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The Well-Stuffed Stocking

December 19, 1993|Susan Reynolds

Books come in all shapes and sizes these days, and some will fit handily into the standard athletic sock slung on the mantle or the heirloom needlepoint and velvet deluxe model. Archeologically speaking, it is our opinion that books should be the first to be opened, followed by the small blue box from Tiffany & Co., followed by a few cigars, followed by the ever-present orange, exotic as any jewel on a chilly winter 1920s New Hampshire morning. Here follows some elegant, some entertaining, some serious and some silly stocking stuffers: Hollywood du Jour: Lost Recipes of Legendary Hollywood Haunts by Betty Goodwin (Angel City Press: $TK). Goodwin has a knack for unearthing Los Angeles' heritage from under layers of mini-malls. You can make the Brown Derby Pan-fried corned beef hash for breakfast. Enough Is Enough: Weekly Meditations for Living Dysfunctionally, by Karen Finley (Poseidon Press: $14) is an antidote to the (let's face it) goody-two-shoes-Polyanna-aphorism books cluttering counter tops by cash registers everywhere. One favorite: "Exaggerate: Exaggerating makes our lives more creative and inventive without much money." Or "Stay in Bed All Day. Tip: Make sure that you brush your teeth if you stay in bed all day." In a different category altogether, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of "Women Who Run With the Wolves," offers The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What Is Enough (Ballantine: $10), a hand-sized story with night-blue woodcuts. 203 Ways to Drive a Man Wild in Bed by Olivis (yeah, right) St. Claire is so completely X-rated that the idea of stuffing it into a stocking seems questionable. You can forget about Fredericks of Hollywood. It's a red book that you don't so much read as peek at. Street Games: The Greatest Games Ever Played on Concrete, by Ray & Dennis Vignola (MIG Communications/Berkeley, California: $TK.) will give you something to do after you've flipped through "203 Things," opened a few presents and eaten too much fruitcake. Work it off playing Stoop-Ball or Five-Ten. The book comes with a rubber ball and jumbo chalk. You have to come up with the bottle-tops. The New Consumer's Handbook of California Wines by Norman S. Roby and Charles E. Olken (Knopf: $24) is the size of a pocket guide run amok. It has some eminently readable sections on "The Basics of Winemaking," "Wine Geography," and everybody's favorite: "Wine Language" (so you know a botrytis cinerea when you taste it). Basketball! Great Moments & Dubious Achievements in Basketball History by John S. Snyder (Chronicle: $6.95) really is the size of an orange, and full of the great accomplishments and defeats of 200 "famous and forgotten players." On the fancy side, you can order special editions of several favorites: Harriet Doerr's story Under An Aztec Sun, M.F.K. Fisher's Boss Dog, Wallace Stegner's Two Rivers or James Laughlin's This Is My Blood, from Yolla Bolly Press (Main Street, Covelo, Calif. 95428). These are gorgeous things, printed on Mohawk Superfine, the bindings sewn with linen thread, the end sheets of Indian straw paper or handmade Moriki papers. They come wrapped in a case of handmade Indian bagasse paper, and there are some signed copies available. They are $155. (Swoon.) Who needs jewels?

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