EDITOR’S NOTE: Right or wrong, like it or not, it’s that time of year again: shopping season. “X-shopping-days-left-’til-Christmas” season. So that you can get on with the more important concerns of the coming weeks–of the faith and family sort–we have provided you with an easy guide to the gift-buying part. NRO asked some friends and family what they’d recommend for gift-giving this season, and we, of course, also provide links where available. (Many thanks to Elizabeth Fisher for helping compile the list.) Do check in The Corner in the coming days for more suggestions from the NR world. Enjoy the guide, the shopping, and, most importantly, the faith and family part of the Christmas season.–KJL
Ho-Ho-Ho! Here are my five suggestions for gifts that would be great to give or to get:
Even though you might not like the politics of those who live on the West Side of Manhattan, you have to agree that people in that neighborhood sure know how to eat. That’s why my first suggestion is a gift basket from Zabar’s whether it’s filled with bagels and Nova or rugelach! Enjoy!
Two books for cynics. Nemesis by Fleet Street journalist Peter Evans, in which he makes his case that Aristotle Onassis bankrolled the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, and Amsterdam by Ian McEwen–a perfect read for a long snowy afternoon about a Fleet Street editor. Who could be more cynical than that?
For theater buffs. Two tickets to Democracy, the well-received new play by Michael Frayn, the author of Copenhagen. And, yes, we all should have bought discount tickets when they were available before the Broadway opening. I wish someone would give me a pair.
Something girlie. I’d recommend costume jewelry from a shop on Madison Avenue between 79th and 80th called Jaded. Especially lovely are the chandelier earrings with semi-precious stones that are made in Florence. If you give them to her for Christmas, I’m sure she’ll wear them happily on New Year’s Eve.
–Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness–and Liberalism–to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.
Gift Subscription to NR–why? Because it is the best magazine in America.
Gift subscription to NR Digital–why? See above.
Any NR book–why? Because the recipient will swoon with joy.
A bottle of single-malt scotch for Kathryn Lopez to help her make it through 2005: NR’s 50th anniversary, NRO’s 10th anniversary, and WFB’s 80th birthday.
–Ed Capano is NR’s publisher.
Shannen W. Coffin
There really is only one gift to give this Christmas: The official 2004 World Series DVD. Give it to all the Yankees fans on your list. I’ve already ordered copies for K-Lo and Rich Lowry!
–Mr. Shannen W. Coffin is a former deputy assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Old fiction. Star Quality: The Collected Stories of Noel Coward. You didn’t know he wrote stories? Well, he did, though with highly variable results. Twenty of them collected in this 1987 paperback. (Some were filmed by the Beeb & shown on Masterpiece Theater.) A few duds, but when he’s good, he’s really good. Read “Bon Voyage” before going on next NR cruise…
Current Fiction. I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. Typical Wolfian romp: masses of surface detail, dialect voices spelled out, 1,000-word descriptions of vinyl furniture, proliferating low-level moral dilemmas, ingenious plot turns, irritatingly improbable invented slang, grossly un-PC comments on physical, sexual, racial differences (you’re not supposed to notice that stuff, Tom!), unbridled lampooning of sacred cows, sudden plunges into deep icy water–Darwin, Aristotle, neurobiology. Brilliant!
Biography. Curzon: Imperial Statesman by David Gilmour. A Beautifully written account of the great English statesman–imperial effortless superiority incarnate. (Though the effortlessness was an illusion–Curzon was a workaholic.) They don’t make ‘em like this nowadays.
Reference. Dictionary of Theories by Jennifer Bothamley. Internal colonialism? Testicular extract theory? (Ouch.) Intuitionism? Sensationalism? RSA cryptography? It’s all here. Fascinating. So that’s what “cognitive dissonance” actually means….
Science: The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose. Super-mega-polymath, Penrose tells you what the world is made of…if you can hack the math. Twistors, spinors, 10-dimensional manifolds…. The first 22 chapters are the hardest.
–John Derbyshire is a National Review contributing editor and columnist for NRO.
A gift certificate to Eighth Day Books. I recently discovered the most extraordinary little bookstore in the midwest–and glory hallelujah, they do a mail-order business over the Internet. Eighth Day Books is a Garden of Eden for Christian intellectuals–Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox–interested in the Permanent Things. The store says it offers “an eccentric community of books based on this organizing principle: If a book–be it literary, scientific, historical, or theological–sheds light on ultimate questions in an excellent way, then it’s a worthy candidate for inclusion in our catalog. We’re convinced that all truths are related and every truth, if we pay attention rightly, directs our gaze toward God. One of our customers found us ‘eclectic but orthodox.’ We like that.” So do I.
Coffee from Porto Rico Coffee Co. in NYC. For someone passionate for coffee, you can hardly do better than sending them a box of beans from New York’s Porto Rico Coffee Co.. I’ve sipped coffee in nearly every state and on three continents, and I’ve never had a better cup than the divine ambrosia you can brew from Porto Rico’s French Roast Colombian. For this quality, you can’t beat the prices.
Books for the spiritual seeker. The two most interesting books I read all year were nonfiction memoirs written by secularists drawn closer to God by their encounters with mystical Christianity. Randall Sullivan’s underrated The Miracle Detective tells the story of an investigative journalist’s journey into the mysteries surrounding the Virgin Mary’s alleged appearances in Medjugorje, Bosnia. As a believer, I was perhaps even more moved by The Mountain of Silence, sociologist Kyriacos Markides’s engrossing account of conversations with a Greek Orthodox abbot in Cyprus, in which the abbot discusses prayer, holiness and the miracles of the saints.
The kindest cut. Serious cooks prize chef’s knives from Wusthof. This is hardcore cutlery, and it doesn’t come cheap: the eight-inch (which is the standard starter knife) retails for $120, though you can usually get it for significantly less. You’re thinking: that much for a freakin’ kitchen knife? Trust me on this: The home cook who knows her knives will be stunned by your thoughtfulness, and the home cook who doesn’t, after using one of these babies for a week, will wonder how she ever got along without it.
A magazine to savor. What to give to food-lovin’ friends? If we’re talking cookbooks, anything by Marcella Hazan, the Julia Child of Italy (La Bella Marcella’s got a new book out this year, and she says it’s her last). For great food writing, Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten’s lively essay collections are a moveable feast. But I don’t think I could do without my subscription to Saveur, a color-splashed semi-monthly magazine of good eating and drinking.
–Rod Dreher is an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News.
The National Review Treasury of Classic Children’s Literature (Volume Two) and The National Review Treasury of Classic Bedtime Stories. Excellent, wholesome stories for little ones who are just learning to read to high-schoolers who will thrill to Twain, London, Kipling, and other giants. For those who need a fix of bah humbug, Florence King’s STET, Damnit! awaits. All NR titles are available here.
A Swiss Army Knife: A must for any and every man, and lady. I like Victorinox’s “SwissChamp,” which has 33 features, from toothpicks to saws. You can build a house with it! Check out the website.
The Black and Decker 3.4 Amp Navigator(tm) Powered Hand Saw/Jigsaw is a handyman’s bud. Not expensive, and even a moron can use and retain all digits. I did! Check it out here.
Uno. Simple, fun, and a classic game for families. Don’t go on vacation without it.
Enough things. How about time off in Purgatory by making a donation to the organization helping moms trying to do the right thing? You can find the Birthright nearest you here.
–Jack Fowler is associate publisher of NR.
Meghan Cox Gurdon
For everyone. Mona Charen’s new book Do-gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help (and the Rest of Us) is due out on December 29th and will be an appreciated New Year’s hostess gift. This follow-up volume to the spectacularly successful and pungent Useful Idiots, which dissected liberal foolishness in foreign policy, brings Charen’s unsparing and wonderfully readable analysis to domestic policy. Homelessness! Crime! Bilingual education! Mona explains exactly how and why liberals thought they were right, and why they got it so wrong.
For everyone. Mary Shelley’sFrankenstein. Heartbreaking and frightening, this book has aged less well than, say, anything by Jane Austen, but nonetheless possesses great power and is, in these times of cloning and what you might call “embryonic” embryonic-stem-cell research, a moving and necessary read.
For parents, children, or godchildren. Goops and How to Be Them: A Manual of Manners by Gelett Burgess. A witty and delightful volume first published in the ’20s with eminently memorizable poems for the reinforcement of good behavior. “No matter how you wish/for the last one on the dish/Miss Manners has a right to it/Not you.” And so forth.
For wives. Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. An excellent, invaluable, and wince-making reminder of how one ought–and ought not–to treat the man one married. [See Myrna Blyth’s column on it here.]
For chicks only. A year’s membership in Curves, the unfashionable but popular and astonishingly effective dames-only gym. Franchises have sprung up across the country, and for good reason: The workouts, which alternate hydraulic weights with intervals of jogging in place, take only half an hour a couple of times a week. Better yet, Curves founder Gary Heavin is apparently–gasp–pro-life! Further, he donates money to pro-life organizations. Here is what feminist writer Anne Lamott said of Curves: “I hate the idea that this right-wing fundamentalist is making a profit on these places that make it easy for women to exercise. I don’t see how, in good conscience, someone like me, a staunch feminist and progressive, can in any way contribute to any organization that undermines women’s rights.” What better advertisement could there be: Get slim and muscular and prod the ribs of the pro-choice crowd. As George Tenet might put it, “It’s a slam dunk!”
–Meghan Cox Gurdon writes NRO’s “The Fever Swamp.”
For kids and for parents to read to their kids: Childhood of Famous Americans Biography series. Dozens of bios of the early lives of notables like: Teddy Roosevelt, Washington, Lincoln, Annie Oakley, Ronald Reagan, and Harriet Tubman. Kids love ‘em!
Instead of bringing people a bottle of wine, make a donation in their names to Heifer International and purchase a sheep, a pig, a goat or some chicks to fight hunger and help the needy. In the spirit of “teach a man to fish,” the livestock goes to help people help themselves in Bangladesh, New Guinea, and even the U.S. It comes with a nice certificate too. You can check out their catalogue online. We gave relatives a flock of ducks and geese ($20 a flock) last year and they loved it. You can buy a whole Ark for $5,000.
–Susan Konig, a journalist, has just written a book, Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (And Other Lies I Tell My Children), which will be published in Spring 2005.
Books are handy, easy to buy, easy to mail, and endlessly varied, but every once in awhile your “gift-ee” will stop reading and look around for something else to do. Here are five suggestions:
Get out and do something: A year’s membership in a local museum, an annual pass to a state park, tickets to symphony performances, ball games, or movies.
Can’t beat one-hour DVD collections of Betty Boop and other cartoons from the 30s and 40s, at one-dollar each, sold near the cash registers at Wal-Mart. The company is Digiview Productions and the series is called “Cartoon Craze.” If your local store doesn’t have them, here they are online at a slightly higher price.
Make a gift of cash or a gift card more interesting by hiding it inside a puzzle.
A handsome hand-painted enamel box for a coil of postage stamps won’t get hidden in a drawer, and every time they see it they’ll think of you.
Instead of putting a dollar in the kettle, go to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill store. Every dollar you spend goes to support efforts to aid the needy. Browse for unique gifts: retro kitchen items, original art, hand-crocheted blankets, and, of course, books–old, unusual, and out-of-print.
–Frederica Mathewes-Green writes regularly for NPR’s Morning Edition, Beliefnet.com, Christianity Today, and other publications. She is the author of Gender: Men, Women, Sex and Feminism, among other books.
I’m now reading Natan Sharansky’s new book, The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror. You may have seen that President Bush recently spent over an hour with Sharansky, talking about the book and apologizing for only having read 210 pages so far. I’m told by my reliable sources that Vice President Cheney, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and Jim Woolsey also are reading it. It makes a persuasive case that the “world of freedom” is at war with the “world of fear” and that the world of freedom can and must win–not just for the sake of the millions of Arabs and Muslims who now live in a world of fear, but for our sake as well.
I also enjoyed Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life by Gretchen Rubin, a deceptively simple approach to a marvelously complex man, and John Keegan’s “Winston Churchill,” a very small but insightful biography.
If someone were buying a gift for me I’d also like Half a Life: A Novel by V.S. Naipaul. Why? Because it’s been too long since I’ve read a good novel, because A Bend in the River was the best novel I’ve ever read about Africa (I thought that before I went to live there, and I thought that after I came home), and because Half a Life comes highly recommended.
And I’d also like The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki. I’ve heard that it conveys uncommon wisdom–in fact, I think I heard that on The Corner. Besides, it’s a topic I think is important to understand.
–Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.
John J. Miller
To Rule the Waves by Arthur Herman: A fascinating history of the Royal Navy. It chronicles military exploits, as you would expect, but also explains how these hardy ships and sailors dominated their world and helped shape ours. It’s a wonderfully written book that ably connects the present with the past.
Ancestral Shadows by Russell Kirk: Ghost stories from one of the 20th century’s great conservative minds.
One Hungry Monster by Susan Heyboer O’Keefe and Lynn Munsinger. This board book has been a huge hit with my kids, and my youngest son (who is about to turn three) demands one or two nightly recitations. It emphasizes counting, though my brood seems to appreciate it mainly for its rhyme and meter.
Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens. This is the best album I’ve bought all year–folksy and riveting, with good lyrics that express Christian faith but don’t hit you over the head with religiosity. My favorite song is probably “To Be Alone With You,” but I don’t think there’s a weak track on this CD.
Cherry Wine. There’s nothing like a good cherry wine from Michigan. Yes, it’s really wine made from cherries–sweet, delicious, and not a budget buster. Try something from Chateau Grand Traverse on Old Mission Peninsula.
–John J. Miller is NR’s national political reporter and co-author of Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France.
Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography by William F. Buckley Jr. I might be expected to name this book–but tough! It is a dazzling book, from a dazzling man. I will give many copies for Christmas; I have given copies already; and I will give many more in the future.
The Pacific and Other Stories by Mark Helprin: Another dazzling book from a dazzling man. The writing is excellent, yes, and the ideas are excellent, yes. But through this book breathes an excellent humanity. Mark Helprin is not only a great writer; he is also a good man, which is probably more impressive.
Gang of One: Memoirs of a Red Guard by Fan Shen. I read this book in galley (pre-publication) form. I had not heard anything about it. And I had an unusual experience: I had the feeling of holding in my hand a masterpiece, unknown to the world, or as yet unknown–a book that should be read 1,000 years from now. It is startling, gripping, and wise. An altogether extraordinary book about an extraordinary life–and yet, a life that speaks for the experience of an entire nation, in its worst period.
This book is long out of print, but I wish to mention to you Benjamin P. Thomas’s classic biography of Lincoln (1952). It is one of the great biographies, and one of the great works of American history. And it is an antidote to all the rot now scribbled about that indispensable and immortal man, Lincoln.
I am probably expected to name a recording or two, but in this I fail. The world of music is vast, and the selection of recordings vast. But Mahler is on my mind this morning, for various reasons, and I think of Bruno Walter’s great recordings of some of the symphonies, and John Barbirolli’s. The final movement of the Third Symphony carries a memorable marking: “What God tells me.”
–Jay Nordlinger is NR’s managing editor.
Mackubin Thomas Owens
Jim Webb’s Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America. Webb’s first nonfiction book is an excellent cultural history of a group that is alternatively invisible or the object of ridicule. It goes a long way toward explaining why George Bush won reelection by a margin greater than predicted by the conventional wisdom. It may turn out to be the most important political book of the year.
3. The Oxford Atlas of the Civil War. This is an outstanding reference tool for those interested in a war that still shapes American culture and politics. It is well rendered with excellent maps and information on just about anything there is to know about the war. It completely outshines any previous effort.
A good single-malt scotch. I personally prefer the smoky and peaty flavor of Lagavulin from Islay.
It’s not out yet, so give a gift certificate for Friday Night Lights when it becomes available on DVD. It is an excellent portrayal of young men caught up in a culture that places too much emphasis on football. But when they leave absolutely everything on the field in the final game, even those who never played understand why football was once seen as a way to build character. These are the kind of kids who just took Fallujah.
–Mackubin Thomas Owens is an associate dean of academics and professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He led a Marine rifle platoon in Vietnam in 1968-69.
The boxed set of C. S. Lewis Signature Classics. Lewis was not just the most effective and convincing Christian apologist of the 20th century, but also a great writer who is consistently engaging. This box set offers six of his most important works. A friend of mine, a devout atheist, considers Lewis a “dangerous” writer–because he makes the Christian account of reality seem insidiously plausible.
The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker by Robert Mankoff (Ed.). This amazing book includes two CDs that contain all–all!–of the almost 70,000 cartoons published by The New Yorker in its eight-decade history. Hours of browsing fun.
Isaac Bashevis Singer: Collected Stories by Ilan Stavans: A treasure trove. This, I think, is the publishing event of 2004–the Library of America’s handsome three-volume set of Singer’s dazzling stories. Singer’s characters are traditional Jews confronting modernity; he imbues their tales with wit, compassion, and transcendence.
–Michael Potemra is NR’s books editors.
For anyone who cooks or eats: The Gallery of Regrettable Food by blogger and Minneapolis Tribune columnist James Lileks. A Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride (hilarious, exhilarating, and possibly nauseating) through the really bad culinary notions of ’40s-to-’60s recipe booklets.
For any baby or small child: A Family Treasury of Little Golden Books. This volume of 46 classic favorites with original illustrations by children’s book author Ellen L. Buell is a treat for children and a nostalgic wallow for parents.
For anyone facing a three-hour car trip: John Cleese’s legendary reading of the audio-book version of The Screwtape Letters. Yes, it’s abridged (and out of print, but you can get it used from $42 and up), but no one squeezes every drop of ironic malice from Screwtape like Cleese, reading lines like, “She’s the sort of woman who lives for others–you can tell the others by their haunted expressions.”
For people who normally hate short stories: Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders, a geophysicist turned fiction writer whose vision of a dystopian near future–particularly a theme park gone terribly wrong–is disturbing, strangely moving and extremely funny.
–Catherine Seipp is a writer in California who publishes the weblog Cathy’s World. She is an NRO contributor.
Christmas, I have always thought, is a time for getting, not giving, but if I must–and Kathryn says I must–overrule my inner Scrooge, these, listed in no particular order, are my top five picks for Christmas ‘04:
For the carnivore, gourmet, or glutton to whom you wish to endear yourself: some bacon from the North Country Smokehouse. I was introduced to this treat on a trip to New Hampshire this fall. The surroundings were idyllic, the company was a delight, but the bacon was, well, a taste of heaven.
For music lovers or anyone nostalgic for the old, romantic, Europe: Carla Bruni’s sexy, sultry, and enchanting CD Quelqu’un M’a Dit. If you’re feeling generous and worried that this choice might seem a little, you know, foreign, throw in Johnny Cash’s wonderful–and moving– American Recordings. I bought both of these CDs a few weeks ago, and have been playing almost nothing else ever since.
For poetry fans, classicists or, frankly, anyone who is even vaguely literate: Christopher Logue’s ongoing multi-volume “account” of the Iliad. All Day Permanent Red, War Music, Kings, and The Husbands. Quite simply, it’s a masterpiece.
For any young sons or nephews: a war toy. As my grandfather used to say: “Peace on earth and mercy mild, a commando set for every child.” Giving war toys comes with an added advantage–the people it annoys, pacifists, parsons and ‘responsible’ physicians, all need, badly, and often, to be annoyed. Start with a classic GI Joe.
–Andrew Stuttaford is an NRO contributor.