I have a shameful addiction to gift guides. I am also a book junkie, to such a desperate extent that no one can buy me books anymore. No one knows what my shelves contain, because I’m a criminal cross-genre reader of everything. Think I don’t have a book of Madeleine Vionnet’s patterns adapted by Issey Miyake? I do. Biography of Cicero? Yep. Complete works of Angela Carter? Yes, though I’d love them leatherbound. (Anyone?)
That said, one of my happiest Christmas morning memories involves a bookgift from my mom. I was maybe eight years old, and the gift was a tall stack of books, each one wrapped individually. We didn’t have much money, and so a gift of even one book was a treat. My mom hit it WAY out of the park that year. She gave me a dozen. Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Elizabeth Enright, Noel Streatfeild. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that those books are a huge part of what made me a writer. They took my mind and shook it – all of them are about young girls having fierce and amazing adventures – and because the books were all written by women, they gave me an idea I’d never had before, that I might one day become a writer too. Sidenote: Noel Streatfeild’s books also caused me me speak with a British accent, and using WWII-era expressions (“blackout shades!” “kippers!” “rusk!”), much to the bemusement of my peers in rural Idaho.
Giving someone a book is more than just giving them a present. It’s giving them a possibility. I’m not saying everyone is destined to become a writer, but that’s not the only thing a gift of a book can inspire. Reading is not just entertainment, it’s also inspiration. Stories make us, and it’s never too late to be blown away by something new.
Included here are many of my favorite books, and a lot of them were written by my favorite people. This is a series of posts, to avoid utter overwhelm. I categorized the gifts by Type Of Lit Geek, because that’s my favorite kind of guide. It enables me to imagine people actually GETTING these presents, which is the best part. And, you know, they are categorized by genre. Because I’m like, a writer and stuff. So herewith, the first post. Gifts for….
THE NEW WEIRD WOMAN
by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
This is a fabulous compendium of lovely things. If your giftee is anything like me, (as in, she’s kind of irritatingly encyclopedic herself when it comes to awesome weird things, but she loves surprises) there will be a bunch of wonderful details here she’s never heard of. Plus, it’s just basically charming, illustrated, and enticing. Each entry has a small essay. Topics range from Ambrosia to Whistling.
by Nicolas Christopher
By Kathryn Davis
This is an extraordinary novel dealing with the weird friendship between an elderly Danish opera composer and her neighbor. It’s part fairy tale, part invented opera, part realistic story of adultery and murder. It reminds me a bit of Isak Dinesen’s Winter’s Tales, and it contains some totally incredible descriptions of invented operas, of their sets and stagings. This is a good bet for the girl who has read everything, because Davis – being a distinctly hybrid genre writer , part speculative and part literary, but marketed largely as lit- is not as known as I’d like her to be. I happened upon her completely accidentally. I can’t recommend Kathyrn Davis enough. I read all her novels this year.
by Daniel Abadie
What else? How about this? Catbird NYC has a bunch of cool weird doodads, and it turns out that I (or you know, the woman mentioned above) want all of them. Especially this fighting bears ring.