Last year, I posted my Christmas wish list here the blog (My Christmas Greed) and found one of those items--the Kindle cover--under my tree. Over the course of the year, I also added most* of the books on that list to my library, plus dozens of others I didn't know I wanted until they landed in my hands.
Last week, I sat down with a pen and a large, legal-sized notepad, all set to compose another "Dear Santa (Wife)" letter. I sat there for 15 minutes staring at a blank page. I couldn't come up with anything I really wanted. Sure, there are plenty of things I "need," including snow tires for my car, a filing cabinet to hold all the rough drafts of my novel and stories, and a new pair of slippers,** but when I look around me, cheesy as it sounds, I already have everything I want. Let's review this past year: I've sold my book, I have a loving and supportive wife, I've made dozens of new friends, I have more books than I could ever read in five lifetimes, and--materially-speaking--I just received a new HP laptop computer for my wedding anniversary (did I mention I have a loving and supportive wife?). I lack for nothing.
So, this year, I'm feeling more altruistic and less self-centered, more Bob Cratchit than Ebeneezer Scrooge (pre-ghosts). Lately, I've noticed a lot of small, independent presses and book blogs offering holiday specials. If you really want to warm the Christmas cockles of my heart, consider donating to one of these book-related causes:
Your local independent bookstore is the place to start, especially today since Amazon's Jeff Bezos has launched a mortar round straight to the heart of IndieLand with his boneheaded announcement which encourages shoppers to use Amazon's smartphone app to scan items at brick-and-mortar retailers before buying online; in return, these retail spies will receive a $5 credit to spend at Amazon. I'd say that's $5 of blood money. I'll admit I use Amazon more often than I should and I appreciate its convenience and I'm totally in lurve with my Kindle, but this....this is beyond the pale. It makes Ebenezeer Scrooge look like a rank amateur. It's so unbelievably, brazenly asinine that it's spurred a grassroots Occupy Amazon movement. My suggestion for the 2011 Amazon Smackdown: browse Amazon first, find a book you like, print out that webpage, then take it into your local bookstore and tell the clerk, "I was just browsing Amazon and I was wondering if you have a copy of this book I could buy here...."
The Engine Books Book Club is a great way to support a brand-new small press. Join now for 2012 and receive one copy each of Echolocation, Into This World, Half as Happy, and a fourth title to be announced soon--all for the low, low price of $55 (using my best Ron Popeil voice). Each book will be shipped at least two weeks before the public release date. If you join by the end of 2011, they'll even include a free copy of any of the current Engine Books titles: Other Heartbreaks, On the Outskirts of Normal, or Shambles.
Press 53 is offering special book-bundles for the holidays: six poetry titles for $53, five short-story collections for $53, and a three-poetry/three-short story mix for....wait for it....$53. Pick up books by Pinckney Benedict, Meg Pokrass, Joseph Mills, Andrew Scott, Anne Leigh Parrish, Valerie Nieman, Tom Sheehan, or any one of the other Press 53 authors. As an added incentive to buy from Press 53, from now until December 17, with any purchase at www.Press53.com they'll send a book to an active-duty soldier requesting books through www.AnySoldier.com at no additional cost to you. Help Press 53 bring a little holiday cheer to an overseas soldier through the comfort of books.
The annual issue of Narrative is now available, either bound in a paperback or downloadable as a PDF. In these 332 pages, you'll find a new short story from Alice Munro, "To Reach Japan," in which "a young mother casts herself out of one life and into another, like a message in a bottle tossed in a sea to reach the far shore." There's also Amy Bloom's new story, "A Portion of Your Loveliness," and a David Guterson Christmas tale of a Jewish family vacation, "Hot Springs." Other contributors include Sherman Alexie, Jim Harrison, Jayne Anne Phillips, Robert Coover, and Rick Bass.
Dzanc Books is ready to stuff your stocking with a variety of Yuletide deals: a gift subscription to the Dzanc Books eBook Club—you can buy those on your list a three-month, six-month, or one-year subscription at rates that are substantially lower than the price of buying three, six or twelve eBooks (the next year's selections will see story collections and novels by newcomers and classic authors like Nadine Gordimer and Stephen Dixon); gift certificates to Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions for that struggling scribe in your life; or take advantage of their limited-time Buy One, Get One Free sale.
Graywolf Press is having a special "Howlidays Sale." Between now and Dec. 19, take 25% off your entire order, plus free shipping. Just enter the code HOWLIDAYS11 at checkout. Offer does not apply to pre-orders, but that should be no problem because there are plenty of current and backlist titles from which to choose. Need some specific suggestions? Okay, how about starting with Alan Heathcock's Volt, Shann Ray's American Masculine, Melanie Rae Thon's In This Light, Tomas Transtromer's Nobel Prize-winning poetry, or Jane Kenyon's Collected Poems? There's plenty more where those came from.
Join The Nervous Breakdown Book Club where, for just $9.99 per month, you'll get a new book delivered to your front door. As a frequent, faithful listener of the Other People podcast, I can vouch that TNB founder Brad Listi has exquisite taste when it comes to picking authors and titles. If you've found yourself nodding in agreement with the books I recommend here at The Quivering Pen, you will fit right in with the crowd at the TNB book club. Past selections have included books by Jonathan Evison, Stewart O'Nan, Darin Strauss, Greg Olear and Joshua Mohr. There's always something fresh and tasty coming from TNB, so why not start the new year right?
*All except the boxed set of Chekhov tales, the Jean Arthur biography, Pride of Baghdad, Mr. Peanut and The Tiger. But don't worry, you still have 14 shopping days left to fulfill my Christmas dreams.
**Which has sort of become like the Fathers Day tie joke around here at Christmas; I always unwrap a new pair of Dearfoams on Dec. 25.