It's the first Saturday in December and even if, like me, you have yet to buy a single present, it's a pretty safe bet that you're at least thinking about doing so.
And what's a better gift than a book – or the right book, anyway?
If you're feeling uninspired about gift selection this year, I'd suggest reading Michael Dirda in tomorrow's Washington Post. The Post's long-time book critic offers his "10 Commandments of Book Giving."
These include: look beyond bestsellers, remember the books you love yourself, don't scorn second-hand books, and think "complementary." He offers examples as he goes and it's hard not to pick up his enthusiasm as you read.
Looking back over some of my book-giving successes over the years I find that most complied with at least one of Dirda's rules. There was the the cat-loving Marge Piercy-admiring friend who had somehow missed Piercy's memoir "Sleeping with Cats" ("think complementary") and then there was the Don DeLillo fan who was thrilled to receive an early first editon ("don't scorn used books.")
But there's one of Dirda's rules that I'm particularly hoping others will recall when gifting me this year and that is, "Don't forget the classics."
I began 2008 with a long overdue and much appreciated re-reading of "War and Peace." I'd be only too happy if, with the gift of what Dirda calls "a pretty edition" someone gave me the excuse to reconnect with Charles Dickens or Charlotte Bronte in coming new year.