JOPLIN, Mo. —
"Books make the best gifts," declares the headline on Book Page, a free magazine available in many libraries, including Neosho's.
Sometimes. Not always. Often, gift books are misses instead of hits.
I rarely give books as gifts anymore. I've come to the conclusion that books are as personal as underwear, which I also don't give as gifts.
What I love may leave someone else completely unmoved, or unwilling to go beyond Page 1. And vice versa -- what's given to me may not be what I want.
People choose their reading material for a variety of reasons: information, subject, simple entertainment, stimulation or maybe just to keep up with what's on the best-seller list. Giving a book as a gift requires a response, but I'm surely not the only person who no longer reads out of duty. Life's too short to waste on borderline books.
Currently I'm reading two terrific books, one recommended by a friend and the other a best-seller. Both are from the Neosho library.
Recommended: "The President's Club; Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity" by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. This is an inside look at the relationships between past and current presidents. One blurb suggested it is "essential reading for anyone interested in American politics," which I am.
Among its revelations: How Jack Kennedy tried to blame Dwight Eisenhower for the Bay of Pigs; how Richard Nixon conspired with Lyndon Johnson to get elected and then betrayed him; and how Jerry Ford and Jimmy Carter turned a deep enmity into an alliance.
The second book is "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. The book reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list, but I avoided it until I went to the movies.
The current movie, "Lincoln," really blew me away, but it also made me want to learn more. Yes, I know how the story ends, but I'm hungry for details.
Would I give these books as gifts? Only if someone said to me, "I sure wish I had ... " and named them. Fortunately, there's another way to give books -- a foolproof way. That's with gift cards. Surely, everybody can find something they want to read in a store full of books. I cling to that belief.
Weird Christmas books are listed all over the Internet, so for anyone who wants something different, here are a few suggestions:
- "Scared of Santa: Scenes of Terror in Toyland" by Denise Joyce and Nancy Watkins offers images of terrified young children scared out of their wits upon meeting Santa Claus for the first time. What parent can't identify with that?
- "It Ate Billy on Christmas" by Roman Dirge. I love the explanation of this book: "Little Lumie has the best Christmas ever when her brother is devoured by a demon. An ideal book to scare the living daylights out of children once the noise and excitement becomes too much."
- "Christmas 1993 or Santa's Last Ride" by Leslie Briccusse and Errol Le Cain. An illustrated poem, wherein wars, bureaucracy and politics make life more and more difficult for Santa Claus. The dreadful Christmas of 1993 drives him to issue an ultimatum.
- "Stocking Stuffers: Homoerotic Christmas Tales" edited by David Laurents. Believed to be the first anthology of gay erotic Christmas stories.
- "Holiday Hounds: Traditional Songs for Festive Dogs" by Laurie Loughlin. A canine-themed songbook with 20 popular Christmas tunes sung from a dog's point of view. Recommended for the hardcore dog fanatic.
- A few self-explanatory titles: "It's Binning to Look a Lot Like Zombies! A Book of Zombie Christmas Carols"; "Ugly Christmas Sweater Party Book: The Definitive Guide to Getting Your Ugly On"; "Invasion of the Christmas Puddings"; "How to Catch Santa."
- Topping it off, there's "Dumb White Husband vs. Santa."