Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Best Christmas Presents

Excuse me.... do you suppose is it possible to extract yourself from that cacophonous swarm at the mall? Perhaps step over here and join me in the quiet?
There now. Stand for just a moment and watch the snowflakes fall. Yes, those are bells you hear in the distance. Nice, aren’t they? Here, have a cup of cocoa. Take a deep breath of winter air. Now.
Can you see it? Perhaps if you stand on tiptoe?

Far away from the bustling bump of the crowds, off by itself down a crooked cobblestoned lane, its windows throwing golden squares of light onto the frozen sidewalk. There it sits. The bookshop of your dreams. It is where the best Christmas presents can always be found - worlds of wonder and imagination bound up tight between the covers of books. Is there anything more pleasurable than bookshop shopping? A cold afternoon spent picking out volumes to perfectly suit those lucky few on your list. The traveler, the gardener, the cook or the child. The dreamer, the knitter, the optimist or the crank. There are treasures here for everyone, and what pure delight it is to search for them.

I am known as someone who often gives books for Christmas. What other gift offers so much and lasts so long? Long after the sweater has frayed, the toy is broken, and gravy stains the tie, a magical world still exists intact inside a book. Whether you choose to hunt for that fantastical shop in person, or simply browse online in your pajamas at midnight, I can empirically recommend bookshops to be the most sublime places to finish your Christmas list!

Here are some of my ideas for this year.....

Some of my favourite books
to give, or receive,
are exquisite copies
of the classics.
One of the best places
to find these is at
The Folio Society.
If you don't wish to join,
their books can often be
found at
Gorgeously illustrated
and slipcased,
these are treasures indeed.

Just look at these recent editions of Possession by A. S. Byatt and
Remains of the Day by
Kazuo Ishiguro.

Every year there are scores of new cookbooks released and I have to confess, I am often tempted by each and every one. Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson, Dorie Greenspan. I often read their cookbooks in bed like novels, with a grocery list at the ready. The one that has captured my fancy this year is Sophie Dahl's
Voluptuous Delights. Unfortunately, it is not yet released in the states, but you can order it from

Since I discovered knitting last year, it has become a serious passion of mine. I can think of few things more satisfying that sitting in front of the fire with a furry dog on either side of me, a ball of incredibly beautiful yarn in my lap, knitting needles clicking away. Perhaps you or someone you know shares this passion. If so, here's a lovely book they are certain to appreciate.
It is
Knitting Nature, by Norah Gaughan.


For the Anglophile, the decorator, or the lover of beauty on your list, here is a must-have! In fact, it is sitting squarely atop my own letter to Santa. Culled from the pages of Country Life, it is a fat, magnificent pudding of a book!
The English Country House by Mary Miers.


Has there ever been a better book to tweak and hone the imagination of a child?
Here is a brand new edition of
Alice In Wonderland
with amazingly inspired illustrations by the genius Robert Ingpen.
I am afraid it is on my list as well!

One of the most troubling facts to me today is the devastating effect our changing climate is having on the magnificent, magical polar bear. It breaks my heart and makes me angry. Perhaps the politicians who choose to deny the reality of global warming should have a look at this amazing new book by Paul Nicklen, just to see what wonders are at stake.
The book is entitled
Polar Obsession and it is a wonder itself.


As the last book shows, the glorious beauty of nature is staggering. So much to be grateful for and so much for us, as the supposedly wiser species, to protect.
A Shadow Falls, the new book by photographer extraordinaire, Nick Brandt, is jaw-dropping grandeur page after page.

This past year, I have revisited the genius of Jane Austen through a delightful book club. We read Miss Austen's entire canon and all of us, I believe, realized anew what a sublimely wise writer she was. We are not alone in that realization however, and here is a book that proves it.
A Truth Universally Acknowledged is a delightful, and insightful, collection of essays from eight-eighty well known authors, all on the subject of Jane Austen. Fun!


I loved so many books as a child, but few better than
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. Happily, there is a new hardcover edition of this book!
Trust me, it is a treat! For any child, whether they happen to love penguins or not.


One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."
Has there ever been a more splendid collection of words than those of Dylan Thomas in
A Child's Christmas in Wales
? Poetry, prose, dream, reality - it is truly heartspeak, calling forth memory and sprinkling pure gold over one's soul. Normally, I would recommend the written word over the recorded one any day, but this version of Child's Christmas read by Mr. Thomas himself is enchanting. To hear the poet's own words in his own tongue is magic, and an experience worthy of becoming a Christmas Eve tradition.

And finally... A GIVEAWAY!!.
I am always mesmerized by the incredible pop-up books by artist Robert Sabuda. I give them away, I buy them for myself. For this Christmas post celebrating the wonder of books, I can think of no better book to have as a giveaway than Mr. Sabuda's version of
The Chronicles of Narnia.

This is truly a wonderful creation and would make the perfect gift, even for yourself.
Just leave a comment here on this post and include a book recommendation of your own and you are entered to win! Edward will help me draw a winner on
Monday night at midnight!
Good luck to everyone and I so look forward to reading your book suggestions!
Happy Bookshop Shopping to All!!
12.08.09, 12:15am........I asked The Songwriter to pick a number between 1 and 45.... which was the number of comments received.... and he said..."17!"
So... Congratulations to PVE!! You have won the Sabuda pop-up book!!
I hope you enjoy it!!