Saturday, December 4, 2010

"The Best Book I Ever Received": Book Industry Folks Pick Their Holiday Favorites, Part 1

As the holiday season kicks into full gear, I’m once again reminded that the gift I most want—more books—is the one I’m least likely to receive. Just because I work in the book business doesn’t mean that I don’t NEED more books. I’m convinced that anyone who works beyond the college part-time job level in the book industry is in it for the love of the product (just as I’m convinced that anyone who makes a career of it is mentally not-right). It’s more than a job. Give us our books!

To that end, I asked a few booksellers to tell me the best book they ever received as a gift. Gianna says she’s going to ask her mom, too, and that Gianna’s mom will probably recommend “porn.” Something to eagerly anticipate!

Sara Glassman sells books at The Little Professor Book Center in Homewood, Alabama. Sara actually had several recommendations:

Dead Men Do Tell Tales by William Maples
This is a really engaging book about forensic anthropology. If you've got a "Bones" fan who likes the nitty gritty this is great for them! I got it when I was 15 and it actually set me on the course that ended with a graduate degree in Anthropology. Maples is great at balancing detail with anecdote and gives insight into cases as varied as identifying the Romanovs to the murders of Ted Bundy.

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Mythology by Ingri & Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
My mom gave me a copy of this when I was very young, six or seven maybe. I'd checked it out from the library 10 times by the time she bought it for me. I loved Greek mythology. I knew the names of the Olympians before I knew the names of the Seven Dwarves. It's still one of my favorite books to sell so that I can introduce more people to these wonderful stories.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
This is cheating a little since it was a "gift" from Toni Hetzel (Toni is my Gianna for stores east of the Mississippi River, selling books to the stores in the Deep South, and a big fan of Juicy Couture), but I was having really bad week and I mentioned it to her when she was here for a meeting. She went out to her car and got an ARC (advance reading copy) of Sweetness and handed it to me. I started reading it then on my lunch break and it was the first thing that week that made me smile.

Brian Contine is a bookseller at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, who happens to be married to the store’s adult book buyer. He’s also a skilled amateur chef, a skill his wife joyfully exploits. Here’s Brian’s advice for holiday book giving:

In this season of giving, is there a way I can make it a little about me? Yes. Give your spouse a cookbook and you'll win every time. A couple of years ago, my wife gave me a copy of Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories. Hopkinson is the British Alice Waters, creating succinct, refined, homestyle recipes which will challenge the cook and warm the belly. I suggest Salade Frisee Aux Lardons. If it matters to you, and it should, this is the best written cookbook I've ever read, you could read it cover to cover without cooking a thing and feel full.

Anne Kimbol is an expert in a particular genre, mystery, working at Houston’s elite specialty store Murder By the Book. Nonetheless, the best book she ever received as a gift transcends genre boundaries:

A friend of mine gave me a copy of Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman. I have since given it as a gift to many friends. It is a book about different theories of time told as dreams of Einstein's. I know that sounds terribly boring, but the writing really brings you into the worlds Lightman created on Einstein's behalf. It is still the book I go to when I really need an escape from the everyday craziness of life.

Check back for other picks from some of the biggest book lovers in the country…and Gianna’s mom.

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