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Tom Chaney: Think BOOKS for Christmas

Of Writers And Their Books: Think BOOKS for Christmas. Tom suggests three categories of books for presents: local history, signed first editions, and classics for young folks. This column first appeared 29 November 2009.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Western Trails and Ralph Compton

By Tom Chaney

Think BOOKS for Christmas

My favorite Christmas gifts have always been books. I don't remember a time when that was not true. Early on I recall an aunt giving me Bram Stoker's Dracula with an inscription in her hand urging me to read it late at night by dim light amidst a howling wind.

I had a best friend at the other end of the block. After Christmas day got somewhat light, we'd meet at one house or the other to see what the other got under the tree.

There were always books at both ends of Yancey Avenue. Our mothers must have coordinated shopping for Hardy Boys mysteries knowing that we would read and swap.

Oh, I know, one Christmas there were electric trains. I envied his small HO gauge, and he thought my Lionel was pretty cool.

But I mostly remember books. I 'spect that's why there is a bookstore in Horse Cave today.

When Christmas comes around, I always expect folks to wander in searching for just the right book to give to a child, an aunt, an uncle, or a parent.

Some folks don't give books for children because they fear giving something that won't instantly please.

I had that problem. I always gave books to my nieces at birthdays and Christmases, and was often chagrined that they looked, gave polite and unenthusiastic thanks, and laid them aside for flashier gifts.

There can be no one so dismayed as an uncle not getting the same enthusiasm for the present of a once-favorite novel that he had in selecting it.

It took several years for me to realize that the only problem with my presents of books was being a bit premature. I began to catch my nieces engrossed in my bookish presents three and four years after they unwrapped them under the tree.

The pious have told us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I think that is certainly true if we consider that it is the giver's sense of gratification we are seeking as we play Santa wrapping the presents on the eve of Christmas, knowing the ego boost we will surely get the next day or three years down the road.

All of this to say that your local bookstore may be the only Christmas shop you need to visit as you obey the injunction in the Tom Lehrer carol, "Angels we have heard on high tell us to 'Go out and buy.' "

Of course, I have no ulterior motive in so urging my readers (if the plural is appropriate).

In ascending order the obvious motives are the selfish pleasure our customers may take in giving Yule Tide books and the similar joy I experience at the musical jingle jangle of the ancient cash register.

To that end I suggest books in three categories. The first is local history.

Here in cave country Ruth Rogers has put together a fine compendium of family stories entitled Open Door to the Past: Stories told by descendants of South-Central Kentucky Pioneers. Mrs. Rogers sought out hundreds of stories from dozens of folk in these parts and compiled them in nigh a ream of compelling reading.

As I was leafing through its pages my thought was that just reading these stories ought to inspire more of us to commit our tales to paper or to the recorder. The cloud of witnesses to life in our parts is fast dissipating.

Another major new book about the local scene is World Premieres from Horse Cave Theatre: Plays by Kentucky Writers, edited by Liz Bussey Fentress and Warren Hammack. The twelve plays herein, all produced first in Horse Cave are not only a tribute to the individual Kentucky playwrights but, especially to the imagination and vitality of the theatre in our midst.

Also the three volumes of A Leaf in Time are still available. These fine collections of memories and photographs do much to cause us to remember and honor the heritage within which we swirl.

The second category of gift books is that of the signed first edition. These are not always in the finest of condition. Most have been read; some not so carefully tended. But with such a gift the giver is passing along the touch of the author as well as his words.

Finally, there are the classic books for young folks. I spoke earlier of the shared Hardy Boys titles. They would not have brought much on the used book shelf, for we nigh read them to death -- passing them from hand to hand through the neighborhood.

But not all young readers are so hard on their books as were we. In our store we have literally hundreds of lightly used but lovingly read second hand books for young folks.

When the spring on the wind-up toy is sprung; when the batteries of the electronic marvels are faded and the bunny no longer beats his drum; books are there.

There is no pleasure greater than the ability to curl up before the fire amid the detritus of wrapping paper and bows and travel through space and time to one's own, private never-never land of make believe.

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 2014-11-30 00:18:43
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