"The Complete Phantom of the Opera," Julia Child's "The Way to Cook" and Umberto Eco's new novel, "Foucault's Pendulum," are among the biggest sellers in Orange County bookstores this holiday season, the busiest time of the year for booksellers.
And what books are members of Orange County's writing community buying as gifts this year? Here's a sampling:
Robert Ray ("Merry Christmas, Murdock") of Irvine: "I'm giving Natalie Goldberg's book, 'Writing Down the Bones' (Shambhala; $8.95). It's 10-minute (writing) exercises. It's a Zen approach to writing and it really works. My students do it and get a lot of action out of it. If you want to be a writer you've got to practice."
Elizabeth George ("Payment in Blood") of Huntington Beach: "One thing I'm giving to several people is Jo-Ann Mapson's "Fault Line" (Pacific Writers Press; $11.95). I like the way Jo-Ann writes about everyday life but in a manner that elevates the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. Another thing I'm giving is John Le Carre's 'Russia House' (Knopf; $19.95). I like just about everything about John Le Carre. I think he is just one of the most highly skilled writers going today. With that particular book, however, I really enjoyed the characters. He draws characters exceptionally well and with very limited and disciplined use of words."
Maxine O'Callaghan ("Hit and Run") of Mission Viejo: "I just finished the new 'Poodle Springs' by Robert B. Parker and Raymond Chandler and that's kind of good. I might get that for somebody. And there's a new book I'm thinking about getting for a friend of mine. It's called 'David Lean' (by Stephen Silverman; Abrams; $39.95). It's really a neat book. It tells a lot about his life and has a lot of photographs of the movies he's done and talks about the production (of his movies)."
Dean Koontz (whose new thriller "The Bad Place" (G.P. Putnam's; $19.95) will be out in January) of Orange: "I've been so tangled up in things I've been completely out of the shopping thing. But there's a wonderful gift book out there, come to think of it. It's 'Hollywood's Golden Year, 1939' by Ted Sennett (St. Martin's Press; $29.95). It's really about all the great movies that were made in 1939. It was an exceptional year--it was the year of 'Gone With the Wind,' 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,' 'Stagecoach,' 'Gunga Din,' 'Wuthering Heights' . . . I mean when you look at the number of movies, it's just staggering. It's probably the most fascinating film book I've seen in a long, long time. I've been reading that myself and it's a terrific thing to give to anyone interested in the movies."
T. Jefferson Parker ("Little Saigon") of Laguna Beach: "I'm going to give away a bunch of copies of 'Keep the Change' by Thomas McGuane (Houghton Mifflin; $18.95). It's just a sublime little novel. I'm going to give away some copies of Jo-Ann Mapson's first book, ("Fault Line"). They're just real solid short stories, and they're pretty close to the bone. I like that. I'm giving my dad a copy of 'Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation' (Portland House; $95). He was in the Air Force and always kept up on aviation developments. There are a lot of photos, capsule histories of different airplanes and different developments."
Doug Muir ("The Midnight Admirals") of Newport Beach: "One I want to give out is an Amelia Earhart biography, 'The Sound of Wings' by Mary S. Lovell (St. Martin's Press; $22.95). I'm terrible about books--I always give books that reflect my own tastes. I read the review on it and it looked good. The other one I want to give is a collection of short stories by Yukio Mishima, the great Japanese novelist. It's called 'Acts of Worship' (Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 17.95). The reason I'm doing that--and maybe I can borrow it back--is I'm doing research on Japan for a future novel."
A.E. Maxwell (Ann and Evan Maxwell) ("The Art of Survival") of Laguna Niguel:
Evan: "We often tend to give picture books and things like that. Books are so marvelous because they can mesh so well with personalities. We just bought a travel book published in 1905, 'The English Lakes' by A. Heaton Cooper and W.T. Palmer (MacMillan Co.), with hand-tinted plates of landscapes from the English Lake Country. It's for a friend of ours who is fond of vacationing in the Lake Country. It's a perfect match. I found it at a place called the Book Baron in Anaheim. It's a big used-book supermarket. That's the joy of used books: Sometimes you can find extraordinary things which mesh with a particular individual."