The Hughsletter #115 – Gift Giving Edition

Good Morning!

We have less than 40 days left in the year, and if you are like me, you are trying to figure out what to buy the people you love. This always presents a dilemma for me, because I realize most of us don’t need more stuff. In fact, the storage industry is booming, because we already have so much stuff we have to pay someone to store it for us. (Check out this NSFW bit by George Carlin about “Stuff”.)

Lately, I have been trying to give only Edibles, Experiences, Entertainment, or Education to friends as gifts. Because, as Carlin would say, we all have too much stuff. With that in mind, here are some books, movies and music that I thought were beautiful that would make great gifts.

Here are some great gift ideas

Without a doubt, the most beautiful novel I read this year was Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. It has much to recommend it, but the thing that struck me most was the main character’s love of the world around him, and the beauty he saw everywhere, even in small-town Iowa, and even in his family and friends who held very different views than he did. We could probably do with more of that.

I don’t watch a lot of films, but I loved Calvary. It takes place in small-town Ireland, where the priest receives an anonymous death threat while in confession in the first 5 minutes of the film. The rest of the movie is the priest being a priest – trying desperately to love the people who are in his flock, recognizing their flaws and hoping for their redemption – even as he knows one of them wants him dead. It is the most realistic depiction of pastoral work I have ever seen on screen.

Two different books about cooking caught me this year. The first is Tamar Adler’s Everlasting Table, which is hauntingly beautiful in its simplicity. A literary heir to MFK Fischer (whom I also adore), Adler believes that by cooking we can show our love for the world and ourselves. This is the perfect gift for anyone you know who loves to cook.

On the other hand, The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty is more of a history and sociology book that tracks African influence on American cooking. Interwoven in the book is Twitty’s (who is a gay black Jewish man) search for his personal history. Good for folks who are into cooking, history, Black history, or personal memoir. This book is beautifully written.

Insomniac City is a memoir of the last year or so of Oliver Sacks’ life, as told by his romantic partner Bill Hayes. It is beautiful, but that is an understatement. It shows that love is more than feelings – it is captured in preparing a simple meal, looking up something on your IPhone or sitting beside the person you love as they die.

People either like mystery novels… or they don’t. I do, and have spent most of the year caught up in the “village mystery series” sub-genre. Here are links to the fist novels in a series of three of the masters of the form: Colin Dexter, Louise Penny, and Carolyn Graham.

Music and I have a funny history. I am tone deaf, and so while no doubt parts of it are lost on me, I love what I love – mostly music that invokes memories or that tells stories. Lately, it has been the former, and I have had Johnny Cash with My Mother’s Hymnbook being played most often. It isn’t my theology anymore, but I have memories of singing every one of these songs in churches with people who loved me

If none of those struck you, perhaps you could look at this list of books I recommended a few years ago, or this list of gift ideas from last year.

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Well, that is it for this week. I hope you have a great week, and that your life is filled with beautiful things. If you see something special, I hope you will let me know about it, and if one of my five I shared today struck you in a special way, I hope you will let me know about that, too.

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Take care of yourself, and each other.

Hugh Hollowell
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