Be the most popular person at your holiday party by giving a book-related present. No, I'm not kidding.*
I know that I don’t have to tell you this, but the holiday season is upon us and if you’re like me, you’re also slammed with a number of Birthdays, too. One of my favorite presents to give (and receive) is a book or a book-related item. This is chiefly because books are magical and I would like for my presents to be magical, if at all possible.
Below you’ll see a list of perfect gifts for a book-lover that I’ve read about/been gifted/gifted.
For the Body (Be Forewarned—these gifts are every bit as sexy as this category name suggests.)
A Book Scarf like the one in the upper left. One of my BFFs, Mary Catherine Starr, purchased this scarf for my Birthday several years ago and it’s one of my very favorites. The colors are easy to pair with others and I love knowing that I’m wearing words from a fantastic piece of English literature around my neck. I’ve gotten lots of compliments on the scarf, even if the person that I’m talking to doesn’t necessarily seem that excited about Pride and Prejudice. The seller offers other book scarf options, as well as gloves, pillows, etc.
One of the Shirts pictured above. Another way for a friend to wear his or her love of literature. These t-shirts also have excerpts from famous books on them, as well as an illustration which is related in some way to the content of the book. Anne (with an E) of Green Gables, anyone? Or how about a t-shirt with an excerpt written by the incredible Maya Angelou? I’ll take one of each!
For the House
A Literary-Inspired Candle: Makes the best kind of candle. Try the Jane Austen Library Tin Candle—another gift from the divine Mary Catherine Starr. This candle smells of gardenia, tuberose, and jasmine and burning it makes me feel like I’m extraordinarily witty and have a mother and two sisters who are trying to ruin my life. (I posted this blog entry and then realized that I'd forgotten about Mary. Oops.). Or, you could purchase the Old Book Smell Candle (pictured above). This candle has been listed on a few websites that I’ve perused. While I haven’t tried the candle, I have to say that I’m intrigued.
A Fabulous Set of Bookends: When my husband was courting me, he bought me a set of beautiful elephant bookends as part of an anniversary present. I still remember how wonderful it was to receive something so beautiful and so beautifully frivolous; they were something that I would have never splurged on at that particular moment of my life. Search on Etsy and you can find virtually any kind, from gorgeous geodes to mountains to whales.
A Print: I’m loving the simplicity and beauty of these prints (pictured above). Buy one for your friend and watch them be inspired!
A Book Ornament: This is a Harry Potter ornament on Etsy that I have my eyes on. It’s “Made with the pages of discarded and damaged books no longer suitable for resale.”
For the Book Collection
A Special Edition of a Favorite Book: If your sweetheart has a penchant for a particular book or author, consider purchasing a first edition. Remember when Chandler buys Joey’s gf The Velveteen Rabbit? That’s all the proof that I need that first editions make amazing gifts, but please gift responsibly, people! Otherwise you risk breaking up your best friend’s relationship and spending quiet reflective time stuck in a box. (Thanks http://friends.wikia.com/wiki/Kathy for a reminder of how that all went down.) Abebooks.com is a site that I’ve used to buy a first edition before, although I have also had some luck browsing antique stores and even Goodwill.
Or how about a gorgeous copy of their cherished favorite book? Shout-out to my best friends Mary Catherine and Laura Whitaker, because they bought me a stunning set of cloth covered classics several years ago. I couldn't find mine, White's Fine Editions, sold online anywhere, but try these on for size. If your intended recipient is a fan of Harry Potter, think about buying the illustrated copy of the first or second books in the series.
A Library Stamp: This is for the person who alphabetizes all of their books by last name and lends his or her books with a mixture of generosity, fear, and resentment. I’m definitely not that kind of person. Other examples may be found on Etsy.
A New Book: I was a member of English Lit. graduate programs for six years and no matter how many close readings we did or how many times I read a particular text, I never lost my belief that books can change people’s lives. Consider picking up a book that you think that your friend or family member will like and you might have the pleasure of knowing that you introduced them to a new favorite. I recently gifted people with a subscription to the Book of the Month club which allows my giftees to select one hardback book a month from a curated list chosen by a small group of well-known authors, actors/actresses, and other personalities. (Spoiler alert, Dan: you just bought me a three-month subscription for Christmas! SO sweet of you!).
And don’t forget that you can be creative if you’re browsing your local bookstore or Amazon. You can buy a traditional book, or you can buy a volume of poetry (check out the fantastic Natasha Trethewey, Poet Laureate. Her volume Native Guard is phenomenal). Or what about a graphic novel or comic book?
For the World
Donate to a Charity that Supports Reading: If you appreciate a good book, think about donating to a domestic or international charity which supports reading and literacy. My aforementioned BFF Laura works at the Carnegie Center, of Lexington, Kentucky, and they offer amazing writing and reading programs for the people there. How about supporting them?
Here are a couple other articles with more ideas: https://www.bustle.com/articles/126582-12-amazing-book-and-literacy-charities-that-are-changing-the-world and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/11/book-charities-that-help-kids_n_6817484.html.
Do you have any other fabulous ideas? I'd love to read them! Happy shopping, everyone!
*Please note that I have not personally tried all of these products or charities (any exceptions will be clearly stated). This is not a sponsored post.
I’ve read 93 books in 2016 so far. This post is part of a series on my favorites.
The Trespasser by Tana French
Part of the Dublin Murder Squad Series
I look forward to Tana French’s books in a big way. French is a dazzling thriller/mystery writer, one of the best writing in the genre. If you’ve exhausted Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins’s catalogs—among other popular thriller/mystery writers—give French a try.
I can’t remember how I stumbled across French’s first book In the Woods (2012), but I've loved each of the five which followed in her Dublin Murder Squad series. A different detective of the Murder Squad narrates each of French’s books, and French is a master at giving each of them a totally unique voice and their own strengths and foibles.
The Trespasser (2016) is probably my favorite of French’s novels. It starts with the seemingly cut-and-dry death of a woman who has suffered a head injury but what follows is an intense psychological thrill-ride that is completely absorbing.
Perhaps what I love best about French’s mystery plots is that unlike some thriller/mystery writers, her killers do not come out of nowhere. With French, the suspects are typically presented toward the beginning of the book and then the net narrows until the killer is revealed; the most fascinating (and most terrifying) part, though, is that along the way French shows us that many of the characters might have had motivation to commit the crime. She plays with the reader’s expectations and suggests how complicated humans really are. In a similar way, though her narrators use the first-person pronoun and we have immediate access to what they see and think, we come to understand that we don’t--and can't-- know all of the respective narrator, not really.
Perfect If You: Want to get lost in a brilliant whodunit; like to guess that five different people are the killer before being presented with the truth (or maybe that’s just me; I would not make a good detective.)
Not Recommended If You: Are looking for a fast, quick thriller/mystery read; Hate feeling anxious (it’s just my default setting so I can handle it).
Hey! Over Here!: If you like Tana French or just the thriller/mystery genre, check out these other picks too: the book Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson (terrifying!); the Cormoran Strike books by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling (soon to be a HBO series, btw); the first few seasons of the television show Damages starring Rose Byrne and Glenn Close. Damages focuses on attorneys, corruption, and murder—instead of detectives and their cases—but every season begins with a provocative scene (i.e. someone covered in blood) and every episode which follows works backwards to show how the characters got there.
I’ve read 93 books in 2016 so far. This post is part of a series on my favorites.
The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin
This amazing trilogy starts with the somewhat overdone premise of a vampire catastrophe, but if you are allergic to any stories involving vampires, or object to vampire lit. as a matter of principle, don’t write this trilogy off just yet.
This series made me feel all the feelings, as Jane Austen once wrote. The books are terrifying, electrifying, and action-packed, and yet the characters, both human and vampire, and their various motivations, their desperate fights for survival, and their ties to their communities, are the real stand-out here.
And perhaps the best part of all is that Cronin is a really, really good writer. If you haven’t picked these up yet, enjoy digging into three GIGANTIC books, including The Passage (2010), The Twelve (2012), and The City of Mirrors (2016), the latter of which I read and loved this year.
Perfect If You: Want to be a thoughtful-and-reflective-kind-of-scared; enjoy The Walking Dead; are searching for meaty books to get lost in (these are all really long)
Not Recommended If You: Want to read another angst-ridden love-triangle vampire book; are already scared that the apocalypse is nigh because Donald Trump was elected
Have you read The Passage trilogy? What did you think?
About the Author
When my toddler and infant sleep--or are otherwise engaged--I write, read, and eat lots of chocolate.