Some of the MSW ladies have already been talking about the books they’re putting on their holiday shopping lists, so I thought I would weigh in with my thoughts on the subject.
At Christmas, I like to give books that are off the beaten track, things that aren’t in every bookshop window and bestseller list. The kind of books that you have to actively seek out. Sometimes they’re big coffee table books – splurges. Often they’re hardcover, because that seems a little more “gifty” and special somehow.
Matching a book with a loved one is a singular pleasure. I think one gets extra bonus points if the connection is subtle. It’s all very well and good to get a book about race cars for an Indy 500 fan, but get that same gent a book about Indiana art pottery (yes, there is such a thing!) and, in my opinion, you’ve accomplished something special.
I use the New York Times Book Review and Publishers Weekly as sources, but a really splendid way to shop is to head to a book store with a knowledgable staff and ask to be pointed in an interesting direction.
I thought I would share a few of my own picks for this holiday season. None of them are in danger of booting THE HELP off the list, but all of them look very promising. Three are for other people and one is for myself, because what would the holidays be without a little self-indulgence?
The first two books have to do with food, but that’s sort of beside the point (well, I do love to eat, and maaaaaaaybe I was shopping while hungry, but truly it’s not the main reason I chose them.) I think you could make any subject fascinating, but it takes a gifted writer to narrow his or her focus down to a single ingredient and explore it with zeal.
Micophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone
This next one is for a Constitution buff, but the reason I chose this biography in particular is that it promises to help the reader understand how we, as a nation, came to regard the constitution as *the* go-to source for jurisprudence, something we now take for granted. But it wasn’t always the case. Go, Marshall!
John Marshall: Definer of a Nation by Jean Edward Smith
Okay, so this last one is for me. I stumbled on it while doing research and while I knew it wasn’t the book I needed (that book turned out to be a very fine how-to guide, THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO SMALL GAME TAXIDERMY by Todd Triplett) I knew the minute I read the jacket copy that it was the book I wanted. Even if you have no interest in taxidermy, you won’t be able to resist this account by a man who admits his whole goal in writing the book was to understand his own obsession with stuffed critters.
How about you? Any weird, offbeat books you care to recommend this season? Or, for that matter, any weird and offbeat gifts in general? I’ll be giving away a copy of a wonderful anthology that just came out: SURREAL SOUTH, edited by Laura Benedict and her husband Pinckney. It features a story I wrote, as well as one by MSW friend JT Ellison. It’s a fine collection, and perfect for anyone on your list who likes spec fiction, horror fiction, or – in the words of the editors themselves – “profoundly weird stories.”