Birthday Surprises, Part I

My dear hubby turned 30 last Friday. Since he’s a whole six months and four days older than I am, I get to call him OLD — at least for the next half year.

The fun of major life milestones is really for those of us who get to plan exciting gifts and surprises. I had a blast with birthday scheming this year!

I chose thirty people from Jeff’s life, past and present, and sent them an email with an invitation to participate in a “30th birthday book shower extravaganza” for my bookworm husband who would choose an evening of reading over almost anything else in the world.

The response was incredible! Everyone who received my email (with a link to Jeff’s Amazon wishlist) was excited about the plan, and soon Jeff’s books were filling up my parents’ mailbox. I was giddy!

On to the birthday morning . . .

As per tradition, I woke Jeff up with breakfast in bed: fried eggs, toast, and sausage. And I gave him my gift: one lone book, Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris.

He was pretty excited about a new book! Then I told him to meet me in the dining room, where he found this:

…a pile of individually wrapped books and an oversized card that read, “Roses are red, violets are blue — 30 new books! for an old man like you.”

After the initial shock and disbelief and “oh my goodness!” he started the thrilling, albeit lengthy, process of unwrapping:

“This is insane. You’re insane. You’ve got a beautiful mind.”

“I’m overwhelmed. But not in a bad way.”

He had two very eager helpers:

It was an unforgettable morning. I’m grateful to everyone who contributed a book and made this an extra special birthday for Jeff. We now have one whole shelf in the living room dedicated to these 30-some books, and I often catch Jeff standing in front of it, gazing longingly, or occasionally selecting a book to flip through while his tea bag steeps.

For those of you who may be curious, here is the list of books Jeff received, in no particular order:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (trans. Lydia Davis)
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (trans. Lydia Davis)
A Late Flooding Thaw by Gary Guinn
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
The Broken Estate by James Wood
Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
Love’s Immensity by Scott Cairns
Crack Wars: Literature Addiction Mania by Avital Ronell
Bringing It to the Table by Wendell Berry
The Limits of Power by Andrew J. Bacevich
The Death of Adam by Marilynne Robinson
The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller
The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander
The Narnian by Alan Jacobs
Superior, Nebraska by Denis Boyles
The Anabaptist Story by William R. Estep
An Introduction to Mennonite History by Cornelius J. Dyck
Rereading Paul Together ed. David E. Aune
Maurice Blondel: A Philosophical Life by Oliva Blanchette
Prayer by Hans Urs von Balthasar
Sin: A History by Gary A. Anderson
Matthew (Brazos Theological Commentary) by Stanley Hauerwas
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
Apologia pro vita sua by John Henry Newman
Nouvelle Theologie & Sacramental Ontology by Hans Boersma
Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book by Harvey Penick
Reflections on the Savior by Max Lucado
Reading Genesis After Darwin ed. Barton Wilkinson
Eternity, Time, and the Life of Wisdom by Matthew L. Lamb
Beauty for Truth’s Sake by Stratford Caldecott


8 responses to “Birthday Surprises, Part I

  1. Oh, so fantastic! I am honored that we were able to be a part of it. My husband was a bit bummed that I didn’t come up with this idea for his 30th 🙂 You’re an amazing wife. Thanks for sharing the deets of this thrilling event!

  2. What a great idea. Jeremy is in awe and reported of this gift to me before I even saw this blog post. Way to go, you!

  3. I can ditto Liesel’s comment! Also, Ben later said, “Can you try to remember this for when I turn 30?” Hah!

  4. Yay, my book finally made it! Very fun post, Jess.

  5. Yes, very fun, Jess! I am honored to be your mother-in-law! Thanks for letting us in on the “event” via this post. And thanks for loving my son. He is one lucky guy!

  6. WOW! What a fun birthday! And those must be “smart” books…I LOVE to read and have only heard of ONE of those!!!! 🙂

    • Kendall, I just read this comment again and had to laugh. It’s true: I wouldn’t know of most of them if not for obsessing over Jeff’s wishlist for months! So which one had you heard of?

  7. Rebecca L. Stein

    Totally great idea Jessica!

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