My Christmas Book Wishlist

Well, Christmas is only a week away. Things seem to have gone by so fast, or at least faster than the agonizing crawl these days used to take during my childhood. I guess that’s what happens when you have to start looking for and buying all the presents yourself. I almost wanted to do a blog entry about all the books I’ve been picking out for friends and family, as a sort of guide to books I’m recommending as gifts, but then I realized what a horrible person I’d be to pull a stunt like that, listing everyone’s presents and all, so instead I’m writing a list of the books I put on my Christmas wishlist. Not all of these are new reads, of course. I can’t be that hip, but they are books I’d love to get my hands on.

1. Sandman Overture By Neil Gaiman: Geez, have I really not talked about this series on my blog yet?  You know, I don’t think I have. That’s a problem I really need to fix. Maybe I can fix it after reading this gem, one of the many returns to a series that technically “ended” in the nineties. Really though, it’s just too good to leave alone. This time, we have not only the writing of the lovely Neil Gaiman but also the artwork of J.H. Williams III, who’s created some of the most beautiful comic book art I’ve ever seen. He does appear later in this list because of that.

2. Welcome to Night Vale A Novel, by Joseph Fink and Jeremy Crandor: I’ve been a fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast for some time now, and was naturally overjoyed when they came out with the book. The world of Night Vale has a singular bizarre, unspeakable horrors done in a funny way that’ll actually make you laugh, sort of thing going on, and the writing is just as solid and profound in novel form as it is on the podcast. I may have already listened to the book on audio, as it is narrated by the same luscious voice that narrates the podcast, Cecil Baldwin. I loved it enough, though, that I am earnestly hoping to get my hands on my own personal copy of the book.

3. DC’s New 52, by various writers and artists: No, I didn’t ask for ten tons of comics, but I’m intrigued enough by this new run of comics DC,  which puts all their heroes and villains back to a square one, of sorts, that I asked for a number of issues from heroes I like to follow. I am by no means an expert comic book nerd, but the great thing with these books is you don’t have to be. As I said, the New 52’s main attractor factor for me, someone curious enough to try comic books but not sure where to start, is that this is, by definition, a place where you can start relatively clean, reading about Batman, Cat Woman, Wonder Woman, etc., without worrying about running into random bits of plot from story arcs that have been running for months if not years.

Particularly, I love what Brian Azzarello is doing with Wonder Woman and the art and writing J.H. Williams III did on Batwoman, although he is no longer on the project, as he and the very gifted writer W. Haden Blackman had the audacity  to try and write a story line wherein the lesbian Batwoman Kate Kane gets happily married to her partner, Maggie Sawyer, and the comic book industry is still run by a bunch of guys with about as much security in their sexuality as a bunch of thirteen-year olds boys fearfully awaiting puberty. It’s still a very good read though, and I definitely recommend checking it out.

4. Mary Oliver: That’s right, I asked that my family to find and kidnap the poet Mary Oliver so she can live in our basement forever and ever. Okay, well, not quite. I do love and admire her work as a poet immensely, I just haven’t read nearly enough of it yet. I believe one of my very first posts was about how much I loved this woman’s poetry, but she’s been writing since well before I was born, so I still have have plenty of catching up to do on her works. As such, I’ve requested as many books by Mary Oliver as my friends and family can get their hands on. It’s the greatest sort of problem a book-lover can have. So many books, so little time.

Well, there you have it, the books I am most excited about this Holiday season. If you don’t hear from me these next couple of Holiday Fridays, (wow, really, next Friday is Christmas and the one after that is New Years day,)  it’s because I’ll be nose deep in any one of these, getting ready to write a spectacular review about them.


Season’s Readings: A Christmas Carol

It should be easy to get into the Christmas Spirit with a good read. Lord knows there are more than plenty Christmas and Holiday themed paperbacks that pop on bookstore and library shelves all over the place. However, this does not make it easier for me to get into the Christmas spirit. Other than a few holiday classics from my childhood that I’m chemically endeared to thanks to nostalgia, I find most Christmas themed books so ridiculously saccharine that I often pass out in what I assume is a diabetic-book coma. All that sappy sweetness kills my brain.

I know what some of you might be thinking; I sound like a real Scrooge. Well, there’s an idea. I could read A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens. I’m familiar with the story from my childhood, having seen it adapted and spoofed a million times over, but technically it is an adult book with next to no pictures written by a well respected and dead author that I haven’t read. Definitely something that could be considered adult, and it’s got ghosts and stuff terrifying a mean old guy so I probably don’t have to worry about it being to sappy or sweet. I can’t be sure because my first introduction to the story was a Mickey Mouse Cartoon, then a musical, then the Muppets, and so on and so forth. I won’t be able to say who was more faithful to the story, (Goofy or Kermit? Hmmmm…) or who most accurately depicted the story’s tone until I actually read it, won’t I? Here we go.

Okay, I read it. Yep, only took me three ellipses to do it too. What, does it take you longer? This is a riveting classic people. I bet you are all eagerly awaiting my impressions to see if you should read it yourself, or if the Muppets, Doctor Who, Jim Carey, Mister Magoo, Bill Murray, and numerous theater companies did a good enough job telling you the story. Spoiler alert: Charles Dickens does tell the story better, even more than show biz masters like Bugs Bunny or the Smurfs.

Dickens actually has a sharp wit and a decent sense of humor, and so A Christmas Carol actually had a couple jokes that made me laugh, without any pictures or cat GIFs or anything. For example, Dickens interrupts the beginning of his own story to muse that he never really understood the phrase “dead as a doornail,” because really shouldn’t it be a coffin nail that’s the most dead sort of nail? Cute, and now that will bug me forever but I’ll never be able to talk to anyone about it because who tries to bring up Charles Dickens quotes in normal conversations? Only a really special, stodgy sort of book nerd mostly found in the UK, I think. It’s still funny though.

At the same time though, A Christmas Carol has a very serious and at times rather political message that I think it’s kind of easy to miss while watching Mister Magoo’s performance. Again and again, Scrooge is vilified for refusing to share his wealth with those less fortunate with him, for hoarding his money, not spending it back into the economy or giving it away to use those who could use it just to stay alive, though he turns into a regular Bernie Sanders supporter by the end, redistributing his congealed lump of wealth like there’s no tomorrow. The book looks at how, in order for the human race to advance at all, people must exercise kindness and charity, and expect only monstrous results when they hold on to wealth and disparage the poor. It’s a very sincere message with very little corniness or sappiness in its original delivery.

If you are looking for a decent Christmas read that doesn’t give you paperback holiday book diabetes, definitely don’t be afraid to try the classic,  A Christmas Carol.


Courtesy of Wikipedia

Give the Perfect Book!

Alright, it’s the holiday season, and now more than ever the question of what to get your favorite book nerd is hugely important. The answer is books you guys. Obviously. But wait, don’t leave just yet. I’ll get lonely. Plus, picking out a book for another person and either recommending it when they ask for new titles or giving it to them is far from an easy task.

I’ve talked about what it’s like to get weird, random book suggestions from people in the past. Ideally, you don’t want to alienate your friend or have them question your sanity when you recommend some book they’ll only pretend to read to please you, or a book they’ll take one look at and then decide to cut you out of their lives forever based on something probably being wrong with your brain.

It can be hard to think objectively about what another person might truly want out of a book. If your favorite bibliophile has asked you for recommendations or demanded books for the holidays without giving you any titles like a sneaky little badger, here are some tips to help you choose wisely.

1. Calm Down Your Own Inner Book Nerd

Being friends with a book nerd might mean you yourself are passionate about books. Yes, that passion can help you choose some insightful books, but remember that you need to be catering to someone else’s inner book nerd and not your own. As close as you two may be, you may prefer thrillers while she prefers fantasy. She may like comic books while you like cook books.

It’s okay to try and introduce them to a slightly different title you’ve read that you think they might like, but only if you’re legitimately sure this is a book with hooks for them and you aren’t just pushing a title you love, like a eerily smiling cult recruiter. If you’re imitating any behavior similar to how I acted during my Twilight phase, you’re doing something wrong. I learned that through bitter experience, and it’s a rule of thumb I think more people should follow. WWTD? (What Would Twi-hards Do?) Now don’t do that. Stop it. Listen to your dad. He doesn’t want to read New Moon. Edward’s hardly even in that one, and you know he’s Team Edward.

2. Look for Trends

If your beloved book nerd is into a continuing series, things couldn’t be simpler. Just pick up one or more books from the series you know she doesn’t have. Picking books by an author you know they admire is also a great idea, as is picking books similar to the ones you know they like. This is simple advice that might seem hard to follow in practice. How do you know which ones to pick? Fear not.

If you are out of your genre familiarity depth when looking at your friend’s favorite books, look for help. I’ve been to bookstores and libraries with plenty of displays set up on a “Like this read that”premise. You could maybe even ask a real, in-the-flesh person for help, as scary as that may sound. That’s what bookstore employees and librarians are for. They are paid to help you with this sort of thing. They are mostly very helpful and almost never bite or… Oh, the internet. Duh. I almost forgot dear old internet. Never mind this then! People are scary. Let’s go online.

3. Dear Old Internet!

As always, your friendly neighborhood world wide web has plenty of ways to help you pick out a good book for a friend. Ideally, your friend is on a site like Good Reads, where you can publicly view a list of books they have read, are reading, and would very much like to read if only someone would just pay attention and give them a copy already. If you want to make further recommendations based off those titles but can’t for some reason, the internet will definitely do it for you.

Maybe your friend blogs or vlogs or vines or whatever about their favorite books. I hear that’s what all the amazingly smart and beautiful people do on the interwebs.  Secretly reading over and over what your friend has to say about this or that book is a much sneakier way to pick out a good title than making them personally repeat their must-read list five times to you as you scribble away on a notepad.

Really, though, the best advice I could possibly offer is to give your friend the great gift of an excellent blog that covers issues concerning book nerds and reviews a wide variety of titles. Follow this magical link. Give it to all of your friends, and they’ll truly find a present worth reading.

Whaaaat?! You’re somehow all back here now, magically? It’s a Christmas miracle!