December 03, 2008

Bridging the Bookish and Mr. KJV

Three things to say yay about:
           1.) No one has fallen down the stairs thus far today (my little signs of "ICE!" are still on the doors of the building -- seriously necessary, since the stuff DIDN'T MELT YESTERDAY, and the wee ice trucks don't come up on the sidewalk and a blizzard is forecast for Thursday),
           2.) Actual writing was accomplished and the ship of the novel is being turned toward the shore at long last (and YES, I know you're sick of hearing about it. Sorry.),
           3.) And Sarah Beth Durst has two more books coming out!!!!
From her blog:
I am delighted and thrilled and so unbelievably happy to tell you that I have just signed a contract for two new YA fantasy books with Simon & Schuster!!! Yippee!!! My new beauties are called (at least until the titles get changed, as they always do) ICE (coming Fall 2009) and IVY (coming Fall 2010).

We love her first two books around these parts, so new books is REALLY something to look forward to with glee and much Snoopy dancing!

The EPICALLY cool Judy Blume is someone most of us admire greatly, and much to our excitement, she's blog touring. She started out Big A little a's December with a great interview Monday, and talks a bit about her writing process with Little Willow here. Stay tuned for her chat with Book Evangelist Jen and the 7-Imps later this week.

Judy's not the only one blog touring -- the adorable author-illustrator Maxwell Eaton III was seen this week scarfing Cheerios and marshmallows with the ladies at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast (and may I just say The Nefarious Bunnies is such a good name for a band) and today has guest blogged at The Well-Read Child with the cutest little cartoon about how to engage reluctant readers.

Everyone has been talking so wisely about book giving this year that it nudged something in my memory this morning... about my father.

Now, my blogosphere buds know from my father already: he of the no-fiction, only KJV, laying-down-the-law sort, he of the no-fairytales-there-is-nothing-good-about-daydreaming-pick-up-a-dishtowel-stop-wasting-time kind of mentality. He has never mellowed, but learned, and tends to come down with his hobnailed boots on other things, with my younger sibs. At least, they seem less fraught than I was, but then, they're different types of people than I am. And this is good.

But I remember when my sister turned nine or ten, and I'd just sold my first book to a major publisher*, and her birthday came up, and my father was looking on as she opened the gift I brought her. It was... Barbie clothes, which galled me (because I hate Barbie), but delighted her, since she was deeply into them at that point (although I am gratified to report that she abruptly threw her dolls away about two months ago -- no prompting -- she said it was "time") -- and it confused my father. "I thought," he said mildly, off-handedly, "that you'd get her something more bookish."

::doink:: Somewhere a cartoon anvil fell on my head.

I found that comment unbelievable. Completely surreal. Books were a field I had to die on, constantly as a kid. I felt I had to hide them, tuck them under couch cushions and go back to folding clothes -- standing up, thank you, it's lackadaisical and slovenly to fold laundry sitting down -- (And yes. He used the word "slovenly." Yes, thank-you, I did totally blow the language section of the SAT out of the water.) I constantly had to defend my right to privacy, to daydreaming, to unconstructed hours of time (which is why writing sometimes makes me feel deeply guilty. Shouldn't I be Doing Something? Like taking a twenty mile hike, which is what he does for entertainment?) in which I could read and dream and launch forth into other worlds.

So, who was this guy asking for books for his kid?
Could he be made to want books for himself?
And, if he wanted them, what books would you get for Mr. KJV, a man who read aloud to me all my life, but read instructive things rather than entertaining things?

I want to take a moment to give a shout-out to Tricia and Susan and everyone else who participates in Nonfiction Mondays for helping me love nonfiction. I give great kudos to MotherReader, whose MotherReader Suggests list on the right hand edge of her blog I read and reread long months before I ever "spoke" to her; and to Colleen's years worth (no, really, I read her archives once) of books organized by interest and topic and gift-worthiness. Thank you to every single one of you who reads and reviews (or... suggests, if the word "review" is still too scary sounding). I have the tools in my hands to give some really excellent gifts this year.

Still, it's kind of terrifying.

Giving the gift of a book not only tells the recipient something about a topic, it tells them something about what the giver thinks -- of them. It says to them that someone thought about them and their interests, or thought them smart enough or good humored enough or enough the same to share their favorite stories. It's a tremendous compliment, in a way, to get a book -- be it a graphic novel or a romance, or a comedy or a tale of polar expeditions. It's a passport that says, "Oh, I know you'll like this place -- tell me all about it when you get back."

I still don't know what books to get for Mr. KJV, but I started slowly -- for Father's Day, he got Kadir Nelson's baseball book, which is gorgeous and lovely, and was possibly thought of as a strange gift... but if nothing else, he can look at it with my nephew, and think he's just reading to a child. That's surely safe. He asked me, once, if I knew anything about E.R. Braithwaite, the "To Sir, With Love" guy. I should have thought, "biographies!" but I told him the titles of the other books Braithwaite wrote. Duh. I think I've been being given some hints, through the years, but I've just never seen them, or taken him up on them.

And now I have an excuse to lay down a shaky piece of lumber to begin building a bridge.

Suggestions -- specially from those of you who know from KJV -- and you heathens, too ;) -- welcome.

*Ah, yes, geeky old me, making it sound like dog-years ago. But it was. Remember it takes almost three years to put one of those puppies out; it was purchased way back in 2006. Possibly the end of 2005. I could look it up, but who cares?


Sara said...

Tanita. Let me give it to you straight: this post is dead-on lovely. I want to run to the editors of The Atlantic or somewhere and say, "Publish this for Father's Day!" Or any day. It reminds me of the humor and truth of Pat Conroy.

I'm thinking about giving my dad Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . . : Understanding Philosophy through Jokes, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. (saw it at GuysLitWire.) That says a lot about him...and me.

Tricia said...

The one book I recommend to nearly everyone I know in your position is Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It is a remarkable piece of work, and contains everything from history to science.

The other books I highly recommend if you have a reader interested survival and testing the human spirit are these (all good stories for men, but I loved them too):

In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

Good luck with this! I'm going to keep checking back to see what others recommend. I may find a title to use myself!

R.J. Anderson said...

I wonder, would he consider something like The Pilgrim's Progress or (to suggest something in more genuinely novelistic form) Robinson Crusoe as worthless use of the imagination? (I actually found Crusoe boring for the most part, but nobody ever told me that it contains one of the most unapologetically forthright Christian conversion scenes ever written in the English language. I was positively stunned when I read it.)

On the historical non-fiction side, Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel is an interesting read in that it not only tells a lot about Galileo's life and work, but also about his devout faith -- something which is often overlooked by people who like to claim it was Galileo vs. the Church, Science vs. Ignorance, and never the twain shall meet.

Colleen said...

While I can certainly appreciate all of Tricia's suggestions I loathe Krakauer so much that I beg you not to buy that book.

The man just...ugh.

Does your father like baseball? I used to buy my father baseball history books as he was a fan of the game but not fanatical. If he does then I strongly recommend Roger Kahn's "Boys of Summer" about Jackie Robinson and the Dodgers. It's a wonderful piece of writing and if he has any interest in Robinson at all he will love this.

Also I seem to recall that your father was in the military - I may be way wrong on this (hard to keep all my online friends straight sometimes! :) but if that's the case then the James McBride WWII novel "Miracle at St Anna" might appeal to him as well. It's a novel but about the real racial situation in the army in 1944 so it might click for him.

Tricia said...

LOL - Colleen, you are too funny! I've heard many people say that!

Okay, instead of Krakauer, how about Matthiessen? Snow Leopard is the story of Matthiessen's trek through Nepal with the zooologist in search of snow leopards.

Anonymous said...

Dang! This is a thing of beauty. A manifesto of love and risk and surprise. It reminds me of the Sara Vowel piece about her dad building a homemade cannon. Did you guys listen to that??? It's amazing the common ground under each of our feet. Anyway, I'm wandering here. But sheesh. I'm just so struck and weepy over this...

tanita✿davis said...

Common ground, indeed.
Thanks for all the suggestions, you guys; I'm still just feeling my way on this...

Sherry said...

Hmmm. Maybe a book about words? I get Word a Day emails from Anu Garg at wordsmith, and his book The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two sounds interesting, although I can't vouch since I haven't actually read it.

Would he enjoy a Christian classic such as Mere Christianity by Lewis or Orthodoxy by Chesterton, or are those too outside the KJV boundaries?

I really like WORLD magazine, a news magazine from a Christian perspective, and some men would rather read magazines than books.

I do hope you find exactly the right thing to build that bridge.

Little Willow said...

Does it enjoy wordplay and/or grammar? Try GET THEE TO A PUNNERY and other such titles for the former, THINGS THAT MAKE US [SIC] for the latter.

Sarah Stevenson said...

This IS an amazing post. The guilt feelings about writing--I can certainly relate, for different reasons, but equally fatherly.

Get Thee to a Punnery is a great one, as is Galileo's Daughter. Perhaps, eventually, a book about what it's like to be a writer might be a good way to build a bridge, too...

Anonymous said...

Yes, Sara's right: dead-on lovely, Tanita! How about one of Bruce Feiler's books about walking the Holy Land? My church-going, insisting-on-Sunday-School parents LOVE them.