(Editor’s note: Last column of the semester. Not a whole lot to say here, except that I wish I’d pushed harder for Avol’s Bookstore. It’s easily the best store on State Street and I’ve found some excellent books there, particularly the gem “Novel with Cocaine.” A further write-up of the store is coming for the future, as are my second half of columns [which I admittedly have a preference for].)
Search Madison’s bookstores to find perfect literary gifts
Originally published in The Daily Cardinal, December 14, 2005
As those wonderfully dedicated and frostbitten Salvation Army representatives remind us every day, Christmas is the season of giving. With two weeks before the big day, I’m rushing to fill the stockings of my friends and family with books.
While I won’t try to give tips on what books should be gifts – it’s too personal of a gift to make individual recommendations – after two and a half years of college, I’ve entered almost every bookstore around town and know where the best are. So in the spirit of giving (and in hopes of getting a book in return) here are some tips for finding the best book for the holiday season.
For the student who is too deep in finals for a serious shopping trip, the best place to go is the University Bookstore. I’ve said this before, but its collection of used books is perfect for a one-stop shopping trip – you can get some Philip K. Dick for the sci-fi fan, Jack Kerouac for the hipster and Michael Moore for the family’s angry liberal. Shopping there is also convenient, as you can sell back your textbooks for more holiday money.
But if you’d like to spend more time picking out a gift, try one of Madison’s older, independent bookstores such as Paul’s Books, 607 State St., or Shakespeare’s Books, 18 N. Carroll St. With tight hallways and overstocked shelves to the ceiling, these stores are made for browsing. Additionally, the battered covers and yellowed pages of a used book make an impact and are far more unique than a paperback from the grocery store.
There are also plenty of specialty stores to pick up books around campus. Shakti, 320 State St., has an interesting selection of New Age theories and books on witchcraft, A Room of One’s Own, 307 W. Johnson St., provides feminist and lesbian literature and Rainbow Bookstore, 426 W. Gilman St., offers titles on liberal and activist beliefs.
If you really want to make an impact on someone significant – or can’t find the time to leave the apartment – I recommend making the ultimate sacrifice and giving them something from your personal library. It suggests you care enough to entrust them with something dear to you, and since you’ve read it yourself you know exactly what they’ll appreciate about it.
Two notes on that tactic though: do not use it as an excuse to clean bad books off your shelf. When you give them a personal book they’ll ask what you liked about it, and any hesitation will be noticed and remembered when they realize the book sucks.
Also, do not give away books you yourself got as gifts. The odds are good that someone will remember you getting it earlier. If you’re like me, the odds are even better you’ll wind up giving it to the person who gave it to you in the first place, and that makes Christmas dinner very awkward.
I hope these tips help you get just the right literary gift and I hope you all enjoy a restful holiday season. Me, I’ve got 20 pounds of books that have been ignored in favor of that studying thing, and it’s time to catch up.