If this blogging gig paid anything, I’d hire Jolene as my research assistant. Not only does she read the entire internet every day, she actually remembers what she read, searches like a ninja and is always able to provide a helpful link to something that ran six months ago. She was the one who suggested, a few days ago, that we start a discussion this month with recommendations of gift books for the holidays. So I’ll kick off December with her excellent idea.
Federal Trade Commission full disclosure: All links in today’s entry will take would-be purchasers through my Amazon Associates store, aka the Kickback Lounge, where yours truly will receive a tiny percentage of the purchase price. (Commenters’ links most likely won’t.) And a word to any fellow bloggers out there: Amazon’s payments, compared to Google’s AdSense, are the difference between your paychecks at a rural weekly newspaper and those of, say, Katie Couric. Which is to say I made about $17 last month, and sometimes I’d go months before making that much from the don’t-be-evil people. Who are.
OK, then: You’ve already read my thoughts on “Tinsel: A Search of America’s Christmas Present,” but I’m here to recommend it again. Hank Stuever has been getting some very respectable reviews for his look at how the holidays are celebrated in Exurbia, but for my money you can’t beat this one, from Amazon:
This is a nasty book written by a bitter, self-described homosexual with an anti-God, leftist agenda. That being said, it’s an “absolutely phenomenal” read.
Ha. Well. Actually, what comes through in the book (for me, anyway, and I’m not the only one to note it), is how much Hank actually likes all the people he writes about, even as he does not shrink from describing them in situ with the sort of all-seeing eye an anthropologist would envy. Recommended for the overdecorator, or under-spirited, on your gift list.
While we’re pimping our friends-who-just-happen-to-be-celebrated-authors, two for the mystery/crime fiction readers on your list — Laura Lippman’s fine standalone, “Life Sentences,” and her collection of short stories, “Hardly Knew Her,” the latter of which reveals more of Laura’s impish sense of humor than her long-form fiction. (Not that she’s a slug or anything, but many of these stories are just plain funny.) Also, the stories are available in paperback, so you can buy both and make a gift bundle, while tossing a few shekels at Laura for her bundle. I should probably mention that “Hardly Knew Her,” like much of her fiction, takes as its theme what a PhD might call the perfidy of women. Perfidy, but with humor. Win-win-entertain.
“Closing Time,” on the nightstand in the right rail for the longest time, isn’t new — it was published last year — but it’s worth your time even if you have to look a little harder for it. Joe Queenan’s memoir of being the abused son of a charming Irish drunk stayed with me for weeks after I finished it, and stays with me still. Rich with detail of growing up poor at a time when anyone with a work ethic could become comfortably middle class (if they didn’t have a drunk for a parent, that is), and not only poor but white and poor, and not just anywhere but in one of the most interesting cities in the country (Philadelphia), it’s a banquet throughout. It’s not a front-to-back bummer, either, but at its heart a story of how a person can overcome just about anything if he has the right kind of help and just a little bit of luck. I’ve been a fan of Queenan’s for years, and this book adds a new layer to my appreciation of a fine, funny writer.
Because we all know a lot of non-reading readers, and because America needs its share of books that don’t cause even casual readers to break a sweat, as well as something funny for your guests to page through while they watch you cook Christmas dinner, a recommendation from Mindy, who found the website that led to “Cake Wrecks: When Professional Cakes Go Hilariously Wrong.” Revel in the simple yuks provided by cakes with names misspelled on them, or emblazoned: BABY SHOWER FOR BOY. Mindy recommends bookmarking Cake Wrecks as your daily amusement stop, now that the Lolcats seem to have run their course. Yes, what she said.
Which sort of fills out the entry for today, but I want to add one more, a website that should be a book and probably already is, but one you can look at right now — Ugliest Tattoos, name self-explanatory. Whatever you do, don’t click the “sexual” tag. OK, I warned you.
Now add your own recommendations. And for those who use the Kickback Lounge, I’d get your names tattooed on my heart if I could.