The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 14, 2012

Lee Duran: Books not always best Christmas presents

By Lee Duran
Globe Columnist

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.

Holiday humor

Weird Christmas books are listed all over the Internet, so for anyone who wants something different, here are a few suggestions: