Last-minute gifts are a bad, bad idea.
This is your life. This is your wife’s life, too. That is why I, your personal shopper, am interceding. Your stressed-out wife may or may not want a diamond necklace from Gales–I don’t know her, but I wouldn’t –but she will not be amused if you present her with a Broncos stocking cap you picked up at an airport shop.
And when you ask her if pears from Harry and David’s will arrive before the holiday, guess what? She believes you are sending them to her. If your mother gets the pears and she gets the stocking cap, There Will Be Tears.
Okay, I’ve been there. I’ve failed in spousal gift-giving, too. That organic watch? Turns out it wasn’t organic: he explained the corn resin manufacturing processes pollutes, and the company was preying on my environmental conscience. He accidentally dunked it in the dishwater.
And so we had to rethink our gift-giving process. Dramatically. We go to a bookstore on Christmas Eve and each of us picks out a book. And now we have a Happy Christmas!
If your wife loves to read, here are Five Last-Minute Items That Probably Won’t Offend Her. Just be sure you get a gift receipt.
1. The fiftieth-anniversary edition of Chaim Potok’s modern classic, The Chosen. has a new introduction, critical essays, and rare papers and photos. A best-seller in the ’60s, this beautifully-written novel is the story of two friends, one an Orthodox Jew and the other a Hasidic Jew, and their clashes with their fathers and their faith. Loved it when I read it, and would like to reread it.
2. Dover has published a beautiful paperback edition of Vivid and Repulsive as the Truth: The Early Works of Djuna Barnes. Best known for her modernist 1936 classic Nightwood, she explored Bohemianism, feminism, and lesbianism in her writing. This wonderful collection of Barnes’ early journalism, fiction, and poetry is a joy.
3. The Penguin Christmas Classics. You can buy these individually, or you can buy a boxed set. These six beautifully-designed books comprise Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Anthony Trollope’s Christmas at Thompson Hall and Other Christmas Stories, L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, Louisa May Alcott’s A Merry Christmas and Other Christmas Stories, Nikolai Gogol’s The Night Before Christmas, and E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Nutcracker.
4. The Penguin Galaxy SF Series. This selection of science fiction classics is quirky and surprising, and the introductions are by Neil Gaiman. The series consists of Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, Arthur c. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and T. H. White’s The Once and Future King.
5. Michael Dirda has written extensively about the mystery writer, Ross MacDonald, whom he calls the best American detective novelist of the ’50s and ’60s. Check out this Library of America edition of Ross MacDonald’s Three Novels of the Early 1960s: The Zebra-Striped Hearse, The Chill, and The Far Side of the Dollar.
All right, do you know what’s expected now? Really, don’t give her anything from Scheels unless she’s a jock!