Make This a Book Christmas

NationalAssnBookPublishers_1927_100

I think you’d agree that this 1927 poster from the National Association of Booksellers has a great message. Are you giving books this Christmas? I am! Spoiler alert. My father-in-law is getting an autographed copy of The Boys in the Boat and my mother-in-law will be opening Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America 1927If you need some book buying ideas, here are some of the most popular gift books of the holiday season.

index (29)index (30)For kids, I like to give books that they’ll look at again and again. A perfect example is Guinness World Records which is always checked out at the library because the kids love it. You also can’t go wrong with The Animal Book. Every child loves animals and this book has them all.

index (13)index (14)For the drinker on your list, consider the World Atlas of Wine or The Complete Beer Course. This is the seventh edition of the great wine reference book and this new book on beer claims to teach you how to select and enjoy a brewski. Talk about a win-win.

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Everyone loves the indulgence of a beautiful coffee table book. Remodelista: a Model for the Considered Home is not just a primer on remodeling, but is also full of tips on creating a home full of personality and pizzazz. The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects is any history junkie’s dream.

index (16)index (19)Let’s face it, it’s always entertaining to gawk at people. If you’re a fan of Brandon Scranton’s blog, or even just people in general, Humans of New York offers hours of enjoyment. You could also try Awkward Family Holiday Photos which will surely become a holiday treasure.

index (17)index (20)I would love to receive a copy of Art Made From Books:  Altered, Sculpted, Carved, Transformed (hint, hint). I mean, just look at the cover! Wish I could open it up right now. Or how about the luscious Wes Anderson Collection? You won’t be able to put it down.

index (22)index (23)For the cat lover on your list, here’s Kittenhood. It’s darling. And for the dog lover, give Shake which is a pictorial work of different breeds of dogs shaking after being wet.

index (24)index (25)For someone who needs a good laugh,consider Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Borsch. Apparently, it’s pee your pants funny. Or let Ron Burgundy entertain you with stories from his past in Let Me Off at the Top. Either may be the perfect gift for that young teenager or aging anchorman on your list.

index (26)index (33)For the history buff, try History Decoded by Brad Meltzer. This book, inspired by the History Network show, explores unexplained mysteries such as what the government is hiding in Area 51. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit will appeal to many history lovers on your list.

index (27)index (32)If you know someone who loves biographies, buy Lawrence in Arabia. It is one of the best books of the year, a history with flair and a fun read at that. I can also recommend Nancy, the Story of Lady Astor. It is a well written account of an American woman who was the first female member of Parliament.

index (28)index (31)Finally for the cook on your list, give the Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. This cookbook of Mediterranean food is exquisitely designed, entertainingly written, and the food is delicious. I’d also like to put a plug in for my friend Bob Donegan’s new book, Ivar’s Seafood Cookbook: the O-fish-al Guide to Cooking the Northwest Catch.

detail_21404082It may be too late to order online, but your local independent book dealer will have her shop open Christmas Eve. I hope these suggestions will help you make this a “Book Christmas” for a year of good reading ahead!

All I Want for Christmas is My Sense of Humor

Tis the season for crazy sweaters, spiked eggnog, and blackmail photos. If you’re following the library on Facebook you’ll know we’re not above poking fun at ourselves around the holidays.

Crazy Sweaters

But if you’re like me, this time of year is so crazy-busy you really try to find the humor in whatever new holiday-related predicament you find yourself in. Let me lead you through my holiday routine and you’ll see why I believe there’s no place like the library for the holidays.

awkwardfamilyphotos.comWhen my waistline is somewhat back to normal post-Thanksgiving and my calendar is now screaming DECEMBER at me, I will usually gather up my husband and our cats and attempt to pose us into some semblance of order. We aim for cute. What we usually end up with are semi-strangled pets and harried looking adults grimacing in what is sure to be the 30th attempt, one that will “have to do” because no one wants to do this anymore. The Awkward Family Photo books have similar photos to show you what I’m dealing with on an annual basis.

People of WalmartOnce the photo has been taken, it’s off to get the prints made. Usually I can send the photo over the Internet to be printed at my local pharmacy. But if you’re unlucky enough to need to wade through the hordes of holiday bargain-hunters and actually set up your photo card in person, you will be sure to find some truly bizarre individuals completely oblivious to social norms. The People of Wal-Mart books have just a few samplings of folks who haven’t paid any attention to their attire—or in some cases paid entirely too much attention to what they’re wearing, to a horrifying degree.

sketchy-santasIf you have children, or feel like a child yourself, the next stop will probably be the North Pole, aka your local mall Santa. These days you can even take your pets to visit Santa, though I suspect my cats would be truly horrified should we ever attempt that with them. While there you may find yourself face-to-face with what can only be called a Sketchy Santa.

Who’s that excessively jolly fellow with the fake beard, shifty eyes, sweaty hands, and boozy breath? Why, it’s not just Santa but sketchy Santa!

crap at my parents house

Eventually we will arrive at the big day: holiday celebrations with the family! I was lucky to have grown up celebrating Christmas Day at my Grandma’s house, a home which was tastefully decorated and yet still inviting for the sticky-fingered, running, screaming grandkids. However, occasionally I would visit friends’ houses during Christmastime and inevitably stumble across something that could have come straight out of Crap at my Parents’ House: creepy ceramics, giant Santa figures that could easily be mistaken for a Sketchy Santa, and hundreds of Precious Moments dolls crammed into one tiny hutch.

my kids ruinedAfter the holidays come to an end, there’s always something else to look forward to. Yes, there will be another holiday season to anticipate next year. But really I’m talking about the time when that gift you loved getting is inevitably ruined by someone you love and thought you could trust. Sh*t My Kids Ruined features some prime examples. Toys shoved in the VCR, diplomas graffitied with ink pens, and countless pets massacred with everything from condiments to vomit are sure to leave you clutching your loved ones close but your prized possessions closer.

This holiday season, I am fortunate to be able to travel back home to Illinois, where my story began. Spending so much time with my family I can guarantee I will laugh, I will cry, and I will be thankful for the life I have and for the possessions that haven’t yet been destroyed.

Carol

Timber!

With the Thanksgiving meal just barely digested, many peoples’ thoughts turn to the mega holiday of Christmas. Some battle the hordes on Black Friday to try to find a deal. Others brave the rain and wind to get the holiday lights display put up on their house. In my family though, the day after Thanksgiving means one thing: getting a Christmas tree.

I know there are those who prefer the practicality of a plastic tree. Still others are satisfied with a real tree bought at a lot. For us it is has to be a tree that we chop down, precariously strap onto the roof of the car, and then try to set up, hopefully at not too crooked an angle, in the living room. We do, however, go to tree farms as opposed to the true hardcore tree fanciers who go out into the forest, with a permit of course, to bag their tree.

If you keep some of the same traditions, here are a few titles to help you on your quest.

Of course, tree selection is key:
Northwest Conifers: A Photographic Key by Dale Bever
Timber Press Pocket Guide to Conifers by Richard Bitner

But definitely not:
Forest Giants of the Pacific Coast by Robert Van Pelt

When faced with cutting down your selection, why not try:
Practical Outdoor Survival by Len McDougall
Basic Illustrated Camping by Cliff Jacobson
Big Timber, Big Men by Carol Lind

And finally, when it comes to strapping the tree on the roof of your car:
Geometry Success in 20 Minutes a Day
Knots for the Outdoors by Cliff Jacobson

If all goes well, a big if I know, you should have a tree in your home in no time. One Christmas task finished, 99 more to go.

Richard

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

As December 25th rapidly approaches it’s time to enjoy our favorite holiday traditions. For me, it wouldn’t be Christmas without decorating the tree while listening to Holiday Sing Along With Mitch featuring Mitch Miller and the Gang. As a child it was the vinyl album playing on the console record player (O.K. a lot of you will have to Google that one), now it’s playing on my iPod.

To assist in starting new family traditions here are some recently published additions to the library collection for Christmas 2011.

Justin Bieber’s holiday album Under the Mistletoe debuted at #1 on the Billboard top 200. It is only the eighth chart topping Christmas album in the 55-year history of the album charts. I have to point out that Mitch Miller holds two of these eight spots. Other new holiday music CDs are The Classic Christmas Album by Tony Bennett, Chicago XXXIII : O Christmas Three, Seasons Greetings : a Jersey Boys Christmas, Christmas in Diverse City by Tobymac, Glee : the Music ; the Christmas Album 2, Irish Country Christmas by Craig Duncan, and A Very She & Him Christmas with duo Zooey Daschanel and M. Ward.

Stressful family dynamics during the holidays is a recurring theme in fiction this year.The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson; a mother’s remarriage after the death of her husband, 1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber; children hoping mom and dad will reunite, An Angel For Christmas by Heather Graham; sibling rivalry, Lost December by Richard Paul Evans; father/son expectations, Snow Angel by Glenn Beck; overcoming an abusive childhood.

For something more lighthearted try a romance. It Happened one Christmas by Kaitlin O’Riley, Bring Me Home For Christmas by Robyn Carr, Season For Temptation by Theresa Romain, or Mistletoe and the Lost Stiletto by Liz Fielding.

Add a little mystery to your holiday with Twelve Drummers Drumming by C.C. Benison, A Killer’s Christmas in Wales : a Penny Brannigan Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan, A Christmas Homecoming by Anne Perry orMrs. Jeffries and the Mistletoe Mix Up by Emily Brightwell.

To brighten your holiday spirit in non-fiction there is The Puppy That Came For Christmas : How A Dog Brought One Family The Gift Of Joy by Megan Rix and The Book of (Holiday) Awesome : When The Christmas Lights All Work, Successfully Regifting A Present, Drinking With Grandma by Neil Pasricha.

The library has the help you need with Christmas cooking. New this year is Debbie Macomber’s Christmas Cookbook, Very Merry Cookies from Better Homes and Gardens, Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nova Atlas, Christmas With Southern Living, and Bake Me I’m Yours – Christmas.

We can also help with holiday crafting for decorations and gifts. You will get many ideas from Have Yourself A Very Vintage Christmas : Crafts, Decorating Tips, and Recipes, 1920s-1960s by Susan Waggoner, Holiday With Matthew Mead, and Martha Stewart’s Handmade Holiday Crafts.

Be sure to stop by the children’s room to see the hand knit display of Santa, his reindeer and more made from the patterns found in ‘Twas the Knits Before Christmas by Fiona Goble.

Happy Holidays!

Kim

The Only List That Matters

‘Tis the season to share my highly sought-after opinions. Hence the following list of reads and listens that I enjoyed in 2010. In no particular order.

Murder on the Yellow Brick Road by Stuart M. Kaminsky (1977) 
Down-on-his-luck detective Toby Peters rubs shoulders with the Hollywood elite as he plies his trade in 1940 Los Angeles. A munchkin is murdered and MGM studios calls Peters to find the killer. Toby hits the streets, questioning Judy Garland and Clark Gable and providing  “real life” experiences for Raymond Chandler to incorporate into his writings. Kaminsky excellently portrays Hollywood in its golden age filled with shining stars, abusive cops and society’s dregs.

Genuine Negro Jig by Carolina Chocolate Drops (2010)
Jug, hokum, string-band, old timey. All are terms for an American musical tradition with a long history. In this style, simple instruments such as washtub bass, comb, washboard and bones bring a primitive energy to bluesy songs. And while most of us don’t remember Cannon’s Jug Stompers or their contemporaries, everyone should get to know the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Their music is simple, often sparse, and hauntingly beautiful. This is easily one of the best albums of 2010.

Nuclear Jellyfish by Tim Dorsey (2009)
There is something compelling yet repulsive about a protagonist who is a highly successful and cheerful serial killer. Of course Serge A. Storms, the resident “good guy” in Nuclear Jellyfish, only kills people who deserve it. Or who really annoy him. The book’s plot, which is perhaps secondary to its insanity, revolves around diamond thieves. The real fun is when Serge devises death traps using garden hoses, aerosol sprays and duct tape. Readers with strong stomachs and quirky sensibilities might enjoy this book.

Praise & Blame by Tom Jones (2010)
Tom Jones has always had an amazing voice, if not an amazing choice of material. In his latest release, a gospel album in the tradition of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson, the 70-year-old Welshman proves his instrument is as strong as ever. For those who are only familiar with his pelvis-swiveling, underwear-tossing Vegas repertoire, the material might come as a surprise. But this is the music that Jones grew up with. Praise & Blame would not make my desert island list, but it is worth hearing.

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris (2008)
The classic holiday film Christmas Story shows a disturbing vision of a demented magical kingdom filled with angry elves and an impatient Santa. “SantaLand Diaries,” from the collection Holidays on Ice, provides a similar vision  from an elf’s perspective. In this hilarious no-holds-barred tale of the author’s experiences as a Macy’s elf, Sedaris reveals the place in line where kids are most likely to throw up, the inability of parents to allow their kids to experience life spontaneously, and the secret training regime of an elf. Other entries in this collection include a manic family Christmas letter written by an extremely bitter woman and a harsh theatrical critique of children’s Christmas pageants. If you are a warped and disturbed human being, this could be just the ticket for your holiday jolliness.

The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo by Steve Martin (2009)
I’ve always suspected that Steve Martin is a pretty solid banjoist, and now I am certain. The Crow is a charming album filled with delightful music and exceptional musicianship. Surprisingly, most of the songs are original compositions. Banjo is not for everyone. If you don’t like banjo music you will probably not like this album. But if you have a hankering for some foot-stomping riffs and dazzling finger work mixed with traditional and humorous songs, then look no further than The Crow.

Ron