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.