Friday, December 09, 2005

Books: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

With Christmas rapidly approaching, I thought I'd offer up some books that would make excellent Christmas presents for those you love.

McSweeney's is a publisher run by my nemesis Dave Eggers. (Dave Eggers is my nemesis in the way every good nemesis should be: he's a published author, owns his own press, and many amazing nonprofits for kids and teenagers, and he apparently is very nice.) McSweeneys is like an old-fashioned candy store, full of amazing, one-of-a-kind finds. There's the Collins Library, an imprint which revives lost books such as English as She Is Spoke, an English guidebook written by two Portugeuse men in the 1800s who didn't know English (they had a Portugeuse to French dictionary and French to English dictionary). Mark Twain said of the book "Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect."

There is also How to Dress for Every Occasion by The Pope (a.k.a. Daniel Handler of Lemony Snicket fame), Dear New Girl Whatever Your Name Is (a collection of student-passed notes confiscated by a substitute teacher who then sent them on to artists who illustrated and recreated them), and many more.

One caveat! Because these books are so one of a kind, they have limited print runs and when they're gone, they're gone (such as the first edition of Nick Hornby's Songbook that came with a fabulous CD and the falsified children's science book Giraffes? Giraffes! that stated giraffes were aliens from outerspace. Note that some used copies are still available through some Internet booksellers.)

McSweeney's also publishes the journal McSweeney's and The Believer, both available as a subscription.

How Stuff Works

Ever wonder how glow sticks work? Ballpoint pens? Rocket engines? Chain saws? Blimps? Caffeine? Well apparently you're not the only one. How Stuff Works started as a very popular Web site, so popular they started publishing books. There's How Stuff Works, More How Stuff Works, and a couple more offshoots. All have easy to read formats, are well-illustrated, and make you smarter!

Edward Tufte

Sometimes known as the man who loaths Powerpoint, Edward Tufte is a statistician turned artist, who does an amazing job combining art and science. He often tours the country with a one-day seminar on presenting information in graphic form, and if you can convince your employer that that topic somehow fits into your job description, you should definitely attend. Luckily Tufte has put his ideas into some beautiful books that are so stunning you don't want to get them dirty. In them he talks about the great books and illustrations of Newton, Galileo, and, among other things, a notorious chart used in John Gotti's trial. His books are available via his Web site, where you can also find a lot of other interesting information.

Books by People I Know

If you can't give a shout out to your friends who are published authors on your book review blog, then I don't know where else you can:

Please Don't Come Back from the Moon by Dean Bakapoulos
The Bright Forever by Lee Martin
The Last Day of the War by Judith Miller

Crafty Books

For all knitters, amateur and advanced, Stitch 'n Bitch is the best how-to guide out there. Debbie Stoller (Editor of BUST magazine, another great gift idea) talks stitches in plain English with great, helpful illustrations. Even after I had been knitting for over 4 years, this book finally made sense of gauges, blocking, and sewing pieces together.


Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone is the best cookbook I own, and it's completely applicable to nonvegetarians. In it Deborah Madison gives not only recipes but cooking techniques and skills. I use this book for my most basic recipes including my standard tomato sauce, roasted almonds, pizza dough, blueberry muffins, and some cardamom cookies that are super yummy around Christmastime.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Again, thank you for providing such a great service. Each review I read, I am more and more tempted to put down the book I've been reading for 3 months that hasn't gone anywhere (I'm halfway through) and go to the library to get one of your reviewed books. I do have one complaint, though. The way you write makes every book sound interesting...I don't know where to start! These authors should be giving you some sort of royalties, seriously.