Holiday Gift Ideas from MacAdam/Cage Authors

I’ve been very busy over at my other blog, keeping up-to-date with everything that’s been going on in the Judith Regan scandal, but fortunately my friends at the independent publishing house MacAdam/Cage had some last-minute gift ideas for those of you who haven’t figured out what books to get for your friends and loved ones in the days ahead…

frank-hollon.jpgFrank Turner Hollon (Blood & Circumstance): I’ve never been one of those people who likes to watch the same movie over and over. Until recently, I wasn’t the type of person to read a book more than once. It seemed a waste of time. Time better spent reading something new.

But now, at age 43, with three kids, a full-time job, and the good fortune of six published novels, time constraints have made me choose—and strangely, I have chosen the past over the present, going back to read again novels that made such an impression upon me so many years ago. Is it the particular novel alone that makes the impression, or is it the unique combination of the certain moment in your life and the novel that fits the moment perfectly?

The Last Gentleman, by Walker Percy, still affects me as it did twenty years ago, sending me back to my time as a college student in New Orleans, barefoot, reading in the streetcar on the way to school, the expectation of a world ahead. Who could ask for a better gift ?

stephen-jones.jpgStephen Graham Jones (Demon Theory): Man, for me the best book gifts to get have always been mass market paperback series, all rubber-banded together. Mixmatched editions, the covers taped together, “for Bob, 1982” penciled in front in a careful hand. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a set of LeGuin’s Earthsea stuff and not bought it. Or Dune, or Ender, or Conan, and on and on. I mean, what better gift to give to somebody than a whole month’s worth of guaranteed perfect afternoons? I wish I had a machine to erase those books from my head, even, so I could go back, read them all over again for the first time.

Anyway, one series that’s over now, that’s better than wonderful and twice as beautiful, and that I’ve yet to find all rubber-banded together, is Charles McCarry’s Paul Christopher novels. It starts with The Miernik Dossier and works up through six books, to Old Boys, and never once skips a beat or misses a word. Not only can McCarry write in a way that really and honestly gives you the shakes, if you’re a writer—it’s called intimidation—but Paul Christopher, he’s better than James Bond and Jack Ryan and Mack Bolan and all of them. Because he’s, I don’t know… real? Take a month to read the books (many of which have just been reissued by Overlook), anyway, and then tell me he’s not.

marshall-karp.jpgMarshall Karp (The Rabbit Factory): So you’d like me to recommend a book. What a coincidence. Oprah just called and asked me the very same thing. I’ll tell you what I told her: The Disappearance by Philip Wylie.

There’s no better time than the Christmas season to rethink that eternal conflict. No, not pumpkin vs. apple, not turkey vs. football: men vs. women. Men, imagine if suddenly every single female in the world disappeared. They do in Chapter 1. Now ladies, imagine if every single male disappeared. That’s Chapter 2. From there on we follow their parallel universes. The book was written in 1951, so cold war politics and a world where girls weren’t trained to fly airplanes, much less run governments will feel dated. But the essence is timeless. I read it when I was young and impressionable. It was reprinted in 2004. I read it again and continue to be impressed.

renee-manfredi.jpgRenée Manfredi (Running Away With Frannie): My recommendation is The View for Castle Rock by Alice Munro. This is the latest from a truly masterful storyteller and, like all of her previous collections, is evocative and rich with detail. It feels closer in personal history than some of her others, but is every bit as gorgeous and imaginative. Truly, Munro is amazing. I’ve read her for years, I’ve taught her work in my classes, and I’ve tried to unravel how she puts her stories together. What I admire so much is that her stories ask “what if?” instead of telling us “and then…” I suspect that’s the secret of their brilliance, and of what will make her work endure.

janis-newman.jpgJanis Cooke Newman (Mary): Everybody with a kitchen—and without a personal chef—should own a copy of Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. If you’re very lucky, you can find a good-looking copy of the 1975 edition, the most popular version of what New York Times food writer Kim Severson calls “the Swiss Army Knife of cookbooks.” If you’re not so lucky, you can buy the brand new 75th anniversary edition just out. (But under no circumstances give anybody the disastrously tarted-up 1997 revision, which among other things, deleted the recipes for squirrel and porcupine.)

If you are a very good (and smart) friend, you will accompany the book with an inexpensive ice cream maker (I bought mine at Goodwill) and sometime next July you will remind the recipient that the recipe for peach ice cream is on page 760 (in the 1975 edition).

21 December 2006 | gift ideas |