Quills & Queues: By Angela Howe-Decker
Books undoubtedly make the best gifts. They are joyful objects, relatively inexpensive, easy to wrap and diverse enough to satisfy any interest.
Each year, Bloomsbury Books offers up holiday giving suggestions in its newsletter.
"We have something for everyone," said Bloomsbury co-owner Karen Chapman. "There wasn't one book this year that everyone had to have, rather there are many books that many people love."
Here are a few of the season's most popular sellers, and some personal favorites.
"The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski: For no rational reason, I'm sometimes slow to admit I chose a book Oprah recommended. Maybe I just want to feel wildly independent. However, I have to give Oprah her due. In the book, Wroblewski shares the story of Edgar, a deaf mute living in Wisconsin, where his parents raise a breed of dogs whose rare intelligence and ability to communicate is epitomized by Edgar's dog and sole companion, Almondine. This imaginative retelling of "Hamlet" is mysterious, suspenseful and heartbreaking.
"The Mercy" by Toni Morrison: Bloomsbury staff say Morrison's latest work is as powerful and unforgettable as her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "Beloved." Set in the 1680s, at the slave trade's infancy, the story of a daughter and mother is told in several voices. This much-anticipated Morrison novel is a tale of great sorrow and beauty.
"The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz: I received this novel for my birthday and it is at the top of my book-giving list. Diaz won a Pulitzer for his tragicomedy featuring Oscar, a dreamy, nerdy Dominican-American living in New Jersey with his family. It has been widely acclaimed and placed at the top of most "best books of the year" lists.
"Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood" by Alexandra Fuller: This is a great memoir about war, racism and survival as seen through the eyes of a white teenager during the Rhodesian civil war (1971-79). Fuller watches her parents react to Rhodesia tearing itself to black and white bits. Despite the backdrop, the book contains a lot of humor. Readers can't help but admire Fuller's teen cool. She's the girl folks want to hang with, drinking beer in the African countryside in the midst of chaos. Incidentally, Alexandra Fuller will come to Ashland as part of the Chautauqua Creative Writers series next year. This book makes a great introduction to the writer and her work.
"Outliers" by Malcom Gladwell: Bloomsbury's Chapman was hard-pressed to choose an absolute favorite title, but did say that several family members will unwrap "Outliers" this year. Gladwell, who wrote "The Tipping Point and Blink," attempts in "Outliers" to explain what makes high achievers so successful. He theorizes that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like and too little to where they come from. Gladwell examines the upbringing of software billionaires and the Beatles, among others.
"Wordy Shipmates" by Sarah Vowell. NPR's hip commentator chronicles the Puritans in her irreverent style. Though not a true historian, she is wonderfully entertaining, offering tangents into macabre judicial punishments (death by crushing, cutting off ears), pop culture and first-person reportage. It's a fascinating and witty dip into history.
"Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics" by Ina Garten: Bloomsbury recommends Ina Garten's latest work for the foodies on your gift list. This lovely cookbook focuses on recipes as simple as they are delicious.
"The Best of the Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Readers": For trivia buffs, this is the perfect gift. "Best of the Best" features articles from the past 10 years' worth of "Bathroom Readers" crammed into 576 pages. Filled with the regular shorts — dumb crooks, unknown origins and amazing coincidences — along with features such as the making of "The Godfather," how to make a shrunken head and Batman's nerdiest quotes, the "Bathroom Readers" are published right here in Ashland and every one of them is read-out-loud fun.
With so many great books out there, lit gifts are a sure bet this season. Please share your own suggestions in the comments section of this column at www.dailytidings.com.