The gift of words

Xmas Tree

There be words in there

Middle age has come
and all the plans and needs
are chaff not seeds,
blowing down the blue air
to fall flat and trampled
by some window where
a hopeful girl braids
her thick hair and hums.

(“Humble”, by Ginny Jackson)

Better late than … hmm, perhaps not, but I’m going to tell you anyhow.

I’ve noticed in recent years that I don’t receive a lot of books for Christmas – and when I do, they are often not fiction – but a few hardy gift-givers still bravely feed my obsession. And so, I received a small but intriguing bunch this year, which I will list by category:


  • Margaret Atwood‘s The year of the flood. Atwood is one of my favourite writers but I’ve dropped the baton on her a bit in recent years. I hope to pick it up again and run this year with this, her most recent. Thanks, Mum.
  • Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s last stand. I have already read and reviewed this one – and suggested at the time that there were people I knew who would enjoy it. I didn’t have a copy then so couldn’t lend it to them. I now do … thanks Sandra, from my bookgrouplist swap.


  • Ginny Jackson’s The still deceived. I can always rely on my brother to choose something a little bit different for me, and this year was no exception. My brother lives in Tasmania and this book, published by Ginninderra Press, is by a Tasmanian poet/artist. I have only dipped into it – but if you like the poem opening this post you might like to dip into it too. Thanks, bro!
  • There’s something about a rose. I knew immediately who chose this book – my Dad, the rose lover. It comprises a selection of poems and art celebrating, yes, roses, and was compiled by the Friends of Old Parliament House Rose Gardens. The poems are by Australian poets, some well-known, such as Barbara Blackman, Les Murray and Chris Wallace-Crabbe, and others not so well known (to me at least). I have already dipped into and enjoyed several of the poems…and may share some with you as the year goes on. Thanks, Dad.


  • The Canberra gardener. I’ve had previous editions of this gardening bible, but not for some years. Published by the Horticultural Society of Canberra, this one is the 10th edition published in 2010. The previous edition was published in 2004, just as our last serious drought was starting to bite. As a result, this new edition focuses on how to create lovely gardens with less water. Funnily enough, our dams are now suddenly full (last year they were at 50%) but we have all learnt (if we didn’t already know it) that Australia is a dry continent and that we should make water conservation a permanent goal regardless of annual fluctuations in water levels. This book will help me in my endeavour. Thanks, Carmel.
  • Roger McDonald‘s Australia’s wild places. I do like a good coffee table book and this is a good coffee table book. It’s published by the National Library of Australia and comprises landscape photographs of Australia from the Library’s collection. The photos were chosen by award-winning Australian novelist, Roger McDonald, whose books tend to have strong rural themes. The book has an introductory essay, with a strong environment message, by McDonald, followed by gorgeous images by some of our top photographers, including Peter Dombrovskis and Frank Hurley. It is just the book for me to look at now, as we prepare for our annual foray into the Snowy Mountains for a bit of post-Christmas R&R. It was given to me by a friend who spent most of her career working with these images. Thanks, Sylvia.

So, there you have it, six books from six people, each book reflecting a little bit of both the giver and the receiver. What more can one ask of a gift?

And now, if it’s not too late, I’d love to hear if any of you received books this year, and what they were.

25 thoughts on “The gift of words

  1. Hmmm, was this a subtle hint saying that you’d have rather a book from me this Christmas than the present you received?

    I don’t believe I received a single novel this year – quite a change from Christmastime as a child!

    • I knew you’d say that! Of course not … I love my gift but am glad I received some books too. I wouldn’t really need 6 of what you gave me after all!

      We’ll have to rectify the novel thing for you in future but, there are times in one’s life, I think, when different gifts and wanted/needed, aren’t there?

      • Yes, and I’m very, very happy with my cooking and kitchen gifts 🙂

        Speaking of, you know how I said the coconut butter tastes a bit like suntain oil? Well, that issues goes away when I spread it on toast and sprinkle it with Milo 😛

    • Actually, I’m both sad and relieved when I don’t get books – which is a good thing really as those who give me books can feel good, and those who don’t can also feel good!

  2. My copy of the Canberra Gardener has let me down on the subject of earwigs – is the newer edition any more enlightening on what to do if they invade your vegetable patch?

    • Oh dear zmkc. We haven’t had a vegetable patch for so long – not since water restrictions struck. You’ve returned at the right time water-wise, and I hope that we might grow some vegies again in the next year or so. BUT I’m afraid I can’t answer you right now, as I’m in Thredbo and the book is with daughter and dog back home. I’ll try to remember to check when I return.

  3. I always get a Dymocks book voucher from my brother every Christmas. Dymocks have 20% off everything for a week from Boxing Day, so I generally redeem the voucher in that period.

    I got three books :

    The City and the City by China Mieville
    How to live Safely in Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
    A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel

    Also a friend gave me a biography of Leonard Cohen.

    I’ve already read three of the above.

    I acquired Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood via book voucher last Christmas. It’s advisable to read Oryx and Crake first as The Year of the Flood is a sort of sequel. I really enjoyed both of them.

    • Yes, I realised that about The year of the flood. I haven’t read Oryx and Crake but it’s in the TBR so I do have the two of them don’t I? Finding the time will be the tricky thing. A biography of Leonard Cohen would be great. Will you review it on your blog?

  4. Nope, not a single one, and I emailed The Spouse my wishlist too *sniffle*.
    On the other hand, The Spouse knows I will buy the books I want anyway whereas I have never yet been able to justify buying myself posh French perfume…

    • LOL Lisa. My kids gave me perfume this year – whereas I often give them a booklist. I thought the perfume was a good idea for the same reason because I’d never buy it myself but I would the books. Are we weird do you think?

  5. The Leonard Cohen biography was not a patch on the Keith Richards one – informative but badly written, with prose of the most peculiar wincing kind.

  6. I don’t get books as gifts generally either. My family thinks I spend too much time on this reading lark as it is!

    I am however currently reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and thoroughly enjoying it!

    • Oh dear, Marg, that’s a shame. What would they rather you do? Anyhow, I look forward to you review of Pettigrew. It was a fun read, though I usually like something a little meatier.

    • Oh thanks Kevin, for the wishes and the compliment on the title. I started off with something quite boring but then decided to go a little more poetic/philosophical. Glad it worked. (Most of my titles are starightforward but every now and then, when it’s not a review, I feel like having a play.

  7. How strange that we don’t receive as many books for presents! I scored quite well this year. Of course, anything higher than zero is always a winner!

  8. So many nice books! I hope you like Year of the Flood. No one gives me books anymore except my husband but this year we got ourselves new thick and warm bathrobes.

    • LOL Stefanie, this does seem to be the “complaint” of obsessive readers – no-one dares give them books! But, we do do a good job of feeding our own obsessions don’t we? Thick warm bathrobes sound lovely though – particularly in your northern winter. They’re not the first things on our minds for Christmas!!

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