Wordy, worldly gifts suitable for any wintertide occasion, including Hanukkah (this year: sunset Dec. 1 through sunset Dec. 8).
1. Postcard telegrams. “Designed to resemble cable-service telegrams—complete with class of service designations, an area to fill in the charge amount, and an official-looking office-of-origin stamp (your messages will appear to be sent from Portland, Oregon)—these letterpress-printed cards have an authentically vintage feel.”
Especially nice if you actually reside in Portland, Oregon. From Bas Bleu. Six cards plus envelopes, $16.95.
2. Library candles and scent diffusers. “Pairing favorite quotes with exquisite fragrances, we pay homage to the literary greats.” In Dickens, Whitman, Austen, Thoreau, and Poe. Shown below: the Dickens (a blend of tangerine, juniper, and clove); the quote reads, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
I confess I got a little swoony with desire when I saw this whimsical-yet-practical bag at Kate Spade. It’s made of “Italian smooth shiny cowhide” with 14k gold-plated hardware—which I would forgo if it meant reducing the $495 price. On the other hand, if each of you readers chipped in 50 cents . . .
A whole book about “OK”? Oh, yes. Because as author Allan Metcalf says, “It’s OK the Great: the most successful and influential word ever invented in America.” His recently published book is a dandy gift that enables the reader to win bets (no, “OK” doesn’t derive from Choctaw), learn about American history (Martin Van Buren and Andrew Jackson figure into the narrative), and gain insights into literary classics (Louisa May Alcott used “okay” in the first edition of Little Women). And there’s brand history, too (I wrote about that angle last month in a post about OK Soda). Bonus gift: an interview with Allan Metcalf on the Oxford University press blog.
5. Typographic city maps.
Ian Huebert’s literary map of San Francisco, a slightly different version of which originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, incorporates quotations from John Steinbeck, Thomas Pynchon, Alice Adams, Maya Angelou, and many other authors. It’s $15 at S.F. Electric Works ($25 for a signed copy), and suitable for framing. I bought this map the week it became available and had it framed, gorgeously, at Galleria Scola in Oakland.
Axis Maps, a Texas firm specializing in “custom cartography for a digital age,” has created very handsome typographic maps of Chicago and Boston, with more cities in the works. Each poster-size print is $30 and is available both in color and in black-and-white.
Detail of Axis Maps’ Chicago map.
Kate Spade again! This canvas bag measures 14.4" x 13.3"; books-of-the-month are also available as Kindle covers ($85) and clutch bags ($325). Depending on the style, Great Expectations and The Importance of Being Earnest versions may also be available.
Jim Rosenau has been a carpenter, a comedy writer, an editor, a software developer, a planning commissioner, and a designer and builder of parade floats. Most important, he writes, “I was raised with a near-religious relationship to books.” Since 2002 he has been transforming discarded hardcover books into art and furniture, which he sells in his Berkeley gallery and at art shows around the United States. He has a wonderfully wry sense of humor, evidenced on his website (see, for example, how books are harvested from the Tree of Knowledge) and in his work. The shelf pictured above is called “Auto Erotism”; it’s $600. I also like his book tables (which are made of books) and sculptures. For those of us with modest budgets, he has an “under $100” category that includes a set of five bookmarks inscribed “You Don’t Have to Finish This Book” ($6). Through Dec. 19, he has posted a dozen deeply discounted pieces on his website, including an “Enlarging” shelf that made me giggle.
If you’re not in the word biz, you may not comprehend the excitement some of us experience when a new style guide is released. But believe me: This just-released book, the first reference of its kind to be published in a decade (the last Wired Style Guide came out in 1999), is a perfect gift for anyone who writes or edits for online publication. It’s the result of a year’s worth of work on the part of 11 internal and external editors, three of whom I heard speak at a recent Bay Area Editors’ Forum event, and it’s both weighty (512 pages, fully documented and indexed) and entertaining. In addition to covering the basics—punctuation, abbreviations, title style, and so on—it includes chapters on defining an online voice, writing for an international audience (it’s the World Wide Web, after all), streamlining text for mobile devices, mastering the basics of Web coding, and understanding trademark and copyright. Equally invaluable: the advice on creating your own style guide for a publication or organization. Each chapter includes examples of text before and after editing, and many chapters include skill-sharpening exercises. You can get a taste of the book’s riches at Yahoo’s online style guide, but serious word mavens will want to own the paperback version, which justly calls itself “the ultimate sourcebook for writing, editing, and creating content for the digital world.”*
9. Bedtime-story pillowcases.
Read yourself to sleep with these narrative pillowcases from Third Drawer Down, an Australian design studio and storefront museum whose products are available internationally. This set of two 100% cotton bedtime-story pillowcases was designed by the Scottish artist David Shrigley ($65 plus shipping).
And this "Dream" set was designed by the American writer and film director Miranda July.
Yes, I’ve plugged Visual Thesaurus in the past. Yes, I’m a contributor. But personal bias aside, a one-year subscription to VT—just $19.95—is a splendid gift for your favorite teacher, writer, editor, or wordaholic. Daily features include essays about usage, punctuation, neologisms, euphemisms, and teaching. There’s even a monthly crossword puzzle. Some of the content is free, but much of the juiciest stuff (including my own columns) is behind a paywall. So subscribe already! And give generously.
* Yes, Yahoo endorses the serial comma.