Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Coming Up with Chanukah Gift Suggestions 2010

So we have a little Chanukah table in the kids section, but it felt like we needed something a little more central. We also have some extra books leftover from a display we had at the JCC Book and Culture Fair (there's one event left in that, by the way, for Thanassis Cambanis's A Privilege to Die, on November 30th. Tickets are $5. Here's a link) so there were enough books for two displays.

So we move the books over, along with our small selection of boxed cards, but I realize several days later, it's still basically a display for kids, which actually seems to be a higher percentage of Chanukah giving than Christmas (though I haven't seen the stats).

I queried one Jewish friend on why we have a very nice market in Christmas cards (and stuff) compared to Chanukah, when we have a good amount of Jewish customers (and sadly, I have to ask, even though I'm Jewish), and she said that the main market for Chanukah cards (which are generally spelled "Hanukkah", by the way, ignoring the guttural start, paying homage to the silent "hey" at the end, and adding a "k" for who knows what reason), were Christians sending holiday cards to their Jewish friends.

So I don't want you to think I'm prying into all my customers' lives, but I happened to start chatting with the next person who asked me where the Chanukah cards were, and this was the case. (On another aside, I did have two customers look for Thanksgiving cards this year--we had some leftovers from last year, but I didn't know where I put them. I guess I will go back to bringing in a small selection next year, but the pickings are slim. Most of the lines I like simply don't do Thanksgiving cards.)

If you are so inclined, there is a nice selection of gift ideas that might be considered more Chanukah friendly (of course, like in Christmas, you can get anything you want. I'm really not involved in the decision making). Joseph Telushkin's Hillel: If Not Now, When? is the newest volume in Schocken's Jewish Literacy series, and it's notable that Telushkin is one of the top names in Jewish scholarship. And Joan Nathan has Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France. Apparently I have some cousins in France, on my mother's side. I only met them once, when I was very young.

There are some very nice biographies and memoirs out there of Jewish figures, such as Stephen Sondheim's Finishing the Hat or from Yale's new Jewish biography sereis, Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt, by Robert Gottlieb. Needless to say, these books can also go on your must-buy-books-for-my-theater-buff-friend list, regardless of holiday.

I'd recommend Bob Dylan in America, by Sean Wilentz, but didn't he do a Christmas album? Does that take you off the list? But then you have to eliminate Barbra Streisand, who also has a new book, My Passion for Design. Perhaps that's cancelled by her unforgettable turn in "Yentl"?

Oh, and the Huffington Post had this list from last year. I will probably see a good list on some website the day of Chanukah itself, when it's pretty much too late to put anything together.

I put together the eight novels of Chanukah list, but as soon as I displayed, I realized I left off Cynthia Ozick's acclaimed Foreign Bodies. And about 25 other books. Then we had an event, and then I got tired and had to go home. Plus the store was closing. But here's the list:

1. The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman
2. The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer
3. Day for Night, by Frederick Reiken (probably one more post to go on this*)
4. Great House, by Nicole Krauss
5. Nemesis, by Philip Roth
6. To the End of the Land, by David Grossman
7. Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak (the new translation for Pevear and Volokhonsky, of course)
8. The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson (I was only including books published this year, which is why they are all hardcovers except for Jacobson. If I was including reprints, I would include Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You, of course. Unless you think the recipient might think the book was sexist. Which I did not. And I'm happy to continue arguing this out.)

I read four of the eight, which is not a bad track record. And all of the ones that I read (the first four) make good Christmas gifts too. More on The Cookbook Collector tomorrow.

*Being that it was my favorite book of the year.

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