I’m a Book Pusher. It’s not enough to buy myself more books than I can ever read in a lifetime… I’m not ok with letting a friend or family member advance into a new year of their life or go through the holiday season without a new book purchased by me and given to them with anticipation. Plus, most books are incredibly easy to wrap.
This year I’ve given a lot of books as gifts. Every single one of them was purchased at an independent bookstore. That’s important to me. I value being able to go into a bookstore and pick up their books and snoop through them until I find one or two or three that want to come home with me. I value the shelves in BookCourt that show what books people in my neighborhood have been buying the most. I value the handwritten index card recommendations. I value the curated tables at Greenlight Books that always hold a new surprise. I value walking out of a gray rainy day into a brightly lit bookstore with a cup of coffee. I value the tall shelves in Strand that make me feel like I can gain not just information but knowledge from the books they hold. I value all of these things, so I “vote” with my dollars to keep them there. They are not always cheaper than Amazon or buying online, but they are real, and they shelter my soul in a way that Amazon never will.
So here’s a small sample of the books I gave this year to friends and family that I love, from the bookstores I love. This isn’t so much a gift guide as a small tribute to sharing books and shopping locally.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I got this book for several people this year, and I’ll probably get it for several more before I’m quite finished. I can’t imagine anyone not liking this novel. It’s probably happened, but I can’t imagine it. It’s about baseball and it’s also not about baseball at all. I did not want to read a baseball novel, but I read this novel and was so engrossed in it that I did not turn my phone back on the minute my plane landed, like I usually do. In fact, I read it all the way through baggage claim, the taxi line, and only turned put it down because it was too dark to read in the back of the cab. It’s good.
36 Hours: 125 Weekends in Europe edited by Barbara Ireland. I have the USA & Canada edition of this (now two book) series, and it makes the best armchair traveling and/or trip planning. The new Europe version that came out this year is just as wonderful, plus a little more exotic. If you could live inside a book, this would be a good one to choose.
Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews by Geoff Dyer. Do you know a human who likes art, photography, culture, music, books, and other excellent things? If so, that human will like you more if you introduce them to Geoff Dyer, should they not already be acquainted.
What books did you give as gifts this year?