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Books given and received for Christmas

December 26, 2014

Here at the Gums, we like of course to give and receive books for Christmas. Like you, I’m sure, I love choosing books for those I love, albeit tinged with a little anxiety. Have they read it? Will they like it? That doesn’t stop we readers giving it a go though does it? Anyhow, just in case you’d like to hear what decisions I made this year, here goes.

  • For Ms Gums Jr, who loves poetry: Owen Musa’s Parang
  • For Mr Gums Jr, who enjoys humour: Simon Rich’s Spoiled brats (with thanks to one of those end-of-year lists, in The Guardian I think!)
  • For Ma Gums, who has worked as a lexicographer: Paul Dickson’s Authorisms: Words wrought by writers
  • For Aunt Gums, who likes a nice English writer: Joanna Trollope’s Balancing act
  • For Brother Gums, historian and lover of good writing of all kinds: Best Australian essays 2014 (but unfortunately, as I feared, someone else had a similar bright idea so it’s back to the drawing board for this one!)
  • For Sister-in-law Gums, who’s always up for something different: Jane Rawson’s (recent MUBA award-winner) A wrong turn at the office of unmade lists
  • For Gums’ Californian friend, who teaches Japanese: Mark Henshaw’s The snow kimono (and I hope she doesn’t read this before she opens her parcel)
  • For Gums’ Californian friend’s daughter, who likes a good mystery: Mark Henshaw’s In the line of fire
  • For Gums’ Californian friend’s daughter (yes she has two), who reads widely and, I believe, also enjoys a bit of commentary: Kill Your Darlings #19

POSTSCRIPT: I returned Best Australian Stories 2014 and decided to go more local for Bro Gums – Julian Davies’ Crow mellow.

And while we are at it, I also gave copies of Australian love stories edited by Cate Kennedy for two late-in-the-year birthdays.

As for what I received, well, they are an intriguing and wonderfully eclectic bunch:

  • From Ma and Pa Gums: Don Watson’s The bush: Travels in the heart of Australia. Woo hoo – I was hoping Santa or someone would bring this!
  • From Mr Gums Jr, who knows I’ll give something new a go: Vivek Tiwary and and Andrew Robinson’s graphic novel The fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein story. Love the out-of-left-fieldedness of this.
  • From Bro and SIL Gums, who live in Tasmania and can be relied upon to give me something by a Tasmanian writer: Danielle Wood’s Mothers Grimm, which reworks four fairy stories from the point of view of mothers and sounds right up my alley!
31 Comments leave one →
  1. December 26, 2014 10:13 am

    Sounds like a nicely bookish Christmas, whispering gums. I am remiss to say the only book I am passing on is a re-gift (unread) of a copy of Wolf Hall to my mother, sent to me a few years ago by a friend unaware I had a copy. However my daughter gave me a beautiful German fountain pen (with cartridges that convert it to a regular pen as desired) and two moleskin notebooks. I am afraid to unwrap it all and spoil the pristine possibilities of it all with less than profound wisdom…

    • December 26, 2014 10:52 am

      LOL Rough Ghosts — I feel that about lovely new notebooks. Will I ruin them with my prosaic thoughts or my now-not-very-good handwriting! But, what a lovely gift. And, I think it’s fair enough to regift a book you already have!

  2. December 26, 2014 10:35 am

    I don’t often get books because LOL my TBR intimidates the givers, but this year I was rapt to receive The Art of Fugue, Bach Fugues for Keyboard, which not only has commentaries on the music and a CD to play, it also has all the scores which I have printed out so that I can learn to play them (the easy ones, that is). A perfect book, combining my love of books with my love of music. What a clever Spouse!
    My bookish gifts for others include a book about cycling mechanics for the Offspring, a set of Italian cookbooks from five different regions for his lovely wife, and a whole pile of Alexander McCall Smiths for my parents who love his stuff.
    But *strange, eh?* my Besties all wanted Bunnings vouchers this year!

  3. December 26, 2014 10:57 am

    So happy with Parang!! Thanks (my) Ma Gums xoxo

  4. December 26, 2014 10:59 am

    Oh the Art of Fugue sounds perfect for a person in retirement. Unfortunately I leant ballet not piano as a child. Not unfortunately really as I loved ballet, but it’s not so useful when you reach our age!!

    Does this mean you’ll be invited to some lovely Italian inspired meals?

    My parents have mixed feelings about McCall Smith – they like some, and not others. For several years, when we went to the coast with my parents and my mother in law, we had a family holiday tradition of reading the latest volume in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. That was fun as a tradition, but I haven’t read any of his other books.

    Mr Gums received three books in German – one a German detective book designed for intermediate to advance readers, and then two Jane Austens in German. (He read Pride and prejudice in German twice this year – you can see one of his retirement projects!).

    Are you doing your usual Boxing Day meal this year?

    • December 26, 2014 11:49 am

      Yes, yesterday was indulgence at the Brighton Savoy for lunch and then cocktails and idleness at home, and today is the labour of love. The pudding is on in the crock pot, and the turkey went into the oven 10 minutes ago. (You know me, I do everything differently, we figure that after yesterday nobody wants to get up early, especially not the cook, so we all have a very late breakfast and our guests arrive at 3.30 to start eating first course at 4pm after an orgy of present-opening. It works really well, stress-free)
      I’m ambivalent about McCall Smith too. I liked the first Ladies Detective Agency ones, but I lost interest after two or three of them. They don’t like all of them either, but this year’s lot is the Scotland Street ones, and they like them, I suspect, for the same reasons that they like the African ones, it’s the nostalgia factor for places they’ve lived in.

      • December 26, 2014 1:45 pm

        I’ll be thinking of you … we have the family around in the late afternoon (used to be a picnic but the older ones are too old for that now) for some leftovers gussied up with the odd little extra.

        Yes, I think you and I are alike – get bored with series after a while. I managed three Harry Potters and that was it. I enjoyed the Detective Agency ones for the group reading aspect. It was fun having everyone read the same book and talk about it – eventually!

  5. December 26, 2014 12:49 pm

    Your lists sound great. I would most like The Bush- it sounds intriguing.

    I got three books this year (all of which I’d ordered or bought myself, and the mail was intercepted- a safe strategy, and still effective, I’d already forgotten what I’d ordered, and didn’t know when it would arrive anyway).
    Jacqueline Woodson – Brown Girl Dreaming
    Andrea Beatty – Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau
    Michael Morpurgo (ed) The Great War.

    I gave two books to my son (now 14)
    The first of the Maze Runner books, and a new Michael Grant one- Messenger of Fear I think (they have disappeared into his room).

    • December 26, 2014 1:47 pm

      Very safe strategy I’d say, Louise – well done! I sometimes send out lists, and I had, my mother informed me, dropped very big hints re The bush, including on this blog! (I now know where to drop hints in future!).

      I was wondering how old Lachlan was now? So, he’s a year younger than my nephew. I don’t know those books. Clearly not up to date.

  6. Meg permalink
    December 26, 2014 3:52 pm

    I liked your reading choices for your family. I received Easy Spanish, Step-By-Step to complement my Spanish lessons, and to my daughter and son-in-law I gave A Bone of Fact by David Walsh with a nice message from him. My grandsons received, I think 15 books and tomorrow I am to take them shopping for more books. They will buy them with their Christmas money. My birthday is within the next couple of days and I expect toreceive The Bush and Us. .

    • December 26, 2014 9:09 pm

      Another one learning language in retirement? I remember measuring the success of my Christmas by how many books I received. Sounds like your grandsons might too.

      I bet you’ll read The bush before I do, Meg, the rate you read. I’ve heard Us is good, but am not sure I’ll find time to read it. So many books! Anyhow, happy birthday for the next day or so!

  7. December 26, 2014 5:33 pm

    This is a bit of a variation on the best of year list in many ways. Interesting. I bought a few books for people this year–some from my best of year list and some not. People don’t usually buy me books either but this year I did get a couple of really interesting titles.

    • December 26, 2014 9:11 pm

      Oh, I’ll be doing a best of too, Guy, but in early January – so you won’t escape that! In the meantime I thought this might be an interesting approach to end of year book discussions. You’re not going to tell us the interesting titles you received?

  8. December 26, 2014 7:20 pm

    Wonderful! I must say I haven’t given up on giving my older sons Patrick White novels (they still lie unread) but this year they received underwear! I gave my Dad a copy of Cate Kennedy’s last collection with a message from the author. I thought that was a coup. Plus I gave myself Candide which I’ve never read and am not likely to receive!

    • December 26, 2014 9:17 pm

      Hah Catherine. Love your Christmas giving story. Underwear always goes down a treat I’ve found. Hope your Dad likes Cate Kennedy’s collection, and that you enjoy Candide. I have read it, but a few decades ago. Have often thought I’d like to read it again in my more experienced advanced adulthood!

  9. December 27, 2014 2:54 am

    Such thoughtful book gifts both given and received! I hope you had a lovely Christmas!

    • December 27, 2014 8:21 am

      We did, Stefanie. I hope you and Bookman are having a lovely holiday period too.

  10. December 27, 2014 9:34 pm

    Hope your sister-in-law enjoys Unmade Lists (and thanks so much for giving it to her!). I think this is the first Christmas ever I’ve had no books – maybe it’s all the complaining on my blog about having too long a to-read list. But my mum left behind her just-finished copy of Barbara Hanrahan’s Scent of Eucalyptus, so maybe that counts. In return, I lent her Frank Moorhouse’s Grand Days. My dad got a copy of Bob Brown’s Optimism, which he seems to be enjoying, and my husband got Randall Munroe’s What If?, which I’ll probably read out loud to him (we like reading a little bit before bed). For my friends, Jenny Valentish’s Cherry Bomb, Yvette Walker’s Letters to the End of Love and Halldor Laxness’ Independent People.

    • December 27, 2014 10:21 pm

      Thanks Jane for playing along! I hope she does too. She was intrigued when she opened it. I mostly give her short stories because like me, she’s a fan, but she reads novels and non-fiction too. I’ve had Christmases like yours – and I don’t blame people because we do whinge a bit don’t we! I loved Scent of eucalyptus, so I’ll be interested to hear what you think. I guess you’d read Independent people. I really liked that book too – it’s one of those that has stuck with me long after reading it – and I’m pretty sure I gave it to Brother Gums a few years ago.

      I haven’t heard of What if?

  11. Allie permalink
    December 28, 2014 4:38 pm

    Christmas shopping would be so much more enjoyable if anyone in my family actually read books! (Apart from my husband – who definitely would’ve have become my husband if he didn’t read..)

    That said, I do sometimes benefit from their disinterest. This year I was re-gifted the 2014 Best Australian Essays, Poetry and Short Stories, complete with card from the original Thanks mum, it’s the thought that counts, eh? 😉

    • December 28, 2014 4:46 pm

      Oh Allie, you’ve made me smile. Sounds like another example of good regifting! You should find some good reading in there.

  12. annabelsmith permalink
    December 28, 2014 8:12 pm

    I love how books are such a big part of your giving and receiving, although I’m no familiar with many of the books you gave or received – except for Mothers Grimm – I’m hearing lots of good things about that.

    My husband bought me Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook – a beautiful illustrated book on the craft of writing speculative fiction, which I can’t wait to dive into. I bought my husband Graham Nash”s autobiography, my son The Adventure Time encyclopaedia, and my mum Joan London’s The Golden Age.

    Books are the best presents!

    • December 28, 2014 8:32 pm

      They sure are Annabel … sounds like you gave and received some good’s too. And, I must tell you, I’m off to Thredbo in just over a week!

  13. December 29, 2014 2:01 pm

    Fantastic Christmas post – thanks WG. And what an erudite family you are blessed with. Happy new year’s reading.

    • December 29, 2014 2:20 pm

      Thanks Michelle! I guess we know at least how to put on a good show of erudition! How you have a great year of reading (and other things too).

      • ian darling permalink
        December 29, 2014 9:22 pm

        Congratulations on some great books given and received. That book about Brian Epstein sounds fascinating.

        • December 30, 2014 12:28 am

          Thanks Ian … hopefully you’ll see a post on the Epstein book in the next month or so. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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