My favorite Christmas gifts have always been books.
Growing up, I could always count on receiving several each holiday season. Another installment of the Little House on the Prairie series. A leather-bound copy of A Little Princess or Heidi. A copy of Little Women. Dancing Shoes. The latest Steve Martin novel. (OK, that one was just last year.)
As I unwrapped them, I would stack them beside me. After all the gifts were unwrapped, my brother and I would neatly arrange our haul into separate piles and leave them under the tree for awhile so we could admire them.
I would pick up one of the books I'd gotten and read the inside cover. I'd flip to the back and read about the author. (Now, I always read the author bio first.) I would read the first page. I'd flip the pages. I'd get a feel for the book, the weight of it in my hands, how its pages felt. Books feel so good! They're so pretty! On my wish list for my house is another set of bookshelves. And more books. (Anyone who thinks about buying me an e-reader probably doesn't know me very well.)
Then I'd pick up the next book and do the same thing. I had to decide which one to read first. Sometimes the answer was obvious. Sometimes it wasn't. Sometimes one must ruminate a bit over these decisions.
Books are the greatest gift because, after you unwrap them, you get to open them again and again.
I checked my shelves and pulled down a few of my favorite reads from the last year. If you have a book lover on your Christmas shopping list, you can't lose with any of these:
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is, in a word, lovely. Another good word would be charming. It's the tale of an elderly English gentleman, Major Ernest Pettigrew, who falls in love with a Pakistani shopkeeper named Jasmina Ali. The book explores how cultures and generations clash in a quaint village.
This is a book for the person who likes slow-building love stories that don't involve vampires.
The book is a fascinating journey into a strange and exotic part of the world.
What makes people beautiful and interesting? Their imperfections. And the people in this book are full of them.
My friend Lane Crockett, one of my favorite characters from my days at The Times in Shreveport, gave me this book and I'm so glad he did. It's funny and sad and heartbreaking.
Yes, it's crazy.
It's also a fun, fast read that lets you into the mind of a man whose life is in free fall.
If you read my blog, you already know I have a total crush on Andre Dubus III. This memoir about his life growing up in a Massachusetts mill town is further proof that he's crush-worthy for both his way with words and his author photo.
Andre grew up with divorced parents, a mother struggling to make ends meet and a father who was a famous author teaching at a nearby college. Anyone with divorced parents can probably relate to the way your world is thrown off balance when your parents live in different worlds. Andre writes about being drawn into the "townie" culture of violence and how writing helped him find his way out.
If you have a Calvin & Hobbes fan on your shopping list, and you have the dough to drop on this amazing box set, this is the gift to give. Several years ago, someone who loved me a lot bought this for me. Whenever I'm feeling a bit down but too distracted to read a novel, Calvin & Hobbes is the perfect remedy.
Just kidding. If you buy this novel, you are dead to me.