The Book I Buy for Others

I know a few people who have a book like this, the book that they buy and give to others. It’s the book that is so amazing, that you think has so much to recommend it to *anyone* who reads it, that you’ll put your money on the table, betting for the book’s cross-audience appeal.

My partner’s “Book-I-buy-for-others” is _Ghostwritten_, by David Mitchell. It’s an amazing book, probably in my top-five favorites that I’m not embarrassed about, and something that inspires me anew every time I read it. Mitchell is obscure enough that many people haven’t discovered this amazing author, or have only read his later _Cloud Atlas_ if they have (and for some reason, everyone I’ve met who read _Cloud Atlas_ raves about it, but has never gone back to read Mitchell’s earlier works. I don’t get this at all). Mitchell crosses a lot of genres in a way that genre enthusiasts usually love and mainstream lit enthusiasts aren’t put off by. _Ghostwritten_ is a good “Book-to-buy-for-others”.

Mine is _Impossible Things_, by Connie Willis. It’s a collection of her short stories, and Willis is hand’s down one of the best short story writers I’ve read. The tales are by turns hilarious, heart-wrenching, romantic, and horrific–sometimes all in the same story. She meditates on everything from quantum physics to academic obsolescence, using forms like the screwball comedy and settings like the London Blitz to bring out the themes she’s working with. There’s very little hard science in this science fiction, but there’s a whole lot of humanity.

I’ve gone through many copies of _Impossible Things_. So many copies–giving my copy away and replacing it, handing them out as gifts, etc. I’m probably a cottage industry for Willis just on my own. I’m happy to be so. This is an amazing book by an amazing author, and one that anyone interested in–well, *anything*–should read.

So, am I unusual in this? Do others have a book or books that are their “Buy-for-others” book? I’m not talking books you recommend. I mean, seriously, you have bought several copies of this book because you keep giving it away. If so, what is it, and why?


26 thoughts on “The Book I Buy for Others”

    1. If you stayed a week longer, you could come ;>

      Or, you could just go to any one of these dates in your general area:

      08.31 Pittsburgh, PA The World
      09.01 Philadelphia, PA The Trocadero / Balcony Bar
      09.03 Worcester, MA The Palladium
      09.04 New York, NY Irving Plaza
      09.05 Washington, DC Nation

  1. Mine is Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins(though I’ve given away Still Life With Woodpecker in a pinch). Jitterbug Perfume is my book.

    1. I’m not terribly familiar with this one, but from the little I know about it, I’m not surprised *at all*! But I’m curious for your reasons as to why this book?

      1. it does, but Jitterbug is his pinnacle in my opinion.
        Another Roadside Attraction is great, but Marvelous Marx is too Mary Sue for me. Not quite as Mary Sue as Dr. Robbins in Cowgirls, but still…

  2. I don’t have one of those books.

    I just have books that only I have read which I keep trying to get other people to read so I’ll have someone to talk to about it and be excited about it with.

    Still haven’t gotten anyone to read any of those.

    Mine is a lonely life full of sadness, and conversation with myself about books only I’ve read. *sniff sniff* Oh the humanity.


    1. Well, list a few here, you doof! The only one that springs to mind that might be on this list is World War Z, and maybe the Hyperion books (which are on my list!). If you list them, maybe someone here will read them, and then you won’t be lonely.

      Of course, I sympathize with your pain. You’re the only person on this planet who I think truly understands my desire to write HK-47/GLaDOS True Romance-style blind-date fanfic.

      Man, the killing sprees! The violence! The robotic crazy! The cake-seeking meatbags will know pain in the name of science! Was there ever a more perfect crossover pairing?

      1. Mostly yeah, World War Z, the Hyperion Cantos, and another Dan Simmons series that doesn’t have a convenient name like the Hyperion books do, Ilium and Olympos. Ilium and Olympos are really just one long book split into two books.

        And just to peak your interest about them, once I finished them they gave me an idea for a Changeling character which, had I known general themes about the Changeling game before it started, and I had I read these books before then (although I don’t think they were published yet) I would have played this character instead of Saadiq as it would have fit perfectly with a lot of the overall story of the Changeling game.


      2. Hells yeah. I’m glad to know someone else had read them. Even though I got the impression they were fairly well known, the first one did win a Hugo after all, it seems like whenever I’d mention them to someone nobody would have heard of them.

        I highly recommend reading Ilium and Olympos, I liked them even more. Couldn’t say specifically why I liked them more, just personal preference I guess.


      3. Hard sci-fi? Are you serious?

        I got into hard sci-fi with Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy. That’s so hard I nearly chipped a tooth on it. I guess after that most things seem like soft, comfy, goose down pillows.


      4. Oh hell yeah, those books are AWESOME. (And Red Mars is a free download on Tor’s site right now.)

        But the Hyperion books do have a hard sci-fi rep. It’s why I read them… though I think they sit in that gap between hard SF and dystopian space opera.

      5. I certainly thought of the Hyperion Cantos as being firmly in the space opera camp.

        The Mars trilogy was almost a little too hard for me. I also thought it suffered from Fellowship of the Rings syndrome.
        “And now here’s another fifteen pages of detailed descriptions of the characters traveling across the martian landscape. Now, some super epic shit!! Aaaannnndd were back to long detailed descriptions of traveling across the martian landscape.”

        That being said I did like them overall.


    2. Ditto to what she said. Throw a few titles up and who knows? I might stop by Borders. I’m desperately in need of new books to read anyway. I think in the past nine months I have reread almost every non-SuperLit book I own. I’m reduced to re-reading things like The Sound and the Fury.

      1. Well here ya’ go then. Mine aren’t great works of literature or anything they’re just books I think are really cool, that it seems like no one else has read.

        World War Z by Max Brooks

        It’s a series of “interviews” in a post zombie apocalypse world. Through the interviews you see what happened when the plague started, how the world fell apart, how it eventually picked itself back up and beat back the zombie horde, and then a bit of what the world is like now in the aftermath of the apocalypse. Probably the best single zombie related book I’ve read

        The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons

        This is actually four books, Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, and The Rise of Endymion. It’s far future sci-fi with time travel, AIs, genetic engineering, galactic war, fanatical religion, and Canterbury Tales. The first book, which is like a far future Canterbury Tales, when you get to the end, is very obviously just a set up for the second one. The second book concludes the story. The third and fourth books are set 272 years after the first, and much like the how first and second books are really just one book split into two, so are the third and fourth (Dan Simmons seems to do this a lot) Overall I think it’s a really good series.

        Ilium and Olympos also by Dan Simmons

        Again two books that are really pretty much just one book split into two. Also far future sci-fi that starts out as the greek gods living on Mars observing the Trojan war and ends up being much much more. A lot of the tech and concepts used are very similar to the stuff in the Hyperion Cantos but there’s also a lot of different stuff too. See my previous response regarding the idea it gave me for a Changeling character.

        Those are the ones no one else has read that I wish I had someone to talk to about.

        As just a recommendation, I’ll also in general recommend Jim Hines. He wrote a trilogy of Goblin books about a goblin named Jig. It’s fantasy conventions turned on their head. Really good fun light reading. He also has a new book out called the Stepsister Scheme, which is basically fairytale princesses kicking ass and saving the prince so, you know. . . it’s kind of hard to go wrong with that. It is also apparently the first in a trilogy. After I read the Goblin books I emailed back and forth with him a little bit and he’s a super nice guy so between really liking his books, and him being a nice guy I feel like I’d be a bad person if I didn’t recommend them to everyone I know.


      2. I’ve read World War Z and can’t shut up about it. It’s SOOOOOO good.

        I tend to foist Someplace to be Flying on people, and I think I’ve given away like three copies of Phil Brucato’s Deleria on gamer-type folks, too. Nothing like magical handbooks disguised as RPGs…we wouldn’t know anything about that, right? πŸ˜‰

  3. When I was younger, that book was Steve Purcell’s Sam & Max: Surfing the Highway.

    In college it was Kyle Baker’s Why I Hate Saturn or Adams’ Watership Down or Grant Morrison’s first volume of the Invisibles.

    Currently, it’s Bruce Sterling’s Shaping Things if the person in question has any interest in making things, the internet, or material culture.

    I still burn through copies of Watership Down at the drop of a hat, so that might be the overall winner.

  4. “Sunshine” by Robin McKinley. Flat out that’s it. I’ve bought tons of copies of that. Best vampire book Evar!! So good. πŸ™‚

    Hey how have you been? πŸ™‚

    1. I’ve given that book away, too!

      Not sure it’s the best EVAR, though. I’ve been enjoying the Vampire Huntress books a great deal. (One Foot in the Grave, halfway to the Grave, and At Grave’s End)

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