Recommended Christmas and holiday gifts

Suitability as gifts means the book is a short one, the items will signal elevated taste, they are at least reasonably entertaining, visually appealing, and they are unlikely to be given by others as gifts unless of course your social circle reads MR.

1. Fiction: Stephane Audeguy, Theory of Clouds.  The conceptual foreign novel which got lost in the shuffle of the American fiction market.

2. Popular Music: The View, Hats off to the Buskers, from Scotland, this is musically superior pop and they still have room to get even better.

3. Classical music: Either William Byrd, Laudibus in Sanctus, beautifully recorded, or John Adams, The Dharma at Big Sur/My Father Knew Charles Ives, and yes I spent twenty years as a Johns Adams skeptic.  In the last few years he’s raised his music to an entirely new level.

4. Gadget: I still use my iPhone almost every day and I can no longer imagine not having one.  Mostly I surf web sites and blogs while waiting in lines, or read email.  I’ve yet to make a phone call with it. 

5. DVD: I watched through Planet Earth as quickly as I could.  Yana then took the box up to college, if you need another testimony.  If your loved one doesn’t merit an entire DVD box, I thought Away From Her was the best movie of the year; sadly the first-rate No Country for Old Men won’t be ready on disc in time. 

6. Single song on iTunes: Anthony and the Johnsons, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.  The key here is to pick a song on an album you won’t otherwise buy or you won’t otherwise think of.

7. Crazed economist idea: Buy someone a book of stamps.  It has the efficiency properties of a cash transfer (who doesn’t need stamps?), yet if you choose an attractive issue it will show (a little) more thought than money alone.  And hey — you had to stand in line to get it, or endure their ugly web site, and at a monopolistic institution at that.

Finally, it is often better to give experiences rather than possessions, and if you don’t know what your wife wants email her sister or best friend and ask.


The Dharma at Big Sur is the title of the John Adams work--of this I'm quite sure.

I'm pleased that both #1 and #5 were already ideas rolling round my head. I think it'll take a few more years before I come up with a book of stamps as a gift idea, however.

I gave vouchers for experiences for a while, yet my father has never actually been for his ride in a WWII-era biplane, and my mother has not yet been to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. He really enjoys flights in small planes; she had been talking for years about wanting to go.

But the time component of experiences is a bit hard to arrange, especially when you are not in the position to arrange people's schedules for them.

Thus I've had a bit better of luck with my boyfriend--especially taking him on a trip for his birthday, after going behind his back to create fake obligations so that no real ones could be scheduled at interfering times.

Tyler, your penchant for airy and obscure novels can only be explained by what the literary historian V. F. Calverton called "the colonial complex".

When will American intellectuals find the self-confidence and sense of identity to break free of the authority of Europe in the arts?

The Alison Krauss/Jimmy Page disc is quite good.

Popular Music:
Minus the Bear - Planet of Ice

So how much do you pay every month to have an iphone which allows you to surf the net or read email while standing in line? I've heard there are additional monthly costs.

@Ham: "Giving stamps could be better than giving cash on another front... if you give a book of USPS's new "forever" stamps, you're giving a gift that, unlike that $50 bill, is inflation-proof!"

Actually, the Forever stamps are (currently) worse than giving cash.

US Postal Service policy is that the price of stamps will always rise at or below the rate of inflation.

Thus, the best you can hope to do with the Forever stamps is break even. At all other times, you have overpaid. Give 'em the cash.

A Christmas gift I'd recommend are a few artificial Christmas trees. No forests had to be cut down in their prime to get them and they can be used for years in a row. Also, they are even more beautiful than the regular ones.

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