When young, the thrill of presents topped the list of virtually any holiday activity. We have memories of that pre-dawn burst of excitement as sleep gives way to the usual first thoughts of a new morning, only to be swept aside by the realization that Christmas morn has arrived.

Christmas in adulthood can't match the raw enthusiasm of youth, but it is replaced with other things, each equally touching and memorable. The calm of late morning, surrounded by wrapping paper and family and some hope of a cozy afternoon nap. Or the satisfaction of seeing a lover's eyes glow with appreciation of a thoughtful, cherished gift.

And for us who make our living with the daily task of crafting words, we love the simple joy of a good book in hand and little else to do that oftentimes Christmas brings.

The staff at the Ashland Daily Tidings wish you and yours a happy and blessed holiday season. Our gift this year to you, our reader, is that shared love of words, well crafted, into memorable stories. Whether for you or a loved one, we offer you this list of our books to be enjoyed over this holiday season, from our favorites to the ones we are reading now.

Enjoy.

Editor Andrew Scot Bolsinger

I have two all-time favorites. When I was young, my family spent its summers traveling through National Parks in our station wagon, towing a trailer. My mother helped passed the time by reading to us. One of the books she read, Margaret Craven's "I Heard the Owl Call My Name," has stayed with me all this time. As an adult, when I reread it for myself, I was struck by the power in the simple story and the many memorable lines, like when the old priest tells his protegee that the church does it's best work in the gutters.

Typically, there are six books on my night stand right now, including "The Writer's Coach," by Oregonian Editor Jack Hart (a must for writer's), Cesar Millan's, "Cesar's Way," (a must for dog owners) a couple of novels by James Lee Burke (pretty decent reads), and some healthy living thing I haven't picked up in months (can't comment other than feeling both fat and guilty).

On the advice of Tidings' Reviewer Chris Honor&

233; I just finished "No Country for Old Men," by Cormac McCarthy, which is both gripping and understated, but also bothersome in style. McCarthy's disdain for quotes is really a gimick that in the end hinders comprehension. I could write about this for hours, but for now I'll say read this book. You'll either love it, or hate it, or like me, both.

City editor Myles Murphy

Me favorite book is "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkein. My mom read "The Hobbit" to me when I was four, and as soon as I could read for myself, I bit into the big trilogy. I go back and read it again every 10 years or so, and the last time I did I realized how much it's shaped the way I look at the world. It lays out a complex but comprehensible morality, has beautiful language, characters that never seem dated and (I believe) prepped a generation for acceptance of basic environmental tenets. It also spawned the entire fantasy literature genre, but not in an escape-from-reality way. It's more like a parable enabling one to have a more active appreciation for the real world.

Now I am reading, "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. This guy covers (nearly) everything, but puts it together in a readable, concise manner. He doesn't go into any of the regular boring facts and dates &

it seems he assumes you got the basics in grade school. He uses fascinating historical details to express broad ideas and links in the progression of human knowledge. Who discovered America? Columbus never quite made it. Amerigo Vespuchi was an over-rated tourist. The vikings? Deceptive real estate agents &

they came up with the name "Greenland" as a marketing technique. Turns out it was the Irish who may have been the first Europeans here. Boston loves this guy, and so will you.

Content editor Mike Green

My favorite book and what I am reading now are one and the same, a book entitled, "The New Testament." In essence, it is a compilation of the works of a number of authors, of which Paul is the most prolific, having written nearly half of the entire contents. But there are other notables: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Peter. There's also Timothy and James, of course. And there's a tiny submission by Jude. It's an intriguing book, advancing the theories postulated in a previous relic entitled, "The Old Testament." It also is a compilation of the writings of numerous authors, the most notable of which are: Moses, Isaiah, Solomon, and Daniel.

When we talk about sociology, psychology, the paranormal, love, sex, lust, violence and overall drama, it's tough to beat the Old Testament. Of course, the New Testament offers quite a bit of all of that too centered around a central figure who plays a key role in every writer's book.

Yep, for me there's no better book that encapsulates so much from beginning to end.

Sports editor Joe Zavala

My favorite is till the classic, "The Catcher in the Rye," by J.D. Salinger. Holden Caulfield, Catcher's narrator and main character, may not be the voice of the '50s generation, but he still presents a fascinating and moving perspective that teenagers even today, more than 50 years after the book was first published, can relate to. It's a page-turner, too, that sucks you in right away, which is important to me (I don't have a lot of time to read).

I am currently reading "Blood Meridian, or the evening redness in the rest," a Cormac McCarthy book about a gang of scalp hunters who in the mid-19th century terrorized the United States-Mexico borderlands. McCarthy's style is unorthodox: he uses words that were dropped out of the English language long ago if they were ever used at all, doesn't use quote marks or apostrophes and has a knack for finding humor in horror, and vice versa. It may be my new favorite book by the time I'm finished.

Photo editor Orville Hector

My favorite book is "Rich Dad Poor Dad, "by Robert Kiyosaki. The fundamentals I have learned from this book helped me to better understand how owning a home can be a liability. He reinforced the idea of letting my money work for me rather than me work for money. I highly recommend this book if you're thinking about buying a house, if you want financial freedom, if you are not satisfied with your income or if you are thinking about changing jobs.

Kiyosaki states that to become rich you need to first change the way you think about money because your thoughts lead to your actions that lead to results.

My next book will be "Think Rich And Grow Rich," by Napoleon Hill.

News designer Scott Steussy

My favorite book is "American Gods" by Neil Gaiman. "American Gods" is an epic story about the gods brought to the United States by the foreigners who settled here. Forgotten, but not lost, the old gods struggle for survival as the gods of the 20th Century &

such as the Internet and the Media &

attempt to snuff them out. In the middle of the conflict is Shadow, the book's mortal protagonist, who, after being released from prison, is hired by the Norse god Odin. Gaiman, author of "Neverwhere" and co-author of "Good Omens," makes a vibrant and telling expedition into America's spiritual background and the current condition of the country's soul. This book changed my life. Be sure to pick it up in hardback.

Right now I'm reading "Jitterbug Perfume" by Tom Robbins, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, and "Capitalism; The Unknown Ideal" by Ayn Rand.

Staffwriter Vickie Aldous

My favorite book is "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck. Steinbeck wrote this book to parallel passages about Cain and Abel in the Bible. The story details the sibling rivalry between two brothers, Adam and Charles, and the continuing rivalry between Adam's sons, Caleb and Aaron. Caleb and Aaron's mother abandons them, and later they must come to terms with her evil nature and whether that evil continues on in them. Set mainly in Salinas Valley, Calif. in the early 1900s, the strong sense of place gives the book a vivid, realistic feel.

Now, I'm reading "Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume 1" by Blanche Wiesen Cook. This first volume in a series reaches only to FDR's election to the presidency, missing most of the Great Depression and all of WWII. Cook's sympathies with Eleanor are obvious, and she paints FDR as a frivolous, selfish playboy &

at least until he is crippled by polio and gains a new maturity. The book drags at times, for example, listing the names of ushers at the couple's wedding, but also provides insights into Eleanor's early character and her long-standing interest in social issues and international peace efforts. Though unstated, similarities between the Roosevelts and Bill and Hillary Clinton are intriguing.

Staffwriter Julie French

My favorite book is "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini. This book was a bestseller for good reason. It tells the story of a young boy growing up in Afghanistan in the 1970s and later in the United States. The story of his life is engaging, filled with plot turns that I never saw coming, with just enough Afghan history peeking through so I felt like I learned something. What's even better is that Hosseini released his second book "A Thousand Splendid Suns," earlier this year, because the first book is sure to leave you wanting more. The movie version of "The Kite Runner" is also due out in theaters later this month.

Currently I am reading "Religions of the World: The illustrated Guide to Origins, Beliefs, Traditions and Festivals" I am reading this to get up to speed covering the different faiths in Ashland for the Tidings, and it is one of the more interesting books on world religions I have found because it is so visual. In addition to the standard religion pictures of the faithful, there are cutaways of the various sacred buildings, maps showing distribution of the various faiths and calendars of the important holidays. There is also a handy chart in the front comparing ten major faiths and little fact boxes throughout highlighting the most important and interesting aspects of the traditions. You can spend five minutes or five hours with this book and come away with something new.

Staffwriter Michele Mihalovich

I cannot in good conscious name my favorite book. That's like asking a mother to announce her favorite child. I'd much rather list my least favorite books. For instance, the writing in "Bridges of Madison County" was so intellectually offensive that I threw the book across the room. Excerpt: "Everything had a place. And everything was placed in its place."

God, I still want to retch. Also high on the list is Bill Clinton's autobiography, which I lovingly refer to as the book that just keeps going and going and going. Do we really need to know his chemistry grades from junior high? Since my editor has threatened my job unless I come up with a favorite book, I'm hoping I can get away with listing my two favorite authors: E. Annie Proulx and Barbara Kingsolver.

Whenever famous authors die, I guiltily realize I've never read any of their books, which is why I recently picked up Norman Mailer's "Tough Guys Don't Dance." I found the book to accurately mimic real life. I mean, who hasn't woke up after an evening of binge drinking in a complete blackout, only to find a new tattoo and buckets of blood on the passenger seat of our cars? The rest of the book humorously pieces together the events that led up to the bloody car, touching on subjects such as homosexuality, machismo, severed heads and wives hating their husbands' guts. Definitely worth reading.

Political correspondent Chris Rizo

My favorite book is "The Golem," by Gustav Meyrink. This is the story of a Jewish Pole who keeps bumping against the surreal and the supernatural as he lives as an artist in the Jewish ghetto. His descriptions are amazing and the poetic lilt that Gustav Meyrink uses in his writing is seared into my consciousness.

I am now reading "Awakening the Buddha Within," by Lama Surya Das. This book is making the universality of Buddhism accessible to me as a Roman Catholic. It's helping me to understand the reality of cause and consequence and suffering as an inevitable truth.

Tidings reviewer Chris Honor&

233;

If you'd asked me what my favorite book was when I was 16, I'd have said "Catcher in the Rye" hands down. No contest. Loved that book and went on to devour all of Salinger's stories, and developed a serious crush on Franny of "Franny and Zooey." I probably would have dated Holden Caufield's sister, Phoebe, when she hit high school, of course.

For a time, about a month during my senior year, I read Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet." The man could create metaphors like no one else. I was the arrow, my folks the bow, stuff like that.

I'd say things to my parents like, the arrow is going to a dance and will be out late. OK, not too late.

Ask me today about my favorite book, well, "Catcher" still stands up pretty well, but so does "To Kill a Mockingbird." There's just something so incredibly decent about Atticus Finch that still appeals.

What am I reading now? I just picked up "The Last Town on Earth." Written by Thomas Mullen. I'm on page one. We'll see. I did just read Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants," and Richard Ford's "The Lay of the Land." I thought both were okay, but lacked zip, which is one of my favorite literary words. I'm looking for zip and I know it when I find it. Zip is one of the reasons I don't read a lot of nonfiction.

Tidings correspondent Angela Howe-Decker

"The Bluest Eye," by Toni Morrison. I find myself going back to this book more times than I can count. It is a gorgeously crafted, painful exploration of wasted beauty, loneliness, and history. It is definitely not a feel-good read, but the honesty and poetry is unforgettable.

Now, I'm reading, "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals," by Michael Pollan.

This book is very educational and quite entertaining. Pollan traces the food chains that sustain us, and draws a surprising picture of the American way of eating. This is a beautifully written study of what shapes our relationship with food and the implications our food choices have for the health of the planet.

Tidings photographer Thom Larkin

"Three Cups of Tea" is one of the most inspiring stories I have read. In 1993, Greg Mortenson was descending from his attempt to reach the peak of K2. During his disoriented descent he wandered away from his group into the most desolate reaches of northern Pakistan. He eventually stumbled into an impoverished Pakistani village where he was nursed back to health. During his recovery, he found that the village was so poor they couldn't afford the $1-a-day salary to hire a teacher. The village's 84 children were sitting outdoors, scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks. Mortenson promised he would return and build them a school. This book shows what one man can do with the right amount of determination and drive to help those that need it most.

Tidings receptionist Mandy Valencia

My favorite book is "Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov. It is my favorites because, Nabokov is truly an artist with words. He crafts his story so well, bringing you in and out of his consciousness with little nips of reality. I consider it a literary masterpiece. Plus he wrote some of it while he was staying in Ashland!

Right now I'm almost finished reading "Blood and Thunder," by Hampton Sides. It's a non-fiction recounting of how the West was wrestled from the Native Americans and the Mexicans and became part of the United States.