Now What?

So it's Dec 31st (Happy New Year's Eve, by the way!) and you got a big honkin' stack of books for the holidays. Or maybe some of you were lucky enough to receive the "Just the Right Book" gift package (see Dec 5th's post). Whatever the case may be, you're facing a huge stack of books, added to the pre-existing collection of tomes on your shelf.

What to do? What to do? How about try a blogger's challenge? Here are some I thought worth checking out:

The Read Your Own Books Challenge - this one is really simple. Pick a number of books you want to read in a year. Pick said number of books off your shelf. Go. Really! The only rule is that you have to read books you already own.

The TwentyTen Challange - Requires one to read twenty books, two in each of ten categories. Only one of these categories is the "new" book category, meaning it has to be acquired in 2010 (but you can count gifts or giveaways). The rest can be found on your shelf, which I think could also prove an interesting way to explore what you have on your shelf that you may have forgotten about.

The New Authors' Challenge - Read books by new authors - that is, authors that are new to you. Therein lies the charm in this one: I guarantee there are authors on your shelf that you've never read before. Maybe it was a gift, maybe you always wanted to read something by Graham Greene, or Edgar Allen Poe, or Nora Roberts... now's the time. The only added challenge to this is seeing if you have 15-50 (those are the margins) books by new-to-you authors on your shelf. If not, it might be time to expand your reading horizons (hint, hint) and this could be a good challenge for you anyway.

Library Challenge - If you're looking to participate in any of the above challenges, or just have a laundry-list of titles to read (like me) and are trying to limit the number of books you're adding to your collection (also like me) this one might be for you. It won't help you explore the books you already own, but it will hopefully limit the number coming in. Simply read a set number of books from your local library. You never know what you might find in there - try asking a librarian for recommendations (a dangerous suggestion, I know).

Ok, that's all for now. If I see any more, I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I'm off to dig through my own stack of books...

Christmas Trees of Books!

When I grow up (which will never happen) and have my own house that is big enough to have a real Christmas tree (which hopefully will happen), I am totally stealing this idea.

From yesterday's Shelf Awareness: Christmas Trees made of books at Chicklet Books' store window in Princeton, NJ. The store owner says, "Books are made from trees... and now trees are made from books!"

Last-ditch Holiday Shopping Efforts

Still struggling for gift ideas for the bookworm on your list? Never fear, Books On the Nightstand, a weekly podcast and blog, has compiled a list of book suggestions for everyone on your list. Much less intimidating than the 4,000 "Best Books of 2009" lists that are floating around out there...

See the full holiday book-buying guide here, and look for an independent bookseller near you at IndieBound.

The Power of Books

I give you fair warning, this is not such a happy story. But it is a bit of a hopeful story, and it convey the power of books to make us enjoy ourselves, our time, and our company, something I think it is important to remember in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Regina Holliday's story of her husband's love for Stephen King and the connection they formed over his writing, through sickness and in health, can be found on Regina's blog. Read this first, then continue...

Where would be without literature, without books? What would we be without the ever-reliable escape of a fantastic tale, the thought-provoking words of our top thinkers, the historical value of the writings of our predecessors? Is there any more powerful form of entertainment than the written word read on the page or aloud, whether it be to yourself, an audience of one, or in front of the masses?

Movies and plays and television and radio are not to be dismissed, but I cannot believe that bonding over a television show would have had the same outcome for Regina and her would-be-husband, and I cannot believe that a movie would have had the same influence on Fred through his illness. And therein lies the lasting power of books.

Not Your Average Books for the Booklover

More holiday gift ideas, but this one a bit more traditional. Books for booklovers -- but not just any books. Books about books and book culture:

The Art of the Bookstore: The Bookstore Paintings of Gibbs M. Smith ($30, Hardcover, 9781423606437)

From yesterday's Shelf Awareness:
This lavish, slip-cased book commemorates the 40th anniversary of Gibbs Smith's publishing house and celebrates 58 bookstores and booksellers around the country, plus Paris's Shakespeare & Co. and Buenos Aires's El Ateneo Grand Splendid. The paintings are bright and joyous, accompanied by each bookstore's story. Dennis Wills, owner of D.G. Wills Books in La Jolla, Calif., was asked by Smith to characterize the feeling of his store: a "sort of nineteenth-century cracker barrel hardware store from a John Ford film, with Pabst Blue Ribbon in the refrigerator." Looking at these paintings, reading the text, one has to agree with Lewis Buzbee, who wrote in The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, "When I walk into a bookstore, any bookstore, first thing in the morning, I'm flooded with a sense of hushed excitement."

At Home With Books: How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries ($60, Hardcover, 9780517595008)

From the publisher:

At Home with Books is a visual delight, a helpful resource, and an inspiration for every bibliophile with a growing home library. Includes professional advice on editing and categorizing your library; caring for your books; preserving, restoring, and storing rare books; finding out-of-print books; and choosing furniture, lighting, and shelving. Full-color photographs.

A Book of Books ($29.99, Hardcover, 9780821258149)

From the publisher:
A visual tribute to the printed word, this delicious ode to the book will be irresistible to anyone who treasures the feel of fine paper and the special allure of a clothbound volume.Abelardo Morell's elegant photographs of books are presented induotone reproductions, highlighting the grace and sensuality of theprinted page. Morell has selected unusual books, like a leather-bound volume that is smaller than a paper clip, an impossibly large dictionary and illustrated books whose characters appear to leap off the page.He has photographed the endless ocean of books in a library and thestrikingly beautiful way in which weathered and water-damaged bookstake on sculptural form.

A Book Addict's Treasury ($16.95, Hardcover, 9780711226852)

From the publisher:
"If you wish to keep books, you must guard them against young dogs as well as against borrowers and furniture removers. It was a collie six months old that ate my first copy of Pride and Prejudice." -Robert Lynd

"The top of a book is the place where every bluebottle prefers to die." -George Orwell

"Those things that look like blocks but come apart on one side." -F. Scott Fitzgerald'"

The ideal gift for any book obsessive, A Book Addict's Treasury is an extensively researched anthology of more than 350 quotations and excerpts from a wide selection of writers and thinkers--all on the subject of books.

On Reading ($29.95, Hardcover, 9780393066562)

Andre Kertesz (1894-1985) was one of the most inventive, influential, and prolific photographers in the medium's history. This small volume, first published in 1971, became one of his signature works. Taken between 1920 and 1970, these photographs capture people reading in many parts of the world. Readers in every conceivable place-on rooftops, in public parks, on crowded streets, waiting in the wings of the school play-are caught in a deeply personal, yet universal, moment. Kertesz's images celebrate the absorptive power and pleasure of this solitary activity and speak to readers everywhere. Fans of photography and literature alike will welcome this reissue of this classic work that has long been out of print.

And two titles that have received a lot of press in 2009...

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective and a World of Literary Obsession ($24.95, Hardcover, 9781594488917)

From Publisher's Weekly (September 17th):
Bartlett delves into the world of rare books and those who collect—and steal—them with mixed results. On one end of the spectrum is Salt Lake City book dealer Ken Sanders, whose friends refer to him as a book detective, or Bibliodick. On the other end is John Gilkey, who has stolen over $100,000 worth of rare volumes, mostly in California. A lifelong book lover, Gilkey's passion for rare texts always exceeded his income, and he began using stolen credit card numbers to purchase, among others, first editions of Beatrix Potter and Mark Twain from reputable dealers. Sanders, the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association's security chair, began compiling complaints from ripped-off dealers and became obsessed with bringing Gilkey to justice. Bartlett's journalistic position is enviable: both men provided her almost unfettered access to their respective worlds. Gilkey recounted his past triumphs in great detail, while Bartlett's interactions with the unrepentant, selfish but oddly charming Gilkey are revealing (her original article about himself appeared in The Best Crime Reporting 2007). Here, however, she struggles to weave it all into a cohesive narrative.

Homer and Langley: A Novel (
$26, Hardcover, 9781400064946)

From Publisher's Weekly (September 17th):
Starred Review. Doctorow, whose literary trophy shelf has got to be overflowing by now, delivers a small but sweeping masterpiece about the infamous New York hermits, the Collyer brothers. When WWI hits and the Spanish flu pandemic kills Homer and Langley's parents, Langley, the elder, goes to war, with his Columbia education and his godlike immunity to such an ordinary fate as death in a war. Homer, alone and going blind, faces a world considerably dimmed though more deliciously felt by his other senses. When Langley returns, real darkness descends on the eccentric orphans: inside their shuttered Fifth Avenue mansion, Langley hoards newspaper clippings and starts innumerable science projects, each eventually abandoned, though he continues to imagine them in increasingly bizarre ways, which he then recites to Homer. Occasionally, outsiders wander through the house, exposing it as a living museum of artifacts, Americana, obscurity and simmering madness. Doctorow's achievement is in not undermining the dignity of two brothers who share a lush landscape built on imagination and incapacities. It's a feat of distillation, vision and sympathy.

Also recommended: Dewey the Library Cat. Read my review.

NOT recommended: Books: A Memoir. Read my review.

T-Shirts for the Book Lover

Still short on Christmas ideas for that hard-to-buy-for-bookworm on your list? No worries -- you still have two weeks, which is plenty of time to order online from Novel Tees. Yep, just what it sound like. Novel t-shirts based on novels make a true novelty gift. (How's that for a clever business name?)

Here are a few of my favorites:

Other options include Hester Prynne, Moby Dick, Bartleby, Walt Whitman, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Thoreau. Available in sizes for men and women.

Just the Right Book

It's like wine-of-the-month club, only it's for booklovers. And it's custom-made. And it has no age limit, and no state restrictions on shipping. So... it's better than wine-of-the-month club.

The Just the Right Book program, created by R.J. Julia Booksellers, is pure genius. The gift giver goes online, answers a series of questions (one of which is how many books they want to send in a year), and the booksellers choose a list of books they think will be appropriate for the gift recipient. The gift-ee, as it were, receives the books staggered throughout the year. It's the most no-hassle reading list you've ever been assigned, and it's personally tailored to each recipient! And, what is more (for some folks, anyway), you are supporting a local, independent bookstore in the process - even if it may not be local to you. Oh, the opportunities the internet affords us.

For more information, check out the Shelf Awareness article here. You can also read about the program (or start buying books as gifts) at the Just the Right Book website.

Telephone Boxes

When was the last time you used a pay phone? When was the last time you even needed a pay phone? Cell phones have pretty much completely extinguished any need for this once practical device. Sadly, here in the US we eliminated the "telephone box" decades ago, leaving us with now-defunct little three-sided booths on street corners that make the perfect place to leave an empty Starbucks cup or hang some change to a homeless guy hiding from the wind.

The UK, however, was smart enough to keep their very-retro-looking red telephone boxes (they even call them telephone boxes!), and now have a much more interesting piece of street furniture to find new uses for. My personal favorite? A community library. Apparently those "little" red boxes are big enough to hold a few hundred volumes... check out the full BBC article here.

Personally, if I had a red telephone box, I would make it a little reading nook. One bean bag chair, a few pillows, a little corner shelf for phone (strange that I need a spot for my cell phone in my reading nook within a phone booth?), cuppa tea, etc. Any other ideas for a red telephone box?

Happy December!

Well, it's officially December, which means I am too late to wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving (oops), but I can now officially start pushing books as holiday presents without being too early! It's too late to take advantage of the ten reasons to shop for holiday books early (see previous post), but it's not too late to check out the ingenious "Buy Books for the Holidays" blog. With book recommendations, trends in book buying, spotlights on literacy charities and profiles of independent bookstores across the US, it provides some interesting insight into the world of books-as-gifts.

Stay tuned for more, as well as some book reviews from my Thanksgiving reading...