Friday, December 6, 2013

books...gift ideas


Books were always under the tree when I was a child, and I kept up the tradition with my family. The other day my son Matt and I went to the New England Mobile Book Fair (when I first saw the name I though it was a book mobile) to buy some gifts. They used to shelve their books by publisher, not subject or author, which made a lot of people crazy, but I loved the randomness--it became a real exploration. I was disappointed to see that the books are now conventionally shelved, but it's still a great store. Half of it is older bargain books, which is always fun.

I freeze up when people ask me what my favorite_______ (color, movie, book) is, but I do enjoy reading other people's lists. It's been a great year of reading for me, so here are my absolute favorites that I read in last year or so--substantial books that could make great gifts.

Literary Novels 
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
The Roundhouse, Louise Erdrich
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra
Swamplandia, Karen Russell 
Live by Night, Dennis Lehane
The Dog Stars, Peter Heller

Memoirs
Wild, Cheryl Strayed
Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller

Older Gift-Worthy Novels  I Read This Year
The Shadow of the WindCarlos Ruiz Zafon (thanks to Amelia for the recommendation). It would be fun to pair this with Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore.
All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy (The entire Border Trilogy would make a nice gift.)
A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin (The third time I've read it.)

Advice on Love and Life
Tiny Beautiful Things,  Cheryl Strayed




Poetry
The Ecopoetry Anthology
New and Selected Poems, Volumes 1 and 2, Mary Oliver (Dream Work is my favorite single volume of hers)
The Four Seasons Poems, Everyman Library Anthology
The Everyman Library Pocket Poet series is wonderful--attractive little books, reasonably priced. Great gifts!

And
The Best American Series is terrific. I buy several of them every year--always the essay, travel writing, and sports writing volumns. Don't feel you have to limit yourself to this year's books--the older ones make good reading too.

I hope to do another post of detective/espionage suggestion (and maybe on some other random book gift ideas). I read all kinds of books, so feel free to email me (or comment) if you want some suggestions. I'd love to know any favorites of yours too.

Jen

p.s. Comments from Alicia and Petra remind me that the majority of people who comment here don't live in the U.S.A. and therefore have no (or limited) access to the books I mention. I didn't think about that when I wrote the post. If you live in another country and have a favorite book or two from there I would love to know what they are. I found the Zafon book when asking Amelia for books by Spanish authors. thank you, merci danke gracias grazie spasbida cheers!


25 comments:

  1. You read so much the last year Jen! I am ashamed to say I did not read any of them. Somehow I simply can't take in the words. Hope it will come again, because I can see some interesting writers and titles in your list.

    Happy weekend!

    Madelief x

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    1. I read during most of my spare time (almost every evening). I understand what you mean by not taking in the words. It will come. You've had a rough year. xo

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  2. great list. I'd love some of the best american series, but they are not available digitally, and I'm not buying books these days. maybe I get some of them in some library.

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    1. I see some of them on Kindle--don't know if you have access...

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  3. I'm now excited to read The Goldfinch. Didn't like her second book, so I'm happy to hear she's you recommend this one.

    And I will check out Strayed books, I had never heard of her before you mentioned her.

    I always got books on Christmas too, my favorite presents.

    xo J

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    1. You must read the Strayed books--I know you will love them.

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  4. I don't think I've ever read a book three times - a couple I've read twice. The Sheik (yes, made into the Rudolph Valentino movie) and The Scarlet Pimpernel - that's because when you've read a book as a romantic teenager, you just have to reread it as an adult so you can understand what you were like at an earlier age. I was rather vapid.

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    1. It's a magical book (and there's some magic realism in it). It's one of those books that people who love it get really passionate about. Someone came to my house, saw a copy of the book and was enraptured--said she thought the book was her spirit animal. Another book that's a talisman for me is A Wrinkle in TIme.

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  5. I only know Zafon´s one... :)

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  6. I think Amelia read it in Spanish. You (and Petra) have reminded me that many of the people who read this blog live in other countries and don't have access to the books, something I didn't think about when I wrote this post!

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  7. Ooooh I'm picking through your list and just salivating. I'm particularly interested in The Best American Series, sounds intriguing. I see you have Swamplandia on there, I've been hemming and hawing on that one for a while so I think I'll take the plunge. Can you believe I've never read Cormac McCarthy, even though I have a couple of his books on the shelf. Time to pick them up I guess. I'm also a bit envious since I've been in a bit of a reading slump. I think books are the best gifts, I have always given my niece, nephews and friends' children books, especially when they are very little so they get used to them. I could read by the time I was 3 and when I was a kid and a teenager I would spend hours at B. Dalton. My Mom loved that because she always knew where to find me. Thanks for the honorable mention :) Love this post.

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  8. Swamplandia is a pretty idiosyncratic, offbeat book-- I loved it obviously (enough that I want to read it again), but it won't be to everyone's taste. It has a really strong setting (old Florida) and offbeat characters. Let me know what you think!

    All the Pretty Horses is amazing--it would be on my all-time list of top ten novels, were I so inclined....I think it's the most accessible of his books, so I would start with it.

    I find the Best American series great when I'm in a reading slump, and I too love to buy childen's books--I think they make a great baby gift too.

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  9. I like many of the book you mentioned. I enjoyed " Wild"
    I just recently re-read a book called "The White Wind Blew" that is wonderful
    have you read it?
    -Kat-

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    1. No--thanks for the recommendation!

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  10. Books, books, books... Never too many. Always a part of my children's Christmas. I enjoy the convenience of the e-book, but but there's just nothing like the look and feel of a real, hold in your hand, good book. Thanks for the suggestions. Smiles...Susan

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  11. To hear about mobile book shop makes me exciting. There is no such idea here, but sometimes open shops for second hand book are held. For me online shop Amazon is convenient, while no excitement to search for unexpected ones.

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    1. I get lots of books from Amazon, but (one of the reasons) I love libraries and book stores because you see so many things you wouldn't think of otherwise. Do they have pop up stores (stores that open for a short time) in Japan?

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    2. I happened to see a pop up store at a corner of a department store,but not so often.

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  12. Many of my favorites on here! (And looking forward to exploring the ones I don't know.) Thank you.

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    1. You are most welcome. Wonderful books have come into my life via your recommendations!

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  13. Hi Jen, I love books as gifts, although one does have to be a little careful about imposing one's own taste, instead of catering to the recipient's. It does get hard to look for books, especially used/older ones, in actual stores. My last trip to Cleveland, even more of my favorite bookstores had disappeared, including the one in a huge old warehouse where everything was two dollars.
    --Jim

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    1. Jim--I also am hesitant about recommending or giving books, unless I"m certain of someone's taste. The disappearance of bookstores is a real loss. I am lucky to live in a town that still has an indie book store, and I go there about once a month, but I am also prey to the convenience and discounts of Amazon. I have come to love used book stores--almost every tiny town in the Catskills has one.

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  14. Oh! I love a list of books! I was just telling my husband that if I were to make a wish list, all it would have on it would be books. He laughed because it didn't need to be said. He already knew it was true. Thanks for sharing this wonderful list!

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    1. You are most welcome. I'm sure everyone is sick of lists, but books are so close to my heart, I like to share!

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