Day 77

They carry I-pods. Backpacks. Water bottles. Pedometers. Cell phones. Hair brushes (well of course!) Money for a cup of coffee. Credit card in case they see something in a store window they simply must have. Pen and paper. Bandaids. Granola bars. Bananas.

But that’s not all.

They carry memories, stories, heartache, hope, and dreams. They carry children in their hearts and the eggs of children still to come. They carry keys to houses they love and keys to cars they don’t. The carry songs and destinations and sprained ankles and shin splints that never healed. They carry scars. They carry tomorrow.

Are we talking about MyBigWalkers now? Or are we talking about all of humanity?

In Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried, “they” are young soldiers fighting overseas, far from home, and they carry pictures of girls, a pebble from home, letters and photos, pocket knives and chewing gum. They carry good luck charms and marijuana to calm their nerves. They carry grenade launchers, rifles, and two-pound ponchos.

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I mean e-ver. That’s why it’s first on the list of 5 more books you might pair with a unique gift item to make your giving personal and meaningful this holiday season. And the answer is YES, I thought these up while I was out walking!

1. The Things They Carried. Tim O’Brien’s stunning, heart-wrenching novel-in-stories is about war but it’s really about life and love and loss and story-telling. Pair it with a special new backpack for a returning soldier, a proud veteran, or hardcore patriot.  I guarantee they will be riveted.

2. Breakfast with Buddha. I’m reading this deceptively light-hearted novel right now. Roland Merullo’s road trip story is Zen meets middle America, meaning it’s funny and uplifting, and a perfect gift for the yogini, budding Buddhist,  or spiritually minded friend in your life.  Wrap it up with a Buddha statue or ornament like this one I found in a favorite local gift shop. 

3. The Miracles of Prato (or) The Birth of Venus. These fine novels about artists and lovers in 15th Century Italy feature romance, intrigue, and characters drawn from the pages of history. Best of all, their covers evoke the high art of the Christmas season. Put one together with a membership to your local art museum and you’re giving a gift that will last through many long winter nights and many happy museum outings. (Note: Prato was co-written by yours truly, together with my dear friend, Laura Morowitz. It really is a perfect holiday read — informative, lovely, and entertaining.).

4. A River Runs Through It. For the fisherman or woman in your life, some lures or flies or whatever those shiny things are called, together with this gorgeous, autobiographically-inspired novella by Norman Maclean, makes a personal gift.  You’ve seen the movie, now buy the book. Best of all, you don’t have to know anything about rods, tackles, and floats!

6. The Madonnas of Leningrad. Is it kitsch, or is it craft? The novel, of course, is literature. I’m talking about those colorful Madonna bracelets I see everywhere. Put a ribbon around one and give it with a copy of Debra Dean’s stunning tale of love, art, and drama during the 1941 seige of Leningrad.  And it has a nice Christmas theme to it, too.

If you think of some other great book & gift pairings, please send them along. And remember: trekking downtown on foot to do your holiday shopping does count as a daily walk.