Category Archives: gift books


Oh, To Be in Iceland For Christmas!

I’m very interested in learning about different holiday traditions all over the world. For example, while studying abroad in Europe I found out that the advent calendar is a huge part of the German Christmas celebrations, and that in England Christmas Eve is not as important as Christmas Day or Boxing Day. So, I was really excited to find out about Iceland’s Christmas tradition, and it immediately became my favorite, because it involves books!

Every year, by November, Bókatíðindi, a catalogue containing information about all the books that have been or will be published that year is sent to various homes. In Iceland, it’s a tradition to give books as Christmas gifts, thus the majority of them are published within the last three months of the year. I can imagine families exchanging books on Christmas Eve and then settling down with a hot cup of cocoa or cider and reading away into Christmas Day.


You can read a bit more about this amazing tradition here.


How about you, what amazing international Christmas traditions have you heard of?




Bernadette’s Busy Morning

One of my favorite picture books from my childhood vanished years ago, and I’ve never been able to find it since. I’ve scoured every corner of the internet, from Amazon to Powells, only to find no mention of it. I’ve raided the kids’ section at every used bookstore or library sale in my path hoping to see its familiar cover. I’ve interrogated children’s librarians and booksellers – none of them have ever even heard of this amazing story.

Bernadette’s Busy Morning is about a delightful circus bear who wanders away from her trainer’s trailer one day and has a bunch of adventures in the city. I loved Bernadette and read her story over and over and over, poring over every detail of every picture. And I’ve never stopped hoping that one day she would turn up – perhaps on a dollar cart at The Strand, or tucked on a bottom shelf at HousingWorks Bookstore. I’ve even considered blogging about Bernadette before this, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, one of you might hold a clue that brings my search.

So you can imagine my utter shrieking elation a few weeks ago when I opened a birthday present from my brother. THERE WAS BERNADETTE.




There may have been some jumping up and down and screaming, maybe even a tear or two shed. I called him right away – “I can’t believe you found it!” She plays in the fountain! She marvels at the loud and constant traffic! She tries to make friends, but everyone just runs away screaming! (If this is a metaphor for NYC life, I don’t know what is.) Finally, tired and lonely, she’s reunited with her trainer and returned to her safe and happy home in the circus.

 My brother still won’t tell me how or where he tracked it down. I suspect a genie might have been involved.

Are there any long-lost books from your childhood that you wish you could find again?

Any success stories of tracking down a particularly rare book that you just had to have?


Books as gifts

I’m always trying to think of clever ways to give a book as a gift. Sometimes it might seem too impersonal or like it needs a little extra something to go with it, depending on the occasion or the person on the receiving end. I find this particularly true when giving books as gifts to kids. For birthday parties, I’ll often give a book along with something else – a little toy or craft, or a painting set with Christie Matheson’s Tap the Magic Tree, or a box of crayons with a copy of The Day the Crayons Quit. And sometimes when I’m inspired I’ll buy multiple copies and give them away until they run out.

I was pleased with my latest book gift inspiration when I decided to give copies of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to all the kids attending my daughter’s upcoming 9th birthday party. Since we’ll be watching the movie (not sure which version yet) and doing a candy/dessert-themed party, I figured giving a copy of the book with some sort of confection was a good idea for a favor. And so I ordered 19 copies of this adorable illustrated paperback edition. When the box arrived, we all grabbed the books like they were filled with golden tickets (which they were since there is one inside each copy)!


It has been such a pleasure seeing my older girls enjoy the book, and I dipped into it again myself and fondly remember reading it when I was young. All these years later, and the book still entertains and delights. It really is a timeless treasure. And speaking of books as gifts, I think I’ll order the Roald Dahl boxed set for my daughter’s birthday so all my girls can enjoy them, even the ones who are not yet reading!

I’d love to hear how you give books as gifts. Do you wait for specific holidays or birthdays? Do you buy books you love? New ones or classics? What categories? Do you pair them up with anything else? There’s no right answer here. Just a fun thing to think about – giving books as gifts. It really is the gift that keeps on giving as they can be savored for so many years to come.





Holiday gift ideas

Today it snowed in Manhattan for the first time this season. You know what that means? The holidays are here.

It may not officially be holiday season until Black Friday hits stores, transforming shoppers across the country into characters straight out of Lord of the Flies, but it’s never a bad idea to get a head start. In fact, rather than wait in an endless line for the new iPad, try giving a book as a gift. I always enjoy unwrapping a good story, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

The key is to choose the right book. That’s why I’m coming to you. I need suggestions. And don’t be afraid to get creative. In fact, it’s encouraged. Nothing says “I didn’t really try” like buying someone a bestseller they’ve already read (although I suppose that asking for ideas over the internet comes close).

What you need to know

Dad: likes legal thrillers, sports books, military history

Mom: likes any controversial nonfiction (especially something health-related), thrillers, romance

Sister: likes everything from YA to literary fiction to books on psychology, no science fiction or fantasy though

So get in the Christmas spirit! Share your suggestions!


Too much or not enough?

It’s my best friend’s birthday this weekend. I’ve known this girl since we were both twelve, so needless to say, we’ve had some birthday practice since then. And presents practice. I don’t know when or why, but several years ago, I started gifting her with tacky or overly sentimental animal-themed coffee table books to go along with whatever real present I got her. I’ll admit I stopped doing this once we both moved to Brooklyn and started sharing an apartment…self-preservation?

I wish we had a gorgeous, spacious, display-possible apartment in which to showcase an enormous collection of books whose purpose isn’t so much to be read, but more to flip through while bored, amuse guests or serve as some other kind of curiosity whether for conversation’s sake or whatever else. Then I would just keep filling our lives with conversation pieces and coffee table décor, though I might branch out into non pet or baby animal related material, too.

It’s been some time since I’ve gifted a new silly book and I think it’s a tradition I’d like to reawaken (she says once before forgetting about it come Christmas). It all started with Rachael Hale’s 101 Cataclysms soon followed by her equally adorable 101 Salivations and moved on to various books detailing absurd dog houses (sorry, palaces), various babies at the zoo and a personal favorite in which you simply picked which of a pair of cats shown was the cutest and then moved on to the next page and pairing.

As you can see, it’s easy to get overwhelmed! When books are produced just based on a concept of cuteness, wackiness, beauty or what have you, things can get out of hand. Sure, a book consisting solely of photos of pretty front doors in the countryside (just riffing here, but I’ll put a bet down that such a book exists) is a marketable concept and I’m sure enough people would buy it to give it a shot, but where do you stop? How do you choose? I ask this of both publishers and book buyers. When do you put your foot down and call a halt to the hundreds of coffee table book ideas surely pitched each day or, on the other side of the coin, how on earth do you decide which one to buy? I can’t tell you the sheer volume of photos of kitties I looked at before settling on Cataclysms (it may also have had something to do with the title).

Okay, I need to stop now or I’ll just keep going and get carried away (the first time I uttered this statement today was roaming the aisles of Party City, which offered a surprisingly similar bombardment of color, sparkle, cuteness and choice), but how do you feel about books that seem to exist just for the heck of it? And if you’re pro these books, do they ever make it to your home, or is their sole purpose exhausted after one flip-through, a chuckle and an “aww” in the bookstore?


To be honest, I have “read” this book on more than two occasions.



Brainwash Kids with Books About Books!

This weekend I’ll be back in Michigan for a wedding, and I’ll see a bunch of old friends and the children they’ve produced. So of course my suitcase is full of brightly colored kids’ books! I love giving books as baby gifts and please-like-me-toddler-of-my-dear-friend gifts. And, as a former children’s bookseller, I have a lofty book-choosing street rep to protect. Here are a few trusty favorites that I’ve wrapped and shared over and over – and lo and behold, they all carry subliminal messages about how awesome books are.


Wild About Books

Bright colors, snappy rhymes, what more could you ask for? Well, amazing vocabulary-building, for starters. And who doesn’t love the idea of a bookmobile visiting the zoo?!



How Rocket Learned to Read

Rocket is THE CUTEST. But reading isn’t so easy for him, at first. Luckily, he finds a chirpy little friend who’s happy to help.


Library Lion

A good one for preschoolers, since the story is a bit longer… This lion loves books. LOVES. But he has to learn a very important lesson about being quiet in the library. Then he learns an even more important lesson about when you need to find an adult and ask for help. It’s funny, the illustrations are frame-worthy, and the end always gets me a little bit misty-eyed.

(Hey, how about a sequel: Literary Agent Lion!)


Analysis Paralysis

Here’ s a happy holiday story from author  Ann Patchett on her independent bookstore, Parnassus, which she and a partner opened in Nashville and seems to be a roaring success.  So far the book-buying season is shaping up fairly nicely if this PW piece and  the recent purchases of my colleague, Stacey, are any indication.

I too obey the commandment to Support Thy Local Bookseller, worship at the altar of the Book-as-Perfect-Gift and in all ways submit to the myriad orthodoxies of bookworld (ebook exciting! Print book not dead!) but I admit that I spend an unhealthy amount of time ruminating over books as presents.  I am not a shopper by nature–retail spaces exert a debilitating power over my ability to remember what I came in for—but I like bookstores, and can easily while away hours I don’t have in their stacks.  Selecting the precisely-right volume for a meaningful holiday gift is, however, no easy feat.  Much as I try to remind myself that the perfect can be the enemy of the good (in this instance anyway), and there is no “one” pre-ordained volume that found wrapped beneath the tree will be universally acknowledged to be THE BEST GIFT EVER, I can get a little stuck.  I select and then discard a dizzyingly long list of possible books, running them through a matrix based on the recipient’s taste, the book’s reviews, its visibility relative to its obscurity (some folks want to read award-winners, others dig the overlooked gems), plot points that might reinforce or unpleasantly remind its recipient of real life events, appropriateness of content if picked up by recipient’s seven year old twins, and dozens of other factors.  I nearly always overwhelm myself into buying at least one, sometimes two, books for myself, as a consolation for all the mental effort and on the grounds that I know for sure that I will like them.  I repeat this ritual as necessary, until all my holiday shopping is done or I run out of money.

How do you choose? Do you predicate the book on your own tastes (I know folks who give copies of the same book to everyone they know, like a signature cocktail) elicit holiday wishlists, interrogate family members, or simply hand over a gift card?



Creative ways to give books

Every year around now, I panic over the zillions of gifts I have to get for those in my life. As my kids get bigger and involved in more activities, the list gets longer and more elaborate. And I find myself struggling to figure out what to get that hits the right notes of personal, practical, fun and won’t break the bank when I have to buy 20 of them.

I saw this piece in PW about the solid start to the holiday buying season, and it got me thinking of books and ways in which they can be included as holiday gifts. Since I work in book publishing, I try to support the industry by buying books this time of year, hard copies, and giving them as gifts. Last month at the Scholastic Book Fair in my town, I bought a wide array of books for the class, books for the kids, and a Harry Potter paperback box set for me (which I hope to start with the kids one of these days)! A percentage of sales went back to the school, so it’s a win-win.

I admit I sometimes give my own clients’ books if I’m particularly excited about a title and have multiple copies on hand. I always try to pair the book with something else – a craft book with something crafty, a cookbook with a kitchen utensil, or in some cases whatever I have left over from last year’s stash. Just kidding, sort of. What book works with a pretty soap and lotion set?

If you have any great ideas for giving books as special, fun, or different holiday gifts, please share. And which books are on the top of your list to give this year? The more we support the book business, the better off we’ll all be for it. Happy holidays, and happy book shopping!