Annta Claus here with an important
message: Books make the best presents. Let's check the list for reasons why...
A book is personal. It's chosen with someone specifically, squarely in your mind.
A book has no expiration date.
A book can be used/reused as many times as you want. (You can't ever use it up!)
And each time, it's a slightly different experience.
You can write in it. (You should write in it!)
Books don't require double-A batteries or USB chargers or adapters.
You can mail books in the US mail at the lower "book rate" (AKA Media Mail).*
* Trivia to toss out at the holiday table: In the 1930s, President Roosevelt created that preferred rate as a way to encourage literacy.
Books are a window into
another world. I might've seen that on a tote bag in a bookstore somewhere. But I'm going with it.
Reading material will keep you fully booked. (I
definitely read that on a tote.)
* * *
on the same page? (LOL) Good.
Here are my picks for books to give to the writers, creators, marketers on your list. Or maybe even yourself (your shelf?).
You'll notice I avoided the excellent yet obvious Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott,
On Writing by Stephen King, The Elements of Style.
Let's instead love up some less obvious choices.
1. On Writing (and Writers): A Miscellany of Advice and Opinions, C. S. Lewis
What it is: A new compilation of writing wisdom from the legendary Clive Staples Lewis, who died in 1963. He shines his flashlight into lots of crevices: writing for children, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, humor, listicles (just kidding). and some thoughts on faith-based writing. Lewis was a Christian and lay theologian, but not an advocate
for a specific denomination.
Gift it to: Fans of the Narnia series. Or creators who could use a dose of general inspiration from a master.
Favorite line: "Always write (and read) with the ear, not the eye. You should hear every sentence you write as if it was being read aloud or spoken. If it does not sound nice, try again."
My thoughts: I turned that last line over in my head for a
"Nice" as a bar feels a little low, doesn't it? It's a colorless, odorless adjective for things that have no flair. (Side note: The origin of nice is the Latin nescius: "unaware, ignorant." Maybe why I don't like it.)
But the more I thought about it (walking Augie, mind drifting back to why a great writer would aspire to merely "nice..."?), I came around.
Writing we love has a kind of melody
to it, doesn't it? A rhythm and a pulse and a pattern and the thrum of a human heartbeat that mmmmm... yes. Very nice.
2. How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, Alexander Chee
What it is:
First-person essays from a novelist, poet, and professor at Dartmouth College.
Gift it to: Those who aspire to write a novel. A few of the essays in this collection are worth more than a year-long writing symposium. (Maybe at Dartmouth? LOL)
Favorite lines: "You might think that your voice as a writer would emerge naturally, all on its own, with no help whatsoever, but you'd be wrong. What I saw on the page was that the voice is in fact trapped, nervous, lazy. And that it has to be cut free."
My thoughts: A "trapped" voice. Yes! High-five, Alexander Chee! Exactly how it feels.
"Cutting" your way there reminds me of hacking through underbrush to get to a clearing.
Developing your voice is about freeing and honing your taste... and learning to trust your instinct.
say that, exactly. But that's what I've found.
3. Create Dangerously, Edwidge Danticat
What it is: Part memoir, part travelogue by a Haitian-American writer who looks at what it means to be an immigrant and an artist from a country in crisis.
Gift it to: This is such a different book. Give it to those who might enjoy a shift in perspective.
Favorite lines: "Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I've always thought it meant to be a writer.
Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them."
My thoughts: That passage reminded me that writing is an act of bravery.
Sometimes the risk is actual; sometimes it's not.
But it's always a little bit scary to let yourself be seen.
We might not be in Haiti... but we all create a little dangerously, don't we?
4. The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr
What it is: A romp through the craft of memoir
from a poet, essayist, Syracuse professor with a distinct voice.
Gift it to: That one uncle who won't stop telling and retelling his own life stories. Here, Unc, write it all down! Or fans of The Liar's Club, also by Mary Karr.
Favorite lines: So many clever observations. But here's one:
"Part of what murders me about memoir—what I adore—is its
democratic...anybody-who's-lived-can-write-one aspect. You can count on a memoirist being passionate about the subject."
5. Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, Mary Norris
is: A fun book about grammar. (Yes. Fun.)
Gift it to: Those who correct your grammar; fans of the New Yorker: Mary Norris spent three decades in its copy department.
(She has a fun video series from her days there, too. See the one about the Oxford comma—a hill I will die on.)
Favorite line: She writes about the point of writing through the lens of the editor when confronted with an apparent "error" by a writer:
"Spelling not point. Point is words—right words in right order, for devastating effect."
My thoughts: "Devastating effect." I like that phrase better than "nice." I've flipped again on C. S. Lewis.
6. Using Behavioral Science in Marketing, Nancy Harhut
What it is: A breakdown of behavioral science principles collected in one place. It's also a curveball in this list, because this one is shelved in your bookstore's business section.
I'm including it here as a cleanse for all this... <gestures
Sure, you can read this book as a marketing guide. But you can also read Chapter 14 ("Words matter," it begins) as an argument for why craft matters and how to apply said craftiness... in ways both nice and devastating.
Gift it to: Marketers in your life who feel worn to the nub by nincompoops who think content is a commodity.
Favorite line: "You
want to pay attention to the language you use not because you want your audience to think you're a fantastic wordsmith, but because you want them to be more likely to behave the way you hope they will."
My thoughts: Ridiculously good writing is about touching hearts. About making the world feel a
little more accessible. About making each one of us feel a little less alone.
We all want to be understood. To know that our weirdness isn't really all that weird. We all want to be seen.
That's true whether you're writing a B2B email newsletter or a nice sentence or a dangerous essay or a devastatingly good tweet.
7. Everybody Writes 2: Your New &
Improved Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Marketing, by me
What it is: An easy-to-read resource that can help anyone become a better writer. But especially marketers. That's what David Dodd said.
Gift it to: Yourself (David said that, too). Your team. (Amanda said that.) Homeschoolers. (Molly said that on Instagram.) Even if you read the first edition, read this one. "It's a big refresh," D. Bourne said.
My thoughts: This is my best work. Thanks for your support.