Last year at this time I reflected on the fact that books did not play a very big part in my holidays. I was concerned about that as my memories of Christmases past include lots of books, from those I received from my parents when I was young to those exchanged between Husband and I, and a lot of others in between.
I pledged that in 2010 all of my gifts would be books and while this did not completely come to pass I did come mighty close to achieving this goal.This holiday also found me discussing books with family and friends on several occasions so as the holidays came to a close I felt a contentment that was missing last year at this time. Here are the books that played a part of my holiday:
After reading this article in October http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/08/us/08picture.html about the demise of picture books for children I was fired up to give all the young people in my life books. Picture books face a lot of competition these days but I think we let go of this literary tradition to the detriment of our little citizens.
So, my great nieces and nephews of preschool age received (in no particular order of importance): The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (Caldecott Winner for 2010); Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney; It's a Book by Lane Smith and Knuffle Bunny Free: an unexpected diversion by Mo Willems. My 10 year old great niece received Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm and Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Two new babies on Husband's side of the family received Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. (Every new baby in my life receives this book - my all time favorite)
True to my expectations, the parents were more excited about these books than the kids, but that’s OK because I know when things settle down and the gadgets lose their star status, the books will become a part of those kids' lives. As years go by I know my gifts will be up against enormous competition from all the great things still to come, but I've decided I want to be remembered as the Aunt who gave only books at Christmas. I just wonder how much longer I can give these gifts in the format to which I am accustomed.
Husband and I exchanged books this year too and inronically we chose for each other different autobigraphies by rock and roll stars that are making waves in the literary world.
I gave Husband Just Kids by Patti Smith. This book just won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and chronicles Smith's years in New York City in the 60s and 70s as well as her lifelong friendship and artistic partnership with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe.
Husband surprised me with Keith Richards' new book, Life which has received much critical acclaim. Husband is reading Life first though because I picked up Just Kids after he raced through it and could not put it down. That’s OK, I have other great books to read while he makes his way through the almost 600-page book .
Other books I purchased as presents included a heavy tome packed with beautiful photographs and recipes called Oaxaca al gusto: an infinite gastronomy by Dianne Kennedy for a friend of mine, (we traveled to Oaxaca together and both fell in love with the place) and Remarkable Creatures by Tracey Chavalier,for one of my sisters.
In addition to these titles, books that came up in discussions over the holidays included: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (if you've ever heard of HeLa cells now you know how they got their name); An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (a fictional account of the New York art world before the good times came to an end); Columbine by David Cullen (a must read according to one of my sisters - it cuts to the chase about many of the myths surrounding this tragedy); Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (a harrowing account of one family's experience during Katrina)’ A Visit from the Goon Sqaud by Jennifer Eagan. (this book is making every 2010 Top Ten list there is) and The Darling by Russell Banks (Liberia’s civil war).
And, in families all over the world, someone, no doubt, received an electronic book reader this Christmas. In my family it was my sister of the gadgets, Julie, who received a Kindle for Christmas from her beloved. I let out a yelp of delight in spite of myself when I saw it and admired its sleek profile, it's many features and ease of use. She has many books downloaded already (and a credit card bill too) and is looking forward to using her new toy, especially when she travels.
I was intrigued by the Kindle, and will even consider purchasing one, but I just can't believe that this gizmo will provide the same kind of reading experience that you get from real (I use that word intentionally) books. How fun will it be to give a person a book when all you have to do is send it to their gadget? For that matter, how much fun will it be to receive a book? Just knowing the present I’m about to open is a book makes me giddy with anticipation. I am not making this up. I can plainly see that I'm going to quit books of the paper kind when they pry them from my cold dead hands.