Monday, December 8, 2008

Book Buying Meme

If you're buying books for the holidays, why do you pick out the ones you do? Harriet suggested that this would be a good meme, and I had to agree. The "buy books for the holidays" movement was started over at My Friend Amy, and you can see book bloggers' suggestions for book gifts here. I thought it was such a good idea that I spread the idea of blogging about the books you're buying to John Scalzi's Whatever via comment, and he responded by enthusiastically recommending The Gone-Away World over there, and then asking for other book recommendations (these are heavy on science fiction and fantasy, especially the Terry Pratchett variety).

If only I had a 9 or 10 year old on my list, I'd give him or her a copy of Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy, for which Harriet's blog is named. But you have to work with what you have in a given year, so, without giving away too many secrets, here are my plans (rubs hands together):

As you know, my "book of the year" is Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World, so if you're on my list and you're between 20-60 years old, you're probably getting a copy. I'm not giving this book to anyone much older than I am, because I'm not sure they'd enjoy being lost in it, as I eventually did (it took me about 75 pages, as you may recall). It seems to me that the complications and confusions of this fictional world might be a bit too much for my parents' generation. While my parents have always loved literature and theater, in the last few years, I've noticed that they enjoy novelty less--they still had a good time seeing Spamalot, with its flash-parodies of other recent shows, but they didn't care as much for Wicked, with its attempted inversion of good and evil (from their point of view, I think, it was a twinkie defense of the Wicked Witch of the West).

For these people of my parents' generation (in their 70's), I'm giving Sara Gruen's Water For Elephants, because it's so lovely, the way the story connects between the young narrator and the old, and also Naomi Novik's Temeraire books, starting with His Majesty's Dragon, because what educated older person doesn't want to read another (very different) retelling of the Napoleonic wars?

For the young adults on my list, I'm giving copies of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, if they're at all technophiles (this includes pretty much any teenager who plays video games), because, well, I'm a teacher and I study satire, and how can I resist an updating of the basic message from Orwell's 1984? I'm also giving a copy of Justine Larbalestier's How To Ditch Your Fairy, because it's so much fun to think about what kind of fairy you would want, and a copy of Holly Black's Ironside, because Tithe and Valiant were so good I wanted to see what else would happen, and because they had faeries almost worthy of the old-fashioned spelling, in that they were dangerous partly because of their glamour.

For the younger folk on my list, I've picked out some Roald Dahl--it doesn't much matter which, but for this one elementary-school-age kid, I got Fantastic Mr. Fox, always a favorite for my family. For my preschooler niece, we got Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog, because it's the first one that charmed us, in which they meet their neighbor Zeke, and then we also got Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake, because it's a Christmas story.

Ron is in charge of picking out most of the nonfiction books we ever give, in addition to the rare and interesting titles only he can find. He just gave a friend of ours with a before-Christmas birthday a copy of Bruce Sterling's Shaping Things, because it's a book unlike other books, and also because it's short, and it won't interfere with this person's before-Christmas grading of final exams too much.

We did not give anyone a copy of Neal Stephenson's Anathem this year, because everyone we know who wanted to read it had already bought it for themselves, and most of them have already read it. (I haven't read it yet.)

Harriet proposed these questions, which I will continue, because they're good ones: What books are you giving this Christmas? What makes a book a good gift book? Do you give the same books to a lot of different people or pick out books individually? Do you always give books you’ve read yourself, or are there occasions where you give something that you haven’t read?

Harriet also asked how altruistic your book giving is--do you give a book to a certain person because you want to talk about that book with that person? (I said yes to this one, and gave the example of my friends who give me books with the inscription "pre-read for your enjoyment.")

Consider yourself tagged! You can respond in the comments or leave a link there so we can all jump over to see your thoughts and recommendations.


Harriet said...

Those are some great ones, Jeanne! I was shelving a bunch of Mr. Putter and Tabby books when I was volunteering in the library last week and thinking how sad I am that AJ's outgrown them. They were some of our favorites and there were never enough on the library shelf for him at one time. I still have a copy of Like Water for Elephants on my night stand that someone gave me. Your comments encouraged me to get to it soon. But my stack of reading has been circumvented by the book my parents sent us for St. Nicholas Day, a gorgeous copy of John Masefield's The Box of Delights which AJ and I have had to time share to read on our own, but are also reading together because, as AJ observed, "I like it when you read it out loud because I can close my eyes and see everything in my head. But it's so good I have to read it by myself too." And it's a Christmas story, and a wonderfully literate one at that. I can't imagine how I missed it all these years. I'll be blogging about it sometime today, I hope.

Jeanne said...

Oooh, oooh, you reminded me that I'm not giving any seasonal books this year because I've already given everyone I know a copy of David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice, which has the best Christmas essay ever, Six to Eight Black Men. Also Ron has been reading John Masefield's The Midnight Folk to our kids (yes, we still read out loud some nights).

Serena said...

Here are some poetry recommendations:

For the adult crowd--

Human Dark With Sugar by Brenda Shaughnessy

Sex at Noon Taxes by sally van doren

Trying to Understand the Lunar Eclipse by Carol Dine

For those interested in the Beat Generation:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Coney Island of the Mind

For the kiddos:

Hip Hop Speaks to Children by Nikki Giovanni

Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Where the sidewalk ends by Shel Silverstein

lemming said...

I'll pick up on your meme next time I blog. I'm giving quite an array of books this year - on occasion I give our multiple copies of a book, but that's rare for me.

FreshHell said...

I never get tired of Dahl.

Ron Griggs said...

One of the great pleasures of life is finding out that someone you dearly like hasn't read a book you dearly love. It can literally make me jump up and down in anticipation of the other person's joy.

Because so many of my friends are well read, it takes a special book--old or new--to surprise them in this way. So off the top of my head, here are some special books (old and new). You've probably read some and heard of more, but I'll bet there are a few new to you. In some cases, I've picked a less known book from an author you know.

Non Fiction Jewels

In Search of the Perfect Language, by Umberto Eco
The Victorian Internet, by Tom Standage
The Blank Slate, by Stephen Pinker
The Alphabet vs. The Goddess, by Leonard Shlain
A Palpable God, by Reynolds Price
Miniatures of French Historyy, by Hilaire Belloc
The Mind's Past, by Michael Gazzaniga
The Double Cross System, by J. C. Masterman
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by Julian Jaynes
Glyph-Breaker, by Steven Fischer
The Heliand: The Saxon Gospel, by G. Ronald Murphy (tr.)
The Mystery-Religions, S. Angus
Aku-Aku, by Thor Heyerdahl
Archeology and Language, by Colin Renfrew
An Experiment with Time, by J. W. Dunne
What the Bee Knows, by P. L. Travers
The Language of the Night, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Fiction of interest to children

The Mad Scientist's Club, by Bertrand Brinley
The Horse Marines, by Anna Rose Wright
The Marvellous Land of Snergs, by E. A. Wyke-Smith
Encounter Near Venus, by Leonard Wibberley
Castaways in Lilliput, by Henry Winterfeld
The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek, by Evelyn Lampman

Fiction for adults

The Ball and the Cross, by G. K. Chesterton
The Atrocity Archive, by Charles Stross
The Riddle of the Sands, by Erskine Childers
Captain Alastriste, by Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Engines of God (and about six sequels), by Jack McDevitt
Silverlock, by John Myers Myers
Jack of Shadows, by Roger Zelazny
The Private Life of Helen of Troy, by John Erskine
A Feast of Freedom, by Leonard Wibberley

I would give them all as gifts.

Ron Griggs said...

Wonderful books come to mind just as you hit the "Publish" button...

The Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart

Why is Sex Fun?, by Jared Diamond
On The Wealth of Nations, by P. J. O'Rourke

Cschu said...

I have bought a book for a dear friend of mine who shall remain nameless (except to say that she blogs at Necromancy Never Pays) that I heard about but haven't quite had time to "pre-read." It sounds like something just up her alley, and I don't think she has heard about it. The best kind of book. Like Ron, I am sort of jumping up and down with anticipation! I don't really have a book that I am giving to everyone this year.

Sarah said...

So where do I fit in there, since I am not yet twenty but will be four days after I receive the book?

Jeanne said...

Sarah, no one is ever too old for young adult fiction, and if you have to ask if you're too young to read a book, then you are.

J. Kaye Oldner said...

Posted it here: