Heaven is a Book Stack Under the Tree

Bookstack (n): 1. A gift, generally given at Christmas, comprised of many books, each book wrapped in tissue paper, the entire stack of books tied with a bow. 2. The last thing opened on Christmas day. 3. A whole bunch of books given all at once, the pleasure of which is in the sheer generosity of so many words, and the plethora of covers, the amount of time it takes to unwrap the stack, the discovery that you’ve got hours and hours of wonderful reading ahead of you on Christmas day, long after the turkey’s been eaten. 5. A gift that does not need batteries, a power cord, or a software update. 6. Heaven.

The bookstack is one of those ideas, like velcro or the twist tie, that’s so simple you can’t believe you didn’t think of it yourself. The trouble is I can’t remember where I read about it, so I can’t give credit to the brilliant woman who did this every Christmas for her children. (It that was your mother, would you speak up please?)

This one is for one of my older boys, a boy who likes history, sports, and has a great imagination.

And here’s a key for those who’re squinting right now. Beginning with the upper left hand corner:

1. John Madden’s Heroes of Football; 2. Dave at Night; 3. Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly; 4. Orlando Bloom Has Ruined Everything; 5. The Great Turkey Walk; 6. The Leopard Sword; 7. Whittington; 8. The Book of the Lion; 9. Eragon; 10. Across Five Aprils.

I hope nobody minds a few days of bookstack posts. There are books everywhere in my office, waiting to be wrapped in tissue paper and stacked: some for my other two boys, for my husband, for my mom, and even one I made for me, me, me!


47 thoughts on “Heaven is a Book Stack Under the Tree

  1. it’s a great idea, but a costly one at that! my poor student’s allowance can barely afford one book, let alone a stack!

    unless, of course, i traipse to the secondhand bookshop, which i think would be a little weird; who gives secondhand stuff for xmas?

    but it’s something to keep in mind definitely, when all gift ideas run out.

  2. Thanks Nancy Ruth — I’m having a lot of fun choosing books and wrapping them up.

    Oh but my dear Sulz, There are lots of cost-effective ways to do this. You can’t tell from looking at the stack, but some of these are good second hand copies. You can also use BookMooch. Most in the stack are paperback, with one or two hard backs, to give the whole arrangement a little oomph.

    One of my adult stacks is made up almost entirely of books I read this year and loved and want to pass on. They’re in great condition, and there’s no reason not to give them to someone who’d like them.

    So, no, I don’t think it’s weird to make bookstacks out of second hand books. One Christmas, I sent my little brother a box of books (my first foray into bookstacking) and every single book in the box was used. (It helps that I live in a university town and really good used bookstores are everywhere.) The books were things like Catcher in the Rye, things I knew he’d miss if he didn’t have them right then. I think he still remembers that gift fondly, not so much because of the expense, but because these were books chosen exactly with him in mind.

    When you can afford it, yes, indeed, new books are lovely. But the pleasure of this present is not in the newness of the book, but in the care that went into choosing six, eight, ten, twelve books that one person will enjoy. My next post, in your honor is the affordable book stack, okay?

  3. Sadly, I don’t think it was my mother although she did believe in giving books as presents — just not a whole stack at once.

    As much as this is my idea of heaven under a Christmas tree I also believe there’s a little of the other place, too. I mean, how do you choose where to start with so many books just begging to be read?

    I can’t wait to see the rest of the book stacks.

  4. Not to be a killjoy, but…doesn’t everyone do this?? Bookstacks = presents in my family. Have I just been lucky all this time?

    I suppose I should add that, ever since grad school, with the exception of the one year following the completion of my dissertation when I read only for fun, bookstacks have been far less exciting because I never have time to read the books in them.

    On the other hand, NOT getting books for Christmas pretty much sucks, as well.

    Yours is wrapped quite nicely, by the way.

  5. Ah, Kerryn, your mother just need a little shove in the direction of quantity. As for where to start, that’s a problem between you and your maker.

    Welcome Ms. Plainsfeminist — Alas, no, not all families are so lucky. You’re one of the fortunate ones. I’m sorry about the lack of time, though. Sounds like what you need is a moderate stack, nicely wrapped (thank you by the way for noticing), and the gift of a bit more time than you have now. Still, Christmas Day does tend to stretch out forever from morning to dinner, a time when you can drape yourself across the couch and read and read and read, if all the stars are properly aligned and say, somebody else is taking care of the meal.

  6. Chocolate and books — does it get any better? Add a few clementines and some good music. Doesn’t everybody multi-task and read while listening to music?

    I’m regifting some Norah Roberts paperbacks to Rebecca. She loves to read but with three children and trying to make it through college.. not enough time to read.

    She does have a brand new laptop she takes to the library during the week, though.

    We tend to stack videos too. You need more Sci-Fi? I have 5 years worth of Babylon 5. 🙂

    I still give the out of town grandchildren gift certificates to Amazon.com. Mom started doing that a few years ago, and I decided to do the same. Not as good as picking out books for them, but I’m assuming their moms know what to get.

  7. Lovely wrapping, and wrapped lovingly. Books are my favorite gifts to give or receive, ‘tho I’m the biggest reader in my family and some just humor me with my book gifts. The spouse always receives from my mother a gift card to the bookstore for his christmas time b-day. I usually am the beneficiary!

    Noticed Across Five Aprils. I loved reading that book when I was a child!

  8. i wouldn’t mind receiving a secondhand gift, but i’ve been brought up with the idea of giving only new stuff… i don’t know how others would react to that either!

    a post in my honor… indeed i’m honoured! (heh, notice the “u” in mine.)

  9. What a wonderful idea. I have often given and received books both for Birthdays and for Christmas (indeed, with a birthday on 23rd Dec, often the same book did for both) yet this is the first time I have heard of a “Bookstack”. I am stealing this idea and its definition, posting it on my blog and then sitting back and hoping – – –

  10. I LOVE getting books as presents. It isn’t a Christmas without at least one book. But I have never had the luxury of receiving a book stack.

    I was right on top of your answer to Sulz. I absolutely do not think there is anything wrong with second hand books. We have a wonderful shop in the area called the Well Fed Head, and it is devoted to second hand books. Besides, there are some books that are only available second hand. No one I know would be upset to receive the first edition of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. That would be second hand. . .

    If you have a list of books to buy you can’t go wrong by going over to Powell’s Books http://www.powells.com/ or Amazon. They have tons of books at reasonable prices. I am a frequent offender there.

    Here I have been wasting my time floating instead of getting together a book stack for someone. http://healingmagichands.wordpress.com/2006/12/16/happy-birthday-ludwig/

  11. I love the book stack idea. In a similar vein my husband asked me to find him some new music for X-mas this year so I’ve got him a big stack of cds- all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff- which I hope he’ll enjoy but which in any case was a lot of fun choosing. I didn’t think to wrap them individually though- maybe next year because yours looks great.

    Second hand books can be good depending on the person. I got small stack of second hand PG Wodehouse books once as a present which was nice as they weren’t then very commonly available in print locally. And the thought and care that went into finding and choosing them for ME was very much appreciated. Far more personal than something from a generic book chain store with an exchange card (which sad to say is what most of the extended family will be getting from me.)

  12. This is an amazing idea and I would love to read more posts on bookstacks! I have been feeling guilty because yesterday I calculated how much I spent on Christmas prezzy books for Kiko and it was $50… and even then most of the books were secondhand or discounted. I couldn’t believe I’d spent so much on books for a one-year-old child, then again, as your post made me realise, there’s no such thing as too many books! At any age! I’ve wrapped them individually rather than as a bookstack and they’ll be going in his stocking. Somehow I think the stocking may be groaning at the seams it will be so full of books. Next year I will do a bookstack for him, in fact I will make it a tradition. Maybe I will drop heavy hints in a certain husband’s direction that I too would like to be part of the tradition!

    I’ve just been reading about the Orlando Bloom book on Amazon. It looks sooooooooo funny! I hadn’t heard of this cartoon strip before.

  13. Such a wonderful idea! I am definitely making one for my mum, thanks for the tip, Bloglily! Although as we both buy many more books we can read along the year, it will be difficult to find enough to make a whole stack of them… That will just make it more fun, I guess.
    Also, like Helen, I think I just discovered one more comic strip to become addicted to: Foxtrot sounds great! 🙂

  14. I showed this post to S. and he and I have both agreed this will be a new family tradition of ours, beginning next year (too late for this year!) – we will each make a book stack for one another and then if we have children they will receive book stacks as well.
    This is the best thing I’ve seen all year.

  15. I just gave book stacks to each of my nieces & nephews last night as I do every year, although I never thought to call them that, and they weren’t so lovingly, individually wrapped – next year! An idea that I had this year was to top each stack off with a little book light (I found some Disney-themed ones for kids), so that they can read under the covers.

  16. That’s a great idea. I did a similar thing with a group of books that I bought for my wife for Christmas. Can’t wait to see her open them, she’ll be so excited!

  17. I love the idea, especially the second-hand and passing-books on. Am a little anxious about losing track and giving (or worse still, receiving) books to people they’ve previously given to me.

    Reminds me potentially of the notion in the Lord of the Rings of the mathom, a present given and swiftly passed on any number of times.

  18. Hello All — Good heavens, I just got back from party giving and going this weekend, and see that a comment stack has occurred over here. (You know, where you wrap the comments up in tissue paper and put a bow around them!) I think one thing many of us have in common is how much we LOVE getting and giving books. The more the better. Tomorrow, I’m going to be posting about giving when money is tight. The day after, who knows — maybe my own bookstack. And then a few for children. But mostly, I’m so looking forward to having an afternoon or two to sit and read, one of the loveliest things about the holidays I know. xo, Lily

  19. We got secondhand books for presents when I was growng up – my mom in particular was really great at sniffing out OOP editions of books by authors or illustrators we liked. I think sometimes it’s more fun to get a book you didn’t know about, but were very interested in, than a current favorite. Now that I think about it, book-shaped presents were always my favorite things to open. So many possibilities!

    and I love your Christmas posts, BL – I feel like I’m having a vicarious Christmas (via litblogs) this year, which is an interesting experience.

  20. BL,

    What a cool collection of books. I love the packaging too!
    I have a terrible tendency to collect a stack all of my own over christmas! I sometimes wish they were in a single bundle just like that!


  21. Love the bookstack, BL. Now I wish I’d put one into the box I sent to my daughter (who will not be with me this year for the first time ever…gasp).

    Maybe I’ll just wrap one up for myself!

  22. Ella — I knew your good sense about how to find books came from somewhere! At lunch today, I’m going to a good second hand shop in the city, twenty dollars in hand, to find a stack of books for my mother, who wants fiction, a few happy endings, and something to wake her mind up.

    Hello dear Eoin, Embarrassingly enough, my own self-chosen stack is really, really huge. I’m hoping no one will notice!

    Kristin — I hope it all goes well. My guess is that you two are connected in ways that don’t require physical proximity — and how nice to have a box from your mother at Christmas. (As for wrapping one up for yourself, that’s certainly my plan!)

  23. Thank you very much Eoin. I think it’ll be easier to read. Now all I’ve got left to do is transfer the links to the blogs I read (they’re residing at the bottom of the site these days) into a page at the top so they’re easy for people to get to.) And I did the domain transfer finally, the one you did in about thirty seconds. How it took me so long I cannot explain. Like many changes, it was far easier in the doing than in the thinking about.

  24. It’s the sheer quantity which is so indecently splendid! Only affordable if one goes second-hand – but that is also something special. Would it help to call them “vintage editions”?

    My ex once asked me what my family did on the afternoon and early evening of Christmas Day.

    “We read our presents”

    Thankyou bloglily.


  25. What a wonderful idea. I always get my daughters (11yrs and 8ys Twins) at least 3 books each at Christmas but wrap them seperately to even out the present pile. This year I bough my eldest: Little Women (It really is time she read this) plus two others, one by an auther she discovered recently at High School and an adventure/Spy Story (Can’t remember the names and they are already wrapped! The 8 yr olds’ include Goodnight Mr Tom and books by Anne Fine. We have a good Oxfam book shop in a neighbouring town which is always worth a visit but I never thought of second hand book stacks. My brother would love that- an idea I hope I can hold onto until his birthday or next Christmas.

  26. I left a comment earlier but as it has vanished into cyber space I will try again. As you may see I now have my own blog – inspired by yours!
    Anyhow, I love the idea of a book stack I aways buy at least 3 books for my daughters on Christmas and birthdays – I believe they can never have too many! Although my husband would disagree as he has to build the book shelves! I wrap them seperately to balance the present piles and my choices for them this year include Little Women for my 11yr old – it is high time she read this one- Goodnight Mr Tom for one of my twins and some Anne Fine for the other one.
    Next year I will try and remember this lovely idea.

  27. wow this is a pretty good idea. i’m gonna have to steal this gift idea =). i agree with the previous commenters that this is only do-able with second-hand books.

    commuity “friends of the library” are good places to get used books. books usually sell for anywhere between $0.25 and $5.00. i used to go to the one in the parking station on Durant as an undergrad.

  28. What a super idea…You’re right – why didn’t I think of this myself! We are all voracious readers in the family – and this would work for birthdays too (since we ‘celebrate’ Christmas only with a change of food). No cheap second-hand books here (New Delhi), unless they are in pretty bad condition!

  29. To me the word bookstack has always meant those bits of the University Library where you can get lost as you look for something that no one has asked for for so long it has started to put out roots. I like this idea much better and the notion of doing it to a budget even more. I read your post before I went out for a walk this morning and spent the time planning out what I would buy for different friends. The first birthday comes up on January 15th; Coel is going to be three. Perhaps I should start a tradition. Many thanks for the idea.

  30. Whittington was such a good book. I read it out loud to Ariela. My kids got their books one by one, over the course of Hannukah, but I love the look of yours. I would be in heaven. The art of your book stacking is that you give a variety, and they are intended to delight, not improve, the recipient. Merry Christmas to all of yours!

  31. Pingback: mandarine » Blog Archive » A Christmas e-book stack

  32. I did this for the first time this year for both my children. A mix of 2nd hand and new books, bought slowly over the whole year, it doesn’t have to be expensive! We made our own wrapping paper (butcher’s paper and paint) so I wouldn’t feel too guilty about them ripping into the wrapping paper 🙂 Just discovered your blog. Lovely. Happy new year.

  33. Pingback: Book Stacks Redux « BlogLily

  34. Pingback: Holiday Bookstacks are Coming! « ReadingWritingLiving

  35. bookstacks, great idea. I never have heard of that before. I do “a good read” present for all my adolescent and not so adolescent friends. It includes: the stack of books just like yours AND a new pair of flanelette pajamas, a big mug and some hot cholate. It has been a perennial staple in my gift giving repertoire for more than twenty years.

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