Who's on your list? (Author Claudia Sternbach is in a giving mood)

Claudia Sternbach's forthcoming Reading Lips: a Memoir of Kisses rings true and sweet as a music box. In a sea of memoirs based on big marketing hooks, Sternbach’s subtle theme is refreshing and, you come to realize, profound. Flawless pitch and balance. Guileless, unaffected writing. A book club’s dream date. I loved this perfect little opal earring of a book. After devouring an advance copy, I promptly pre-ordered copies for friends. (It's coming out in April, just in time for Easter baskets.) I also asked Claudia to stop by and tell us about books she might be giving for the holidays. Here's what she has to say:

So, the other evening while watching the gigantic film extravaganza, Avatar I wondered if I might add James Cameron to my holiday gift giving list.

Not that we have ever met. Not that he needs anything from me that he can't with his millions, purchase for himself, but as I sat trying to become mesmerized by all of the big, blue, excitement on the screen I kept thinking about a book I happen to love which while reading made my heart pound faster than anything this film was doing. Not that there is anything wrong with the movie or any other of his super-size films. It is just that I believe James is in danger of falling into the bigger is better trap to the point where the heart of the story may get lost in all the flash and bang.

If Jimmy, as I would call him if we were gift exchange buddies, would spend a few evenings sitting quietly with Per Petterson's novel Out Stealing Horses, he might find himself recalling a time before special effects were available and the story itself packed an emotional punch, rather than a giant 3-D Transformer. Pettersen places the reader in a small cabin in the Norwegian woods in the middle of winter and quietly builds a tale that unfolds with the subtlety of the approaching Nordic spring. The emotional impact is as large as the iceberg which took down the Titanic. But without the orchestra playing on the deck or Leonardo DiCaprio turning into an ice pop.

And as long as I am in the book giving mood I believe I might pick up a dozen copies of Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book to wrap with bright paper and shiny ribbons and share them with my friends who have made the switch to e-readers. Not that there is anything wrong with those clever electronic devices. They are quite handy and an amazing invention, if you ask me. But. I just don't want my gadget-loving friends to forget about actual books. The beauty of holding in your hands something more than plastic. A book, perhaps paperback, or leather bound. The pages crisp or softened with age. An item handed down by a family member or checked out of the library or purchased new and if one is really lucky, inscribed by the author.

People of the Book is a novel about a work of art. A hand printed, illumination passed down through generations, hidden during times of war, smuggled from one country to another. Not, I will admit, the typical history of any book we have sitting around the house. But Brooks reminds us that a book is not simply the story. It is the object itself. A treasure.

Then there is my husband, Michael. We exchange very little when it comes to the holidays but a book which may find its way into his stocking may be Here is New York, by E.B. White. A perfect little jewel so slim and elegant one should read it while eating fine chocolate truffles and sipping golden, bubbly Champagne from a crystal flute.

Written in the summer of 1948 it is a love letter to the city. It is tender and witty and explains better than I ever could what makes some people fall in love with that place on the planet. What keeps me going back again and again to wander the canyons and sit by the river. Michael has never felt his heart leap at the sight of the skyline or experienced complete contentment while standing on a subway platform. Perhaps this book could change all that. Or at the very least, help him understand my deep and abiding affection for this place I have made my second home.

Read an excerpt from Claudia Sternbach's Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses and watch this space for more on her publishing journey with this remarkable book.


I so enjoyed reading your recommendations, Claudia. If your memoir is as beautifully written (and considering the praise my friend Joni has heaped upon it, it must be) I know I'll enjoy it, too, when it comes out. Thanks for stopping by BtO!

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