I mentioned this on my November Romancing the Blog post, but this is my first holiday season not ruled by the whims of corporate retail. Unlike years past, I've avoided the news reports on trends, the bestseller lists, and the malls.Before, everyone's present could easily be found at the bookstore (and purchased on the corporate 40% off day), but this year I did most of my shopping online or at small boutique shops in my area.While this has resulted in some truly unique gifts, it also means—horrors of horrors—that I only purchased one book to gift this year, and that purchase was not made until last night.
The problem I've found is that while I have this amazing group of readers as friends, I don't know enough about what they've been reading this year—and what's out in the stores—to pinpoint the perfect gift.
Oh, how the mighty bookseller has fallen.
Even more ironic, is that the one book I did buy is for a person who generally doesn't read. He'll read the newspaper. He'll read the back of the cereal box in Mexico. But books? Not so much. He does like trivia though, and has been an avid follower of the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader books for years (he even got the neighbor hooked on them). My gift of a newer volume should be fine, but if he already has it, he can always return it and pick out another. I'm sure there's at least one he hasn't read.
Despite my book deficit, this Christmas without the retail rush has allowed me to put a lot of things in order. I found myself in early winter cleaning out my closets and reorganizing my cupboards—something that required energy that the Holiday buildup, which starts in August, would have normally zapped from me. Because I wasn't so exhausted by the push and pull of customers and corporate this year, I managed to put up my fake tree and actually wrap my gifts before Christmas Eve.
The holiday season in bookstores is filled with constant motion—both physical and mental. Do you have a greeter? Is the front stocked up? Should we order more of X, Y, and Z so we'll have enough through Christmas Eve? What high quantity stock is not moving? Why?
And who the hell let that little kid climb into the window displays and pull the signs down again?
This is my first season without the mall's lost child alerts and customers who not only don't understand the meaning of “we're closing,” but also have a problem understanding why we can't possibly wrap all their gifts when there is a line of ten people behind them.
But this is also my first Christmas not being surrounded by books. I miss that rush that came with opening boxes and seeing all the new covers and titles that I'd previously read about in Publisher's Weekly or seen online. I miss the warmth that came from helping someone find the perfect gift.
Retail is hell, and book retail with its pseudo-intellectuals looking to bah-humbug your (quite necessary, and very caffeine induced) holiday high occupies its very own circle. Still, I miss the books. And the people who made those books come alive—customers and coworkers alike. It takes a special breed to survive the holiday book retail season. Please know that this veteran is raising a glass of wine in your holiday honor, and that the first time in years she doesn't feel the need to finish the bottle to self-medicate for the next day. There is hope.