The holidays are a perilous time for book buying, my friends. You'll be out there in the big-box bookstores one day, desperate to find a gift for so-and-so. And you'll come across some big, glossy book with lots of pictures and a clearly identifiable topic. It will be titled Lovable Ugly Puppies of the World or Babies Playing with Ugly Puppies or A Day in the Life of Wherever the Hell Your Ancestors Are From. Something like that.
Whatever the title, they can all be counted on to say something obvious to the recipient: "I know you like stuff." And you'll think, "Hey, so-and-so likes stuff!" Next thing you know, there's another book gathering dust on a coffee table, pressing down inexorably on all the layers of books below it until there's enough pressure to crush a piece of Christmas coal into a diamond, only they never thought to put a piece of coal under there and now it's too late.
Don't let this happen to you. CL is here to help with books that will say something more meaningful to your bibliophile friends.
So you want your gift to say:
"I know that you know that Santa got his flying sleigh from Area 51."
The Rough Guide to Conspiracy Theories
The way we heard it was that Rudolph offed the real Santa with his laser beam nose back in '56, so then Mrs. Claus dressed up like, you know, a mister, and now she's bugging all our chimneys. "They" won't tell you about that one in the book, but there's plenty about assassinations, the real men in black, stolen elections, fraudulent wars and other festive occasions for your favorite tinfoil top hat. (By James McConnachie and Robin Tudge. $14.99. Rough Guides. 420 pages.)
"A white Christmas? We're doomed! Doomed, I tell ya! Dooooomed!"
Fifty Degrees Below
We've always been a little unclear on how global warming threatens to bring on the next ice age. Is it because Santa gets mad at us for thawing the North Pole, and then seeks his revenge? This eco-thriller sets a scientist to saving the world from a premature deep freeze. (By Kim Stanley Robinson. $25. Bantam Spectra. 407 pages.)
"I promise this year's holiday party is not a cover for an intervention. Have some more eggnog."
The Modern Drunkard: A Handbook for Drinking in the 21st Century
The wisdom of the premier periodical for getting pissed is now collected in a handy guide to drunkenness. Learn the "Zen of Drinking Alone" for those New Year's Eve blues and load up your calendar with "365 Excuses to Get Loaded." (By Frank Kelly Rich. $14. Riverhead. 205 pages.)
"Merry Chris ... I mean, happy Han ... no, wait ... Kwanzaa? No? Well, here, I got you something."
Festivus, The Holiday for the Rest of Us
Learn the origin of the tradition of the aluminum pole. And wrestling. Also snails. Look, if you just want to celebrate that you haven't been buried in a landslide or blown up in a plane ... that you're, you know, alive, then Festivus may be the holiday for you. (By Allen Salkin, foreword by Jerry Stiller. $14.95. Warner Books. 132 pages.)
"I know when you've been bad."
The Merry XXXmas Book of Erotica
"My, what a big candy cane you have! Let's make with the stocking stuffing," and other fun double entendres in sexy stories such as "O Naughty Night," "Here Comes Santa Claus," and "Trimming the Tree." (Edited by Alison Tyler. $14.95. Cleis Press. 197 pages.)
"I admire your wide-eyed wonder. Or are you on drugs? No? OK, then wide-eyed wonder."
The 13-1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear
Ride along with Bluebear as he sails the seas with the Minipirates, soars the skies on the back of a pterodactyl named Deus X. Machina, studies with the seven-brained Professor Abdullah Nightingale, and becomes a champion congladiator in Atlantis. Think Tolkien gone seriously askew. (By Walter Moers. $26.95. Overlook. 704 pages.)
"You're a crazy-cool alt-y chick. Now knit me a sweater."
For your favorite avant-garde knitter, this book brings a little creative anarchy to the world of knits and pearls. It includes 27 unorthodox projects and 10 exercises designed to inspire creative yarns. (By Leigh Radford. $24.95. Steward Tabori & Chang. 128 pages.)
"I know you like books."
The House of Paper
A tragic death by poetry leads a professor on a quest to find a man who built his house of books in this lyric ode to literature. (By Carlos Maria Dominguez. $18. Harcourt. 103 pages.)
"I know you don't like it when I call them 'comic books.'"
Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know
Spending the holidays brooding and doodling? Ghost World, American Splendor, V for Vendetta, and all those super-somethings come together in this comprehensive graphic introduction to the masters of the form. (By Paul Gravett. $24.95. Collins Design. 192 pages.)
"It's Christmas! It's Christmas! Hey, you know what today is? Christmas!"
The Official Guide to Christmas in the South: Or, If You Can't Fry It, Spraypaint It Gold
When in doubt, paint it gold so it will look festive. Always bring a casserole. If you're not stopping traffic, you're not decorating hard enough. These and many more secrets of Southern yuletide will get you through the season. (By David C. Barnette. $14.95. William Morrow. 125 pages.)