Friends Give Me Books

It doesn't take much to make me happy: sunshine, a good book, and people who give me books. (Is there a better gift than a book? I can only think of one: a letter, a letter tucked inside a good book). 

I'm happily immersed in books — books I would have never known had good people not shared their good books with me. The world really does turn on the exchange of words. 


by Robert Macfarlane

Published in 2016, this book is lush, dense, poetic. Robert Macfarlane is a British academic, nature writer, and word lover who is working to restore the “literacy of the land.”  Landmarks, says The New York Times, "is part outdoor adventure story, part literary criticism, part philosophical disquisition, part linguistic excavation project, part mash note — a celebration of nature, of reading, of writing, of language and of people who love those things. . . "  That's me! 

The Five Minute Journal

by Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas

I wasn't immediately thrilled with this gem. It's billed as "the simplest, most effective thing you can do every day to be happier." While given to me with love, I saw it as a unending homework assignment. Uggh. But I do like structure and lists, so I stepped up and gave it a try. And I'm "happy" to say this is a five-minute focus exercise that works! I don't do it everyday (there's only so many shoulds I can do and remain a pleasant person) but when I start my day with this journal I always feels better than when I don't. 


Princess Pamela's Soul Food Cookbook
by Pamela Strobel

I'm not a foodie or a fancy cook, still I love the spirit of this book. Long out-of-print, after 45 years this treasure has been re-introduced as history lesson, poetry, and cookbook in one. Written in 1969, this is a collection of recipes from Pamela Strobel’s tiny soul food restaurant that thrived in New York's East Village in the 1960s. Orphaned at 10 years old, Strobel was just a teenager when she traveled north from South Carolina to New York to make a life for herself with her one skill: cooking. She pairs nearly every recipe with a poem, serving up a wonderful mix of food, love, religion, and race. With a recipe for tripe, for example, she offers this: 

Practically every kind of people

eat somethin' that somebody

else make a godawful face

at. If that don’ tellya what

this race-hatin’ is

all about, nuthin’ will.

In this life, we gotta give

ourselves a chance to digest a

lotta things we don’

understand right off. 


The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
by Edward R. Tufte 

I am perplexed by this gift. It's more textbook dull than visual cool. Given to me by a designer friend, I know I'm holding an important work of another world but it's a world I don't fully understand. Still, I recognize a classic, so I plug along, puzzling over detailed graphs, elaborate tables, and engineer-ish illustrations. That's how it is with books that arrive as gifts, both giver and receiver are seen and revealed — and, really, that's a gift in itself.


Your turn. What are you reading? What books have you gifted, and what have you received?