Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"The Best Book I Ever Received": Book Industry Folks Pick Their Holiday Favorites, Part 2

Gianna has gathered another group of holiday/gift-inspired book recommendations from some of our favorite people in the book business.

Karen Valby is the author of Welcome to Utopia, one of our favorite books of the year, and a generally awesome person.  Here's a trailer for her excellent book.

And here is Karen's pick:
On my 12th birthday, my mother gave me a hard-bound copy of Jay Leech’s How to Care for Your Horse. I loved horses--I lived for horses!--so at the time the present felt like a validation of not just my passion but my ability to be a good, capable friend and guardian to them. That year my mother’s bipolar disorder started chewing away at some crucial fibers a person needs to be a parent. As she unraveled, I dug deep into chapters like “Do You Really Want a Horse?” and “Diseases of the Horse” and “Common Unsoundnesses of the Horse.” I would read and study and practice and learn so that I could understand horses and their weaknesses and how to make them happy and healthy and whole. I like to imagine that my mother, who died six years later of a sucide, was already preparing me to take care of myself.

Sarah Bird – Author of The Yokota Officer’s Club, the upcoming novel The Gap Year, and a whole bunch of other great books. 
Oddly, Gianna, you are virtually the only person who has ever given me books (other than to blurb or send to my agent.) I guess I’m sort of the book giver in my circle. And I have loved every book you’ve given me, but The Frozen Thames still occupies a special spot in my heart. Maybe because it’s small, maybe because it’s beautiful, maybe because it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read, it has stayed with me in a way few others have. Gorgeous illustrations coupled with a gorgeously-written vignettes about the few dozen times in recorded history that the Thames River has frozen has kept this wonder of a book forever frozen in my memory. Thank you again for sharing it with me.

Scott Montgomery is the mystery expert at BookPeople in Austin, and the driving force behind the creation of the store's mystery specialty store-within-a-store, MysteryPeople.  Here's his pick: 
A first printing of The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley. I already had one first that was signed by the man; I purchased it a week before he came to the store I worked at in LA, for four dollars. Even unsigned, it was worth around four hundred.  He told me he had forty copies of that printing when it came out. "I gave them away so I could nail stewardesses."

I started a friendship with this author I admired so much, watching him hold court at whatever bar we were at, talking about the soldiers, criminals, and actors he met, occasionally dispensing writing advice when nobody was looking. We had a mutual friend in Wyoming, writer Craig Johnson. Both would pick on one another and use me as messenger to send their jibes back and forth to one another. It was Craig's wife who called me over two years ago to tell me Jim had died. The news hit me like it was a family member.

That Christmas I got a package Craig. He said they were Wyoming/ Montana themed gifts- a fine cheroot cigarello, a hat band made by an inmate in the Wyoming penitentiary, and another first edition of The Last Good Kiss. I now have two very expensive bookends that remind me of a great hero, mentor, and friend that is the epitome of those larger-than-life characters you meet in this business. With its Hunter Thompson-esque look at the modern West and America in this tough, heartbreaking book, any edition is priceless.

The lovely one on the right is Gianna's mom.
And Gianna is the other one.
Margaret LaMorte - Proud (ish) parent of Gianna.  She may be the most fascinating woman on earth...I mean, she's to blame for Gianna. 

The best book I have ever been given is Janet Evanovich’s One For the Money. It was the first book that truly made me laugh out loud. I would read it in the break room at work and my coworkers would come in and ask what the heck I was reading, they thought I was crazy. [No comment upon Gianna's mom's sanity.] We had a little group of people and we would all share the Stephanie Plum books – it was a great little group and a lot of fun. I have many ideas for the movie series but I have yet to have a call from a single Hollywood producer asking my opinion.


My choice is pretty low brow – but the thing is, I don’t really get very many books as gifts; keep that in your judgmental mind! Okay, the best book I have ever been given was Hollywood Babylon (thanks Mom!) – I guess I was like… 11 or 12, certainly not age appropriate, what with the Fatty Arbuckle rape trial and the graphic photos of Jayne Mansfield’s car accident, not to mention the Lana Turner drama and Sharon Tate murder. Now that I am thinking of it – it’s the earliest form of TMZ. However you have to understand my obsession with Hollywood – I read every biography of every Hollywood celeb I could get my hands on. I know that this book is … oh boy… sleazy…but I just loved it and would read and re-read it all the time. I don’t know what happened to it – I can’t imagine that I got rid of it, it must have been stolen or tossed out by my girlfriend who had the sense to be embarrassed for me. Don’t fear…it’s still in print as all classics remain (although as a mass market, not a big hardcover).


  1. What a great idea for a blog post! I recall an ongoing gifting of books on various birthdays and holidays. A hard bound edition of Tom Sawyer with a built in bookmark that felt like a book to be responsible for (and an affirmation that I could be); a copy of Treasure Island that my mom asked me to read aloud as a favor to her (only later did I see this as the sharpening of 1st grade reading skills); The Chronicles of Narnia collection with the rumbling voice of Aslan provided by my baritone father; and the Bible on my 13th birthday, newly baptized and insecure about almost everything, with one verse of one chapter of one book highlighted: "I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..." It served as my own call to carry on and a reminder that my own story was still being written.

  2. Yay for The Frozen Thames! I loved that book tood. Good gift giving Gianna!