Unique Gifts from Montana Bookstores

By Andrea Peacock
Co-Owner, Elk River Books 


Twenty years ago, Doug and I celebrated Christmas together for the first time. I scrimped and picked up a halfway decent pair of binoculars for him. He hit a used bookstore in Missoula and came away with a brown paper bag full of winter reading for me.

Fast-forward 15 years, and I stood behind the counter at Elk River Books for our first holiday season, amazed that people loved giving and getting used books for Christmas. It was one of the reasons we survived that first year, and honestly, every year since.

Montana’s bookstores nurture and reflect the culture of the communities where they are located, from the co-op model of This House of Books in Billings, to the strong event programming at Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, to the eclectic offerings at Fact & Fiction and Shakespeare & Co. in Missoula. When you give a gift from one of these stores, you not only support the folks who own the businesses, you nourish the intellectual life of your town.

It was in that spirit I asked each bookstore to talk about something special they have on their shelves this season.

Gene and Bev Allen
PO Box 545, Helena
(406) 443-6475


Antiquarian book dealers Bev and Gene Allen would like to highlight their photography book, The Collotypes of L.A. Huffman, Montana Frontier Photographer, this season. The books are $50, signed and including postage.

Like most early photographers, L.A. Huffman produced a number of photomechanical prints; his were called “collotypes.” They are high quality, difficult to tell from photographic prints, and have caused much confusion among historians and collectors. This book will end the confusion. It identifies, describes in detail, and pictures all of the known collotypes; it also features a quick reference chart. The book has 168 pages and more than 140 illustrations that cover the full range of Huffman’s work.

Andrew Guschausky
Cassiopeia Books
721 Central Ave., Great Falls
(406) 727-6350


Andrew Guschausky writes: “I’m offering books by Jamie Ford and Paul Zarzyski, personally inscribed or merely signed, for the Christmas season. After mentioning this online, I’ve had requests from Virginia, Wyoming, and Washington, so far. One customer was having Jamie’s book, Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, inscribed to her son, and she said to tell Jamie, 'You're making a young aspiring writer very happy.'

“Paul Zarzyski’s books are fun to give as gifts because he is simply the master of personalizing books for readers. In fact, I had him sign a book for my uncle who works in the Bob Marshall, and Paul wrote, “May the stars always shine down most lovingly on the Bob.” How beautiful is that? Giving a book that you've hand picked is truly a special gift, but having the author inscribe that book for the recipient is a priceless treasure. And of course, these authors have so many fans in Great Falls, the bookstore’s customers are over the moon that they get to share Jamie and Paul’s works with their friends and families.”

Andrea Peacock and Marc Beaudin
Elk River Books
120 N. Main St., Livingston
(406) 333-2330


We’ve handled a really nice collection of signed first editions this year including one book I’ve never seen before: Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall issued in three separate volumes (including The Man Who Gave Up His Name and Revenge) in a slipcase. It’s signed by Jim on the limitation page of Legends, and was his first foray into the genre of novellas, a form he would return to again and again throughout his career.

If the price tag on that one is too high for you, but you’d still like some classic, signed Montana fiction, we’ve got signed first editions of Rick Bass’ latest short story collection For a Little While; Sweet Thunder, the last book Ivan Doig lived to see published; and Fools Crow by James Welch. These are all in very good to fine condition, and essential works in any Montanan’s personal library.

Barbara Theroux
Fact & Fiction
220 N. Higgins Ave., Missoula
(406) 721-2881


Barbara Theroux writes, “Signed editions sell year round. The tourists love them and the locals are now spoiled because we have visiting authors sign our stock. Those who want personalized books need to be there! One exception is James Lee Burke who uses our website to have people around the world order signed first editions. The personalization service ends on Dec. 15, and will disappear from our website.

“Publishers have started to solicit orders for signed editions of new books.  These are usually in the form of a pre-signed page that is inserted during the final binding process, true collectors tend to shy away from this trend. I always ask about the where of the signature.

“The copies of Bait by Chuck Palahniuk actually contain a signed bookplate provided by Chuck to place on page 1.

“This link features some of the editions we have a decent supply of: http://www.factandfictionbooks.com/signed-first-editions.”

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