Wait, what? It’s Sunday night already? I mean, I knew it was Christmas Eve, and in fact we had our family gathering today because of bad weather predicted tomorrow, but somehow it hadn’t clicked that it was time for me to write a piece for the Grip until just now.
Things have been so chaotic lately that I haven’t been reading any actual books, but it does occur to me that I’ve been ordering and handling quite a few books as gifts for family members, so I’m going to cheat and write about the books I’ve been giving away, chosen not so much because they appeal to me as because I knew the recipients wanted them.
In the case of one brother, retired from a long career as a librarian in a city bordering Boston, I knew because he has a Wish List on Amazon. Otherwise I never would have guessed that he wanted to read How to Mediate Your Dispute by Peter Lovenheim. I do understand why, though. He’s lived for many years in a trailer park that’s become a co-operative, owned and administered by the residents, and he’s been in one or another position on the Board of Directors for quite a while. As with any such organization, there are often disagreements and feuds and general havoc, and I’ve known times when he came to visit me just to get away from all the infighting. I hope the book helps defuse things.
It wouldn’t have occurred to me to give him The Truth About Retirement Plans and IRAs by Ric Edelman, either, but he’d been talking recently about reaching the point where he’s required to take some money out of his IRA account, and by living frugally in the trailer park he’s been able to afford to do some investing, so I knew he had some interest in financial matters.
The third book on his list seemed more like something I might possibly want to read, The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate―Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben. One thing my brother enjoys at the trailer park—possibly the only thing, or at least the only thing he’s mentioned—is being chairman of the beautification committee, with the responsibility for arranging plantings of trees and shrubs around the park. I’m more than a bit dubious about the claims made in the blurb for the book, but it does sound interesting.
My oldest son, who works with computers at a college and is the father of my granddaughter, has always been a great science fiction and fantasy geek. His library and knowledge of such things is extensive, but the books on his Wish List were more of a nostalgic nature than anything breaking new ground. He loves the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, humor, satire, sly political commentary and all, but Pratchett (known to the sf community as “Sir PTerry” after he was knighted) died two years ago, so there won’t be any more of his books. However someone, friends and family, I think, have put together at least two peripheral books, The Compleat Discworld Atlas: Of General & Descriptive Geography Which Together With New Maps and Gazetteer Forms a Compleat Guide to Our World & All It Encompasses, and Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook: To Travelling Upon the Ankh-Morpork & Sto Plains Hygienic Railway (Discworld), which expands on a scene in one of the novels. Maybe these are the quasi-literary form of comfort food.
My younger son is also an sf/geek, and a history buff. He didn’t post a wish list, but he follows several series by certain writers, and there are usually new books available, so this year I got him The Sea Peoples (A Novel of the Change) by S.M. Stirling; Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Down Town (my son has been disappointed that there have been no new Dresden Files books lately, but I discovered that Butcher has switched to doing graphic novels with those characters, so I got one to see how he likes it,) and Provenance by Ann Leckie, whose trilogy beginning with Ancillary Justice swept all the science fiction awards. On the historical side, I got him Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre, about Britain’s Special Forces Unit that sabotaged the Nazis. He probably knows all about them, since WWII is his area of special interest, but it appears to be well-researched and written, and I think he’ll enjoy it.
Hmm, what else? Well, I gave away four of my own anthologies (or maybe more) as prizes on leave-a-comment blogs, which isn’t the same as actually choosing books for people I know. And yes, I was given a book, too, by my older son: The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan, about the thousands of young women recruited to work in factories in the Appalachians connected with atomic research and production at Oak Ridge during WWII. My son knows me well. I’m fascinated by stories of women playing major roles in history, especially military history.
I guess none of these books sound like fun to most folks, but I’ll end with a list of books I got for my almost-twelve granddaughter. I’d given her a few of the Horrible Histories series by Terry Deary last year, and she requested more. These are humorous takes on history designed specifically to appeal to kids, and I wish I’d had time to read them all. There are titles like: Cruel Kings and Mean Queens, Dark Knights and Dingy Castles, The Rotten Romans, and Awesome Egyptians. Fun, and somewhat informative. I have fond memories of a similar but more adult-oriented book popular many years ago, 1066 and All That, an irreverent, hilarious, and factual take on English history beginning with the Norman Conquest. I’ll have to look up that one for her, but it’s best if you already know most of the history.
So that’s it, a list of the books I gave away without reading (much) myself. Look at it this way, though; if we wonder what kinds of books people who don’t buy our books do buy, well, there you have it.