While I don’t typically do a holiday gift guide, I think I have some good ideas this year that might help you get gifts for your book-loving friends and family — and you might find something on here for yourself. This is Part I. Part II will include children’s books and a few other knick-knacks.
1. The Library of America Box Sets
If you haven’t opened up a nice hardcover book published by The Library of America, you’re missing out. They are beautifully produced, just lovely to hold. Here is a list of some of my favorite box sets they’ve published over the past few years.
The Collected Poems of W.S. Merwin. This two-volume collection, spanning work from 1952 to 2008, collects poems from A Mask for Janus, Dancing Bears, Green with Beats, The Drunk in the Furnace, The Moving Target, The Lice, The Carrier of Ladders, Writings to an Unfinished Accompaniment, The Compass Flower, Opening the Hand, The Rain in the Trees, Travels, The Vixen, The Folding Cliffs, River Sound, The Pupil, Present Company, The Shadow of Sirius, and several new and uncollected poems. It’s a great set that helps you track Merwin’s aesthetics. I will be dipping into this from time to time on the blog, but you may as well start early.
John Updike: The Collected Stories. I’ve written about this two-volume set, which includes 186 stories spanning Updike’s career, here. I highly recommend it.
American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s. This two-volume set is one of the jewels of my own book collection. It includes The Space Merchants, by Frederik Pohl & C.M. Kornbluth (which I reviewed here); More Than Human, by Theodore Sturgeon (which I reviewed here); The Long Tomorrow, by Leigh Brackett (which I’m prepping to review); The Shrinking Man, by Richard Matheson; Double Star, by Robert A. Heinlein; The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester; A Case of Conscience, by James Blish, Who?, by Algis Budrys; and The Big Time, Fritz Leiber.
The Philip K. Dick Collection. Speaking of jewels, this three-volume set is sitting on my desk, and I’m just dying to find the time to dig in. It includes the following thirteen novels: The Man in the High Castle; The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Ubik; Martian Time-Slip; Dr. Bloodmoney; Now Wait for Last Year; Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said; A Scanner Darkly; A Maze of Death; VALIS; The Divine Invasion; and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.
Harlem Renaissance Novels. This two-volume set collects nine novels from the 1920s and 1930s, including Cane, by Jean Toomer; Home to Harlem, by Claude McKay; Quicksand, by Nella Larsen, Plum Bun, by Jessie Redmon Fauset, The Blacker the Berry, by Wallace Thurman; Not Without Laughter, by Langston Hughes; Black No More, by George Schuyler, The Conjure-Man Dies, by Rudolph Fisher; Black Thunder, by Arna Bontemps.
2. Subscriptions to My Favorite Publishers!
If you’re looking for a gift that will keep giving throughout the year, consider these fine options:
The Library of America (here). Yes, we covered The Library of America above, but you can also fund a nice subscription. It’s not necessarily the easiest to use, but I have enjoyed my own membership. To begin a subscription to The Library of America, you pick an initial, low-priced (but still high quality) set. Currently, they are offering the three-volume John Steinbeck library for $9.95, the two-volume James Fenimore Cooper’s The Leatherstocking Tales for $6.95, the two-volume Nineteenth-Century American Poetry set for $5.95, or the two-volume Mark Twain library for $5.95. When you begin, you then get one book per month at a 20% discount (for books that are usually $35.00, it’s around $28 per month). If you don’t want the volume that comes in the mail (which shouldn’t happen since you get to select which titles you want to receive and which you don’t), you can send it back for free and get full credit. You can quit at any time. Subscribers’ books come without the dust jacket but rather come in a nice Library of America box (which I prefer).
Open Letter (here). Open Letter Books offers either a six-month, five-book subscription ($60.00) or a twelve-month, ten-book subscription ($100.00). Nearly once a month you receive one of their new releases. They list the next few books that will go out: Everything Happens as It Does, by Albena Stambolovna; This Is the Garden, by Giulio Mozzi; Europe in Sepia, by Dubravka Ugresic (I’ve started this one and am loving it); Elsewhere, by Eliot Weinberger; Navidad & Matanza, by Carlos Labbé; Why I Killed My Best Friend, by Amanda Michalopoulou; La Grande, by Juan José Saer; The Elusive Moth, by Ingrid Winterbach; and Last Days of My Mother, by Sölvi Bjorn.
NYRB Classics (here). NYRB Classics offers either a six-month, six-book subscription ($85.00) or a twelve-month, twelve-book subscription ($150.00) . Each month they will send you one of their new releases. Currently they are offering to throw in an extra book (Alfred Hayes’s My Face for the World to See, which is excellent and which I reviewed here) to anyone purchasing a subscription. If you get one of these (or even if you don’t), I recommend you come join the fun discussions on the NYRB Classics Goodreads page (here).
Archipelago Books (here). Archipelago Books offers either a one-year, ten-book subscription ($135.00) — and they’ll throw in an extra book of your choice for free — or a six-month, five-book subscription ($70.00). These are the next books they’ll be shipping: Blinding, by Mircea Cartarescu; Even Now: Poems by Hugo Claus; A Treatise on Shelling Beans, by Wieslaw Mysliwski (and my book of the year for 2013; my post here); Expedition to the Baobab Tree, by Wilma Stockenström; Harlequin’s Millions, by Bohumil Hrabal; Return to My Native Land, by Aimé Césaire; Moscow in the Plague Year, by Marina Tsvetaeva; My Struggle: Book 3, by Karl Ove Knausgaard; and Of Champions, by Halldór Laxness (the tenth book is TBA).
New Directions (here). And New Directions jumped back in to the subscription game this year, offering subscriptions either to their prose Pearl line or their Poetry Pamphlets line. Each subscription includes twelve books over twelve months for $75.00. New Directions also offers the Deluxe Subscription for $125.00, which includes one prose Pearl and one poetry pamphlet delivered to your door every month for a year, a New Directions tote bag, one set of the New Directions postcards, and one surprise gift from them at the end of the year.