Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Christmas Code

Has anyone here successfully cracked the code for giving books as gifts? As I'm sure any librarians who are reading this will agree, the nature of our profession makes us, in the public's eyes, expert gift-book advisors, when we know that selecting a book for an unknown-to-us "ten-year-old girl who LOVES to read" is a complete crap shoot. I always advise people, when possible, to make the present into an outing: take the kid out for chocolate and a trip to the bookstore (in whichever order you find most effective) and structure the book buying however you want: the kid's choice, a joint choice, one of each, etc. And go to a nice, sensible bookstore where they won't shove you up against the latest grandma-trap or try to convince you that "the next Harry Potter" is the ne plus ultra of children's book criticism.

Buying for the known has its own challenges. My guy Richard is not a big reader, but for the fifteen or so years we've been together I've been charged with presenting him with a book to read over the Christmas-New Year's break. Last year, I knew he wanted the new Philip Roth, The Plot Against America, which he loved but then proceeded to hound me to read for myself. And me, Roth, eh, not so much. The point is that when you buy a book for a loved one you live with the consequences, for good or ill. I have a couple of candidates for this year's choice and will let you know how it all works out. I'm still in the delightful agony of assembling my own reading list for our week on the Cape--any recommendations?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hardly ever have time for adult books anymore, but I really enjoyed Sean Wilsey's THE GLORY OF IT ALL and am looking forward to Zadie's Smith's On Beauty. Oh, I'm always trying to get those who have never read it to give Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy a try.

Monica

BJNewman said...

Read MARK TWAIN, A Life by Ron Powers. About 5 pages into I laughed out loud at the sarcastic wit of Mr. Sam Clemens. Also a good read: Stephen King's ON WRITING. The first half short bio is very entertaining.

Andy Laties said...

Joakim Garff's new biography, "Soren Kierkegaard" is surprisingly fun! Those Danes in the Golden Age of Copenhagen -- around 1840 -- were an inbred and fascinating lot. Kierkegaard was the self-appointed rival to Hans Christian Andersen and the book supplies a very funny, weirdly inverted view of Andersen (through Kierkegaard's satiric and perhaps a bit jealous eyes.)

Kierkegaard was a sort of intellectual troublemaker who modeled himself on Socrates-as-civic-gadfly. His Meister's thesis shocked the old-guard: it was on the subject of irony!

Melissa said...

If you haven't yet read Jim Lynch's THE HIGHEST TIDE, you really should.

shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing said...

No, no, no, read none of those. Read Diane Schoemperlen's Our Lady of the Lost and Found. You will find it entrancing. Or take Robertson Davie's The Salterton Trilogy for a good cozy read that will keep you busy. And I am sure, Roger, you'll like it much better than The Cornish Trilogy which is supposed to be his masterpiece but is a little, in his own words, masterpiecely.

Roger Sutton said...

Wow, guys, you are on top of it! Thanks for the suggestions. And Anne Quirk dropped by before leaving yesterday to remind me that I'd already told the blogosphere I was starting War and Peace. You have a good Christmas too, Anne, dear. Actually, I am generally reading three books (nonfiction, serious novel, genre novel) at a time so maybe I can squeeze Tolstoy in.

My long favorite book-gift for allegedly high-brow friends is Judith Krantz's Scruples, a Vanity Fair for the dawn of the 1980s. It's fun to watch literati become completely unable to put it down. Krantz is an incredibly vivacious storyteller and her heroine Billy Hunnenwell Ikehorn Orsini is my role model in all things.

Elizabeth said...

EW this week starred a book ("editor's choice") about two Barnard roommates and their different lives...made me think of you, sorry I don't know the name. Can't go on EW website as I don't know the winner of Martha Stewart's Apprentice yet and thus am on media blackout.

Elizabeth said...

The Cornish trilogy is supposed to be Davis' masterpiece??? I thought that was widely considered to be the Deptford Trilogy. I'll be curious to know if you like the Salterton trilogy, Roger...it's certainly the funniest.

Also, you have read POSESSION, right?

shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing said...

Yes, I meant the Deptford trilogy. I happen to be reading The Cornish Trilogy at the moment and it was on my mind. Everyone thinks Fifth Business is his masterpiece but whether yes or no the Salterton ones are the ones for the cape.

shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing said...

Yes, I meant the Deptford trilogy. I happen to be reading The Cornish Trilogy at the moment and it was on my mind. Everyone thinks Fifth Business is his masterpiece but whether yes or no the Salterton ones are the ones for the cape.

Roger Sutton said...

I can't help it but I keep thinking that the mysterious shewhousuallydoesn'tdothistypeofthing is the secret love child of H. Rider Haggard and a Pet Shop Boy.

Roger Sutton said...

Monica, I have read Titus Groan and loved it. All atmosphere, as I recall, which is generally not my thing but it certainly worked for me there. Didn't care for the next two as much.

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