I am one of those aunts who gives mostly books for Christmas and birthdays – on par with underwear and socks as Worst. Gifts. Ever. in the cultural mythology of gift-giving. Fortunately, our niece and nephew love to read, and they are generally happy to get books from us every year. (Indeed, on more than one Christmas, one or both of them have chosen to read a new book than playing with whatever Nerf Blaster/Teeny Little Puppy/My New Helicopter toy they’d just received.)
I give books to the other members in my family, too. This year, my history-loving dad will get a Kindle version of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham, and because she loved Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, my sister will receive a similarly mysterious yet uplifting novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. My husband, who loves dark fiction almost as much as I do, has specifically asked for some Will Self, so he’ll be getting Self’s darkly hilarious caper, Walking to Hollywood.
And what will I give myself, book-wise, this year? I’ve been poring over the 2012 “best of” lists from various places (New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Publishers Weekly, among others), and I think I’ve narrowed it down to a few:
• Canada by Richard Ford – I’ve loved Ford’s fiction in the past, and I think I’m ready for a coming-of-age tale set on the road.
• The Round House by Louise Erdrich – I’m so happy for Erdrich and her success with this novel. She’s brilliant, so of course I want to read it for that reason, but I also want to be part of the conversation over the National Book Award winner for fiction for 2012.
• Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain – This is one of a trio of recent well-reviewed novels about the Iraq War, but the only one described as a comedy (“dark comedy,” of course), so I’m primed to read it.
I could always get these from the library (and indeed, I’m in line for two of these), but I’m still a relentless book-buyer. As Joe Queenan recently scolded me in his Queenan-esquely puckish and delightful One for the Books: “People should consider it an honor to pay full price for a book by Don DeLillo or Margaret Atwood.”