bell is a page-turning thriller similar to Girl On The Train and Gone Girl. Alex and Marc have the perfect marriage with two daughters and live a normal suburban life until Alex disappears and her bloody clothing is foundd by the river. Told from the voice of her distraught husband and from Alex who has been kidnapped. This novel offers all the twists and turns you want from this genre.
**** Pairs well with Cannery’s Hop Chowdah or Muse pale ale
FOR KIDS AGE 5 to 12:
Dog Man: Grime and Punishment: From the Creator of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
This is the new release from the popular kids’ book that has readers from age five to 12 laughing.
**** Pairs well with Summerland-based Maple Roch’s pure maple syrup on pancakes.
KEREMEOS AUTHOR WRITES INCLUSIVE CHILDREN’S BOOK
Gus Gets Going by Keremeos author Della Barrett who wrote this book for her son Joshua, 30, who has cerebral palsy. She wrote the book to normalize disabilities for children to help them include everyone in play. Gus Gets Going has been sent to most schools in Keremeos and Cawston. It’s available for purchase on Amazon.
**** Pairs very well with Tickleberry’s bubble gum ice cream.
ODE TO LIFE ON OKANAGAN ORCHARDS
Ken Miller has just released his children’s book, The Cherry Bandit which was inspired by his family’s time living on a cherry orchard in Naramata with his son, Ben who illustrated the book. Available on Amazon and at Coles in Cherry Lane mall.
**** Pairs well with cherry jam and black cherry ice cream from Summerland Sweets