I’ve said it once, and I will say it again: my kids don’t need more toys. The holiday season is here, and with it comes the commercials and the catalogs. As soon as the first toy book (am I imagining it, or does it get thicker every year?) arrives, my sons are on the floor, marker in hand, circling just about everything on each page.
Now, I’m not a total Grinch. I love watching their faces light up on the first night of Hanukkah or Christmas Day when they open something they really, really wanted. And I’ll never tell their many aunts and uncles and grandparents not to buy the surprise egg, or Super Mario Legos, or train set. I’m an aunt myself and am already wondering: what do I buy my nieces that won’t get lost under the mountain of toys? Because I know what my sisters’ houses look like, and they know mine, yet here we are again. And round and round for all of eternity.
It was recently my birthday, and my sister bought me David Sedaris’s newest book of essays. And I was so excited. I happen to read a lot, but I borrow books from the library and read mostly on my e-reader or phone for convenience. So, to hold a book in my hands, place it on my nightstand, and know that it was there for me to read when I wanted to, felt incredible!
So, here’s my suggestion for this year. Maybe you’ll say it’s because I’m an English teacher and a writer and a lover of literature…but let’s buy more books!
Kids genuinely love getting books. Think about the excitement your child brings home on library day or how they request you “do the voices” during your nightly story-times.
Books will not only bring joy but they are also easily passed around, recycled, re-gifted, unlike some toys that break or lose pieces or get outgrown. There’s built-in space to write a sentimental message or mark a time period, creating a time capsule of sorts.
And guess what? Adults love getting books too! Cookbooks, graphic novels, memoirs, parenting guides (okay, maybe save that one for a treat-yourself-gift). And your teenage niece or nephew probably has to do some sort of independent reading requirement for school, so why not help them out? (I love when students come in and show me the book they were given over break and are so excited to start reading.)
There are so many ways to access books these days, but if wrapping and unwrapping is your thing, then hit up your local bookstore. Ordering online is more convenient, but luckily there are plenty of independently-owned bookstores with awesome websites. You can even check out bookshop.org or indiebound.org; both sites will connect you to local shops near you or contribute to independent stores. These sites even offer gift cards if you want to let the recipient choose which book they’re just dying to put on their bookshelf.
Here are some local Westchester bookshops that might be near you. Or make it a fun Saturday or Sunday morning activity and let your kids pick out books for their cousins, uncles, grandparents, teachers. There’s likely a great restaurant or local coffee shop or bakery to try, too.
Anderson’s Books, Larchmont
Picture Books, Dobbs Ferry
Scattered Books, Chappaqua
Arcade Booksellers, Rye
Not sure what book to buy? Ask the shop owner what’s popular or check out the recommendations on the sites. You can also look at the trending books from your local library website.
Here are some of my personal recommendations ranging from adult fiction to YA to kids’ books.
Adult: David Sedaris (any collection), We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry, The Nickleboys by Colson Whitehead, or Deacon King Kong by James McBride, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, All Adults Here by Emma Straub
Memoir/Nonfiction (that are also great audiobooks!): The Babysitter by Liza Rodman, Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow, Wildflower by Drew Barrymore, Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi, Eat a Peach by David Chang