Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Best Christmas Presents

Excuse me.... do you suppose is it possible to extract yourself from that cacophonous swarm at the mall? Perhaps step over here and join me in the quiet?
There now. Stand for just a moment and watch the snowflakes fall. Yes, those are bells you hear in the distance. Nice, aren’t they? Here, have a cup of cocoa. Take a deep breath of winter air. Now.
Can you see it? Perhaps if you stand on tiptoe?

Far away from the bustling bump of the crowds, off by itself down a crooked cobblestoned lane, its windows throwing golden squares of light onto the frozen sidewalk. There it sits. The bookshop of your dreams. It is where the best Christmas presents can always be found - worlds of wonder and imagination bound up tight between the covers of books. Is there anything more pleasurable than bookshop shopping? A cold afternoon spent picking out volumes to perfectly suit those lucky few on your list. The traveler, the gardener, the cook or the child. The dreamer, the knitter, the optimist or the crank. There are treasures here for everyone, and what pure delight it is to search for them.

I am known as someone who often gives books for Christmas. What other gift offers so much and lasts so long? Long after the sweater has frayed, the toy is broken, and gravy stains the tie, a magical world still exists intact inside a book. Whether you choose to hunt for that fantastical shop in person, or simply browse online in your pajamas at midnight, I can empirically recommend bookshops to be the most sublime places to finish your Christmas list!

Here are some of my ideas for this year.....

Some of my favourite books
to give, or receive,
are exquisite copies
of the classics.
One of the best places
to find these is at
The Folio Society.
If you don't wish to join,
their books can often be
found at
Gorgeously illustrated
and slipcased,
these are treasures indeed.

Just look at these recent editions of Possession by A. S. Byatt and
Remains of the Day by
Kazuo Ishiguro.

Every year there are scores of new cookbooks released and I have to confess, I am often tempted by each and every one. Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson, Dorie Greenspan. I often read their cookbooks in bed like novels, with a grocery list at the ready. The one that has captured my fancy this year is Sophie Dahl's
Voluptuous Delights. Unfortunately, it is not yet released in the states, but you can order it from

Since I discovered knitting last year, it has become a serious passion of mine. I can think of few things more satisfying that sitting in front of the fire with a furry dog on either side of me, a ball of incredibly beautiful yarn in my lap, knitting needles clicking away. Perhaps you or someone you know shares this passion. If so, here's a lovely book they are certain to appreciate.
It is
Knitting Nature, by Norah Gaughan.


For the Anglophile, the decorator, or the lover of beauty on your list, here is a must-have! In fact, it is sitting squarely atop my own letter to Santa. Culled from the pages of Country Life, it is a fat, magnificent pudding of a book!
The English Country House by Mary Miers.


Has there ever been a better book to tweak and hone the imagination of a child?
Here is a brand new edition of
Alice In Wonderland
with amazingly inspired illustrations by the genius Robert Ingpen.
I am afraid it is on my list as well!

One of the most troubling facts to me today is the devastating effect our changing climate is having on the magnificent, magical polar bear. It breaks my heart and makes me angry. Perhaps the politicians who choose to deny the reality of global warming should have a look at this amazing new book by Paul Nicklen, just to see what wonders are at stake.
The book is entitled
Polar Obsession and it is a wonder itself.


As the last book shows, the glorious beauty of nature is staggering. So much to be grateful for and so much for us, as the supposedly wiser species, to protect.
A Shadow Falls, the new book by photographer extraordinaire, Nick Brandt, is jaw-dropping grandeur page after page.

This past year, I have revisited the genius of Jane Austen through a delightful book club. We read Miss Austen's entire canon and all of us, I believe, realized anew what a sublimely wise writer she was. We are not alone in that realization however, and here is a book that proves it.
A Truth Universally Acknowledged is a delightful, and insightful, collection of essays from eight-eighty well known authors, all on the subject of Jane Austen. Fun!


I loved so many books as a child, but few better than
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater. Happily, there is a new hardcover edition of this book!
Trust me, it is a treat! For any child, whether they happen to love penguins or not.


One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."
Has there ever been a more splendid collection of words than those of Dylan Thomas in
A Child's Christmas in Wales
? Poetry, prose, dream, reality - it is truly heartspeak, calling forth memory and sprinkling pure gold over one's soul. Normally, I would recommend the written word over the recorded one any day, but this version of Child's Christmas read by Mr. Thomas himself is enchanting. To hear the poet's own words in his own tongue is magic, and an experience worthy of becoming a Christmas Eve tradition.

And finally... A GIVEAWAY!!.
I am always mesmerized by the incredible pop-up books by artist Robert Sabuda. I give them away, I buy them for myself. For this Christmas post celebrating the wonder of books, I can think of no better book to have as a giveaway than Mr. Sabuda's version of
The Chronicles of Narnia.

This is truly a wonderful creation and would make the perfect gift, even for yourself.
Just leave a comment here on this post and include a book recommendation of your own and you are entered to win! Edward will help me draw a winner on
Monday night at midnight!
Good luck to everyone and I so look forward to reading your book suggestions!
Happy Bookshop Shopping to All!!
12.08.09, 12:15am........I asked The Songwriter to pick a number between 1 and 45.... which was the number of comments received.... and he said..."17!"
So... Congratulations to PVE!! You have won the Sabuda pop-up book!!
I hope you enjoy it!!


  1. I just finished "Our Story Begins" by Tobias Wolff. Short stories. Loved it

  2. After reading your beautiful description, I'm hitting the bookstore. And having some cocoa now.

  3. Stopping by from Oh My Goddess; congrats on POTW!
    Lovely blog you have here; I grabbed the English Country House a few years back at yard sale, along with The English Country Garden - beautiful, both books!

  4. Books, for sure, for everyone, for every occasion. Books to dream with,to discover the world with, to drool over. Thanks for the rest and the inspiration you provide.

  5. no doubt about it, books are the best presents!

    i know several knitting ladies, only they bask in the sun while clicking their knitting needles.

  6. Good choises..
    Alice would be on my wishlist too!
    Narnia I have already! amazing story
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  7. I do so love a good post about BOOKS! Thank you for the wonderful suggestions...I've made a list :>]] I'm especially drawn to the essays on Jane Austen - sounds like a most perfect read for in front of a glowing fire...

  8. these are lovely book suggestions! thanks for sharing!

  9. Pamela, I, too, prefer giving books at Christmas. I usually go for big, glossy, coffee table books because I know that for many they are an extravagance.
    Love your words, and am looking forward to the day your own book comes out. Be it design or prose, it will enchant me, I know.

  10. Oooh, please enter me for the draw! I love the Narnia books, and have not heard of this one.

    You have a lovely collection of books there - aside from the Narnia one, the English Country House would be my favourite.

    (Do you like the paintings of English Gardens by painters such as George Samuel Elgood, and Beatrice Parsons? I adore them).

  11. Oohhhhhhh, I remember Mr. Popper's Penguins!!! Thanks for reminding me!

    I wish we had snowflakes where I live.

  12. I love bookshop browsing, could do it for hours :)
    I recommend 'The amazing story of Adolphus tips' by the wonderful Michael Morpurgo and of course War horse by him too. Brilliant books for youngsters and I adored them too :)

  13. Perfect, a couple I didn't know.

    Off to order.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  14. Oh, I so agree , there is nothing as fulfilling or as lasting as a book, I buy so many, they enrich our lives! suzie. xxx

  15. I only recently heard about A.S. Byatt when she was interviewed by Diane Rehm. I was very impressed.

  16. A perennial favorite - The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley - is my favorite telling of the Arthurian legends, told from the perspective of the female characters.

    My favorite bookshop(s): Carmichael's, Louisville's oldest indi bookshop -

    and: Leakey's Bookshop, Church Street, Inverness, Scotland -

    I can spend many happy hours surrounded by books.


    p.s. Thanks for stopping by my blog; after reading your post, "Wind Advisory," I'm certain we're kindred spirits!

  17. I love Le petit Prince - my sons are reading it now.
    Books are always a wonderful gift! I would love to win...

  18. Oh, so dreamy, I love bookstores, everywhere, they are my second home and I love them all over the world. There is a sweet little bookstore in Greenwich, CT I love to visit, apart from my 'own' Barnes & Noble... Or Amazon!
    Great reads:
    Steve Augarde's trilogy: The Various, Celandine and Winter wood.
    In the David Fickling Books edition!

  19. I absolutely love The Folio Society and I bought my copy of the Anton Checkhov´s complete short stories from them.
    My book recommendation is My soul to Keep by Tananarive Due, an African-American writer. What´s special about this novel is her way to cover so many subjects (love, erotism, jazz history, Ethiopian sects, family life and science-fiction among other things!) in such a beautiful engaging fashion. You end up caring about what happens to the characters and it creates a visual image on your mind of what they look like, their voices etc. Highly recommended.
    The Chronicles of Narnia is one of my favorite childhood books. Good luck to all participants :) and greetings to you from Spain.

  20. I'm dying to learn how to knit or at least crochet. It looks so calming!

  21. I've always loved book reports! Thanks for all the recommendations. If you haven't read Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros please give it a try. Better yet, this is one to listen to. The author reads the story herself and her voice adds even more layers of enjoyment to the story.

  22. Thank you so much for stopping by to visit : ) Wow, I do love your latest blog. You offer so much to each one you bring us.
    I just want to say that I too love cook books. Have you heard of Tessa Kiros? My favourite cook book of Tessas is Falling Cloudberries and is a feast for the eyes as well as insightful to her multicultural heritage.

  23. Hi guys, what a fabulous post. So much to desire!
    Luckily, presciently, whateverly, I joined the Folio Society whilst at University, so have had four of their books a year for ... quite a number of years now!

    My recommendation would be anything by Barefoot Books, if you haven't come across them before. A lovely publisher of children's books: currently reading "The Adventures of Odysseus" with my children - a pleasure. Illustrations by Christina Balit.

    Please put me in the draw! What a prize!

  24. Oh have given away my special book website....abe books. Isn't it just wonderful. I often buy their vintage books, some, just for their beautiful covers and illustrations...... and, unless they are first editions or rare books, they are very reasonable and they look so lovely just scattered around the house.
    You have given a wonderful selection here, many of which, I own.
    Thank you for a delightful post and much inspiration for Christmas presents. XXXX

  25. I love your description of the quaint bookshop. I loved the little shop in You've Got Mail.
    You have a wonderful list here-many I have on my list. I know of a sweet little girl and boy here that would enjoy adding this to their story-time. Books are the very best gifts.

  26. You are an enchantress...beautiful words, lovely ideas.

  27. Hello P&E,

    For me, books with an historical theme and large coffee table books full of glorious photographs are always welcome. You have some excellent suggestions here. I hope Santa brings at least one of those that are on your own list.

  28. Books beautiful books! The best christmas gift I could ever receive. I love the picture in my mind of your perfect bookshop.

  29. What a delightful post, Pamela. Oddly enough, I've just been doing my own Christmas shopping today, and almost all of my presents have been carefully chosen books. Two of the volumes I've chosen are a From Me To You journal ( which I bought for my son to give to his grandmother, so she can fill it in and tell him about the story of her own life, and a book about the English language called "Why does U always follow Q" for my other half to give to me. That's the trouble with book shopping - I always end up spotting something I just have to have. I'm sure the recipients of your gifts will be absolutely delighted to have something so lovely.

  30. Books are my favorite to give and receive at Christmas, no doubt about it. If you've not read the three mysteries by Stieg Larsson, they come very highly recommended by me. Incredible characters and you can't go wrong with a setting in Sweden.

  31. What a beautiful post Pamela.
    Giving and receiving books has to be one of the best gifts of all.
    As a small child every year we would get an Annual for Christmas, I just loved this and would enjoy every page I read.
    I am a knitter too, something relaxing to sit down and hear the click, clack of the needles.
    Lovely selection of books and Alice, is one I have always enjoyed
    so will look out for this new book.
    Thank you.

    Happy weekend

  32. I miss my trips to the bookstore. I'm addicted to kindle these days. :( I know. I know.

  33. The temptation of winning Narnia (one of my all-time favorite reads!) is too much for me; I join the ranks of your many admirers in my first posting. We all know the tale of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, but when was the last time you read this wonderful story? It's a gem.

  34. Brilliant choices Pamela...books are always number one on my gift list, xv.

  35. Great selection of books! I love giving and receiving books! I'm currently reading Underworld by Don de Lillo and what a magnificent book it is.

  36. Thank you for sharing some of your favorite books. I think books are treasures and some of the most fun I have had is looking for books in second hand book stores. Once, while in Colonial Williamsburg I meandered
    into this second hand bookstore and found a book I still treasure today.
    It is an autographed book by Mary Emmerling called, Collecting American Country.

  37. Oh Joy...I share many of your favorites!

    I have half the sky on my wish list...need a compelling read.

  38. Those are some fantastic choices and I so agree... there is nothing better than shopping for books... unless it's curling up by the fire and reading said books!

    My number one choice and recommendation for a book is a little Canadian gem called Rockbound by Frank Parker Day. A story with a true happy ending... and who doesn't need a happy ending now a days.

    Thanks for the well wishes about my little Porky. I'm still heart broken, but words like yours and others help with the healing process. Only true animal lovers know how it feels.

    All the best,

  39. a fabulous list and I see a few of my favs - books for my grandchildren has always been a Christmas must and they are all readers - what a joy :)

  40. What a wonderful list of books I see two of my favourites at the beginning and the Folio Society copies look so attractive. Bookshops are indeed magical places:)

  41. Books are very special to me also.. but they all can't be believed. Only the Bible is true.
    the global warming is the biggest hoax but $ maker for the likes of Al Gore. Beware the prophet that profits.

  42. Oh Pam what a wonderful ideas! For everyone a suitable present! I go for the book The English Country House!
    Thank you so much for sharing!


  43. Wonderful selections! I am a book giver as well. Thank you for the Folio Society link-a favorite from now on.

    And here is my book selection:

    "Reading Women" by Stefan Bollmann

    A wonderful book which captures the intimacy and tranquility of reading. It is full of beautiful paintings and photographs of women reading through the ages, and a wonderful commentary on history and relationship of women and books.

  44. What a fantastic list!! Such great classics.

  45. I bought the book Living on the Earth by Alicia Bay Laurel, for a couple of dear friends this Christmas. Loved your list.
    I can remember getting Black Beauty for Christmas from my aunt as a teenager.

  46. woo woo I won! Off to e-mail you my address for shipping....wee! I am dancing with delight!

  47. wonderful ideas- I love to give books too- and adore shopping for them. Holding their jackets, opening the pages without hurting the spine. A large book shop contains more treasure than any jewellery store. We have very similar taste- and I'm getting a truth universally acknowledged for some friends I think- great find.

    Oh and the Sophie Dahl book is delicious isn't it. She looks too small to eat all that but nevermind!

  48. The books look wonderful - but it is the faces of the children in the painting that capture my eye and my imagination. I recently took a sculpting class, and the teacher declared that he does not sculpt children who are under the age of 8 as they end up looking like parodies of children. I think it is very hard to capture the innocence of a child in any kind of medium - art or sculpture in particular - which is why I marvel at artists who are perfectly able to capture the look of a child (Cassatt and Sargent were masters).

  49. I always give books for Xmas, too. The trouble is, in so many cases, the books I buy for others are ones that I want for myself! I had to buy a copy of Monty Don's The Ivington Diaries for my mother-in-law (and for myself) and the copy of Diana Athill's Life Class that I bought for my mother is calling to me, too.

    I'm just greedy, I guess, because I want all of these, too. Thanks for the tip about The Folio Society and I definitely need The English Country House. I've never noticed that book about Jane Austen in the JA House bookstore. I shall look for it, as it looks like something they should be stocking!

    p.s. Your bookstore is much more relaxing and gorgeous than our Borders . . . which is, so sadly, going out of sale.

  50. I love books.
    I have a deep memory of a book I 'read' with my cousin when I was vey little. I wish I could find it ..something about some bears like koalas on an island..thats it! I don't think I'll ever find it.


  51. I concur on Remains of the Day. Wish I was receiving it for the first time with that cover.

    I think Conan Doyle's The Lost World would make a great present.

  52. Oh, I was a member of The Folio Society when I was a student. Perhaps I should join again - the books are beautiful.

    Do you know 'A Country Child', by Alison Uttley? One of my favourite Christmas reads.


I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at Thank you for reading!