Dear Santa: USA-Made Books, Please

I cannot live without books.

--Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams (June 10, 1815)

My family's Oregon-grown tree still sits in a bucket of water outside. There are gifts to wrap, a college-kid to pick up, a Christmas Eve menu to plan (Ina Garten's Turkey Sausage Lasagna tops my list). Yet I've still so much to share about USA-made gifts, and only three days left.

I'm pretty sure Don would say the Twelfth Day can't come soon enough. I keep buying the products I write about. Last night, as Don and I devoured a late dinner (soup and salad from Whole Foods), I fessed up about ordering yet another CAMJ-mentioned item. Don rolled his eyes, but then wanted to know all about it. I eased into the purchase, took Don back in time, reminded him how our kids, powered by their own two feet, used to take turns zipping around the house, yard and neighborhood in their Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. "And it's still Made in the USA," I marveled. "Can you believe it?" He nodded, smiled. I let the good feelings hang in the air for a beat or so before suggesting we order a Cozy Coupe for our grandson (now 20 months). Done deal. Should arrive tomorrow. Now if I can just get my tree up and decorated, we'll be set.

No Christmas gift list would be complete without books. I'll leave the e-reader debate to others. Suffice it to say there's a tangible joy, even comfort, in reading a "real" book, turning its paper pages, placing it on a shelf to return to time and again as the urge strikes. That's my opinion. Hope you'll agree. Visiting a bookstore is part of the pleasure. Browsing the shelves, seeing what piques your interest or what might be enjoyable to give to a friend or loved one. It's relaxing and fun.

Must admit the sad news about books, however: Those requiring color-processing (children's books, coffee table books, cookbooks) are now 99.9 percent Made in China. But the good news is that most other books still say "Printed in the United States of America." Nice to see those words inside a book cover, isn't it?

Below are some book-gift suggestions with a twist. Since you're probably done with Christmas shopping, why not give one or two of these to yourself? Perhaps, as a reader of this blog, you are drawn to the "Made in USA" topic and wish you knew more about it. Or you wish you knew more about, say, buying local foods. Or about life in China during the Cultural Revolution (the past informs the present, doesn't it?). Or you wonder what life inside a Chinese factory is like today. These books will move, inform, entertain, horrify, and hopefully make you want to read more:

CAMJ's Top 10 Books to Give to...You!


The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck

Girl in Translation, by Jean Kwok (This book, although fiction, is based on the all-too-real experiences of the author as a child working in the apparel sweatshops of Brooklyn, NY.)


Life and Death in Shanghai, by Nien Cheng

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver

Nonfiction with compelling personal elements:

Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China, by Leslie T. Chang

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry in the Value of Work, by Matthew B. Crawford

Globalization, Free Trade, How to Revive American Manufacturing:

Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America's Future, by Ro Khanna

Make It in America: The Case for Re-Inventing the Economy, by Andrew N. Liveris

Great Again: Revitalizing America's Entrepreneurial Leadership, by Henry R. Nothhaft

The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage, by Alexandra Harney

That's it for Day Ten. Hope you'll grab a cup of coffee or tea to-go from your favorite cafe, head on over to your favorite independent bookstore (mine's Rakestraw Books, in Danville, CA) and browse to your heart's content. If you come across other books on this topic to suggest, I do hope you'll post them in the comments section for all to see. Happy reading!