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What Did You Give?

A book is a gift you can open again and again.

— Garrison Keillor

Is there any gift better than a book?

Aside from cashmere, books are my favorite gifts — to give and receive. As the new year approaches, I'm happily curled up and reading. It seems the ideal way to wrap up this year, and roll into the next.

What I Gave

Tiny Beautiful Things:
Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

by Cheryl Strayed

This is the book I wish I had in my struggling 20s and early 30s. In this tough but tender book of "advice" Sugar — the anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus — offers compassion, insight and unvarnished honesty. Sugar's (aka Cheryl Strayed) got wit, warmth and a winning writing style.

by Cheryl Strayed

I didn't want to like this book. All the hype turned me away. But I finally gave in, and — surprise! — loved it so much I gave it as gift. It's good, really good, and worth Oprah's every gush and cheer. Read it now, before the movie comes out (starring Reese Witherspoon).

Note: I didn't intend for this to be the Cheryl Strayed Christmas but, really, she is good. See my other Strayed fave, from 2008: Torch

Blue Nights
by Joan Didion

Don't you love when you're mindlessly going about your day and trip upon a book that takes you back? When I spotted this book in the used section, I recalled a dear friend who introduced me to the great Joan Didion. The essays in Slouching Towards Bethlehem revealed to me the timeless power of "literary" journalism, and The Year of Magical Thinking broke me open with its truth and power. And so, I had to buy this book for my friend. She probably has it already. But that's okay. Sometimes a book is a tool, an object of thanks.

Tune In - The Beatles: All These Years
by Mark Lewisohn

At 944 pages, this tome either serves as absorbing tell-all or an overly researched snooze. I'm not ambitious enough to find out where it falls, but the recipient of this book — the first volume in a biographical trilogy (yes, that's three!) — tends to enjoy challenges of literary endurance.

What I Got

Faber & Faber Poetry Diary
Yes, I still keep a desk calendar, as in, a paper book with pages and dates. I adore my new day planner, or diary, as the British say. A treasure from one of the last great publishing houses in London, the Faber & Faber planner features 40 poems from writers ranging from Chaucer to contemporary poets. This is such a great gift, and I can't wait to fill its pages with deadlines and dates.

Ex-Boyfriend on Aisle 6
by Susan Jackson Rodgers

The best books have an inscription. A handwritten note tucked inside the first pages harkens to days when books and friendships were more permanent, less ephemeral. I'm eager to read this collection of short stories by a professor at Oregon State University, but not because of the engaging title or the contemporary writing style; I'm most touched that this is a gift from a student who, having enjoyed this book, wanted to share it with me.

And really, isn't that the best gift of all?

last of the great independent publishing houses in London - See more at: http://www.faber.co.uk/about/#sthash.kxroObGg.dpuffeatures 40 poems from Chaucer to contemporay poets. And here's a bit of new-to-me literary trivia: Founded in the 1920s, the Faber poetry list was shaped by the taste of T. S. Eliot who was its guiding light for nearly forty years.


How about you? What books did you give, and what books did you get? 


Reader Comments (6)

While we are on the subject, thank you so much for the card. That made me very happy.

Some of the books I remember giving:

Monogamy Songs by Gregory Sherl

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The 2013 Best American Poetry anthology edited by Denise Duhamel

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh

December 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShawnte

Books given:

Thank you for your Service by David Finkel

Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch

Books received:
I can pee on this and other poems by cats by Francesco Marciuliano

Aimless Love by Billy Collins

The Best of American Poetry 2013

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMEHope

Ah lucky you, and nice you, too! I also have been turned off by the hype around Cheryl Strayed. I guess I'm being stingy with my good will? Wild was never on my list, but Dear Sugar has been. I've got a bunch of reading to work through beforehand…
Happy new year!

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarahJ

Shawnte -
You're welcome.

I like your list. Happy new year, and happy reading.

January 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Hi Mary!
Good to see you here. I see your list and Shawnte's includes "The Best of American Poetry 2013" -- I think I need it too. You provide some great additions to my never-ending reading list. Thank you.

January 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Hi Sarah,
I, too, find myself stingy with literary good will. There are just so many books, and so few hours to linger. Am I lazy, or am I wise?

Thanks for dropping by. Nice to see you here.

January 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

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