So You’re Thinking About Giving Books This Year?

Book people, can we stop a second to acknowledge what just happened?

Did it occur to anyone else last Sunday, as you perused the newspaper insert for your local electronics superstore, that apparently overnight the most reliable and accessible (not to mention marketable) means of book-buying and book-reading became something that is battery-powered, does not have pages, and cannot be used to press flowers and four-leaf clovers?

You turn the advert’s pages (ironically?) from computers to televisions, from televisions to a two-page spread of competing eBook readers, portals into entire virtual libraries. The wonders of these little wizard tablets are well documented. But I’m talking about another phenomenon: that books have effectively elbowed their way back onto personal entertainment’s center stage, with t.v. and computers and gaming consules…by conforming to look exactly like them!

Clever disguise, books. You should write a spy novel, books.

Anyway, maybe you’ve decided to give a friend or loved one the gift of a Kindle Fire this holiday season. Good for you. I hope it lasts at least as long as the battery does, or until the next iteration of the device renders it obsolete.

But if you think that giving an eBook reader is like the lazy book person’s version of a gift card “to spend on whatever you like,” possibly you’re also in the hunt for a few real-book recommendations. In that case, thanks for continuing to read this post!

Allow the Countryman Press to guide you (virtually, ha!) through the aisles of your neighborhood chain or independent bookstore, with a few examples of printed matter—bound and essentially indestructible—that we think would make fine, thoughtful gifts this year.

New England Icons: Shaker Villages, Saltboxes, Stone Walls, and Steeples, by Bruce Irving, photographs by Greg Premru

A handsome little book perfect for anyone who lives in, loves, or just plain misses New England. New England Icons reveals the largely untold backstories and vibrancy of the things that make this region unlike any other. Bruce Irving, former producer of public television’s This Old House, offers a lively and engaging collection of short essays, with beautiful full-color photographs by Greg Premru, that tap into our collective consciousness and throw light onto the past and present of such not-so-common New England sights as village greens, icehouses, lobster boats, classic ski areas, roof walks, church steeples and more—symbols of enduring importance that remain full of life and character.

EatingWell One-Pot Meals, by Jessie Price and the EatingWell Test Kitchen

Shorter days, colder weather—winter has a way of tamping down spirits. And sometimes that breeds a lazy cook. I won’t go that far, but why else is the season synonymous with casserole, stew, roasts—meals made easily in one piece of cookery? Our friends at EatingWell magazine have 100 new recipes to get you through and keep you healthy this winter. In EatingWell One-Pot Meals, Jessie Price and her team of recipe testers and nutritionists overturn the notion that “one-pot” just means heavy, starchy stews. Instead, be amazed at the spectacular array of dishes that are as delicious as they are easy to prepare: Southwestern Chile-Cheese Casserole, Middle Eastern Lamb Stew, Jamaican Curried Shrimp & Mango Soup. I could go on. But you should see for yourself.

Willie Was Different: A Children’s Story, by Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell, the artist who invented the mystique of mid-20th-century, irrepressible small-town America, wrote just one work of fiction, and it was a children’s story, first published in McCall’s Magazine in 1967. Republished years later as a book, and now available from the Countryman Press, this edition is based on Rockwell’s original concept, complete with the color and monotone paintings he created for the story. And the story goes: Willie is a wood thrush—but a very different kind of wood thrush. Believing that he possesses a special genius, Willie leaves his avian fellows to take up singing with the exquisitely down-to-earth Miss Polly, flautist extraordinaire. Traveling all the way to the nation’s capitol to perform, together they find fame. But how does all the attention and bustle of city life take its toll on Willie and his special talent? Find out how Willie salvages his sense of tranquility and of beautiful music-making. And of course, you know the illustrations are spectacular.

The Soul of Vermont, by Richard Brown

On the 10th anniversary of our original publication of Richard Brown’s The Soul of Vermont, Countryman is re-releasing it in its original, elegant package: as a hardcover. It’s the best way we know how to extend the breathtaking and timeless wonder of this consummate collection of quintessential Vermont images. We may be Vermonters and a bit biased, but we’re pretty sure this book’s a classic.

For more than 40 years, Brown has been taking photographs of his beloved home state. These soulful images, taken throughout the seasons, create a distinctive, unforgettable photographic portrait of Vermont’s landscape and its people. He chronicles with great affection those who live and work on the land, and without sentimentality celebrates a rapidly disappearing way of life.

~Tom

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