We’re all excited that Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel, The Snow Child, will be published Feb. 1 by Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown & Co. When Ivey’s not writing books, she’s selling them at Fireside Books (Palmer, Alaska), where she says she loves this time of year especially. “Much of my time is spent greeting old friends and neighbors and helping customers find gifts for loved ones,” she says. “And as I shelve books and straighten the stacks, I start tucking my own gift ideas behind the counter.” Here are a few from her stack:
The emergency, last-minute, gift: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. I don’t read a lot of young adult books, but I bought this one for my 12-year-old daughter. She kept quoting passages aloud, and then insisted I read it when she was finished. I’m glad she did. It is phenomenal, no matter your age or gender. This will be my back-up gift, to save me when I find out we’re going to a Christmas party with a family who has a 15-year-old boy, or when I learn at the last minute that my good friend has decided to get me a present when in 20 years we have never exchanged gifts. Ship Breaker is one of those rare finds–a fast, compelling tale spun with fabulous writing and vivid imagery. It’s a postapocalyptic adventure with a heart of dark poetry.
With love to Grandma Jackie and Yaya: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. Both of my grandmothers are avid readers with great taste in literature. As soon as I read Major Pettigrew, I knew it would be my Christmas gift to both of them. It’s a quiet, reserved love story that surprised me into laughing out loud many times. Set in the English countryside, it tells the story of retired Major Pettigrew, a proper Englishman with a wry sense of humor. When his friendship with a Pakistani woman blossoms, questions of tradition and culture come to the forefront. It is sweet and funny, without being sappy—a perfect, curl-up-by-the-Christmas-tree kind of read.
Merry Christmas, Dad: Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams. John Williams’ novel Stoner is one of my favorites, and when I recently researched to find out what else he had written, I discovered Butcher’s Crossing. It’s a very different kind of novel, but with the same finely observant qualities as Stoner. It’s set in 1870 and follows a doomed buffalo hunt into the Rocky Mountains. My dad has read everything under the sun, especially in the Western genre. But I’m almost positive he hasn’t read this one, and that it will become one of his favorites when he does. It is a universal theme at Fireside Books that dads are impossible to shop for, but thankfully I’ve found my lifesaver for this Christmas.
Happy Holidays, for the house: 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About: The Satirical Not-So-Happy Book by Lia and Nick Romeo. Every Christmas gathering needs a silly book to entertain the relatives, friends and neighbors who stop by. This one has been a staff favorite at Fireside Books this holiday season. We keep it at the front counter and read aloud portions to each other. Customers have had to pry it from our hands to purchase it. But I’m going to special order one for myself and keep it at the ready for Christmas Day laughs. Examples of things to be miserable about: “Life. Death. Hitler. Hemorrhoids.” You get the idea.
A gift for me . . . oops, I mean my little one: Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates. Inevitably when I shop for books for my 4-year-old daughter, I selfishly shop for myself as well. I know that when I buy a new book for her, I will be reading it over, and over, and over, and over again. So I’d better pick something I will enjoy, too. This year, Dog Loves Books is the winner. An adorable white dog with a shy smile loves books so much, he decides to open his own bookstore. When the customers don’t flock to his shelves, he occupies himself by reading all the wonderful books himself. Dinosaurs and space adventures come alive. What more can a bookselling mom, umm, I mean a 4-year-old little girl ask for?
With love to my mom, the poet: The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove. My mom is pursuing her MFA in poetry, and I suspect she has probably already read–and probably owns—many of these poems. But it is a beautiful collection, with insightful commentary from Dove and an expansive, sometimes surprising, array of poets. I confess, my first thought when it arrived at Fireside Books was “This would look gorgeous on my mom’s bookshelf.” It’s a very sophisticated binding that makes it seem more like a gift than many books. I hope my mom loves it. If not, I’ll volunteer to give the collection a good home on my own shelf.