A Season of Giving
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The Gift of Books

By Doug Moe

         Call me biased, but I can find all kinds of reasons why books make the best gifts, hands down.
         To receive a special book is to literally be given a gift for a lifetime. I still pull down from the shelf every Christmas the book my mom gave me in 1977.
         Giving a book to a friend or family member – especially a book that you love yourself – can also open a lasting dialog.
         So, is it better to give, or receive, a good book?
A few years ago, my friend Ron Seely – a former Wisconsin State Journal reporter – and his grown son, Will, unknowingly solved this dilemma by each buying the other Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone for Christmas.
It’s not every family for whom Hunter Thompson encompasses the Christmas spirit.
With the help of my wife, Jeanan, I recently asked a number of people – friends, acquaintances, strangers on Monroe Street – to share a brief story about the gift of a book, given or received, that meant something special to them.
I might note here that the Christmas 1977 book from my mom was a collection of newspaper columns by a Chicago writer named Jack Griffin. I was in college, an English major, but devouring the Chicago newspapers – available at Rennebohm’s – and wondering if I could one day write for newspapers myself.
I read about “Grif,” the name of the collection, in the Chicago Sun-Times. Griffin had died and his son assembled the book.
What made the gift special beyond the book itself – Griffin wrote beautiful sports features – was how hard it was for my mom to find. I had mentioned it only in passing.
An independent bookstore – hurrah! – finally helped her track down the small publisher, Greatlakes Living Press, and the book arrived Christmas Eve.
On the giving side, let me just quickly say that I owe a thanks to the late Jim Harrison, whose book The Woman Lit by Fireflies I gave to Jeanan on an airplane trip before we were married. I honestly think the title novella helped seal the deal for me.
Nick Chiarkas, author of Weepers – available at Mystery to Me – and the former director of Wisconsin’s public defender office, had a quick response when asked about the gift of a book that continues to resonate.
“When I was laid up in an Army hospital,” Chiarkas said, “a very kind USO woman gave me a collection of books and stories by J. D. Salinger.”
After reading and enjoying Salinger, Chiarkas – “naively,” he said – sent the famously reclusive author a fan letter addressed only to Salinger in Cornish, New Hampshire. Not only did it arrive, Salinger responded, in a letter dated April 9, 1965.
“I am at best a one-shot letter writer,” the Catcher in the Rye author wrote, “but would like you to know that I am grateful for that letter of yours. I see that you’re in an Army hospital. Not the best place in the world to be, I recall very well. Recover quickly.”
There was another line or two in the typed letter, and then Salinger’s handwritten signature. Fifty-one years later, it still hangs framed on Chiarkas’s wall.
Pam Coshun – known to Madison television audiences as Pam Tauscher, and now married to the broadcaster Craig Coshun – said Craig bought Bruce Degen’s Daddy is a Doodlebug for their oldest son’s first Christmas. Craig inscribed it with the message they would read together always. It started a tradition of an inscribed book every Christmas for each of their sons – “one of our most anticipated gifts every year,” Pam said.
John Roach, screenwriter (“The Straight Story”) and Madison Magazine columnist, holds special The Writer’s Desk, by Jill Krementz, a gift from his wife, Diane.
“An illustrated book that shows the desks, rooms, and vistas used by the greatest writers of the 20th century,” Roach noted. “The writers themselves offered brief descriptions of how and where they do their writing, and what they do to get the words on the page… A practical but amazing study on the pursuit of creativity.”
UW Health spokeswoman Lisa Brunette recalled a gift that resonated with her late husband, Dean Showers.
“One year,” Brunette said, “I replaced Dean’s well-loved copy of A Sand County Almanac with a full-color copy. But what most touched him was the reproduction of Aldo Leopold’s handwriting on the inside front cover. It made his hero a little more accessible.”
For civil rights attorney Jeff Scott Olson, the book is Simple Justice, Richard Kluger’s history of civil rights litigation culminating in Brown vs. Board of Education.
“I had to buy my own copy,” Olson said, “but I loved it so much that I bought a special chair to sit in and read it in my bedroom. For many years, while it was in print, I gave a new copy to every law student who worked for me as a clerk.”
Another Madison attorney, Dean Strang, who one year ago this month was about to become famous in the Netflix series “Making a Murderer,” has gifted to numerous friends Carlo Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.
“An Italian physicist,” Strang noted, “Rovelli manages in hardly more than 90 pages both a near-poetic summary of what humankind knows, and does not know, about the physical space in and around us, and a beautiful meditation on how to be human in that space.”
On a somewhat lower plane, Barb Snell, former director of Madison’s Access Community Health Center, now living outside Orlando, appreciates her grandmother’s cookbook, which Barb received as a gift from her mother.
“It has my grandmother’s handwritten comments written in the margins,” Snell said. “Most of her comments were about tweaks she made to the recipe but my favorite was next to a recipe called ‘Never Fail Fudge.’ She wrote, ‘NOT TRUE!’ Cracks me up every time I see it.”
There is a lesson here. A fudge recipe may fail. The gift of a book – never.

Holiday Hours          

Monday: 10 am to 5 pm
Tuesday - Friday: 10 am to 7 pm
Saturday: 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday: 11 am to 4 pm

Christmas Eve
Saturday, December 24: 10 am to 5 pm

Christmas Day
Sunday, December 25: Closed

Boxing Day
Monday, December 26: 10 am to 5 pm

New Year's Eve
Saturday, December 31: 10 am to 3 pm

New Year's Day
Sunday, January 1: Closed
December Events
Sunday, December 4
Noon - 4 
Monroe Street Christmas Walk
Ingrid Kallick will be here at noon to sign copies of the beautiful book she illustrate: Two Troll Tales From Norway

Monday, December 12
10:30 am
Holiday Storytime with Trudy Barash

Thursday, December 15
4 pm to 7 pm 
Holiday Glow on Monroe!
Cider and Cookies!
From 4 - 6 pm Kathleen Ernst, author of the Chloe Ellefsen Books, will be here. Kathleen's newest book is A Memory of Muskets. Signed copies make a great gift! 

Mark Your 2017 Calendar
Please note that our website is not up-to-date just yet - the events will be posted as soon as possible! 

Thursday, January 5
7 pm
Doug Moe interviews Bill C. Malone about Bill Clifton: America's Bluegrass Ambassador to the World 

Wednesday, January 11
6:30 pm at Midvale Lutheran Church (across the street from Seqouya library)
Jerry Apps launches his new book Never Curse the Rain

Sunday, January 15
2 pm
Kevin Henkes launches his 50th book! The Egg

Wednesday, January 18
7 pm
Nick Petrie, author of the best-selling Drifter, returns to Mystery to Me with his new book 
Burning Bright

Wednesday, January 25
6:00 pm
Mystery to Me Bookclub discusses Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

Stay tuned for more information about other upcoming events....
* Matt Geiger - "The Geiger Counter - Raised By Wolves and Other Stories"
* Art Journaling with Gabrielle Javier-Ceruli
* "Murder is Announced" ... a preview of an Edgewood College Theatre Production
* Tom McKay - "Misty Urban"
* Writers' Studio Students
* Annelise Ryan - "Dead in the Water" 
* Lori Rader-Day - "The Day I Died" 
Give a gift - get a gift! 
Double S BBQ is once again teaming up with the Madison Reading Project to help bring holiday cheer to local children. Donate any new book (wish list available at Mystery to Me and online at the Madison Reading Project) or donate a cash gift to the BBQ for Books Holiday Book Drive at Double S BBQ and receive a $10 gift card to Double S! Help us meet our goal of 100 children's books and $500 now through December 15, 2016.
Shop Local!
A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of hosting a group of about twenty students from Wingra School. The students (ages 5 - 12) are part of a service learning project focused on community. They all came with questions for me about the store, our favorite books, and about what we do for the community.  Great questions!  Then we asked them to close their eyes and imagine what their life would be like if the only way they could ever buy anything was to buy it on Amazon. Hands shot up! "Do you mean I couldn't go to the grocery store?" "What about people who don't have a computer?" "Maybe that would be kind of cool..." "What about toy stores?" Nevertheless, you get the point. We understand how convenient shopping on line can be and we'd like to have you think about what it might be like if you could only shop that way.
You've likely been inundated with posts about deals and steals for holiday gift giving. You're also likely to have heard that shopping local is important to your community. Here's why it matters to shop local:
1.  You keep dollars in our economy. For every $100 you spend at one of our local businesses, $52 will stay in the community.
2.  You embraced what makes us unique. You wouldn't want your house to look like everyone else's in the U.S. So why would you want your community to look that way?
3.  You created local jobs. Local businesses are better at creating higher paying jobs for our neighbors. 
4.  You helped the environment. Buying from local businesses conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation, less packaging, and products that you know are safe and well made, because we stand behind them. 
5.  You nurtured community. We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains and online retailers.
6.  You conserved your tax dollars. Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money available to beautify our community. Also, spending locally instead of online ensures that your sales taxes are reinvested where they belong--right here in your community! 
7.  You created more choice. We pick the items we sell based on what we know you like and want. Local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because we buy for our own individual market. 
8.  You took advantage of our expertise. You are our friends and neighbors, and we have a vested interest in knowing how to serve you. We're passionate about what we do. Why not take advantage of it? 
9.  You invested in entrepreneurship. Creativity and entrepreneurship are what the American economy is founded upon. Nurturing local business ensures a strong community.
10. You made us a destination. The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors and guests. This benefits everyone.
Love Your Local! A cooperative message from Mystery to Me and IndieBound
Copyright © 2016 Mystery To Me, All rights reserved.

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