Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Books

For the last dozen years or so, our family has had a Christmas tradition around books. Some years we do a book swap, and everyone brings once-coveted hardcovers to exchange. We are an eclectic group of readers, so the books up for grabs range from lots of mysteries and thrillers to cookbooks to books with a more literary bent. One year my brother snuck in a book with a manufactured cover. The title of the fake book was “I.W. Hellman: An Intimate and Comprehensive History” (With Over 500 Photos!)

Now, I had been working on a biography of I.W. Hellman for about three years at that point, and the thought that another book of that topic was already published AND put into a book swap made me roar with laughter. Steven and I must have laughed for 15 minutes over this joke; it was one of the best Christmas presents I ever received.

We still have this book-centered Christmas tradition, although lots of other kinds of presents have slipped into the mix. This year I gave both my brothers books, but not ones they will probably ever read. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, I found two books with “Dinkelspiel” on their covers. One was “Dinkelspiel’s Letters to Looey,” written around 1900 by the author and screenwriter George V. Hobart. The other was called “Lady Rum-Di Doodle-Dum,” written by S.B. Dinkelspiel in 1914.

Now I have no idea who these authors are nor can I find out much about them on the Internet. I always grew up with the delusion that my family was the only Dinkelspiel family. I now know there are Dinkelspiels around the world, including in Sweden where Ulf Dinkelspiel serves in the government. But until recently I never knew Dinkelspiel was a character in a book or an author.

So what books did I get for Christmas this year?

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

That’s it. Only two books! What a drought! How will I survive? More importantly, what changed about our families Christmas tradition that I only ended up with so few books? I definitely must investigate.

Oh course, there’s no real need to feel sorry for me. I have stacks and stacks of books to be read by my bed and even more on my bookshelves. It’s just that I have book addiction. I usually try and curb it by taking books out of the library, but Christmas is one time I can indulge.

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