Are you struggling to summon gift ideas for the intellectual in your life? If so, you can un-furrow your brow starting now. This holiday season, let BookPage help you shop for the studious and the scholarly those lovers of learning who emerge from their erudite pursuits hunch-backed and bleary-eyed but triumphant.

In anticipation of your Christmas quandary, our industrious editors closeted themselves with publishers' catalogues and unearthed the following quartet of titles, each of which should be pleasing to the academician on your list.

Show what you know A word of wisdom to the aspiring litterateur: Never enter into a conversation unarmed. Your best defense is Bartlett's Familiar Quotations (Little, Brown, $50, 1,472 pages, ISBN 0316084603) a veritable arsenal of razor-sharp repartees and potent turns of phrase. Now in its 17th edition, the newly revised anthology of famous prose and verse quotes, edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Justin Kaplan, has become one of the world's most treasured references.

The origins of this indispensable volume date back to 1855, when Cambridge, Massachusetts, bookseller John Bartlett released A Collection of Familiar Quotations a compilation of smart sayings and their sources. That humble compendium has since evolved into a comprehensive source of outrageous remarks, classic literary passages and unforgettable pronouncements. International in scope, the new edition includes material from more than 25,000 notables (Princess Di, Bob Dylan and MLK, to name a few) and offers quotes from contemporary cultural arenas such as music, television and movies. The volume is revised every 10 years, so now's the time to untie your tongue. Let Bartlett's help you show what you know.

The beloved Bloom is back With his Falstaffian girth and formidable reputation as a cultural critic, Harold Bloom is a scholar who does nothing on a small scale. His new book, Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds is a milestone of research and inquiry, a broad-minded examination of the nature of genius and how (and in whom) it has manifested itself during the centuries.

Through evaluations of classic literary works the poetry of Shelley, the drama of Ibsen, the fiction of Tolstoy Bloom examines the forces that have shaped the great writers of every era, as well as the qualities shared by each author. "The study of mediocrity, whatever its origins, breeds mediocrity," he writes. Thus, this collection a kaleidoscopic look at a group of superior individuals that blends biography with literary criticism. Author of The Western Canon and How to Read and Why, the best-selling Bloom has assembled a fascinating exhibit of remarkable intellects. Genius is inspiring, accessible and provocative a generous survey that will enlarge the reader's comprehension of art, as well as his understanding of the role of the creative mind throughout history.

Keillor plugs poetry One of America's most esteemed humorists and radio personages has put together a treasury of verse that's sure to delight any lover of words. Garrison Keillor, the man behind the popular NPR spot The Writer's Almanac, has compiled Good Poems (Viking, $25.95, 480 pages, ISBN 0670031267), a collection that's broad in scope and full of the unforgettable imagery and skilled craftsmanship that make a poem, as the title puts it, good.

Divided into categories like Music, Lovers, Failure, and Sons and Daughters, the volume offers a poem for every occasion. A who's who of literary lights, the index lists works by top-notch contemporary authors like Galway Kinnell, Billy Collins and Sharon Olds, as well as venerable favorites such as Emily Dickinson, W.H. Auden and William Butler Yeats. "To be interrupted mid-stampede by a beautiful thing is a blessing indeed," Keillor writes of the force of poetry. The genre may be overlooked and underrated, but there's no denying its power. Poets, it can be argued, are prophets, and Keillor's collection reflects their ability to bolster our spirits and lighten our hearts.

The best in books for little readers A terrific gift for those interested in raising little readers, The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators (Houghton Mifflin, $28, 542 pages, ISBN 061819083X) is the literary equivalent of a Leonard Maltin movie guide comprehensive, easy to use and instructive. Compiled by Anita Silvey, former editor in chief of Horn Book Magazine, who has written and published children's literature for three decades, this practical volume, also available in paperback, is packed with info on all the best authors, illustrators and titles.

With more than 475 listings, The Essential Guide covers the top books of the past century and includes profiles of beloved writers, from Lemony Snicket to Margaret Wise Brown. Silvey also provides a basic reading list, contributes thoughtful and perceptive essays on genres such as science fiction, young adult novels and Holocaust literature, and examines timely themes like multiculturalism. Entries titled "Voices of the Creators," written by Lane Smith, Gary Soto, Virginia Hamilton and others, offer insights into the artistic process. An invaluable aid in selecting the best books for youngsters, The Essential Guide is a must for parents who hope to instill a love of literature in their kids.

 

comments powered by Disqus