Friday, December 04, 2009

Books Are Great Gifts

Books have changed my life. It is hard to measure the degrees or the effect, but it is clear, a good book has a way of altering or enhancing your life experience

I love getting books as gifts, especially from people who are passionate about the story, the author or the subject. I am always touched when someone seeks out a special book for me or takes a chance on a story they think I might appreciate it. Over the years some of the best gifts I have gotten have been books. While the list is long (and I am not in front of my bookcase at the moment) I thought I would share some of these treasurers. Feel free to share some of your best book gifts as well.
Next week I'll share some of my favorite books from this year with you (and please send me your favorites as well.) In case you haven't noticed I want you to BUY BOOKS!!!

The Razor’s Edge, W. Somerset Maugham – FIRST EDITION
I read this book right after college on the recommendation of a friend. It was an example of the right story at the right time. When my brother Patrick graduated two years after, I got him a copy and urged him to read it. Twenty years later, after searching for several years, he presented me with a first edition of this great story. When I opened it he said, “I never forgot how much that book meant to me at the time and wanted to give you this as a way of saying thanks.”

Miriam Webster Dictionary – with name embossed in gold on cover.
This was a high school graduation gift from family friends who owned a bookstore. At the time I thought it was kind of a silly and heavy gift but throughout college and even now I pull it out to look up a word or discover a pressed flower or two. Yes, the Internet gives me more options, but the heft and history of this book reminds gives it power.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien Leather bound edition
On our way to South America for a family vacation, I picked this paperback up in the airport to have something to read on the long flight. I was twelve going to a foreign land reading a book about a magical world, it was a good fit. My mother bought me this leather bound edition for Christmas a few years ago, it took me back to that wonderful story and a life changing trip.

Very Personally Yours – Kimberly Clarke
Talk about the power of words. When we were given our big puberty talk in sixth grade the girls were given this special booklet produced by the Kimberly Clarke company (the makers of feminine hygiene products) as a way of introducing girls to their periods. This was the early seventies, the book had not been updated since the fifties and was filled with so much misinformation that it was funny to me even then. My intrepid friend Gwyn hunted down an original copy of this for my birthday a while back. It is a prized possession. (The link takes you to a scanned version of this booklet!)

Hatchet – Gary Paulsen
My oldest nephew Wyatt gave me this book as a young lad after reading it and loving it. It is a great story by a writer who knows how to write for young adults. I treasure it as an example of how a love a reading gets passed on from generation to generation.

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues – Tom Robbins
I got this as a gift for my fifteenth birthday along with a red blank journal from another family friend. I immediately started writing in the journal and became a lifelong fan of Tom Robbins. The combination of the two felt like a promise of things to come for me as a writer.

A Portrait of the Theatre by Frederic Ohringer
This is a big sprawling coffee table book of black and white portraits of New York theatre people. It was in the window of Brentano’s on eighth street the first Christmas I was in New York studying acting at NYU. I wanted that book so badly but it was too expensive to consider. I worked as a secretary for a Professor at the time, his assistant bought it as his gift to me. I thanked him but hugged her!

Germinal – Emile Zola
I got this book from a friend in high school who said I had to read it. My father worked for the Steelworkers Union at the time and was active in the labor movement. This book about striking coal miners was one of the most heart wrenching and moving books I have ever read and to this day is one of my all time favorites. This one got passed around everyone in my family.

Like Wings – Philip Shultz
This was a book I bought for myself right after I met with Philip Shultz to get into his graduate poetry class at NYU. I studied with this great poet for a year and read the poems from this book at least once a year. As a teacher he gave me a lot of “tough love” that changed the way I thought about writing and about poetry. As a poet he never fails to get a deep sigh out of me.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
My sister claims she did not find this book it found her. She passed it on to me and let’s just say I still think I see glimpses of Lestat in my window at night. I never got the appeal of vampires before this book and after reading it I got it. All this fuss about team Edward or Jacob? I’m on team Lestat and cannot WAIT to turn my nieces on to this book in a few years. I’ll throw in a night light with this one!

1 comment:

David Spinks said...

Some reads here. I'll have to check out the ones that I haven't read yet.

If only I had more time to read...

Maybe I'll give blogs as gifts to people. hehe

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