All I Want For Christmas is Books

15 Dec

Books are my favourite Christmas presents. To receive because they’re unlikely to add to my almost-Oprah-worthy hoard of possessions – if I love the book it’ll earn a tidy spot on my Ikea Expedia. If I’m not so keen, I can give it away guilt-free, because the book still got to fulfill its Christmas destiny. To give because they’re super-easy to wrap.

And the holiday season is doubly booky for me, because it’s also the perfect time for catching up on reading, especially when 20-hour flights are involved. These are some books that have earned a spot in my holiday luggage this year:


To give to the Christmas traditionalist: The Christmas Books by Charles Dickens

There are lots of high-end editions of this holiday classic, but I really like this one by White’s Books, because it’s a bit gritty and scary looking – which is how I think Dickensian London should always be portrayed, even if “A Christmas Carol” did once star Mickey.


To give to the design snob: Just My Type by Simon Garfield

This book doesn’t just explain type, it expounds – on why Helvetica is omnipresent, why we all hate Comic Sans, and on how everyone from Presidents to Fuhrers have been affected by their choice of lettering.


To give to the dreamer/armchair traveller: Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky

I’ve probably gushed over this book enough, but it’s extremely giftable – beautiful, whimsical, and somehow personal for every reader.


To give to the lover of good yarns: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

A confirmed crowd-pleaser, even for people who don’t want to be pleased at first (like me). This is a fast, satisfying, curl-up-on-the-couch kind of read. After this, your mom will actually listen to your book recommendations.


To read on the plane: Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine

I’ve already started this, but I’m looking forward to devoting my whole attention to it so that I can get properly scandalised by sexist pseudo-science. Only possible downfall – will the guy sitting in 21C try to talk to me about it?


And what am I hoping to take back in my suitcase? Maybe something like…


Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (or, if you are not giving this to me – and WHY NOT? – To give to the book-news-junkie)

People who like to keep up on the latest thing (ahem) probably already feel a bit left behind if they haven’t read Franzen’s latest opus yet. We may’ve missed our chance to chime in with the rest of the peanut gallery back in September, but I think there’ll still be plenty of chances to casually bring this book up in conversation.


Packing for Mars by Mary Roach (OR, To give to people who like science, especially when it involves space)

Mary Roach brought us Stiff and Bonk, so it’s been established that this is a lady who knows how to make things interesting. And the intricacies of space travel are already pretty interesting.


The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder (OR, To give to regressive 26-year-olds, if you wanna get technical here)

Because it’s missing from my set, and it’s pretty much the best one. It gets so cold Pa can’t play the fiddle! They don’t have enough wood, so they have to twist sticks of hay so that they burn longer!

Also, I have fond festive memories involving the Little House books: I was reading the Christmas scene from Little House in the Big Woods (Laura finally gets to replace her corncob doll Susan with a real doll, Charlotte! I’m pretty sure her eyes glisten by the light of the fireplace when she looks at it). My sister had a headache, so was lying on the couch with a cloth over her eyes. Naturally, she got bored and asked me to read aloud. (What a totally “Mary” thing for her to do, am I right?) Little by little, the other members of my family started to listen to me read. It was our very own Little House in the Big Woods moment, and it was awesome.


Happy Holidays everyone. If I get stuck in an airport in Amsterdam or Calgary or Minneapolis, I’m busting these books open and reading them myself. Will try to avoid unnecessary spine-breaking, but I can’t make any promises.

9 Responses to “All I Want For Christmas is Books”

  1. missrandell December 17, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Love your picks! My 19-hour-drive/10 days in my mother’s house picks include “Such Is My Beloved” by Morley Callaghan, “Barney’s Version” by Mordecai Richler and whatever is kicking around in the basement library. My holiday season it’s all about CanLit, apparently.

    Oh, who am I kidding? I get carsick if I try to read on a roadtrip and I’ll spend most of my time at home drinking and playing with the cats.

    • Lija December 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm #

      Actually, you just reminded me that I have a Robertson Davies I haven’t read yet…

      I think my cats liked the reading aloud too, for future reference. So it can be like a multi-tasking thing.

  2. FleurFisher December 18, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    Great picks, but I have to admit that I struggle with the idea of books of presents. I have been presented with books that I am told are wonderful and yet they do nothing for me so many times. But I still give books as presents, but generally from small presses that can offer something unlikely to be found in local shops. last year it was persephone and this yeear it is Toller Books.

    • Lija December 19, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

      “Little” books do make lovely presents for “book” people, who have probably read everything else they’d be interested in. But I think a lot of the people I give books to actually want me to pick out some of the latest big books for them, since it can be overwhelming to keep up with all that if you don’t put a lot of time into it.

  3. Rachel December 22, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    Lovely ideas Lija!

    Hope you don’t get stuck for too long…and glad you will have Laura Ingalls Wilder to keep you company! I love that story about you reading from Little House in the Big Woods!

    • Lija December 28, 2010 at 3:02 am #

      Thanks! I did finally make it home to my own little(ok, not so little) house in the big woods.

  4. Margo January 9, 2011 at 10:46 am #

    I love the White’s Books series, excellent pick. I didn’t mind Just My Type but some of the jokey asides fell flat (esp. the AIDS joke – the hell? – and the ‘Red Indian’ comment – the hell again?). Was amused to find two typos in the text, one (unforgivably if hilariously) in the type information on the edition page. For shame!

    Gave my Ma Mary Roach, she requested something funny and Roach is great at that.

    If you’re an Ingalls fan watch out for Wendy McClure (who I adore), she’s writing a book about the Little House series.

    • Lija January 11, 2011 at 11:41 pm #

      You don’t miss anything, Margo, which is what makes you so awesome and terrifying! And thanks for the Wendy McClure tip – after brushing up on my Little House over xmas my obsession has been fueled all over again.

  5. parrish February 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Like you I get books or book related stuff for Christmas & this years haul was, If on a winters night. a traveller. Granta spanish language novelists, George Steiner, books I didn’t write & Jorge Luis Borges book of sand: Stuff was a bottle of Longrow CV malt whisky & a bookmark.

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