Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gift Guide: Books

We all have our things: James lives to make mix CDs for people.  Seriously.  He loves it.  Me?  I like to suggest books.  But not just, oh,-I've-read-this-maybe-you'll-like-it-too, but, hey-here's-a-book-that-might-be-just-what-you're-looking-for kind of suggestion.

In this season of giving, how about I suggest a few here.

For your Dad, from whom you learned your love of snacks, who swims laps every day, and who, by his own admission, doesn't read:  Picnic, Lightning, by Billy Collins.  You'll want to read a couple of these poems aloud, just to get him interested.  He might start reading just to please you, because he's like that, but he'll enjoy this collection of quirky, funny, totally accessible, but still really wonderful poetry.

For your Mom, with whom you first watched Murder, She Wrote, who has the greenest thumbs ever, and loves mysteries:  The Best American Mystery Stories, 2012, edited by Otto Penzler and Robert Crais.  Heads up, you haven't read this, but, it's mystery stories, and let's face it, your mom is a voracious reader, and will probably read this.  While you can't hope Nancy Drew, her childhood favorite, will make an appearance,  you can feel confident that she'll read the good stories, and just skim past the lame ones.

For your oldest sister, whose hair you've always admired, who always picks up the phone, and (related) answers all your baby-related questions:  The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime, by Jasper Fforde.  For one, the book moves, making it a quick read (she's got 4 kids, for pete's sake).  For two, you all, at your mother's knee, learned every nursery rhyme known to man, and this weaves them all in - hilariously - which, as she recognizes them, will make her laugh.  And isn't that the point?

For your brother, who issued you a membership card to his spy club when you were 10 (and he was 12), who loves Top Gear, and is an adventurer at heart:  In the Heart of the Sea, by Nathaniel Philbrick.  The true story of the sinking of the Essex, the tale which Moby Dick is purportedly based upon.  Spoiler alert: the ship sinks, and the crew is adrift at sea for a loooooong time.  Unbelievable, inspiring, and amazing.

For your little sister, who loves cats, dresses cute, and is funnier than you: A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, by David Foster Wallace. A collection of essays who's droll style will match this reader's sensibilities.  The title essay is about a Royal Caribbean cruise, and, while long, is achingly funny.  The other essays - Wallace as a tennis player, Wallace at a county fair, etc - are equally as readable, and Wallace's style, while a little cynical, is also sincere and sweet, and kind of vulnerable.  Just like your sister.

Hey, merry Christmas, and happy reading.

photo via.


  1. A few notes:

    1. Billy Collins is fast becoming a favorite of mine. He was once on A Prairie Home Companion and I cursed my radio for not having a DVR so I could rewind.

    2. Someday, Jasper Fforde and I will share a plate of cookies. It's on my life list.

    3. My dad LOVED In the Heart of the Sea. His copy sits amongst other books about epic voyages, ship wrecks, and mutinies.

    4. I miss your family. Can we expect a Knecht/Appel Holiday Summit this year?

  2. So thoughtful and helpful. I will look in to it. Rachel, I believe there is a party in the works.

  3. For the record, all the Appel ladies have admirable hair. And a spy club membership? Why didn't cousins get to be in on that?