Holiday Giving – Part 15

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My final holiday giving post is written specifically for last-minute shoppers.  These are the people who will be in the malls and shopping centers today carrying lots of bags since this is their one – and perhaps only – shopping day of the year.  If you plan to do some of that shopping in a bookstore, here’s a book you could get for many people on your list:

The Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman

I love this book so much – and was waiting for an opportunity to include it on a holiday shopping post, but decided to make it a list of one.  Maira Kalman is an illustrator and artist. I became a fan from seeing her work as a “visual columnist” for the New York Times and her many children’s book, including Fireboat and Next Stop Grand Central. After buying her book, The Principles of Uncertainty, I began to follow her blog chronicling her tour around the country to explore democracy in action. A few months ago, the blog posts were collected into her new book, The Pursuit of Happiness, a book I’ve given to four people (five if I count myself) this holiday season. 

Here’s the starred review from Booklist:

“First published as an illustrated, 12-part blog in the New York Times, artist-author Kalman’s wonderfully idiosyncratic meditation on democracy is now available in a single volume. Despite its original episodic publication, the book coheres beautifully in terms of both artistic unity and the careful evolution of its overarching theme. Each chapter—beginning with the January inauguration of Barack Obama, an event that was the catalyst for the book—represents a month of Kalman’s yearlong quest, which included visits to both coasts. Thus, the month of February is devoted to her loving celebration of Abraham Lincoln; March to “the essence of democracy, the town meeting”; and so on to December, which concerns George Washington and, finally, a tender and loving evocation of happiness itself. Kalman’s art and its wonderful interaction with her hand-lettered text is every bit as idiosyncratic as her approach to her subject, and the result is an achievement that evokes her widely praised picture books for children. Sprinkled among her art—as always, evocative of Matisse—are photographs, whose realism offers a nice counterpoint to her more stylized drawings. Whether you think of this book as a graphic novel, a picture book, or an album, it is sure to leave you feeling happy—about democracy and humanity.”

This book makes me happy every time I share it with someone or look at it myself. What better gift could you give someone?  Even if your shopping is done, the gifts are wrapped and you’ve moved on to baking cookies – it’s not too late to place one more package under the tree!


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