Do you know where your wrapping paper is?
We are now well into November, and besides being the last few weeks until the carts at the A.C. (Artful Carts) McClurg Bookstore go away for a while (as will the bookstore itself), it is Holiday Season: those two months that you swore back in January would not sneak up on you again. So the bookstore carts are being armed as your first line of defense.
The first weapon in the armory is the gift book. We have the book which will make the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list…whatever that is. I don’t know all the people in your family, of course. I may not even know you. Still, there may be someone on your list who absolutely NEEDS the scholarly study of John Donne, or the book of ghost stories from Gettysburg (left over from Halloween).
But the carts are also an excellent place for the Giftbook. Publishers bring us, whether you’ve noticed or not, books printed solely so that they may be given as gifts. The tradition goes well back into the early nineteenth century, when little collections of prose and verse and pretty pictures were published annually to help out people who didn’t know what to give Aunt Booney for Christmas. (In fact, that was the sort of thing Dickens had in mind when he wrote A Christmas Carol.) This helpful attitude continues today, from the slender “Your Birthday is January 13” volumes to the scented, slipcased books about Victorian life and lore (someone should just complete the cycle by publishing an annual giftbook reprinting some of the bits from Victorian annual giftbooks.) These can be a little difficult to sort by subject, so the carts make a wonderful option.
I have mentioned before that this is a season for setting out Cookbooks. We observe certain rules about these things. One generally pulls back on setting out the outdoor grilling and picnic cookbooks, and leans toward heartier fare: the soup cookbooks, the muffin cookbooks, the incredibly complex and exotic cookie cookbooks. AND, of course, all the pastry baking tomes and heavy dining volumes. I do NOT put out the low-cal, low-fat cookbooks at this time of year. I am aware that a person can eat hearty and still eat healthy; I just don’t want my customers to think about holding back. Anyhow, low-cal cookbooks seem to me more of a January thing. You can buy those when you’re still thinking about your resolutions. (The A.C. (Awesome Cookbooks) McClurg Bookstore will be closed in January, but you get eh idea.)
Similarly, this is a good time to put out Craft Books. Remember? You’re not going to meet the holidays unprepared this year. THIS is the year you’re going to knit your Cousin Joby a muffler. THIS is the year you’re going to take pipe cleaners and toilet paper tubes and make themed turkey napkin rings for your Thanksgiving dinner. At least, I hope this is the year you’re going to think about doing such things, and therefore buy a book off the carts. I usually start putting these out in July, giving you more time to prepare. Do you know how hard it is to find pipe cleaners for crafts in this new century?
Craft books for children, or Activity Books, are also a good bet. You’re going to have the children home for more than a week, or you’re going to have the grandchildren overnight. What could be more useful than a collection of coloring books, cut them up and build something books, go get a milk carton and some pipe cleaners from Grandpa and prove scientific principles books? You might want to check through them before you make the investment, and see what you’ll need to shell out for in crayons or pipe cleaners first, but the few moments of relative calm between snowball fights will make it worthwhile.
Sometimes, you will find a few travel books on the carts at this time of year as well. Some people spend their quiet moments during this period of frantic joy dreaming of other options. There are those who would settle simply for time in a place where there is no snow, while others, having washed the dishes from the turkey dinner, glued a leg back on the Rudolph who fell off the bookcase, played Scrabble with a six year-old, and sung carols along with the CD of Mitch Miller, want to read about a place where they have no holidays.
As long as you buy books from the carts, I am not here to criticize what ELSE you do with your holiday season. We wish you the very merriest of Black Fridays.