Over the last few years, there has been a jingle that parents have been using as a guide to buying Christmas gifts for their children. It’s a four-line rhyme that offers some wise buying advice: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. As a grandparent, I also have found myself using this guide as I select gifts for my grandsons. Of course, the something to read part has always been a part of my gift-giving. In past years, I frequently purchased books for nieces and nephews. I am the family “book lady.” No one is surprised when they open gifts from me to find a new book inside.
Those thoughts led me to reminisce about my own reading experience from childhood through adult. Each age brought a new genre. Here are some of my favorites and maybe some of yours. Who on your gift list this year could use a new book?
We probably all have a favorite Golden Book, and mine was The Color Kittens. Another childhood favorite was To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The first of Dr. Seuss’s books, it remains my favorite today of all the books he has written. I remember my dad reading this book to me. Maybe that’s why it stands out so much.
Early elementary standouts were Madeline and The Box Car Children, a book that still fascinates me, and I have gifted it many times over the years. These are also the years that I discovered the joys of poetry, mostly because of the Childcraft series that came with our new set of World Book Encyclopedia. I can still recite many of the poems I read over and over through childhood. Who remembers this poem from Dorothy Keely Aldis? “I’m hiding, I’m hiding/And no one knows where;/For all they can see is my/Toes and my hair…” It still puts a smile on my face!
As I became an independent reader, I moved on to biographies. I read so many when I was in the fourth grade. Our local library had a series. Among them were Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale. And my favorite was Kit Carson, an American frontiersman. In fifth grade, my teacher read us The Chronicles of Narnia, which I believe is a must-read for everyone.
I then progressed to the series mysteries of Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and even The Hardy Boys. I spent hours with Nancy, her friends George and Bess, and her boyfriend Ned. When a TV series based on these characters was produced, I was thrilled.
In seventh grade, I met my favorite author, Jane Austen. I ordered the novel Emma from the Scholastic Reader papers we used to get every month. Another seventh-grade standout was A Wrinkle in Time.
In high school. I read Gone With the Wind, which remains a favorite, as well as other books by Jane Austen. I then discovered the author Irving Stone, who wrote biographical fiction. I have read almost every book he wrote. I discovered many other favorite stories as I explored the shelves of my local library. Books opened up so many experiences to me in terms of culture, history, and geography.
And then I discovered the romance novel. Maybe not a progression in quality, but romance stories gave me hours of enjoyment. During my college years, I did not allow myself to read fiction while school was in session. It was too tempting to put aside studies to finish a good book. So, I saved my fiction reading for holidays and summer break. They provided relief from the heavy studies that went with a college education experience.
I continued to read as an adult, and many of the great books I read were either part of my own formal education or ones I taught as a high school English teacher. Books I read as a teacher that I might have never discovered on my own were The Kite Runner and The Book Thief.
And Christian fiction standouts include authors Lori Wick, Francine Rivers, Lorraine Snelling, and Vikki Kestell. If you haven’t read these authors, check them out!
These days, I have many favorite fiction authors, but I am also reading more non-fiction for the first time in my life. At least, non-fiction that is not part of a class requirement.
I have books stacked on the shelves of my office waiting to be read, lists of books waiting to be purchased, and random notes of book titles jotted down as I hear them referenced.
Maybe your reading experiences were similar, or maybe they were very different. There are so many choices and so many books. When you are looking for a gift for a child, friend, or the person who has everything, you can’t go wrong with a book. From history to romance to DIY, there’s a bit of something for everyone. And what could be better on a cold winter’s night than to grab a favorite book, a cozy afghan, and a hot drink to spend some time solving a mystery, exploring the world, or learning a new craft?
If you haven’t relaxed with a good book in a while, indulge yourself. Reading expands your mind and imagination, increases your vocabulary, and connects you with other readers across generations. And those are just a few of the benefits.
Some books are old friends that we revisit regularly, some are there when we need them to encourage or answer questions, and still, others are ones we read and then pass on to share with a friend. So, as you prepare your gift guide this year, think about which of your children or friends might enjoy one of your favorite books. And then share it!