Printed from:

Welcome to Columbia Magazine  

Tom Chaney: Books at Christmas

Of Writers and their Books, Books at Christmas is a plea for giving books for Christmas or any occasion. This column first appeared 18 December 2005
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: A Mirror Up to Life

By Tom Chaney

Books at Christmas

When I think of the presents of Christmases past, I mostly remember the books. Oh! There were the other presents such as the Lionel train set that ran on a figure-eight track. It was special. But there were always books. And they were always exciting.

For years a book meant that parents and grandparents would read to me. I loved that. Visualizing the events in a book through the voice of my mother or grandmother, and sometimes my grandfather, was a better picture than we would ever see on television. One year someone gave Grandfather a set of McGuffey's Readers. I can yet recall his voice reading us stories from those books from his youth.

And as I began to read for myself, I remember with what anticipation I unwrapped the latest Hardy Boys mystery. A friend and I always were given Hardy Boys for Christmas. We read them quickly; then swapped. I suspect our mothers checked with each other so as to alert Santa Claus not to duplicate Hardy Boys on Yancey Avenue. Some years ago I found an old box from the 1940's. Sure enough, there was a Hardy Boys book with my friend's name on the fly leaf.

One year an aunt who lived far away sent me a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Inside the front cover was the injunction, "To be read only by candlelight on a stormy night." As fine as they have been, no production at Kentucky Repertory Theatre comes close to matching the horrors of the pictures in my mind from reading that book.

Remembering the pleasure I got from such Christmas books, I began to buy books for my nieces from their earliest Christmases. My philosophy was that, while they might not appreciate a particular title at the time, perhaps one of them might pick up one of those books later and enjoy it. I learned this was so, just recently.

All of this brings me to suggest some Christmas gift ideas in the realm of books. Over the past month, I have written here about new Kentucky books that can give extended pleasure. I think mostly of Wade Hall's The Kentucky Anthology or Klass' Mammoth Cave National Park: Reflections.

Why must the books be new? A signed edition of a recent or older book makes a fine gift.

Modern first editions of recent novels, whether mystery, romance, science fiction are available for pennies on the dollar of their new prices.

History, biography, science, how-to, hobbies do not necessarily go out of date with age.

The pleasure of a book is not terribly diminished by the fact that it has been read before. Your local used book dealer, whomever he may be, offers gently read books -- hard cover or paperback -- to please most tastes.

Children's books, like their clothes, are more often outgrown than outworn. Consider doubling the delight of receiving a gift of two used books at a fraction of the price of one new one.

If you know the reader is finicky about the kind of book, think of a gift certificate. Introduce family and friends, young and old alike, to the joy of browsing.

Some of the greatest reading pleasure comes from serendipity or lagniappe -- two words that describe the process of finding something of value whilst searching for something else.

The joy of surprise awaits the browser, whether one haunts the aisles of a Borders or a Barnes and Noble or pokes amongst the dusty, disorganized shelves of the used book monger.

Open up new worlds. Revisit old byways. Consider books for gifts this time.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2012-12-15 06:09:50
Printable: this page is now automatically formatted for printing.
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.


Quick Links to Popular Features

Looking for a story or picture?
Try our Photo Archive or our Stories Archive for all the information that's appeared on


Contact us: Columbia Magazine and are published by D'Zine, Ltd., PO Box 906, Columbia, KY 42728.
Phone: 270.403.0017

Please use our contact page, or send questions about technical issues with this site to All logos and trademarks used on this site are property of their respective owners. All comments remain the property and responsibility of their posters, all articles and photos remain the property of their creators, and all the rest is copyright 1995-Present by Columbia! Magazine and D'Zine, Ltd. Privacy policy: use of this site requires no sharing of information. Voluntarily shared information may be published and made available to the public on this site and/or stored electronically. Anonymous submissions will be subject to additional verification. Cookies are not required to use our site. However, if you have cookies enabled in your web browser, some of our advertisers may use cookies for interest-based advertising across multiple domains. For more information about third-party advertising, visit the NAI web privacy site.