Paperbacks make great stocking stuffers

My wife an I are giving up on stocking stuffers this year because we seem to have an over-supply of stocking stuffers left over from past years. So, we said to hell with buying more Chapstick, Pears Soap, and Tic Tacs.

We do give each other books as Christmas gifts, but usually from a Christmas list rather than intuition. I read 10000000 books a year and that makes it hard for my wife to give me something I haven’t read. She reads fewer books and sticks to a group of authors she likes. Neither of us feels confident enough to buy each other a book unless we know (from a Christmas list) what we both really want.

Since some of my novels are available in paperback, I’m biased when I suggest that paperbacks make great gifts. Better yet, when you give them as stocking stuffers, you don’t have to wrap them. That’s a plus for me. While my wife can wrap gifts better than the gift-wrapping lady at the mall, the gifts I wrap guarantee that people will think I was sipping moonshine while I wrapped them.

When either of us splurged on a stocking stuffer, we’d put a gift card on it saying it was from Santa. No harm, no foul. Or, when we gave candy, we made sure there was enough of it to share. But as the years went by, all the old, utilitarian stocking stuffers didn’t work anymore because we each tended to buy them whenever we ran out. And, over time, we both realized that those gifty books sold in the front of the Barnes & Noble stores didn’t really work because nobody ever read them anyway.

As it turns out, each one of us has a storage locker in the garage with one thousand tubes of Chapstick, several hundred Snickers bars, enough Scotch tape for all of Google’s offices, rolls of Kodak film that we wouldn’t know where to get developed even if we were still using our old Honeywell cameras, shoelaces for an army, enough Q-tips to scare all those ear doctors who say, “don’t stick these things in your ears,” and fruitcake that’s been passed from one family to another since Herbert Hoover was President.

So, we agreed on the “no more stocking stuffers” plan. We don’t have a fireplace in this house, so we don’t hang stockings anyhow. They sort of degenerated over time into grocery sacks of stuff.

However, those of you who are steadfastly maintaining the old ways–that is, stocking stuffers–can switch over from office supply store nicknacks (extra pens and boxes of staples) and drugstore nicknacks (toothbrushes and Hall’s cough drops) to paperback books. Forget Kindles and Nooks and get the real thing! Avoid Amazon if you can and go to your local bookstore where real people are trying to earn a living by curating books that your loved ones will really appreciate.

Before you go to the bookstore, you need to break into your loved ones’ rooms and see what’s already there. Steal their Kindles and Nooks for an hour or so and make sure you don’t duplicate what they are reading on their screens, poor bastards. Years ago, we used the word “grok” to imply that we understood somebody or something. If you grok your loved ones, you can pick out books they’re most likely to enjoy.

If they don’t enjoy them, they’ll love you for trying your best even if you have to remind them that it’s the thought that counts.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of stocking stuffers named “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” “Lena,” and “Sarabande.”





My favorite books become Christmas gifts

As an author, I’m guiltily thankful for the readers who consume books the way movie-goers consume popcorn. From a sales and marketing perspective, authors and publishers like seeing giant sacks of books going out the door of the neighborhood bookstores.

My perspective is quite different at Christmastime when I am selecting gifts for family and friends. I want to give gifts that matter. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, my most pleasurable and meaningful reading experiences come from books that impact me in a profound way.

Such books are not like popcorn or even a shopping cart of the latest in glittering electronic gadgets and toys people lined up to buy on Black Friday. Most of those Black Friday gifts will be forgotten by year’s end. When I know a person well enough to give him or her a book I greatly treasured, then my hope is that they will treasure it and remember it many years into the future–just as one remembers the best dinners they ever had at their favorite five-star restaurant.

Some of the joy of giving books has been lost because the economics of the business has forced us into a world of paperbacks and e-books that are mere ghosts of what books used to be. Books once were more than the words they contained. They were visual and tactile experiences from the selection of the type fonts to the choice of paper to the binding.

That said, when I begin Christmas shopping, my favorite books of the past year are my inspiration for many of the gifts I give. A shared book is, in a sense, a very personal moment, somewhat like a deep conversation next to a warm fireplace fire on a cold winter’s night. We come to know and understand those we love, in part, through the discoveries of the books we have in common.

This year, I will think of Smoky Trudeau’s Observations of an Earth Mage and Vanilla Heart Publishing’s Nature’s Gifts anthology of stories, poems and essays for those who love the out of doors whether they be casual travelers of avid back country hikers.

For those who ponder spirituality and the psychological and transcendent experiences of life’s journey, I’ll be wrapping up copies of Patricia Damery’s Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation.
(See my review.)

Those who enjoy good storytelling with a touch of backwoods wisdom and magical realism, might well find a copy of River Jordan’s The Miracle of Mercy Land. (See my review.) Others will unwrap Melinda Clayton’s powerful Appalachian Justice.

I want to share my favorite books of the year at Christmas because they are important to me, and I can think of no better gifts to give.