Support Your Local Bookstore and Give Books! (Part 1)

Give Books

Ah, mid-November, when the nip in the air and the first twinkle of Christmas lights make your chest seize with excitement. When the initial horror of hearing carols after Halloween has worn off and you’re secretly streaming a holiday playlist through your headphones at work. (No? Here, play this one, it’s really good.)

This is my favorite part of the holidays, when anticipation hasn’t avalanched into stress and the banshees of Black Friday have yet to descend. You’re still leisurely pinning Thanksgiving recipes and, funnily enough, you’re actually looking forward to seeing your family. Filled with all these warm fuzzies, I find it’s the best time to embark on holiday shopping.

I love giving books as gifts, but buying a book for someone else requires some thought. It reflects how well you know someone. It can project your own hopes and desires. And it asks for something back from them. Sitting down with a new book is a commitment. When you give a book, you’re offering a portal into another world and you’re asking someone else to step though. Accepting a book recommendation can be a leap of faith, so it’s often best left to the experts. This is what makes local bookstores such a wonderful resource in the community. There’s always someone there willing to help you find the perfect gift.

We’ve called upon booksellers from five of our favorite independent bookstores across the country to give us their top recommendations this holiday season. Today we’re featuring Powell’s Books in Portland, and Parnassus Books in Nashville. Come back tomorrow to hear from Politics & Prose in DC, Common Good Books in St. Paul, and BookPeople in Austin!

Shawn Donley, New Book Purchasing Supervisor at Powell’s Books, Portland, OR

How long have you been working with books, and what’s your role at Powell’s?
I’ve worked at Powell’s for 13 years and supervise the New Book Buying team.

What do you think is the best thing about independent bookstores?
For me visiting an independent bookstore is like taking a trip around the world. You never know what treasures you’ll find.

Tell us a brief Powell’s Holiday Story…
We’re open 365 days a year and often hear from customers (and employees) who aren’t originally from the area how much they enjoy having somewhere to go on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What’s your favorite book published by Chronicle?
Maddie on Things was a big hit at my family reunion over the summer. Someday I want to have a dog just like Maddie.

Which five books are you recommending this season?
For wine lovers who don’t take themselves too seriously there’s The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert by Richard Betts. I recommend bringing it to a holiday dinner party along with a bottle of Oregon’s finest Pinot Noir.

S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst has to be one of the most unique books I’ve seen in years. Every bookseller we’ve show it to not only loves it, but winds up buying a copy for themselves.

For anyone who watches the Puppy Bowl instead of the Super Bowl, I’d recommend Shake by Carli Davidson. Shaking dogs, we’ve discovered, are every bit as hilarious as last years’ Underwater Dogs.

We’ve been spoiled this year with so many cookbooks from Portland-based restaurants. My personal favorite is Toro Bravo by Liz Crain. It has everything a great cookbook should have: beautiful photography, wonderful recipes and an irreverent sense of humor.

And for lovers of good old-fashioned literary fiction, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt has been a real staff favorite here. I just hope we don’t have to wait another ten years for her next novel.


Karen Hayes, co-owner of Parnassus Books, Nashville, TX

How long have you been working with books, and what’s your role at Parnassus Books?
I started in Telephone Sales at Ingram Book Company in 1978. 12 years there and 18 as a sales rep for Random House until I left there in 2011 to open Parnassus Books, which I co-own with Ann Patchett.

What do you think is the best thing about independent bookstores?
We provide a warm and welcoming space for lovers of the printed word.

Tell us a brief Parnassus Holiday Story…
This is an anecdote from Ann that happened in 2011 when we were having a hard time keeping a certain bio in stock. “I bought the Steve Jobs for my stepdaughter’s husband, but it turned out he already had it. When I brought it back the next morning, Andy was working the register. We made eye contact the second I came through the door. He raised his eyebrows and pointed discreetly at the book in my hands. I nodded. ‘Sir!’ he said to a gentleman who was walking dejectedly away. ‘I was wrong. I see we have one copy left.’ I went straight to the gift wrap table and wrapped it up.”

What’s your favorite book published by Chronicle?
The Hatch Show Print book. We sell it like crazy. But more recently it has to be Maddie on Things.

Which five books are you recommending this season?
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett, for anyone and everyone and their mothers (we aren’t biased at all).

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, for anyone who loves a completely absorbing big book to lose yourself in.

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson, for teenage boys and/or George RR Martin fans.

The Men Who United the States, by Simon Winchester, for dads and history lovers.

The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, for any parent who wants a book that they will actually enjoy reading again and again to their kids.

Have you taken the pledge to Give Books this holiday? For every #GiveBooks tweet, pin, and online signature, we’re donating a book to a child in need. Our goal is to donate 10,000 books by December 15. We’re halfway there but we still need your help. Click here to take the pledge, and please spread the word!

UPDATE: Click here for Part 2 of the series, with more recommendations from Politics & Prose, Common Good Books, and BookPeople!

Guinevere de la Mare
Senior Community Manager

Guinevere de la Mare

Guinevere de la Mare

Guinevere de la Mare is a writer, book lover, and the founder of Silent Book Club. She lives in San Francisco. She also was the senior community manager at Chronicle Books from 2009-2014.
Guinevere de la Mare

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