No Socks Please

‘Twas but one day after Halloween when I had my first glimpse of the holidays-to-come in a department store. The costumes had orange clearance stickers on them, and the Christmas trees, sparkly decorations, and more, were peeping out of cardboard boxes. In the air was a feverish hum as employees scrambled to shift the inventory from goblins and ghosts to Hanukkah and Christmas. Thanksgiving, it seemed, was to be but a bump between Halloween and the shopping frenzy ’til year’s end. On the shelves of that megastore was something for everyone, and I began thinking of making my list and checking it twice. While a new carving set, matching socks, and toys are practical gifts, I give books to those I love. Considering I’m a bookseller, that’s to be expected, however, that isn’t the only reason. I enjoy the hunt, the surprise, when I find a particularly suitable book for a loved one. Matching the perfect book with a friend gives me pleasure, and I find that’s true too for many of my customers. For example, every year a gentleman client buys a $150-200 first edition Dick and Jane reader for his mom, a retired teacher. Then there are those who come in for an older copy of a classic that their friend or relative really enjoyed. Others come seeking color plates, illustrations, a fine leather binding, or a modern first edition. Franklin Mint editions generally have leather bindings with decorative gilt covers and gilt edges, and some are signed by the author. Heritage Press volumes usually have nice illustrations and a slipcase. Books by both presses are priced reasonably (depending on the condition), starting at $20. Holiday classics like Seuss’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Henry’s Gift of Magi, and “Norman Rockwell’s Christmas Book never seem to lose their popularity. This year, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsberg will undoubtedly be a big seller. Robert Sabuda has created several pop-up holiday books, including ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and The Twelve Days of Christmas. A less sentimental but equally thoughtful gift is a book that has received good reviews, or one that is in tune with specific interests. Film student? Think avant-garde. Gardener? What about an illustrated Audubon? Athlete? A biography of their hero. Whatever the choice, a book gift shows the recipient you’ve put a lot of thought into choosing the right item. I do have my favorites. What could be better than giving a book that a friend or relative remembers from childhood? I pay attention when people talk about the impact a book had on their life or how they used to crawl into their parents’ lap to hear it “just one more time.” And the look on their face when they open their gift and it is a book they haven’t seen in 30, 40 (or perhaps 50!) years is priceless. Should you wish to support local publishers, try Badger Books. Their quality is high and they cover many and various Wisconsin topics, such as those found in their Famous Wisconsin series, focusing on artists, architects, authors, film stars, and more. Though he’s no longer among the living, Wisconsin author August Derleth continues to be a very popular. His out-of-print can be found at your local used bookstore. For the poetry lover on your list, consider chapbooks from local poets. And why not give children signed copies of books? Still unsure about giving books this year instead of socks, mittens and such? Take a tip and visit your local bookstore. Perhaps the best part is hunting down the perfect tome.In any event, books stick around a lot longer than a pair of socks.