How Reading Snobs Buy Christmas Presents

Posted 12/22/2010 by Brandon Wainerdi in Labels: , , , , , , ,

Christmas shopping is very overrated.

Half of my December afternoon has been spent with me wandering aimlessly through the aisles of Barnes and Noble, past the shelves of marked-up paperbacks and gift-sets, trying to find just two books. In any other circumstance, this would not be a difficult task: I would just have to grab a couple random bestsellers, slap down some cash, and storm out.

 But today was different: I had to buy books for my two little brothers. They were to be presents from me, the older and wiser college sibling that they respect and adore and yada yada yada. They both know how much books have affected my life, how important the pages that I pored over when I was their age have been since the middle school days. I have thrown copies of J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and even post-apocalyptic George Orwell at them so they can, in turn, learn from the same teachers as I did.

Unfortunately, they, like so many of their classmates, have turned to cheap fiction in my college-fueled absence, the Middle-Earth-plagiarized fantasy series which run a predictable plot, with empty “twists”, and stock characters. They are almost impossible to read, with the unpronounceable cities dotting the ever-present-in-fold map and the copied creatures scurrying about the chapters, boring me with the Luke Skywalker/Frodo Baggins/Peter Parker/Eragon Whateverhislastnamewas protagonist who inevitably transforms from a whiney teenager to a war-hardened hero.

So to counteract the base spells and murmurings of their 700 page fantasy tomes, I have picked up the early works of Orson Scott Card, specifically for the eldest of the two. I remember the impact that the final pages of Ender’s Game had on a fourteen-year-old me, as the vast expanses of space were relegated to a small box of war games, leaving a shroud of melancholy hope to the final pages. It’s pretty tough stuff for a young teenager. He’ll just have to deal with it.

For the other brother, it’s more of a challenge. He’s younger and can’t handle the darkness of Ender’s world let alone the dystopian futures of George Orwell and Ray Bradbury. For a long time, I was intent on giving him half of my Calvin and Hobbes collection, some of the most important words I read when I was his age. I was intent on marking up the several soft volumes with important quotes and textbook-like highlighting, detailing his life-plan from the antics of a five-year-old and his stuffed tiger. But that was too much work and, if I’ve learned anything in college, it’s not to try so hard.

So, after two hours strolling through the book store, I admitted defeat; when I was eleven, my reading regiment was relegated to only Star Wars books (a fact that I am unapologetic for; Timothy Zahn is one of the finest writers of his generation.) I was all out of non-Jedi ideas. So I called my mother to see if she had any hidden reconnaissance. And so that’s how I anti-climactically finished my Christmas shopping because, while I was initially adverse to purchasing The Alchemist by Michael Scott (no joke), I found myself wrapped up in its story, after only a few pages, staying at Barnes and Noble for an extra half hour, quietly reading. I guess I shouldn’t have doubted the literary taste of my youngest brother.

After all, he was taught by the best.

-Brandon Wainerdi [don’t stop me now]

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