You know how the song goes: Deck the Halls with Books, Books, and More Books. That’s right, folks: in case you missed the obvious signs—muzak carols, Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday ads, the Northeast dumped with snow, and Christmas decorations flooding out the doors of Walgreen’s, not to mention the giant trees lit up in every town square—it’s that time again.
Despite being an agnostic-verging-on-atheist who decries commercialism and doesn’t let her kid eat a ton of sugar, I have a particular weakness for Christmas. I love the short days, especially when, come six pm, my cup is filled with a festive glass of red wine or a stiff eggnog. I find myself following all the Christmas traditions we had as kids: the Christmas calendar, which “elves” fill with goodies every night for my son during Advent; listening to Amahl and the Night Visitors while we decorate the Christmas ficus; the extravagant brunch we eat on Christmas day, whether we’re celebrating with my family or not; and giving gifts to my loved ones. This time of year is rife with possibility for great gift-giving: in addition to Christmas, there’s the eery and magical Solstice, on December 21; Kwanzaa, starting on the 26th; and of course Hannukah, starting on December 16—which means that as of this writing, you still have between 14 and 24 days to purchase (or make!) gifts for the favorite writer or reader on your list.
And so, without further ado, I present my 2014 Literary Gift Guide.
Grab yourself an eggnog and start reading.
1. Literary Undies? Why the heck not? Lauren Carroll at superpowerstudio has cooked up these beautiful, comfortable, upcycled (this is key: they’re NOT recycled underpants!) underwear for women. Here’s the literary gem: The Secret Garden. And they’re packaged nicely, too.
You can find these and more (Lemon Ice! High Tea! The Life Aquatic!) on etsy.
2. While you’re on etsy, check out this beautiful and different Jane Eyre cuff bracelet, the Edgar Allen Poe literary scarf, and this soy candle, which purports to smell like an English library. Who would’ve thunk it?
3. Is reading sexy? Yes, it is. As usual, books make great gifts. My favorite reads of the past year include Run by Ann Patchett, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Hamid Mohsin, and Just Kids by Patti Smith. On my to-read list is Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Meghan Daum’s book of essays called The Unspeakable (in case you missed my “Personal Essays that will Gut You” post, you can find a link to one of those essays here.) Here are some other great resources for finding out what books were the talk of the town in 2014: A talk with New York Times editor Pamela Paul on KQED’s show “Forum,” with Michael Krasny, and The Best Books of the Year, from The Guardian (two parts!). And here’s a plug for your local bookseller: buy your books from them, not Amazon. That is all.
4. Here’s another beautiful book: In Search of The Dark Watchers, with paintings by my incredibly talented father-in-law, Benjamin Brode, and text by his good friend Thom Steinbeck (yup, you guessed it: John Steinbeck’s son). You can pick yourself up a copy here. Softcover is $40; the exquisite hard cover is $125.
5. Of course, if your giftee isn’t into books (for shame!), there are always magazines and literary journals. Consider supporting the journal Rock & Sling (current issue features poems by me and my pal Mike Dockins!).
6. A desk. No, I’m serious. Your favorite writer probably writes at her kitchen table (busted), or on the go. How amazing a gift would a desk be? This blog post by The Writing Nut describes perfectly the best criteria for selecting a writer’s desk.
7. Or maybe you’re thinking smaller. This website has a whole host of funny mugs (my favorite? “I’m figuratively dying for a cuppa”), as well as other whimsical bits and pieces for your resident grammar nerd.
8. If you’re feeling crafty, this Pinterest page has some fun ideas for you, like Steampunk Altered Books and origami book marks. Yes!
9. And don’t forget charity. I like to support Poets & Writers magazine and Poetry Daily, (they’re pledge-driving as we speak), but there are also a number of reputable literacy organizations like Reading is Fundamental, A Chance Through Literacy, and Literacy for Incarcerated Teens. As with any charity, you should check it out yourself, and make sure it passes your sniff test. And remember that, like many things book-related, you should think global but also act local (ahem): there may be a worthy non-profit bringing books, or literacy, to underserved people in YOUR community!
10. You still working on that egg nog? I had to plug, again, the book Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle. In the right hands, this could be genius.
Also check out: