With all the noise about Black Friday and stores being open on Thanksgiving it occurs to me that we didn’t used to shop as much when I was a kid. (Pardon my doddering nostalgia.) I remember just two kinds of shopping with mom. Grocery shopping at the A&P, which I loved (“Trix are for kids!”) and clothes shopping for school, which I hated (trying on clothes in those sweaty little rooms and then having to parade for mom and the bored clerk). Trips to Toy Town and Downstreet Books were a once in blue moon affair. I got a Newbery Award book each Christmas and used to go to the toy store only to buy model airplane kits for other children’s birthday parties. I remember standing in front of a wall of models, melting with desire and hearing my mother say, “Remember, it’s better to give than to receive.” That was baloney and I knew it.
Oddly, I now find myself in an eating, sleeping, and dreaming shopping frenzy in the months of November and December. I own the bookstore/toy store mecca of the island and all the thousands of goodies contained inside. Yet I really struggle when asked what I “want” for the holidays. I can’t think of any “thing” I desire, except maybe the chance to give some swell wrapped books to my kids, my love, and friends. It is better to give than receive. It’s easier. It’s more fun. It’s better. Mom was right.
In fact, I now find it so much fun giving stuff that I sometimes take home piles of things before I really have a recipient in mind. I have no choice when I come across something that is just Too Wonderful. Here’s my version of the Too Wonderful Not to Give to Somebody List:
Earth Is My Witness, an Art Wolfe magnum opus
Yes, Please, Amy Poehler’s book for new wave women
A big polka dot scarf
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande; super smart, bold, and wise
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; you’ll need five copies of this great read
Eat by Nigel Slater, because the great cooks make it look simple
NYRB Children’s Collection of Classics, a fantastic reissues of great read-alouds
Nikki McClure calendar, get 5 copies
Fasttrack Game, simple and lots of fun for all ages
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, dark and funny about dysfunctional Canadians
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Blackman, a charming, sweet Swedish tale
Aimless Love by Billy Collins; tons of great poetry this year
Take Away the a, a delightful picture book for old and young
In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides, this year’s adventure/history/storytelling combo
The Burning Room by Michael Connelly, a better grade of mystery
How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson, science/history for anyone
and don’t forget a hamster calendar, because no one else has one.
There are truly a hundred more where these came from. Remember, different strokes for different folks. That’s what makes this fun.
Owner and Bookseller of Island Books, Mercer Island, WA
Reprinted from Island Books’ December 2014 eNewsletter