Retro-chic Gifts for the Common Reader

Common readers are chic.

If you’ve been to a reader’s fashion show, you know what I mean.

On the runway you will see a bespectacled model dressed in a Jane Austen sweatshirt and composition-book print yoga pants. She holds a copy of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady and sips from a mug that says, “I’m silently correcting your grammar.”

But, dear reader, you can have a chic Christmas without the latest fashions! JUST TREAT YOURSELF (OR FRIENDS) TO ONE  ITEM BELOW.

A reference book.  A good reference book has the advantage of being written by experts and researchers. Wikipedia is fun, but there are mistakes.  I recommend an old set of encyclopedias (cheap at used bookstores), James Audubon’s Birds of America, or anything else that interests you.

A dictionary (the biggest you can afford).  You will enjoy the detailed entries, love the etymology, and when you look up “ineffable,” you will see  pages and page of words beginning with “i.”  (On the internet you see only what you look up.)

A thesaurus.  So many synonyms!

4.  A slim volume of poetry.  Everyone should have one.  You might read A. E. Stalling’s new translation of Hesiod’s Works and Days (Penguin, 33 pages) but you will never open that huge anthology of classical poetry.

5.  A used copy of a novel by Balzac (preferably a Penguin).  “This old thing? I’ve read it, like, 100 times.”  Pere Goriot…Cousin Bette…  You’ll  be late for work  BECAUSE YOU WERE READING but who can fire you for that?

6.  A new book journal.  Forget the spreadsheet and return to paper when you write your book journal.

7.  Reading socks (Barnes and Noble).  They’re just socks, but you want them!  You can also write your own label, Reading Socks, on an ordinary pair of socks and give them as a gift.

8.  An old-fashioned Rolodex to keep track of characters in Proust.  Experience the 20th century! It’s fun to write the information on cards!

9.  A mug with a bookish slogan. They’re frivolous, but we all like a Jane Austen mug.

10.  A totebag  doesn’t need a literary slogan, but everyone needs a totebag!


9 thoughts on “Retro-chic Gifts for the Common Reader”

  1. I’m definitely with you over the dictionary. They are so dangerous. You look one word up and a couple of hours later you are still discovering entires you slimy didn’t know existed. I disnagree about the poetry, though. I have several large anthologies in paperback form that I have hiked with me on journeys all round England- the endless variety.

    1. Dictionaries are great! And now that you mention it ,anthologies would travel well. I might not be able to lug the Norton but I could manage an Oxford Book of…!

    1. Yes, Birds of America would be pretty classy! I find it hard to resist bookish paraphernalia but have a stern talk with myself from time to time.

  2. I would love to have a card catalog drawer (an old wooden one with brass fittings would be best) from a library that has gone on line. Filling out the cards would be so much nicer than scanning codes. And it would give you a chance to practice cursive writing! With a fountain pen! it would be a veritable time-trip!

    1. Oh, I’d love that too! The card catalogues were so much fun. And my guess is they were quicker. Maybe we can get them online. You never know!

  3. I have more than a few of the items on your list, but I covet the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, although lord knows where I’d put 29 more books. I have a set of the Everyman’s encyclopdedia, which is fascinating, too. I agree with you about dictionaries vs. the internet. I used to wander around the dictionary after looking up a particular word.

    1. I’ve heard so many splendid things about the 11th edition! I vaguely remember lots of poets and writers were associated with. However, it’s probably probably pricier than the cheap sets I see at the sales. Maybe I’ll go for a cheap set for the Xmas gift exchange.

      On Fri, Dec 14, 2018 at 7:06 AM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:


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