With less than a week left for holiday shopping, we at CultureMap would like to offer a happy medium between street brawls in Target and Neiman Marcus and just giving up and throwing gift cards at loved ones. How about a nice book?
The well-selected, gifted book literally and sometimes literarily tells a story to the receiver and has the ability to send many messages. I love you. I know you so well. I understand what you like. Please stop trying to force me to read 50 Shades of Grey.
So with a little help from our favorite independent bookstores, here is the CultureMap definitive, but completely random, book gift guide.
Contemporary literary reader
For the contemporary literary reader with shelves of signed copies and tales of meeting authors, pick up Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue. Chabon will be in Houston Jan. 28 for the first Inprint reading of the new year, so the book, a pen, and event ticket might be the perfect choice for this reader.
For the movie lover who’s just not into books, let him know Hollywood is with a gift basket filled with The Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas, Les Misérables (the book turned musical, turned movie), Anna Karenina, Jack Reacher, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and The Hobbit. Do readers' imaginations project at a 48-frames-a-second or 24?
If instead you’re shopping for a teen reader who wants to get into the next big series before the rest of the world flocks to the obligatory movie, Blue Willow Bookshop’s Valerie Koehler suggests the Legend series by Marie Lu, who used to call Sugar Land home.
“Post apocalyptic novels are still very hot this year. In this one, the main character is a teen who is slated to become an assassin and things turn treacherous when she is sent to kill a boy who may or may not have killed her brother. Lots of action which appeals to all teens,” says Koehler.
Need a gift for a foodie who always buys locally? Try a cookbook by a favorite local chef. Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico is not only filled with his favorite recipes, but he includes personal stories to savor with each dish.
If that fashionista in your life loves the behind-the-scenes drama of the industry as much as the clothes, find some sophisticated gift wrap for Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington, the woman who managed to steal the spotlight from Anna Wintour in not one but two documentaries about Vogue.
Give the gift of historical irony to your favorite hipster satire-lover by pairing Stephen Colbert’s latest, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't, with some ancient school Gulliver’s Travels because if Jonathan Swift were alive today, he’d no doubt have his own Super PAC.
For the bibliophile who refuses to buy an e-reader and is looking for validation, Brazos Bookstore manager Jeremy Ellis recommends Chris Ware’s Building Stories: “An oversized box of 27 different booklets, each with a different format and point-of-view. This is a book to wade through rather than read start to finish. An eEdition would not be the same.”
And if that lovable luddite reader is raising little ones, Valerie Koehler recommends In My Den by Sara Gillingham because you can’t download the felt finger puppet that comes with the board book and then poke it through a Kindle.
For the gambler, baseball stats lover, and fortune-teller in your life, let them know that the future can sometimes be forecast with The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail but Some Don't, the new book by this nation’s recently chosen math-nerd-in-chief, Nate Silver.
An alternative to 50 Shades of Grey
And finally for that sweet, budding-sadist friend who won’t stop insisting you have to read 50 Shades of Grey, Brazos Bookstore recommends The Story of O by Pauline Reage.
Written in 1954, “The novel, originally published in French, is described as a story of love and submission. It won the French literary prize that year and has been in print ever since,” says Ellis, who also suggests Exit to Eden, Anne Rice’s S&M romance written under her pseudonym Anne Rampling.
If those suggestions don’t send the message, throw a hardback copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer your best friend's head. Carrie Fisher would approve.