By Alice Northover
April 23rd has a touch of madness for those in book publishing. It is cause for not just one celebration, but several. It is World Book Night, an annual exchange to spread the love of reading; World Book and Copyright Day as organized by UNESCO to promote both reading and the preservation of authors’ intellectual property (take note plagiarists and book thieves!); the Death day of both the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, and el manco de Lepanto, Miguel de Cervantes, in 1616; the probable Birthday of William Shakespeare in 1564 (his baptism was the 26th of April and baptisms were traditionally held three days after birth); International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, which celebrates the work of science fiction and fantasy authors and encourages the free availability of their great work online (by their own choice, not against their wishes); and finally La Diada de Sant Jordi.
While Valentine’s Day is sweet, nothing can compare to this Catalan holiday for St. George (Happy St. George’s Day to our English readers by the way) also known as El dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book). Men give women roses and women give men books. This tradition dates to 1923 thanks to a savvy bookseller, but has grown so that every year La Rambla in Barcelona is covered in flower stands and book stalls.
I asked our editorial board (yes, the OUPblog has one) to name a book that they would give a loved one today. I hope you enjoy their recommendations.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow
Despite giving his “last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon University (which later became a YouTube sensation…check it out), Professor Randy Pausch went on to leave us with one final “lecture” in this book. Even though he was facing the final stages of his battle with pancreatic cancer, Pausch wrote The Last Lecture to teach us how to live — to chase our dreams, enable the dreams of others, overcome life’s obstacles, and seize every moment. Consisting of a series of honest, humorous, and uplifting reflections, The Last Lecture will inspire and challenge anyone to live their best life. —Jessica Prudhomme, Marketing Associate
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
This is a beautifully written account of John Steinbeck’s search to rediscover the flavour, taste, and sound of his own Country, America, with his loyal poodle Charley, and faithful trailer Rocinante. It is one of my favourites because reading it is like being sat in a room, talking to someone wise who has an unquestionable love for travel, learning, and most importantly life. John Steinbeck was 60 when he embarked upon this trip, and was fierce about not exchanging the quality of his life for slightly more quantity. It is not only a unique account of America, but a fantastic book for anyone who regularly gets that urge to be someplace else, showing it is not only a bad thing, but if listened to, and acted upon, can open your life to many new experiences, no matter what age you are. —Gemma Barratt, Assistant Marketing Manager
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
It’s a crazy, funny book about love in many forms but it’s ultimately about enduring love through all sorts of ups and downs. —Emily Crowley-Wroe, Assistant Marketing Manager
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Regarded by many as the first detective novel in English, The Moonstone is a masterpiece of suspense and intrigue. Centred around the theft of a precious yellow diamond, the story is told through multiple character narratives enabling you to see the case not only through the eyes of the detective but also the suspects. Transporting you to Victorian England this book will not only keep you fascinated as the plot unravels but also have you relentlessly trying to guess whodunit! —Adam Pulford, Assistant Marketing Manager
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Half of a Yellow Sun is about Biafra’s struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria, and the violence that followed. The reason I couldn’t put it down was because I was absolutely captured by the characters and how they coped, particularly Kainene, an independent, strong, hard-headed, and business-minded woman. The novel is about moral responsibility, ethnic allegiances, class, race, and the end of colonialism. It might not sound like a very romantic book to give to a loved one, but it definitely stimulates an interesting conversation. —Laura Fleming, Assistant Marketing Manager
Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni
It’s accessible, clever, and small — or as my boyfriend would say, ‘condensed.’ Poems are a lot of power and feeling condensed into a few choice words. I love that. And I love a holiday involving a book and flower exchange! —Lana Goldsmith, Associate Publicist
Water Engineering in the Ancient World by Charles R. Ortloff
My partner is an eminent water treatment specialist and nothing excites him quite as much as an in-depth discussion about all things aqueous. If I were to buy a book for him from *gasp* another publisher, it would have to be Cooling Towers by Bernd and Hilla Becher. The Bechers have been making a splash with their photography of cooling towers since the 1960s and this volume contains 236 photographs of cooling towers in all their glorious different shapes and structural forms. I’m sure he’d dive right in. —Nicola Burton, Press Officer and UK Blog Editor
A Guide to the Elements by Albert Stwertka
My brother is a scientist, so this would be a great book to have just in case he forgets the basics! It’s really clearly laid out so good for dipping into. It doesn’t sound glamorous but I think he would appreciate it! —Chloe Foster, Junior Press Officer
Joshua Spassky by Gwendoline Riley
Two lovers who can’t quite get together meet in the same city where Zelda spent her last years. F. Scott Fitzgerald has clearly been a strong influence on Gwendoline Riley’s writing and Joshua Spassky achieves the same kind of woozy emotion as This Side of Paradise. —Alice Northover, Social Media Manager
Tinkers by Paul Harding
An extremely powerful, beautifully written story, Tinkers depicts the last hours of an old man’s life. As he lies surrounded by family, he reflects back on his childhood and that of his father and grandfather. Tinkers will make you reevaluate the way that you perceive the world, life, and death. —Erin Fegely, Marketing Associate
The Rotter’s Club by Jonathan Coe
It’s funny without being trivial, moving without being sentimental, and the characters stay with you long after you’ve read it. —Christopher Wogan, Marketing Manager
So we encourage you to give a loved one a book today (and send this blog editor a plane ticket to Barcelona for next year).
Alice Northover joined Oxford University Press as Social Media Manager in January 2012. She is editor of the OUPblog, constant tweeter @OUPAcademic, daily Facebooker at Oxford Academic, and Google Plus updater of Oxford Academic, amongst other things. You can learn more about her bizarre habits on the blog.