‘Tis the Season to be Bookish: The 2014 Literary Gift Guide

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAYou know how the song goes: Deck the Halls with Books, Books, and More Books. That’s right, folks: in case you missed the obvious signs—muzak carols, Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday ads, the Northeast dumped with snow, and Christmas decorations flooding out the doors of Walgreen’s, not to mention the giant trees lit up in every town square—it’s that time again.

The holidays.

Despite being an agnostic-verging-on-atheist who decries commercialism and doesn’t let her kid eat a ton of sugar, I have a particular weakness for Christmas. I love the short days, especially when, come six pm, my cup is filled with a festive glass of red wine or a stiff eggnog. I find myself following all the Christmas traditions we had as kids: the Christmas calendar, which “elves” fill with goodies every night for my son during Advent; listening to Amahl and the Night Visitors while we decorate the Christmas ficus; the extravagant brunch we eat on Christmas day, whether we’re celebrating with my family or not; and giving gifts to my loved ones. This time of year is rife with possibility for great gift-giving: in addition to Christmas, there’s the eery and magical Solstice, on December 21; Kwanzaa, starting on the 26th; and of course Hannukah, starting on December 16—which means that as of this writing, you still have between 14 and 24 days to purchase (or make!) gifts for the favorite writer or reader on your list.

And so, without further ado, I present my 2014 Literary Gift Guide.

Grab yourself an eggnog and start reading.

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The Secret Garden panties, courtesy of Lauren Carroll and superpowerstudio.

1. Literary Undies? Why the heck not? Lauren Carroll at superpowerstudio has cooked up these beautiful, comfortable, upcycled (this is key: they’re NOT recycled underpants!) underwear for women. Here’s the literary gem: The Secret Garden. And they’re packaged nicely, too. IMG_0714

You can find these and more (Lemon Ice! High Tea! The Life Aquatic!) on etsy.

2. While you’re on etsy, check out this beautiful and different Jane Eyre cuff bracelet, the Edgar Allen Poe literary scarf, and this soy candle, which purports to smell like an English library. Who would’ve thunk it?

419937_10150486040541012_669801532_n3. Is reading sexy? Yes, it is. As usual, books make great gifts. My favorite reads of the past year include Run by Ann Patchett, The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Hamid Mohsin, and Just Kids by Patti Smith. On my to-read list is Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge and Meghan Daum’s book of essays called The Unspeakable (in case you missed my “Personal Essays that will Gut You” post, you can find a link to one of those essays here.) Here are some other great resources for finding out what books were the talk of the town in 2014: A talk with New York Times editor Pamela Paul on KQED’s show “Forum,” with Michael Krasny, and The Best Books of the Year, from The Guardian (two parts!). And here’s a plug for your local bookseller: buy your books from them, not Amazon. That is all.

The dark watchers, creatures not unlike the elves who fill my son's Advent calendar.

The dark watchers, creatures not unlike the elves who fill my son’s Advent calendar.

4. Here’s another beautiful book: In Search of The Dark Watchers, with paintings by my incredibly talented father-in-law, Benjamin Brode, and text by his good friend Thom Steinbeck (yup, you guessed it: John Steinbeck’s son). You can pick yourself up a copy here. Softcover is $40; the exquisite hard cover is $125.

5. Of course, if your giftee isn’t into books (for shame!), there are always magazines and literary journals. Consider supporting the journal Rock & Sling (current issue features poems by me and my pal Mike Dockins!).

6. A desk. No, I’m serious. Your favorite writer probably writes at her kitchen table (busted), or on the go. How amazing a gift would a desk be? This blog post by The Writing Nut describes perfectly the best criteria for selecting a writer’s desk.

7. Or maybe you’re thinking smallerThis website has a whole host of funny mugs (my favorite? “I’m figuratively dying for a cuppa”), as well as other whimsical bits and pieces for your resident grammar nerd.

8. If you’re feeling crafty, this Pinterest page has some fun ideas for you, like Steampunk Altered Books and origami book marks. Yes!

9. And don’t forget charity. I like to support Poets & Writers magazine and Poetry Daily, (they’re pledge-driving as we speak), but there are also a number of reputable literacy organizations like Reading is Fundamental, A Chance Through Literacy, and Literacy for Incarcerated Teens. As with any charity, you should check it out yourself, and make sure it passes your sniff test. And remember that, like many things book-related, you should think global but also act local (ahem): there may be a worthy non-profit bringing books, or literacy, to underserved people in YOUR community!

10. You still working on that egg nog? I had to plug, again, the book Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle. In the right hands, this could be genius.

Happy happy,

Susie

Also check out:

The 2013 Literary Gift Guide

The 2012 Literary Gift Guide

The Literary Gift Guide on Pinterest

Wearable Literary Gifts on Gimme Some Oven

The 2013 Literary Gift Guide

This post originally appeared over on popcorntheblog.

Sleigh bells ring…are you listening? I am. The temperatures have plummeted in California, leaving me in a mind of Christmas. I’m all geared up for eggnog, bourbon balls, and reading a good book by the fire. If you don’t celebrate Christmas—and you missed Hannukah—there’s always Solstice, Kwanzaa, and the new year. So what’s on the wishlist for your favorite writer, reader, and lover of all things literary this holiday season?

Read on, my friend.

photo-81. Her very own teapot. Or French press. My cousin gave me this delicious little stacking teapot for my birthday a couple of years ago, and I adore it. While I don’t have a writing study at home, if I did you can bet this little number would be ensconced on the desk. Because I have yet to meet a writer or reader who doesn’t like a little caffeine with her words. You can find a similar one at etsy.

2. That good book. My fave reads in 2013 included Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her, Katie Williams’s Absent, Augusten Burrough’s Dry, Nancy Bachrach’s The Center of the Universe, and Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love. On my wishlist for 2014: our very own Tara Conklin’s The House Girl, as well as Full by Kimber Simpkins and Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. For more ideas, check out my post “Twenty Novels I’m Grateful For,” The Barnes and Noble Best Books of 2013, and the Goodreads Best Books of 2013.

Image used with permission of full-spectrum apparel.

Image used with permission of full-spectrum apparel.

3. While you’re over at etsy trolling for stacking teapots, also check out the amazing “Freedom of Speech” T shirt. Love it!

4. Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist. This idea comes from the great blog Yummy Books and its “Food & Literature Gift Guide,” which has some more wonderful ideas. My favorite of the Tequila Mockingbird recipes? “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margarita.”

5. While you’re at it, how about a bottle of booze? St. George Spirits in Alameda, California, makes some beautiful, if expensive, bottles.

6. A notebook, of course! Etsy is a great source for journals, as is your local bookstore, where I found these fun Decomposition Books.

photo-77. A book light. I never use these, but when I saw some on display at my local bookstore, I snapped a pic. Might be less cumbersome than a flashlight for late-night, clandestine reading. And you could take it camping!

8. Time. Offer to watch the kids for an afternoon, or buy her some time at a local co-working space.

9. Vintage bookends. I bought the brass horse heads for my sister-in-law from etsy a few years back, and have been coveting them for myself since.

IMG_050610. A donation in her name to a worthy literary organization like 826 Valencia, A Chance through Literacy, or her local library.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Also see:

2012 Literary Gift Guide

Food & Literature Gift Guide

Christmas Literary Gift Guide from So Many Books, So Little Time

Book Giveaway: Have Some Faith this Holiday

In the spirit of reading books, I am doing a holiday book giveaway.

Gorgeous cover design by Jesse Taggart

The first five readers to email me at susiemeserve[at]yahoo.com will receive a free, signed copy of my 2008 poetry chapbook, Faith.

Please include your mailing address when you write.

Faith makes a great little gift, or keep it for yourself!

Read a poem from Faith here.