from December 15, 2004
What books should you not give as a holiday gift?
Though I am paid by the word, I will resist the temptation to make an exhaustive list. If I did so, I would become a rich man, but as I have mentioned on many occasions, usually in the company of my fellow quaffers, I have no need for lots of money, having been dead for coming on half a century. So I shall be content to set forth a few principles of gift books to avoid.
First, do not give a book to a friend whose literary tastes you do not know.
Second—and this is for the poverty-stricken, including the dead—do not give any person on your list any books that you have checked out of your local library. You cannot afford to.
So what should you give to your friends, relatives, and the famous persons from whom you have no more than two degrees of separation?
Send a Christmas, Xmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukah letter, using the following acceptable format:
Dear X, or X and Y, etc.
Operations (planned or unplanned) and outcome; lingering maladies; deaths of loved ones; etc.
Daily routine, new jobs, layoffs
E.g., “I continue to . . .” or “I am pleased to report that I am now working for . . .” or “Unfortunately . . .” or “As luck would have it . . .”
Any unusual incidents in past year
Burglaries the victim of, unwarranted arrests, witness of felonies committed, juries served on, etc.
List of accomplishments of self, mate, children, grandchildren, etc.
Places visited, time spent at each, whether business or pleasure, degree of enjoyment.
Include phrase “wishing you and yours a . . .” followed by name of holiday, depending on ethnicity of recipient; “Happy New Year” is appropriate on all occasions except if recipient is a Chinese friend.
Followed by a short personal note, ending with an exclamation point.
N.B. Keep this letter short, preferably to one page, two at the max. It can be done.