READ Books Holiday Newsletter
Merry New Happy Hanukamas everybody. Thanks for being our friend and/or patron.
For your entertainment, we provide you with a truish holiday story and gift suggestions below, and a profound respect from our, uh, hearts.
Hanukkahcide: Oy to the World
I never suffered from Christmas envy. Judging from my occupation—newspaper delivery boy—I must have been in 8th grade when I came downstairs that morning and encountered a dwarfish Douglas Fir ornamenting a garish corner of our living room. It had tinsel and holiday shit all over it. My father sat on the couch reading his Chicago Tribune. It was what we, in the 1980’s, called a newspaper.
I pointed at that solitary midget tree. “What the hell’s that thing?”
He grunted. “Mmm. Your mom calls it a Hanukkah Bush.”
“You sure it ain’t a Christmas Tree?” I asked. “Because it’s Christmas morning, and there’s a tree in our house, all decked out in lights and fancy pants tinsel. Ain’t that kind of fucked up? Because we’re Jewish and all.”
He re-grunted, probably turned a page in his newspaper thing. “Your mom calls it a Hanukkah Bush,” he reiterated. “It doesn’t have one of those Jesus stars on top, so, mmm…”
My reaction, which proved to be definitive for the ensuing years, was to get dressed and go to work. Holiday celebrants would eventually want their newspapers that morning, and I was the guy to eventually give it to them since I sure as hell had no intention of lollygagging around my house celebrating some cockamamie religious festival. They can’t make me dance around an uprooted tree.
Through the years, whenever I’ve found myself gainfully employed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, whatever, I was the guy who volunteered to put in the hours. On all the regular days, I was the guy who volunteered to call in sick, oversleep, or have my car “breakdown.” But Christmas, oh boy! Even when sick, I worked.
In December of ‘96, I lurched into Book Soup on the morning of the 25th with this cold, flu, dysentery thing. Not only were they paying time-and-a-half, which was probably about $10/hour, but there was a free lunch from Greenblatt’s in the works, and I was going to put some deli in my mouth even if it was likely to exit the other side simultaneously. When noon staggered in, I ordered me a pastrami sandwich and a bowl of matzo ball soup. A few minutes later, my manager informs me that my order has been downsized to half a sandwich and a sad cup of soup sans matzo ball. Seems that Glenn, the owner, overheard that I was sick, and he keenly deduced that I might try skipping out early. Thus I was worthy of only a partial lunch. Call it the Moe Howard Management Philosophy:
“Why you hit me, Moe? I didn’t do nothing!”
“That’s for what you’re going to do!”
Still I persevere, even after developing into a self-employed, progenitor type. When I was a martial arts instructor, I offered to take my pre-pubescent students on 5-mile runs every Thanksgiving Day. I called them Turkey Runs, because kids like cute shit. Now that I own a bookstore and have no professional excuse to exploit other people’s children, on Christmas Day I take my kids, the ones I legally own, on eight-mile tromps around town. It’s our own little Hanukkah joke. God they love it.
My allegedly perceptive wife thinks me a victim of my environment, as in I’m what happens when you grow up in a home where the mother spends the 48 hours preceding a holiday dinner shrieking at her kids to get ready for the holiday dinner, and the father commences every Thanksgiving meal with a lecture on why the Pilgrims were assholes and genocide is bad, so go ahead and enjoy your damn turkey. While it does make one wonder why we celebrate crappy people with a nerve-wracking meal, I have had the opportunity to participate in holiday festivities with many allegedly stable families that have allowed me into their homes, and I’ve yet to experience anything to turn me to the sunny and joyful side. Sitting around a table staring dumbly at some charred, decapitated bird, it hardly matters whether the father figure is railing against the concept that brought you to the table, or instructing everyone to hold hands and take turns testifying to being thankful for something besides being on the victorious side of a genocide; I’d rather be tramping around in the snow with a bag full of damp newspapers thrown over my shoulder, or sitting behind a counter in some bookstore ignoring customers.
So, y’know, come into READ Books for your holiday shopping this month and get your gift certificates, sundry Christmas and Hanukkah books, yadda yadda. Or read something else for Christ’s sake. I’ll probably be here, wondering if those Maccabees, when chasing those Greeks out of the Temple, foresaw the Hanukkah bushes and rabid gift giving that it would lead to.
Books You Should Buy From Us & Give to Somebody Else
• The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
• Wee Gee: An Autobiography by Wee Gee
• Edgeworks by Harlan Ellison
• Leo Politi: Artist of the Angels by Ann Stalcup
• The Stairway to Heaven by Zecheria Sitchin
• I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew by Dr. Seuss (1st Edition)
• The Adventures of Pinocchio by Collodi (Illustrated Hardcover)
• Winnie the Pooh: A Celebration of the Silly Old Bear by Christopher Finch (Illustrated)
Humor & Poetry
• America Again & I Am America by Stephen Colbert (Both 1st Editions)
• Mr. Show: What Happened?! Bt Naomi Odenkirk (1st Edition)
• California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present by Dana Gioia et al…
• The Gamble House Cookbook: Good Design/Good Food by Mark Peel
• The New Making of a Cook by Madeline Kamman
• Fanny at Chez Panisse by Alice Waters (1st Edition)
Art & Fashion
• Where’d You Get Those? NYC Sneaker Culture 1960-1987 by Bobbito Garcia (signed)
• Dreaming with His Eyes Open: A Life of Diego Rivera by Patrick Marnham
• Art of the American Automobile: The Greatest Stylists by Nick Georgano
• Arthur’s Christmas Cookies by Lillian Hoban
• Las Christmas: Favorite Latino Authors Share Their Holiday Memories by Latino Authors
• The Chanukah Guest by Eric Kimmel
• Little Tree by e.e. cummings (1st Edition)
• The Story of Hanukkah by Amy Ehrlich (paintings by Ori Sherman)
• Christmas Around the World: A Pop-Up Book by Chuck Fischer
Science & Science Fiction
• Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia by John Clute
• Cosmos by Carl Sagan
If you made it this far, come on in and tell us about it (“Hey man, I made it to the end of your f@#%ing newsletter and…”), and we’ll give you a discount on your holiday shopping. How much depends on how you finish the above sentence.
Jeremy, Debbie, Donald, & Steven