According to Sam and Jim Commenting on things that irk us off, make us laugh out loud or just seem too weird too believe According to Sam and Jim: Books Are Great Xmas Gifts

Monday, December 5, 2011

Books Are Great Xmas Gifts

I don’t know if Sam has a favorite book. I confess that I’ve never read a book to him. I wonder if he’d like Old Yeller? Probably not since Old Yeller died in the end.

Favorite books came to mind because a USA Today article Thursday focused on favorite Christmas gift books. I don’t recall that I ever received a book as a Christmas gift, unless Kathleen bought me one, but I don’t remember. I always used to ask for a book as a Christmas gift or at least a certificate to a book store, but I don’t recall Santa or anyone else ever fulfilling my wish.

No matter. Sam and I thought maybe you would be interested in knowing some of my favorite books.

I’m not sure I can name an “all-time” favorite, but Wind in the Willows certainly has to rank right up there at the top. Although I don’t share Ratty’s enthusiasm that “there is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” I love the rich imagination of Kenneth Grahame, who wrote this book.

Another favorite book is Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ masterpiece, The Yearling – about a young boy Jody who adopts a motherless fawn then struggles to keep it when the fawn threatens the very existence of his family. I also list Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island – “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum” - among my favorites. My 6th – grade teacher read Treasure Island to us aloud in class and I have cherished that story ever since.

Note to all you teachers: you do make an impact, whether you know it or not. Another teacher of mine played Hansel and Gretel for my class a few times and I now love that story.

One of the funniest books I ever read was The Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle, who also wrote E.T The Terrestrial. I laughed so hard while reading this outrageous and uproarious parable featuring Hal Jam—a big black bear who finds a manuscript under a tree in the Maine woods, dons a suit and a tie, and heads off to the big city to have the book published and to seek his fame and fortune. This is a wickedly funny satire about our obsession with money and fame and I totally recommend it.

Of course Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn come to mind too when discussing all things wickedly funny. Who can forget great literature like the conversation between Tom and Huck when Huck explains to Tom how to get rid of warts?

“Why you take your cat and go and get in the graveyard ‘long about midnight when somebody that was wicked has been buried; and when it’s midnight a devil will come, or maybe two or three, but you can’t see ‘em, you can only hear something like the wind, or maybe hear ‘em talk; and when they’re taking that feller away, you heave your dead cat after ‘em and say, ‘Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I’m done with ye!’ That’ll fetch any wart.”

Patrick McManus, a humor columnist for Outdoor LifeField & Stream and other magazines who wrote A Fine and Pleasant Misery and several other tales of childhood outdoor adventures in Sandpoint, Idaho, makes me weep with laughter.

I could list many, many more favorite books because I am a bookophile or whatever you call someone who likes to read. I couldn’t wait to start reading in school and I still love the sheer joy of escaping into the fantasy worlds created by great authors.

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