Friday, December 2, 2011

Books You Should Buy for People Who Love Books

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.

This novel explores a wealth of subjects: the pharmaceutical industry, fertility issues, the dangers of snakes and poisoned arrows in the Amazon, love, and loss. Marina Singh, a pharmaceutical research scientist, goes to the Amazon to track down a reclusive, elderly, tough-as-nails gynecologist, Dr. Anneck Swensen, who has been researching fertility treatments for years. Marina is there, ostensibly, to recover the remains of a colleague who died while working with Swenson, but she is under pressure from a pharmaceutical company executive to find out what Swenson has discovered and if the secrets of the Amazonian jungle and its people can make the company money.
The book is a fascinating journey into a strange and exotic part of the world.

The Imperfectionists follows the lives of reporters, editors, and executives at an English-language newspaper in Rome that may not stay in business in the Internet age. That makes it sound like a novel about the newspaper business. It's really not. It's about the characters who make up newsrooms. (Newsrooms are always full of characters.)
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.

I love when a book takes a serious subject, like death or divorce, and turns it into something funny without sacrificing its humanity. This novel follows Judd Foxman as he sits shiva (seven days and seven nights) with his family after the death of his father. All this family togetherness comes on the heels of Judd catching his wife in bed with his boss, a radio-shock-jock whose, um, junk Judd sets on fire with the candles from a birthday cake.
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.


  1. Great post! I just downloaded these on my EREADER! ha! I was a hardcore paper girl. thought I would miss the feel and smell of books....and I do...sometimes. But hauling books to work when I can go through 2 1/2 novels in a slow night....? The ereader is GREAT. My mom still gives me paper books...and I like them for a change, but my nook has my heart!

  2. I loved State of Wonder except for the ending. I don't know why, but it just felt...wrong. But I'm OK with an ending that I don't love for a book that I do!

  3. I felt the same way about Bel Canto. Did you read that one? I really enjoyed it but the ending, like you said, just felt wrong.

  4. Immediately re-gift the Calvin and Hobbes box set and send without delay to Bossier City La. You know how much I love them! This needs to be a monthly post. Books you love. So I can read and love them and not even think about what should I read next. Amy will know.


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