give books: they make your ass look small

In ALL, GIFT GUIDES, MY LISTSby Stephanie Klein20 Comments

Dean Koontz: Books make great gifts because your friends and family need something scary to read other than their 401k report.
Maya Angelou: Books make great gifts because they’re a celebration of family and friendship.
Carl Hiaasen: Books make great gifts because people love supporting endangered species.
Rachel Ray: Books make great gifts because they’re as hefty as a fruitcake, but enjoyable to devour.
Barbara Walters: Books make great gifts because they’re a great way to get a conversation started.
Judy Blume: Books make great gifts because no assembly is required.
Suze Orman: Books make great gifts because they are a great investment in your relationships.
Toni Morrison: Books make great gifts because they bring back fond memories.
Jeff Foxworthy: Books make great gifts because your friends have heard your saga a thousand times. They deserve a new story.
Stephanie Klein: Books make great gifts because the coffee table sort make an ass look positively diminutive.

Buy_books_for_the_holidays The truth is, I don’t get to read all that often, but I buy books like I’ve all the time in the world to read them. Stacks of them. Mostly cookbooks, while I’m speaking the truth. And if I’m going for the whole honesty thing, I should correct myself. I don’t read all that often obviously because of the way I prioritize my life. I’m very Jack Sprat about reading: an extremist. A man who can eat no fat, married to a woman who could eat no lean. There’s no middle ground. Either I’m relay-racing through one book after the next or there’s a pile of pilot scripts at my bedside. Though each day I do find myself reading picture books to the kids, which is almost as stimulating.

When I do binge-read, I go for the guilty pleasures: books with name brand mentions and walks along 5th Avenue, spoiled grown ups who tan on the French Riviera. I escape and don’t want to think too much. But when I’m reading to be a better writer, there’s a whole different set of books on my to-read list. That’s when I look to Katherine Mansfield, William Trevor, Alice Munro. Then Katherine Anne Porter, Don DeLillo, Tom Perrotta, but no, I can’t get into Philip Roth. I haven’t read J.M. Coetzee since college. For storytelling, there’s John Irving, my favorite (especially A Prayer for Owen Meany). Of course there’s always Jonathan Ames, David Sedaris, and humorist Michael Ian Black (whom I recently met when we were on a book panel together in Atlanta, and I love his sense of humor).

Here’s what I do know: I always light up when someone gives me a book as a gift. I can’t help but wonder why this person got me a certain book. Did it make them think of me? So the whole time I’m reading I’m looking for some clue, wondering what is it in this one book they thought would appeal to me? I totally make it about me, when in actuality it might have been some last-minute grab. Still, I love to give books as gifts. It’s like giving someone a ticket to strange. You get them out of their own head for a while–unless it’s a self-help book, in which case I hope wine and sleeping pills are involved. Good that my own memoirs can be found IN THE SELF HELP AISLE! I digress.

I’m also often asked what books I recommend for writers. This is easy, so easy. I own more books on writing than actual books to be read for pleasure. So here are my pics, listed in a post below.

Comments

  1. Books are a great gift, when thought is put into them. Not only is it something they think you will enjoy, but it can show you how they think of you. Although I also like a lot of the guilty pleasures that people don't expect to see me reading — Plum Sykes is a favorite because she's so smart.
    And the publishing industry sure could use the help this season!

  2. John Irving is my favorite author and A Prayer for Owen Meany is nearly my favorite book on the planet.

    I wish Wally Lamb would write more. I loved I Know This Much is True…just because it was 'over read' didn't mean it wasn't great.

    FROM SK: He has a new book out. It's on my list here.

  3. I'd also like to stick in a little plug for Shreve Stockton's new book about the first year after taking in an orphaned coyote named Charlie. Her site is dailycoyote.net.

    As a lover of small furry creatures, it fits my needs well.

  4. I had friends who were celebrating their wedding and they didn't ask for any gifts but said if people felt that they HAD to bring something, to bring their favorite book. I thought that was pretty awesome.

  5. Awesome. Thanks so much for posting your writing-book recommendations. There are so many options that I get lost and end up not buying anything.

  6. I loved seeing your books on writing recommendations. Have you checked out Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird? Love her!

    FROM SK: Yes, that book was in an earlier reco on this blog. But I have to say, the 50 essential's book I listed blows everything else away. It's that good.

  7. I love books, too. I love giving them and love receiving them. I love reading them, too, but, like you, don't have much time for that these days. Some day…
    Thank you for your suggestions on writing books – I think I'll put them on my Christmas wish list!

  8. Octavia Butler is my passion. For enjoyment and thought-provoking topics. Kindred is her best, but The Parable of the Sower is a close second.

    I'm an English teacher with ridiculous amounts of grading and a Masters of English Lit student, but I still have to read for enjoyment for a few minutes a day. It's mostly to prove that, though grad school tries, it CANNOT educate the love of reading out of me.

    For that reason, I also buy more books than I can ever read, give them as Christmas gifts, and squeal when I receive one myself. Great post!

  9. Stephanie – have you read "American Wife" by Curtis Sittenfeld ("Prep") yet? A great read – fiction based on Laura Bush's life – fascinating. It's been very enjoyable to look forward to picking it up each night after the kids are down (Ha! – seems like they're never really "down"…).

    Love seeing Ina's book in the "spin." I've got both that and Martha's new one ("Cooking School") on my wish list for the holidays.

    I also buy "stacks" at a time. In fact, "Moose" was part of my last stack purchased (and I have read them all – except for "Just Do It" – by that journalist who had sex with his wife every day for a year (I think))… Of course, my husband would like that one to move to the top of the list.

  10. Stephanie – have you read "American Wife" by Curtis Sittenfeld ("Prep") yet? A great read – fiction based on Laura Bush's life – fascinating. It's been very enjoyable to look forward to picking it up each night after the kids are down (Ha! – seems like they're never really "down"…).

    Love seeing Ina's book in the "spin." I've got both that and Martha's new one ("Cooking School") on my wish list for the holidays.

    I also buy "stacks" at a time. In fact, "Moose" was part of my last stack purchased (and I have read them all – except for "Just Do It" – by that journalist who had sex with his wife every day for a year (I think))… Of course, my husband would like that one to move to the top of the list.

  11. Where are those quotes from? I can't seem to find a source or proper attribution for them anywhere online, and that doesn't at all read or sound like Dr. Angelou.

  12. I ordered "Moose" from Amazon last Monday. Looking forward to its arrival! I'd like to read more in general, but I end up spending more time writing than reading. Not enough hours in the day to do both.

    My last book is my own humorous weight loss memoir of sorts. It's probably similar to Moose with the minor exception that Moose is a real book that people actually buy. I'm, well, not quite there yet.

  13. So – I totally hate when people go off on a tangent and then use the phrase "I digress" to get back on track.
    And to be clear… I like the tangents. Hate that phrase.

  14. I love to see you referencing the Books = Gifts promotions in the publishing industry right now! It's true that in this tough time, books really do make great presents. And as someone within the publishing industry, yes, it really does need some help right now.

    Have you seen this video? It was pulled together in 2 weeks, from publishers all across the industry!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OXs7tnP5eQ

  15. I've always bought books for Christmas gifts: Travel stories for my dad, gardening books for my mom, and this year I already got "400 fact about Chuck Norris" for my brother. I myself hand in a long wishlist filled with books (travel stories as well, and some favourites from the library that I just have to own) – I always get a gift coupon for the bookstore though, which I always seem to spend on cookbooks.

  16. You should read Sue Grafton novels A – T. She's so funny and such a relief to read after long days of work, kids, husbands and houses…..

    Also love Janet Evanovich novels. The Stephanie Plum series is great.

    Both are hilarious. Witty. Every book I read, I slow down at the end, just to prolong it a bit longer. And so hard to wait until I find or order the next one!

  17. For a book on writing, which probably you've read but is worth a shout-out here anyway: Anne Lamott's _Bird by Bird_, which is a very, very funny series of short chapters on how to start writing, how to keep writing, how to keep on keeping writing…I've given chapters of this out in my various classes and students love it – particularly the chapter called "Shitty First Drafts." It's great.

  18. For a book on writing, which probably you've read but is worth a shout-out here anyway: Anne Lamott's _Bird by Bird_, which is a very, very funny series of short chapters on how to start writing, how to keep writing, how to keep on keeping writing…I've given chapters of this out in my various classes and students love it – particularly the chapter called "Shitty First Drafts." It's great.

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