What marks the start of the holiday season for you?
A briskness in the air, folks seeming to moving a bit faster around me, going out and getting a Christmas tree and all of it wrapped in the same feeling and anticipation that I had as a child of something miraculous about happen. Here I am in my late 50s and all the cynicism that comes with age can not overcome that sense of awe that engulfed the holidays of my childhood.

What are you most looking forward to during the holiday season?
I will be coming off a 35- to 40-event book tour for A Separate Country. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to go out and meet folks and talk about the book. Yet, by then, I think I will be looking forward to staying put, hiking in the woods around my cabin, not venturing far from those home fires burning.

What is your favorite holiday book or song?
When I was a child, my dad would read Dickens' A Christmas Carol over several evenings every year. I think my parents thought it was a lesson we needed to heed. I can still hear my dad doing the different voices. He did a particularly good Mr. Fezzwig.

Why do books make the best gifts?
Books are keys to unlock everything from knowledge to our hearts. They can change us and give us hope. They give us examples of who we can be and who we shouldn't be. They take us places that we will never see or understand otherwise. I remember as a child the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch, whoever he was, saying, "How will I understand lest someone teach me." Books are a gift of understanding.

What books are you planning to give to friends and family?
My top 10 list changes with time. I guess everyone's does. After finishing my new book, I found myself going back to All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Not enough friends of mine have read Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow or The Awakening by Kate Chopin, so they're on my list as are Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and Ironweed by William Kennedy, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and Birds of America (short stories) by Lorrie Moore.

What was the best book you read this year?
Hands down, it was Huckleberry Finn—it was the third time I have read it over the years.)

What is your number one resolution for 2010?
To do right.

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