Friday afternoon I received a request from a reader, a male reader (!), to post about gift ideas for mothers and sisters from sons. Being a sister, and having figured out years ago that all it takes to make my baby brother happy are beautiful old books, I turned to my male friends for advice. My ever helpful friend Luis said he he absolutely no idea what to get his mother, shrugged his shoulders, ending the conversation and alerting me to the very, very necessary series of posts which will follow.

On a recent visit to Barnes and Noble a friend of mine tossed me a book he thought I'd enjoy, Fables: Legends in Exile, suggested I read the first few pages, and if I liked it he'd loan me his copies. Who wouldn't enjoy a graphic novel where Snow White is the mayor and Beauty and the Beast are experiencing marriage problems? The next time I saw my friend I was presented with a stack of books, the first four volumes of the series. It wasn't a present, it was a loan, and it still made me feel excited and special.

A present which comes with a recommendation is twice the thought--it's not only, "I wanted to get you something special," it's also, "I thought of you when I read this" and "I want to share this with you." The most meaningful presents from my own baby brother are ones that reference something we've discussed or done together, a movie we watched over and over on TV together, for example. If you don't have a book to recommend, think of something relevant to your mother or sister's life, are they traveling soon? Do they love old instruments? Research it a little, find the only book worth carrying with you through Cairo, or the guide to antique banjos. Let them know when they open the gift that you looked into it and that this is the only book worth reading on Einstein's food habits, the only one!

Your mother or sister will appreciate your thoughtfulness, your care and the opportunity to call you up to discuss the book, it's really the gift that keeps on giving.

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