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Books: Help to Make the Season Right

Books have the potential to make everything that's wrong with Christmas right, to make gift-giving about more than acquisition and stuff.

Book Christmas Tree

Pictures of this Christmas book tree have been making the rounds online for the last week or two, representing a tangible link between reading and the spirit of the holidays. Though such a link would come as no surprise to anyone for whom gift-giving is a tradition, because there is no object on earth as easy to wrap as a book is. Even the clumsiest thumbs are capable of a present-worthy wrap job, thanks to compact solidity and right-angled symmetry. Further, once the wrapping is shed, the book is ready for reading straightaway, no batteries required, no plugging in to charge. And they come in such a magnificent range that there truly is a book out there for everyone, from board books for the newborn to large-print for the long-in-tooth, and anybody in between. The recipient doesn't even have to like reading in particular (though it helps), for there are so many books as extraordinary in their visual images as in their text.

Books have the potential to make everything that's wrong with Christmas right, to make gift-giving about more than acquisition and stuff. There is no such thing as ism for the consumer who buys her books from a local independent bookseller, and is selective enough to include books from independent presses in the mix. The consumer who is not blessed with an indie bookshop on the corner of his block can still take care to buy Canadian, and often the big-box bookstores are quite helpful in displaying Canadian books for this purpose.

It's not just about the point of purchase either, but about the long, long life a book can have. Books don't lose their appeal once they're out of their packaging (and even better, environmentally speaking, is that books don't have packaging at all). If a book is read once and set up on the shelf, that's success, but so too is a book that's passed around a family or a group of friends, or read over and over until its pages fall out. So is the book that lives on the coffee-table and is flipped through intermittently by visitors, or the cookbook used to so often it gets grease-splattered, or the dog-eared volume that's passed from father to son, or the one that somehow finds its way into the used bookshop and is snapped up by another avid reader. A Christmas-given book that's beloved becomes a time-machine, bringing back holiday memories every time it's read again, pine needles forever being discovered between the pages.

But you don't even have to celebrate Christmas to understand what really links reading and the holidays, which is the quite simple matter of time to read in. Once the holiday hurricane of family visits wraps up around Boxing Day, if you're lucky, you'll have some space free in the calendar before you head back to work. And if you're really lucky, there will be a teetering book stack for you to dip into, and a comfortable place to recline as you read. Perhaps circumstances dictate that there will be little people curled up next to you with books of their own, wide with pictures, or a loved down at the other end of the couch who is lost in his own book. Or perhaps you're alone, but then you're really not alone, because there's a literary world that's ripe for your discovery, and you'll snuggle up warm under a blanket while the snow falls outside, and here you've got the greatest gift in the world: time to read, and read, and read.

See also:

The Canadian Bookshelf Holiday Books List

Best Books of 2011

Our GiveCDN Book recommendations: Books for Toddlers, War Books for Dad, and Nonfiction for Those Who've Lost Their Faith in Narrative

The Advent Book Blog

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