Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just How Do You Buy Books as a Gift for Someone?

Like many families, mine does a Christmas gift exchange where each of draws the name of another family member. This year I drew my cousin John. Now John is the youngest of our 13 cousins and even though he’s now in his upper-20s, I still know him as that little annoying kid of a cousin from podunk Oklahoma. Never mind that he’s grown into a man with multiple piercings, a genius IQ, and a college degree who’s spent the last few years hanging out in Japan. Since I haven’t really spent much time around him in over 10 years I don’t know John as an adult. So, just what kind of gift am I to give him?

My family is made up of a bunch of readers. Nearly all of us read a lot and many within the SFF genre (this is where I was first introduced to the Wheel of Time). So books are the obvious gift. But, what books? A gift card is certainly the easy way out – my time is limited and valuable and it sure is easy to allow John to pick out his own gift (and I get to avoid lines at the post office). While practical, a gift card is boring and unexciting, though it still remains my default mode. My wife suggested that I actually buy him a couple of actual books – what a novel idea.

After thinking on it, I became quite excited by the idea. After all, I’m a big important blogger, of course I know what books would make good gifts. But I really don’t know John well – he’s all growed up now. So, just what books would I get a single, highly intelligent young man who (hopefully) enjoys SFF fiction but very likely falls on the eclectic side?

I decided to stick with fantasy (it’s what I know best), but I went with books that tend to be non-traditional, intelligent (even literary), and a bit dark and serious while maintaining an entertaining feel. Or at least that’s what I started with. In the end, I picked these three:

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (Book Depository, Powell’s Books, Indiebound)

I sure hope John likes them.

So, how do you think I did?


Woodge said...

I put down American Gods half-read (although I've enjoyed several other Neil Gaiman books).

Perdido Street Station is one of my all-time favorites (along with The Scar).

Never read Murakami.

The Evil Hat said...

I think that John's going to be pretty damn happy. Those are all excellent - and very intelligent - books.

Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom) said...

Gaiman will be all you need, I reckon :) Excellent choice of books, he'll be damn happy this Christmas, and if he's not, I know a certain fantasy addict who'll benefit from them ;)

Brenda said...

Out of those, the only one I've read is Perdido Street Station, but as I was reading the portion of your post before you listed the books, that's the first one that came to mind.

Neth said...


I was only mildy impressed with American Gods, but I strongly suspect that if I re-read it I'd like it much better.

I really enjoyed Kafka on the Shore by Murakami. I haven't read any others by him. I'd of got Kafka, but the store didn't have a copy and I've heard good things about Hard-Boiled Wonderland.

I had hoped to buy something by more an up and coming author rather than bigger names, but it was tough since I didn't want series and I was going for the non-traditional feel.

Nick said...

A pretty decent selection, Ken.

I would've probably gone for something a little different, but I'd be exceedingly happy to receive such a bundle nonetheless.

Personal suggestions would've included:

Michal Ajvaz, The Golden Age
Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
Zoran Živković, The Library

JamesY said...

I appreciate the angst as buying books as presents can be fraught with pitfalls, even if you read the same genre. I think you've made a good selection, although I must try something by Haruki Murakami which I have been saying for ages.

Fantasy authors books I often select for presents include Joe Abercrombie, R Scott Bakker, Steven Erikson and Scott Lynch.

Carl V. said...

I think you did great. I haven't read the Mieville, but have heard good things. I consider American Gods to be a brilliant and interesting novel and I imagine he'll find it entertaining. I just read Hard-boiled Wonderland a few months past and thought it was fantastic. I think you picked three novels that have a degree of complexity that will challenge him but also have the page-turning pace of less complex novels. Well done!

Jon Sprunk said...

You're braver than I am, Neth. I typically give gift cards to local bookstores instead of actually picking out books.

But excellent choices.


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