When your family culture is deeply centered around books you naturally center a lot of your Christmas gift-giving around books as well. (It also comes in quite handy for achieving this thing we call home education.) Ever since our children were little we have been adding to our family library by gifting each person with a stack of books for Christmas. I can still remember those early years when each child's pile consisted entirely of lovely picture books. Most of the kids are grown but our reading and book gifting habits continue. Some years it's fewer books, some years it's more substantial stacks; this year ended up being the latter. :-)
We do a fair bit of book buying throughout the year, particularly in the months before Christmas. Some titles are new, some are special finds from used book stores or online sellers, and some are from library book sales or even the thrift store (such bargains!). As you can see, each person has a wide variety of interests and books on curious subjects are always welcome. If one is looking for a small, inexpensive, perhaps humorous or quirky gift for a stocking-stuffer quite likely one can find a book to fit the bill. And we all tend to operate on the principle that an old book is always better than a new book.
So here is this year's collection gifted between this family of nine bibliophiles...
If you cannot read all your books, at any rate handle, or as it were, fondle them- peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on their shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that if you do not know what is in them, you at least know where they are. Let them be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. - Winston Churchill
Starting off with my husband's pile- He's done a lot of WWII reading this past year so I was happy to have found him a few more titles along those lines. World War II in Their Own Words, An Oral History of Pennsylvania's Veterans is a collection of stories told by the veterans themselves, some of whom we have met. It is always good to read history straight from those who lived it, so this should surely be a good read. He read Eisenhower's own memoir, Crusade in Europe, last year so when I found Letters to Mamie at a book sale I thought it might be a fun read. Beyond Band of Brothers is Dick Winters' own memoir. Unbroken was another book sale find. I don't normally go for popular or NYT bestsellers but it was inexpensive (dirt cheap), and some veterans we know said it was pretty good, so I thought I'd give it a try. The above marvelous quote about books is from The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill, a perfect stocking-stuffer for one who has read all of Churchill's six volumes on the war. He also received the wonderful big hardcover Peanuts Treasury from Anna, and most everyone in the family has had their turn reading through it all. She also gave him A Living Treasure, a beautiful coffee-table style book with seasonal photographs of Arlington National Cemetery. Rounding out his collection of books he also got Light of the World from Jonathan, as he greatly enjoys reading Pope Benedict XVI and I gave him God or Nothing by Cardinal Sarah which several of us are looking forward to reading. (House rules are that the owner always gets to read a new book first, however long that takes. Within reason.)
My pile is much smaller but I did get some goodies. My husband gave a few encyclicals for stocking-stuffers and I got Benedict XIV's Deus Caritas Est. My other books are all from Anna, who seems to enjoy buying books almost as much as I do. She found me a lovely copy of John Toland's Battle: The Story of the Bulge. I had read the excellent kids' Landmark version, (also by Toland) last January in preparation for the reenactment we attended and had wanted to read the full version, so I was very happy to get an elusive vintage hardcover copy from Anna. She also gave me Return to Thrush Green for my collection. (Some of Miss Read is very good, and some definitely veers more towards comfort-twaddle, but she is always entertaining and sometimes just what is needed for a light read.) Best of all Anna gifted me with a beautiful hardcover vintage copy of Sigrid Undset's Master of Hestviken, along with a matching Kristin Lavransdatter! I read Kristin in the fall and truly loved it, and am much looking forward to reading Master of Hestviken. (Thank you, Anna.)
Jonathan received quite the variety. He got Spe Salvi by Benedict XIV in his stocking, along with a neat little vintage book expounding on the Creed and Confiteor. The Tolkien Quiz Book was in his stocking as well but turned out to be full of really obscure trivia. I also gave him the little vintage books on composers from the New York Philharmonic Symphony Society - Wagner and His Music Dramas, Schubert and His Work, Tschaikowsky and His Orchestral Music and Johann Sebastian Bach. Other books include a vintage hardcover (the hidden grey book) of the classic Fulton Sheen's Life of Christ, Pennsylvania's Best: The Story of Pennsylvania's Contribution to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness for Students of History, Librarians, Armchair Travelers and Everyone who is proud to be Associated in any way with Pennsylvania (how could I resist a title like that?), and Dante's Purgatorio (I mistakenly thought he didn't have a copy, but he is pleased to have this edition with parallel Italian and English). There's also a 1928 edition of Pilgrim's Progress, just in case someone wants to read the book everyone in books reads, a Christmas carol book that turned out to be not so great, and The Illustrated History of Helicopters as watching military helicopters is a bit of a thing in my household. I also gave him a lovely vintage hardcover of the Pulitzer Prize winning Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A life of Christopher Columbus (not pictured, as he's currently reading it). Anna also gave him the fantastic little Bugle Signals, Calls and Marches from MCMXVI (!) as he sometimes plays calls for us on an old trumpet we have. Another fun little find was Mend Your Speech, as Jonathan has some interest in linguistics and vintage books on speech are always a hoot. A taste:
nice. A much-abused word that originally meant "foolish," "simple," "ignorant." Then it came to mean "particular," "fastidious," "finical," "foolishly hard to please." Now it has acquired the sense of "agreeable," "dainty," "pleasing," or "refined," and is applied indiscriminately to a pie, a sermon, a young man - in fact, to almost everything.
(This rather cracked us up as it called to mind the dear priest who once told us "nice" is a Greek word that means "stupid.")
On to Josiah's goodies. He has long enjoyed reading about divers skills thus we have Chapman's Piloting, Seamanship and Small Boat Handling from his brother (a nice 1943 edition formerly owned by a member of the USCG), Making Useful Things of Wood, and How to Develop, Print and Enlarge Pictures from his sister. His brother also gave him The Worse-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, a delightfully entertaining book full of unusual but potentially life-saving skills that you will quite likely (and hopefully) never need to use: escaping from quicksand, fending off sharks, identifying a bomb, wrestling an alligator - that sort of thing. The Big Trick and Puzzle Book from 1929 is a nod to Josiah's fondness for vintage kids' books of this kind. Letters to Lanah is a collection of letters written by a drafted Union soldier to his wife and family members and published by the keeper of those letters. War Stories: A collection of 150 little known human interest stories of the campaign and battle of Gettysburg and Inside Lincoln's Army: The Diary of Marsena Rudolph Patrick, Provost Marshal General, Army of the Potomac round out his gifts of first-person Civil War accounts. Also pictured is Airplane Boys on the Border Line because a little vintage boys' fiction is always fun, and a nifty little Catholic Prayer Book for the Army and Navy from 1917 because a little vintage prayer book is always good.
Josiah received Lilith, a George MacDonald title that we didn't have, from his brother and I gave him Magic City, an E. Nesbit I found that we didn't have. It's always fun to find that there are yet more books by favorite authors that we haven't actually read yet. Josiah is our big Dickens fan, thus Anna was delighted to gift him with a really old copy of David Copperfield she found, apparently from around 1867 or so (old enough to not have a publishing date). (Also, the only Copperfields we previously had in the house were abridged, gasp.) Josiah notes that the collection of Dickens Christmas stories that snuck into the picture was not a gift this year - it just happened to be out with his new books as he was reading it. He's always enjoyed tall tales so I gave him Ol' Paul the Mighty Logger, and Military Small Arms: 300 Years of Soldiers' Firearms is an interesting reference book for all. He also received Caritas in Veritate in his stocking from Pa, and I gave him Mother of the Savior and Our Interior Life, highly recommended by our priest. (You have to love a guy you can give Glenn Rounds and Garrigou-Lagrange to at the same time, no?)
On to Lydia's loot, starting with the picture books: King of the Birds is full of curious illustrations of all sorts of interesting birds. Silent Observer is the unique memoir of a deaf girl in 19th century Nova Scotia; she grew up to become an artist and the book is illustrated with her own lovely watercolors. Naughty Nancy was a perfect little stocking stuffer because John S. Goodall! And mice! Delightful. Her sister also gave her Black Beauty illustrated with beautiful paintings by Lucy Kemp Welch (it's not this exact edition, but with the same illustrator). Also with pictures is Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens fabulously illustrated by Arthur Rackham. In the Civil War department, a favorite time period of hers, she received Who Comes with Cannons, a Patricia Beatty we somehow never had, Undying Glory: The Story of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, and I gave her Muddy Road to Glory by Stephen Meader, a favorite historical fiction author. I like to collect vintage hardbacks of his books. In the scientific department she got Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe and The Insect World of Jean Henri Fabre to add to our Fabre collection. She also received The Fireside Book of Dog Stories from me and A Dog for Davie's Hill from Anna. Lydia is also fond of western and pioneer stories, thus I gave her A Lantern in her Hand and No Life for a Lady. Being a girl of diverse interests she also was happy to receive Modern Fighting Helicopters.
Here we have Anna's gifts. The Long Road to Gettysburg by Jim Murphy is one I remember borrowing from the library when the boys were little and Abraham Lincoln From His On Words and Contemporary Accounts. Cowboys of the Wild West is by the favorite Russell Freedman. A Treasury of Western Folklore is a huge collection of 'Stories, Legends, Tall Tales, Traditions, Ballads and Songs of the People of the Great Plains and Far West.' Also present is a vintage 1895 Stories of Great Americans filled with marvelous little stories of all sorts of interesting folks and terrific old illustrations. The Key to the Constitution of the United States is a neat little book with the text of the Constitution and Amendments along with explanatory commentary and illustrations all done in that nifty 1940 style. Midshipman Lee (1938) is a vintage boys' book about Navy life. The Cave by the Beech Fork, A Story of Kentucky 1815 by Fr. Henry Spalding has recently been reprinted by St. Augustine's Academy Press but I found a hardcover from 1901. ;-) I am really looking forward to reading Toward Morning:A Story of the Hungarian Freedom Fighters a story set during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956, as told by favorite author Alta Halverson Seymour. Told Under the Christmas Tree is a lovely vintage 1941 anthology of tales. Tales Told in Holland is a delightful collection of poetry and prose beautifully illustrated by Maud and Misha Petersham, copyright 1926. A first edition 1930 hardcover of Mr. Currier and Mr. Ives is self-described as 'A sparkling commentary on American life and manners during the most colorful period of our history, magnificently illustrated.' It's one of those large format books with heavy cream paper, interspersed with full page illustrations.
Finally, as requested, Anna received a set of twenty-seven volumes of the Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Encyclopedia from 1931 (actually, two of them are from 1937, she wanted you to know). She had her eyes on these in the book shop for quite some time, and seeing how it was Christmas and there was a sale... (I can't look at them without thinking of James Herriot that time his wife sent him to market, hee.)
Now for Mary Rose! As fond as she is of the WWII era she is by no means a one trick pony, thus a diverse collection of books for her as well. She is actually writing a novel about a WWI soldier, so we have some goodies here along those lines. Aunt Jane's Nieces in the Red Cross was a very interesting bookshop find about which I knew little when I picked it up. Turns out Edith Van Dyne is a pseudonym of L. Frank Baum, and he wrote the book in 1915, later revising it to reflect the US involvement in the war. Fascinating. History of the World War: An Authentic Narrative of the World's Greatest War is a comprehensive volume from 1918, while The Hundred Days Offensive is a modern 'snapshot' book with lots of photographs. She also got Randy Starr After an Air Prize and Randy Starr Leading the Air Circus, a series from the thirties that falls into the category we fondly refer to as whiz-bang vintage twaddle. Along similar lines we have Sally Scott of the Waves with a fabulous dust cover. The Tangled Skein, post WWII period fiction, and When the Dikes Broke, set during the 1953 Holland flood, are both by Alta Halverson Seymour. To Far Places: The Story of Francix X. Ford is by Eva K. Betz and John Neumann, The Children's Bishop is a vintage Vision Book by Elizabeth Odell Sheeham. Poems of Patriotism is a lovely vintage book Anna found for her sister. She also received They Loved to Laugh and Fear in the Forest, a couple of Bethlehem Books we didn't have.
Eliza received a nice mix of picture books and books about her favorite subject - American history. The Goat Lady tells of a dear eccentric elderly lady who keeps goats, and the neighbors who befriend her. When John & Caroline Lived in the White House is an intimate look at what the children's daily lives were like during the time their father was in office, as well as a glimpse of how the events surrounding the assassination affected them. The White House: An Historic Guide is another book from that era, commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy as a guidebook for visitors to her home and originally intended for the children but grew to "a book that could be of profit to adults and scholars too." I quite agree with Jackie as she notes, "it never hurts a child to read something that may be above his head" and Eliza is quite delighted with this book filled with photos and descriptions of that famous home. Eliza loves to read biographies of her favorite characters and thus she was very happy to receive America's Robert E. Lee by Henry Steele Commager and illustrated by Lyn Ward (yay), the Landmark Thomas Jefferson, Father of Democracy, Meet George Washington, Meet Thomas Jefferson, The Story of Abraham Lincoln, and Clara Barton. These old treasures are just the sort of living books we like for studying history; Eliza has already read them all and likes to tell us about them. I couldn't resist a Dover Abraham Lincoln Coloring Book. The Golden Book of America is another nice tome from a bygone era, filled with pictures and all sorts of curiosities. I've already mentioned Lincoln and His Boys by the terrific combination of Rosemary Wells and P.J. Lynch. Finally, a couple of airplane books: Military Planes and the vintage 1938 Airplanes in Action: Planes of the Navy, the Army, the Coast Guard, and Commercial Airlines, illustrated with Official Pictures (!). Oh and The Fireside Book of Folk Songs because Eliza loves to sing and it's wonderful.
Last but not least we have Kateri's new books. I was happy to give her her own copies of All-of-a-Kind Family and More All-of-a-Kind Family, classics that her big sisters enjoyed years ago. (I had forgotten that More isn't actually second in the series; I'd like to find hardcovers of Uptown and Downtown for Kateri as well.) Set in New York City during the early twentieth century, these tales of immigrant family life are delightful. She also received Five Little Peppers Midway, next in that old fashioned series. Anna gave her In American Vineyards: Religious Orders in the United States, an old Vision book, and Our Amazing Birds. One Hundred Best Loved Poems for Boys and Girls is a dear little book from 1930 and I can never resist vintage children's poetry books. The big oversized Gallery of North American Game has beautiful full color plates of all the animals along with descriptive text. Speaking of books bought for the illustrations, she also received East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon; I haven't read it yet but it's P.J.Lynch. Another folk tale book is the illustrated Wonderful Adventures of Nils. We've had the hardcover text version for years and so were surprised and intrigued to find this illustrated version at a book sale; it's done in real photographs showing the locations of Nils' travels for a unique version of the book. Kateri also got Legends and Stories of Italy, which I hope to read aloud, and a wee vintage picture book of Saint Therese, one of the old 'First Books for Little Catholics' series.
A peek at St. Therese, the poetry book, and the picture book of Nils in his red cap.
Here are two more I forgot to photograph as Kateri keeps them on the shelf with her purse to take to daily Mass and Holy Hour. The Sacred Art Series, Gospels of Luke and John is a gorgeous book featuring the gospel texts generously interspersed with the finest classic religious artwork to go along with the stories. It's a very beautiful book, with gilded edges and a ribbon marker, and makes for lovely as well as meditative Bible reading for young and old. We also gave her Welcome: Holy Communion Before and After by Mother Mary Loyola; the fact that it is already dog-eared tells all.
Bonus: I guess I was on a bit of an Alta Halverson Seymour binge as I also gifted the family with these three in her Christmas Around the World series. I read A Grandma for Christmas aloud during one teatime and it was enjoyed by all, and we're looking forward to Kaatje and the Christmas Compass and The Top o' Christmas Morning. Tales like this of life in simpler times in faraway places are always a delight.
Thus endeth this colossal post of our Christmas book gifting. I reckon if you've read this far you must really like books too! Nice to meet you. ;-)