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December 7, 2009

Literature For Your Loved Ones: Holiday Book Buys

By Andrea Uptmor

munro.jpgThe Holiday Season is upon us, and if you are like me (and of course you are, that's why we're such good friends), not only do you hate saying "The Holiday Season is upon us," but you are feeling great trepidation at the thought of buying presents worthy of your loved ones.

Also, you have limited yourself to Amazon.com because mall crowds make you have major episodes of chest pain and depersonalization. So what are you going to do? You are going to buy them BOOKS, is what you're going to do.

Here's your Holiday Book-Shopping Guide for all of the special people in your life:

Your Mom - Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
Moms like the word "happiness." And you know how last month, when you gave your mom your new story to read, and she sighed and said, "Well I would have liked it if there was a sense of redemption in the end, like maybe the main character gives CPR on a dying boy to make up for her own lost children?" Munro does that all over the place in this book, and she does it thirty-five times more skillfully than you ever could.

*Also a good bet: The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama

Your Whiskey-Loving Father -Where I'm Calling From by Raymond Carver

If he loves fishing and smoking cigarettes as well, then you are going to hit the jackpot this year. This is arguably Carver's best collection of short stories. He covers all the stuff your dad likes--whiskey, cigarettes, fishing, cellulite, yard sales, vitamins, vacuums, smoking weed--and he does it with that special Carver balance of sensitivity and abruptness that make the rest of us writers pull out our hair and wonder how in the world a man could pack so much life into a single word.

*Also a good bet: The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Your College-Bound Brother - The World Without Us by Alan Weisman

This book is a long thought experiment that asks the question "WTF would happen to the planet if the humans disappeared, rapture-style?" It's full of fun questions like "Hey, man, guess how long it would take for Manhattan to sink?" Good conversation-starters for your brother and his new roommate when they are sharing the awkward post-unpacking silence. Plus it'll make him sound smart, which, as you have tried to tell him before, will impress the ladies.

*Also a good bet: Deer Hunting with Jesus by Joe Bageant

Your Weird Cousin Who Likes David Lynch Movies -Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

This is a slim novel, one you could ostensibly fold and tuck in your back pocket, but it's such a creeptastic story you might not want to keep it nearby. The story is about Lise, a wacked-out traveler who sort of endearingly reminds you of your weird friend, except Lise is on a mission to find the perfect man to murder her. (As a bonus gift, you could pair this with a DVD of the 1974 movie version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Andy Warhol. But that might ruin it.)

*Also a good bet: Genius and Heroin by Michael Largo

Your Poet Best Friend -The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker

Or really any friend you might have who keeps his beard long and twists it thoughtfully when he speaks. The professorial type. Baker's new novel is about a poet who is supposed to write the introduction to a forthcoming poetry anthology, but he only succeeds in procrastinating in very Nicholson Baker-type ways: by ruminating on his failed relationship, playing badminton, and developing a friendship with the kitchen mouse. If you have ever wanted to see your poet friend smile, watch him quietly as he reads this book.

*Also a good bet: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson