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17 August 2007

G is for Gifts

Bookstack_patti_xmas_2006“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.” – Katherine Mansfield

Red velvet cake with butter cream icing marked the big day. And then birthday presents, many wrapped in an oddly similar and recognizable shape—rectangular and thick, sturdy and straight, like…well, quite like a book.

We are a family of readers. Our overflowing bookcases dwarf visitors, upstairs and down. Even Tessie has joined our ranks, demanding at least four books at bedtime. Favorites include a beautiful old hardback copy of Stuart Little (we do two chapters a night), Mama Always Come Home (a new addition, after the trauma she experienced by my recent three weeks away), A Bad Case of Stripes (the danger is that she only wants to wear striped clothing to her new school), D.W.’s Guide to Preschool (to prepare her for her new Montessori experience), Stellaluna, Todd Parr’s Okay Book (the diversity trainer in me loves his work), and Emma’s favorite from when she was Tessie’s age (and mine when I was that age, too, way back in the Dark Ages)—I Can’t, Said the Ant.

When holidays roll around, or birthdays, we can always count on receiving a bookstack, a collection of books chosen just for us, with a thoughtfulness that sinks deep and veers off in unexpected ways, the obliqueness a surprise that delights, a gift that we can open again and again, a selection that makes us wonder what in us sparked that choice.

Last Christmas, Emma thrilled me beyond thrill with a unique bookstack that she thought of all on her own and researched at the local fabulous bookshop, Malaprop’s (where I’ve been asked to do a reading, by the by, on November 18th, so mark your calendar and come on down—or up!). Her bookstack to me started with 1066, moved to 1453, then 1491, 1776, 1912, and 1968, all books with numerical (year) titles. Beautiful! What a grand idea! Was I thinking like this when I was 14?

Bookstack_emma_aug_16_2007Our birthdays this past Thursday proved no exception to the bookstack phenomenon. Emma’s stack centered on her new area of interest, global warming, from Discordant Harmonies: A New Ecology for the Twenty-first Century to The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming to Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming, accompanied by China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun, for fiction’s sake, and a pictorial dictionary, First Thousand Words in Japanese.

My bookstack began with Tess’ The History of Hell, not to be confused with the Encyclopedia of Hell, which we also own. Emma surprised me with a quirky book, Paint by Numbers, a history of painting by numbers, which I love. Mr Brilliant has long wanted to hold a “painting class” on the main square in town, with easels and very serious looking students doing paint by numbers Bookstack_patti_aug_16_2007canvases, so she comes by the quirkiness quite honestly. She also picked out PostSecret, a compilation of selected postcards from the revelatory site and art project, PostSecret.

Mr Brilliant flat out delighted me with books I’d never heard of, always the best: The Secret Histories--An Anthology: Hidden Truths that Challenged the Past and Changed the World, The Anatomy of Disgust, Lucifer’s Legacy: The Meaning of Asymmetry, Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America and Defining the Wind: the Beaufort Scale, and how a 19th-century admiral turned science into poetry.

Delicious. Books--novels, histories, memoir, collections of poetry by e.e. cummings--are among the most personal gifts we can give. G is for gifts that delight us and reveal us--and the giver--and the relationship between the two.


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Oh, how I adore books! My boyfriend buys them by the caseload, and then lets them gather dust. I also buy them by the caseload, but I devour them. I am the pariah in my book club, as I have already read nearly every book they want to read (and thus they don't, feeling guilty at making me do double-time). I simply cannot imagine a life without another world to sink into. (sigh) Happy Birthday!

Wonderful bookstacks! I'm making note of many things I haven't read. But now, having visited Asheville earlier this year for the first time, I do know Malaprop's and the square where a paint-in could share space with the drum-in which was so much fun when we were there.

Happy Birthday, Patti, and enjoy your books!

I must say I am loving these A-Z entries! you area bright spot in my day.

I'm with Tessie: I loved striped clothing, especially striped tights!

Happy birthday, Patti, a day or two late....

Books overrun my house, too. My mom was a librarian, and I used to yearn to spend time with her at work. Yet I am a buyer of books -- perhaps to recreate that safe place in my home.

i also come from a family of book addicts. all of us own bookcases overflowing to stacks on the floor and any other available surface. our birthdays and christmases are always full of wrapped stacks and when asked for a gift wishlist we have a ready piece of paper full of titles we need. i can't imagine a life without these wonderful companions and i find it impossible to part with any of the ones i have loved. i never know when i will need to reread them!

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