Friday, December 12, 2008

Books for Christmas -- Part One

I know: a bit self-interested. But in addition to the jolly old man in a red suit this season, there's those less than jolly men and women clad in lord-knows-what calling me on the phone. And then, should it come to that, there's those downright frightening men in one-size-too-small suits packing aluminum. And then there's the zebra striped suit I'll end up wearing if I don't pay them all off, or if I end up killing the next damn one who calls and asks, ahem, might we be expecting a cheque sometime soon?

Besides, a couple of our books have been popping up on Christmas Buying Guides, so it's not all self-interest. I am merely reporting. If they think that Biblioasis books make good Christmas gifts then, gosh-darn it, so do I. (The latest appearance was Once on the Toronto Star book gift list, the ONLY Canadian authored book to make the cut (Jim Harrison was there as well, but as much as I might wish to allow it, an Upper Peninsula Michigander is not really Canadian, even if he does still smoke his own moose meat and occasionally wrestles bears. E. Annie Proulx wrote about Newfoundland as well, but hasn't in a while. From what I gather she's moved on to gay cowboys in Wyoming. Or somesuch. So, nope: Rebecca is it.)

It's been scientifically proven that people who receive Biblioasis titles for Christmas -- or really at any other time of year -- are 77 3/4 percent happier with their gifts than those who receive other books from other presses, large or small. And nearly 100% happier than those who receive non-books as gifts (if only these people knew what they were missing.) There's some margin of error here, of course, as there always are with these surveys, though the general point remains true enough. So I think any of the books in this Thirsty-exclusive shopping guide would make great gifts. The blogger software would only allow me to upload four covers, so the rest will follow in another post. Likely tomorrow.

Anything but Hank has become a staple around the Bibliomanse. We read it twice last night alone. It appeals to kids of all ages, especially those with a fascination for great pictures, rhyming verse and slightly scandalous language ("twit" elicits a hand to the mouth every time.) It's also great for the soon-to-be parents -- Russell Smith, perhaps, or Kerry Clare -- who will soon learn the true meaning of sleep deprivation. And they can read about it hear first. It's a hell of a lot more entertaining and insightful than yet another What to Expect book.

Dragonflies is that rarest of all beasts: a historical novel actually worth reading. Its appeal is wide, and it would make a wonderful gift for the literary or historical reader, as well as the classicist or military buff. Like it's narrator, Odysseus, it's a tricky little book: the perfect gift for an unsuspecting or infrequent reader, its deceptively simple style, its fast paced narration and humour will win over just about anyone. And you can feel good about it: there's a lot more going on here, after all, than simply another retelling of one of the most important stories in the western canon. Though there is that as well, and if it's the only way you can slip it to them... Perhaps the best novel Biblioasis has published, it deserves a wide readership.

Almost every review we've had of the Idler's Glossary in the last month has made reference to the fact that this is the perfect stocking stuffer, and we here at Thirsty couldn't agree more. It's also the perfect title to receive just before New Year's, that time of re-evaluation and resolution. Despite its Wodehousian charm and wit, this is a subversive little book which might just get its recipient thinking about what really matters in life: at this time, food, friends, family and a continual supply of single malts (which will help you get through the friends and family part of the equation quite well. Or so it always does me). And good books, of course, of which this is a fine, fine example.

A Quill&Quire Top 15 listing, an honourable mention in the Globe 100, with raves from coast to coast, this has been one of the books which has helped to restore my faith, at least a little, in what we're trying to do here, proof that occasionally, very occasionally, excellent books get at least part of their deserved due. We've nearly sold out of our initial and sizable print run of 1500 copies, almost unheard of for a first collection of short stories, so those book collectors out there better grab theirs while they can. And, as Geoff Pevere wrote yesterday in his Toronto Star Book Gift Guide (did I mention Rebecca's was the only Canadian title he highlighted? I did? Good.): "Canadian writer Rebecca Rosenblum's first collection of short stories suggests a beginner hitting the road with a trunkful of chops. Set in a Toronto defined by desolate bus stops, depersonalizing service jobs, dead-end relationships and discombobulating hangovers, Once is one of those collections that feels both entirely realized and enigmatically opaque. These are lives glimpsed on their own terms, and lived by people with no idea they're as fascinating as they are."

So, dear Thirsty readers, what are you waiting for? There's only 13 days left to Christmas, which means there's only 12 buying days, and if you are like me you haven't even started yet. I, for one, will put my money where my mouth is and will be giving out these books -- and those which will follow in part two -- as my gifts at Christmas. That won't help me much with the phone callers (another from an angry printer as I write this) or bat wielders, alas, but your own purchases certainly will, keeping Biblioasis above its garage (if not exactly in its onion field: now I can't even keep that illusion going for myself. Too many of you have been here!) for at least a little while longer.

Part two to follow.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

I will be buying my unborn babe Anything But Hank shortly. I've had my eye on it for a a while and it's beautiful.