Category Archives: Gift Guides

Why? And, ummm, how? But… why?

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Fourteen

More Interesting Than Your Teacher is an innovative take on learning. Stuart Wright believes that schools go about learning the wrong way, focusing too much on the details and confusing children. More Interesting Than Your Teacher sets to correct this and tackle tricky subjects in an accessible, bite- sized way that will help children (and adults) get their head around the information.

Why is it colder up at higher altitudes even though you are closer to the sun? And did you know that only 5% of the world’s surface is habitable? That Jackson Pollack’s painting No. 5 is one of the most expensive paintings ever sold? That one of Peru’s biggest exports is bird poo?

More Interesting Than Your Teacher has the answers to these questions and hundreds of others. With the facts presented in short, easy to understand language and accompanied by fun illustrations, this book can help children of all ages learn vital information without hours of study.

“…without hours of study”? If you ask me, I think children should be subjected to hours of study, but if that’s not going to happen, this little book is a perfect alternative. Also great for parents. I was asked yesterday, for example, why the moon is a different shape every night. Do I know the answer? Yes. Was I able to articulate it in a way that the child asking me would understand? No. I said something very much like this Google answer:  During each month, the Moon seems to change from a tiny sliver to a large bright ball. These shapes are the phases of the Moon. When there is a Full Moon, the Sun lights up the entire side of the Moon that faces Earth. When there is a New Moon, the unlit side of the Moon faces Earth. During a New Moon, you cannot see the Moon.   I think I’ll buy this book.

-Aida

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so you’ve ruined your life

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Thirteen

From thankless Thanksgiving turkeys and confusing Christmas conundrums, to less-than-happy Hanukkah horrors and New Year’s meltdowns, Wreck the Halls has an icing-smeared disaster for every occasion. With additional chapters on Black Friday, family communication, and navigating the murky waters of politically correct cake greetings (“Winter!”), Wreck the Halls combines Yates’s signature blend of wit and sarcasm with the most hilarious frosting fails this side of winter solstice. Find sweet relief from the holiday madness (not to mention plenty of laughs) with Wreck the Halls.

The perfect distraction for awkward family gatherings: you pull it out and all laugh together.

Also, the perfect attraction for comfortable family gatherings: you pull it out and all laugh together!


*Did you hear Lucia on NPR?*

Listen here.

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Mama, I will thrill you yet.

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Twelve

After his acclaimed and best-selling Finishing the Hat (named one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2010), Stephen Sondheim returns with the second volume of his collected lyrics, Look, I Made a Hat.

After his acclaimed and best-selling Finishing the Hat (named one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2010), Stephen Sondheim returns with the second volume of his collected lyrics, Look, I Made a Hat, giving us another remarkable glimpse into the brilliant mind of this living legend, and his life’s work.

Picking up where he left off in Finishing the Hat, Sondheim gives us all the lyrics, along with excluded songs and early drafts, of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Assassins and Passion. Here, too, is an in-depth look at the evolution of Wise Guys, which subsequently was transformed into Bounce and eventually became Road Show. Sondheim takes us through his contributions to both television and film, some of which may surprise you, and covers plenty of never-before-seen material from unproduced projects as well. There are abundant anecdotes about his many collaborations, and readers are treated to rare personal material in this volume, as Sondheim includes songs culled from commissions, parodies and personal special occasions over the years—such as a hilarious song for Leonard Bernstein’s seventieth birthday. As he did in the previous volume, Sondheim richly annotates his lyrics with invaluable advice on songwriting, discussions of theater history and the state of the industry today, and exacting dissections of his work, both the successes and the failures.

Filled with even more behind-the-scenes photographs and illustrations from Sondheim’s original manuscripts, Look, I Made a Hat is fascinating and essential reading for any fan of his work.

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Got fur balls?

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Ten


Are your favorite sweaters covered with cat hair? Do you love to make quirky and one-of-a-kind crafting projects? If so, then it’s time to throw away your lint roller and curl up with your kitty! Crafting with Cat Hair shows readers how to transform stray clumps of fur into soft and adorable handicrafts. From kitty tote bags and finger puppets to fluffy cat toys, picture frames, and more, these projects are cat-friendly, eco-friendly, and require no special equipment or training. You can make most of these projects in under an hour—with a little help, of course, from your feline friends!

It’s hard to know what to say about this one. It mostly speaks for itself, so let me just assure you that we do seriously have this in stock and we’re not kidding.

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He let a feather float down through the air…

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Nine

In The Conference of the Birds Caldecott Honor-winning children’s book author and illustrator Peter Sís breathes new life into this foundational Sufi poem, revealing its profound lessons.

Sís’s deeply felt adaptation tells the story of an epic flight of birds in search of the true king, Simorgh. Drawn from all species, the band of birds is led by the hoopoe. He promises that the voyage to the mountain of Kaf, where Simorgh lives, will be perilous and many birds resist, afraid of what they might encounter. Others perish during the passage through the seven valleys: quest, love, understanding, friendship, unity, amazement, and death.

Those that continue reach the mountain to learn that Simorgh the king is, in fact, each of them and all of them. In this lyrical and richly illustrated story of love, faith, and the meaning of it all, Peter Sís shows the pain, and beauty, of the human journey.

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Phone books no longer exist, I believe.

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Eight

As words and stories are increasingly disseminated through digital means, the significance of the book as object—whether pristine collectible or battered relic—is growing as well. Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books spotlights the personal libraries of thirteen favorite novelists,  [Alison Bechdel, Stephen Carter, Junot Díaz, Rebecca Goldstein and Stephen Pinker, Lev Grossman and Sophie Gee, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud and James Wood, Philip Pullman, Gary Shteyngart, and Edmund White] who share their collections with readers. Stunning photographs provide full views of the libraries and close-ups of individual volumes: first editions, worn textbooks, pristine hardcovers, and childhood companions.

 Supplementing the photographs are Price’s interviews with each author, which probe the relation of writing to reading, collecting, and arranging books. Each writer provides a list of top ten favorite titles, offering unique personal histories along with suggestions for every bibliophile.

My favorite part: that each member of the three couples featured selects one of the other’s books as one of his/her ten favorites.

My other favorite part: now I understand why people watch MTV Cribs. This is the equivalent for me.

-Aida

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…a star is different from a rock.

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Seven

“Stars. Who hasn’t looked up in the sky and contemplated their magical presence?…. The winning combination of Ray and Frazee crystallizes these ideas into a near-perfect picture book that encourages children’s minds to wander and wonder. The airy illustrations move across the pages like clouds in the sky, showing star shapes everywhere, even in strawberry plants, pumpkin vines, and snowflakes. In a final message, the book asks children to remember that stars are around whether you see them or not: “Every night. Everywhere.” Lovely.”

Booklist, October 15, 2011

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“…he can barely make a sandwich, let alone a toaster.”

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Six

Where do our things really come from? In “The Toaster Project”, Thwaites asks what lies behind the smooth buttons on a mobile phone or the cushioned soles of running sneakers. What is involved in extracting and processing materials? To answer these questions, Thwaites set out to construct, from scratch, one of the most commonplace appliances in our kitchens today: a toaster. “The Toaster Project” takes the reader on Thwaites’s journey from dismantling the cheapest toaster he can find in London to researching how to smelt metal in a fifteenth-century treatise. The rules: all parts of the toaster had to be made from scratch and Thwaites had to make it all himself. It took nine months and cost 250 times more than the toaster he bought at the store. In the end, “The Toaster Project” helps us reflect on the costs and perils of our cheap consumer culture and the ridiculousness of churning out millions of toasters and other products at the expense of the environment.

Perfect for your brother-in-law!

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Jaime, nine, likes to study his finances on the Citibank website.

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Five

“Where Children Sleep” presents English-born photographer James Mollison’s large-format photographs of children’s bedrooms around the world–from the U.S.A., Mexico, Brazil, England, Italy, Israel and the West Bank, Kenya, Senegal, Lesotho, Nepal, China and India–alongside portraits of the children themselves. Each pair of photographs is accompanied by an extended caption that tells the story of each child: Kaya in Tokyo, whose proud mother spends $1,000 a month on her dresses; Bilal the Bedouin shepherd boy, who sleeps outdoors with his father’s herd of goats; the Nepali girl Indira, who has worked in a granite quarry since she was three; and Ankhohxet, the Kraho boy who sleeps on the floor of a hut deep in the Amazon jungle. Photographed over two years with the support of Save the Children (Italy), “Where Children Sleep” is both a serious photo-essay for an adult audience, and also an educational book that engages children themselves in the lives of other children around the world.

My favorite book this year. I recommend this highly to children and to adults and to those stuck in between.

-Aida

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…taking pictures in an abandoned way.

Going Home Books for the Holidays

Day Four

Pilgrimage took Annie Leibovitz to places that she could explore with no agenda. She wasn’t on assignment. She chose the subjects simply because they meant something to her. The first place was Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, Massachusetts, which Leibovitz visited with a small digital camera. A few months later, she went with her three young children to Niagara Falls. “That’s when I started making lists,” she says. She added the houses of Virginia Woolf and Charles Darwin in the English countryside and Sigmund Freud’s final home, in London, but most of the places on the lists were American. The work became more ambitious as Leibovitz discovered that she wanted to photograph objects as well as rooms and landscapes. She began to use more sophisticated cameras and a tripod and to travel with an assistant, but the project remained personal.

Leibovitz went to Concord to photograph the site of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond. Once she got there, she was drawn into the wider world of the Concord writers. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home and Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott and her family lived and worked, became subjects. The Massachusetts studio of the Beaux Arts sculptor Daniel Chester French, who made the seated statue in the Lincoln Memorial, became the touchstone for trips to Gettysburg and to the archives where the glass negatives of Lincoln’s portraits have been saved. Lincoln’s portraitists—principally Alexander Gardner and the photographers in Mathew Brady’s studio—were also the men whose work at the Gettysburg battlefield established the foundation for war photography. At almost exactly the same time, in a remote, primitive studio on the Isle of Wight, Julia Margaret Cameron was developing her own ultimately influential style of portraiture. Leibovitz made two trips to the Isle of Wight and, in an homage to the other photographer on her list, Ansel Adams, she explored the trails above the Yosemite Valley, where Adams worked for fifty years.

The final list of subjects is perhaps a bit eccentric. Georgia O’Keeffe and Eleanor Roosevelt but also Elvis Presley and Annie Oakley, among others. Figurative imagery gives way to the abstractions of Old Faithful and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. Pilgrimage was a restorative project for Leibovitz, and the arc of the narrative is her own. “From the beginning, when I was watching my children stand mesmerized over Niagara Falls, it was an exercise in renewal,” she says. “It taught me to see again.”

A quiet, ruminative book, with unpretentious and absorbing photographs, perfect for any fan of the photographer, as well as every reader you know.

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