I have purged books from my bookshelves one time in my life and it took my sister and a dear friend standing over me to get me through the trauma. Some people looks at walls and think of where to hang art. I look at walls and think of bookshelf space.
Don't get me wrong, now, I love the library. Got my first library card at six and all that. I like the Kindle, too. Have one. It's good. It's nice...but no electronic medium or borrowed book is going to replace the happy moment when you open the cover of your brand new book and dive in.
Books might one day be a precious artifact displayed under a climate-controlled case in a museum but that day is not yet here, thank goodness.
I've met people in bookstores who became friends. I've spent hours wandering the shelves of I don't know how many bookstores and don't consider a minute wasted.
I remember the first time I walked into a two-story bookstore. Oh. Oooooooh.
I'm a huge fan of independent and secondhand bookstores, and try to patronize them over Barnes and Nobles. (Although yes, I do have a B&N card. Duh.) I like B&N, but not only do indie bookstores have the most perfect smell in the world, but the people who work there seem to love books almost as much as I do.
Some of the best book recommendations I've had in the last 20 years have been from 'staff picks'- you know, those little cards that hang on the bookshelves, where a staff member writes a blurb about why he or she loved this particular book and why you will, too?
When your children are young, bookstores are a wonder. You can't buy enough of your own childhood favorites and are as eager to reread them as your children are to hear them (at least the first five times. After you've read Goodnight Moom for the 100th time, it is not nearly as exciting.) As they grow into young adulthood, you rely on the children's section staff to steer your child through the chaff to the good stuff.
As an aside: I love young adult fiction. Not the vampirey crap that abounds, but the stories that teach our children (and remind the parents) that different is good and possibilities are endless. I'm a huge fan of using the Newbery Medal as a guide on what to buy a middle reader, if you're ever at a loss.
I've said all that to say this:
Since it's the season, and most of us are out there trying to think of good presents for those on our lists, might I suggest a book on this list? They are beautiful, timeless, and the recipient will remember you every time he reads your gift.
Plus, rereading them is the very best way to get in the Christmas spirit.
1. The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell
I read this book to my boys every year, and I can't get through it without having to stop and take a couple of deep breaths. It's sad and sweet and one of my all-time favourite books, period.
2. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
Trains, magic, snow, Santa. Need I say more? The illustrations are magnificent.
3. The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffman.
Make sure you own the Maurice Sendak illustrated version. There's a reason this story is a classic: it's a little bit of scary and a whole lot of wonder and absolute magic.
4. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
The author understood that it is better to give than to receive and if you were in any doubt about that, you won't be by the end of the story.
5. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
Every year, Tolkien wrote a letter filled with wonderful stories about Santa to his children, and they are collected here. He also illustrated them beautifully and if you're a Tolkien fan, you'll find some of his creations comfortingly familiar.
6. Who is Coming To Our House? by Joseph Slate
For very young children, this tells the tale of the animals in the stable, preparing for their special visitors.
7. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston
One of those books you dig out every year when you need to find a reason not to become a Grinch. Speaking of...
8. How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
"His heart grew three sizes"....still makes mine swell. Plus, I can't help but love a villain turned hero.
9. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
I expected it to be schmaltzy and fell in love with this book. It's simply lovely.
10. The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris
Not for children. Wicked funny.