Holiday book buying

a reflection

by Lara Killian

11 January 2010


Books are a great way to round out holiday gift giving. How do you choose titles for your loved ones (or other people in your life who happen to be literate)?

In the past I might have been organized enough to place an order at a major online retailer and have bargain fiction arrive at the door in time to wrap it up and tie it with a bow.

This year, however, with obligations stretching into the 11th hour and a 24 hour travel itinerary, shopping for books took a back seat. As opportunities dwindled, I set out in my quiet home town in northern New England to find some last-minute lit.

The public library’s used bookstore outlet (staffed by lovely volunteers) yielded a recently donated book by an author recommended by an historian friend, Sebastian Faulkes’ Birdsong (1993). I was supposed to start with Human Traces (2005), but beggars can’t be choosers. I was also pleased to find a well-preserved copy of Paul Auster’s The Book of Illusions (2002), which I had recently taken out of the library near my university, determined to start in on one of Auster’s works at last.

In the town’s only retail bookstore I broke down and bought a new hardback copy of Audrey Niffenegger’s latest, Her Fearful Symmetry (2009). When I checked the shelf at first that space appeared empty and I thought I was too late, but the helpful staff located an orphan copy using their handy database system. With this title, I’ll admit, I was thinking not only of the to-be-delighted recipient, but of myself—my turn had come in the long line of waiting patrons at the public library near where I live these days, but the December loan was only for seven days and I barely made it halfway through Niffenegger’s captivating ghost story.

Under the tree, gift-wrapped and full of potential, I was glad to have gotten out around town and found some quality fiction, as well as to have supported local businesses. And when Her Fearful Symmetry was unwrapped and put down again, I snagged it from under the tree in order to pick up where I left off.

Is there a method to your holiday book-buying? Do you find it hard to select books for certain loved ones, or take up the challenge enthusiastically? Share your stories so I can plan better for next year!

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