Gift books sized right for stocking stuffers abound this season. Small in dimensions but big in style and content, they make ideal holiday gifts for any taste.
Horse and art lovers will appreciate the gorgeous equine celebration Horse: From Noble Steed to Beasts of Burden. A profusion of beautiful illustrations, paintings and sculptures each meticulously identified by captions accompanies short essays and quotes in a hefty hardcover volume. Horse is the latest addition to a charming Watson-Guptill series of mini-books that includes Dog, Cat and Zoo.
Other small and savory selections to slip into a stocking can be found in Abbeville Press' Tiny Folios series, which features subjects from pop culture to fine art. Just four inches square, each title combines text and art for a delightful peek at such topics as Elvis and American Art of the Twentieth Century. To score some points with the love of your life, choose Hugs & Kisses which features photos of touching and heartfelt embraces.
Brush up on your Bard with Fandex Shakespeare, a set of double-sided, die-cut cards attached at one end in a lively, colorful fan of facts. Background information and a summary of each play make for quick study. The Fandex Family Field Guide series has 13 other titles, too, like Mythology, Wildflowers and Civil War.
Holiday blues, winter blahs, sugar lows and bad hair days have a new remedy: The Blue Day Book: A Lesson in Cheering Yourself Up. Amusing animal photos are paired with inspiring, witty text designed to lift the spirits. Skip sending that well-intentioned e-card to a blue buddy, and give this charming antidote instead.
A Blue Dog day will cheer up fans of popular cajun artist George Rodrigue. A Blue Dog Christmas is a warm memoir of the artist's childhood holidays and canine companions. It features 19 new holiday prints, and a festive ornament that can be used year after year.
Another artist who happily refuses to grow up is Dan Price, author of The Moonlight Chronicles. Price describes himself as a hobo artist whose mission is to travel without a destination, observing and distilling the joys of simple living. His hand-written journal entries and charming sketches are full of wonder and gratitude. This is an unusual book in an unusual format, and well worth a look for its artwork, honesty, travel writing and journaling techniques.
For the simple joys of sophomoric humor, no one can outdo the usual gang of idiots from MAD Magazine. The MAD Bathroom Companion is a compilation of the magazine's best short pieces that can be read in one sitting. Enough said? The ideal gift for friends and family fond of infantile jokes, smug mockery and great cartooning.
If pearls of wisdom from MAD Magazine are not your style, the erudite gems from The Literary Book of Answers may be. The book is reminiscent of the time-honored practice of divination, where with closed eyes and an open book, a random finger pinpoints the answer. Here, readers are instructed to focus on a closed-ended question, touch the book just so and open to a seemingly random page containing a quotation from Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Sophocles or a host of other famous writers. It may sound corny, but the quotations are pithy, interesting and certainly more grammatical than advice given by friends and family. Should you quit your job? Move to Wisconsin? Have asparagus for dinner? Wait a little, advises Rudyard Kipling; That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, says Lewis Carroll; Enjoy it, all of it, Homer concludes. As a bonus, a truly literary-minded reader can seek out the source of a quote, find the context or discover a favorite new author.
Another new book has all the answers too, but to only one question: why aren't you married? Even God Is Single (So Stop Giving Me a Hard Time) by Karen Salmansohn delivers 26 good, snappy, single-girl comebacks to that dreaded question. This edgy little gift book also offers its philosophy of why it's better to hold out for a soulmate instead of settling for a cellmate.
A true gentleman, of course, never asks a woman why she is not married. He might however, ask guests to dinner without consulting A Gentleman Entertains, by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis. As this elegant manual proves, such an uneducated move could be a mistake. Single or not, a good host must know how to set a table, put guests at ease, have enough ice on hand, avoid disaster when the entree burns and other essential skills. Several likely social scenarios are covered, as well as a few klutz-proof recipes and tips galore.
Two chunky palm-sized books that will fit even the tiniest of stockings are Christmas Joy and A Treasury of Christmas. Irresistibly small, they are nonetheless packed with seasonal delights. The Treasury recounts several classic holiday stories, and Christmas Joy explores a variety of holiday themes such as charity, children and food. Need more books for folks on your holiday list? Euripides says "Go forward to your favorite bookstore," for "Yonder lies some more of the same sort" (Hans Christian Andersen). In other words, plenty of great new titles, big and small, await selection. "You may be sure of that" (Aeschylus).
Joanna Brichetto is a Nashville based writer who agrees that good things come in small packages.