If I could request but one gift during the holiday season, I’d ask for a book. Books abound with a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. They provide hours of adventure and entertainment rarely found anywhere else in today’s culture. A couple of books I would include on any wish list would include, “Cutting for Stone”  by Abraham Verghese and “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett.  “Cutting for Stone” is about Marion and Shiva Stone, twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. This novel is an unforgettable journey into one man’s remarkable life, and an epic story about the power, intimacy, and curious beauty of the work of healing others. “Pillars of the Earth” is set in 12th-century England and the story line revolves around the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide throughout 40 years of social and political upheaval as internal church politics affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. Another book I once read, and pick up to review from time to time, is Howard Thurman’s, “The Mood of Christmas.” The message in Thurman’s book revolves around a gift he says everyone should enjoy and use in the best way. This gift is memory. Thurman defines memory as, “one of God’s great gifts to the human spirit without which neither life nor experience could have any meaning.” What Thurman urges in his book is to use your memory now, today and often. Think what a priceless gift it is. What if you had no memory? Every second, minute and hour of every day would have to begin for the first time. Learning would be impossible and education would be meaningless. Instead, humans have the power to store vast amounts of information and experiences throughout their lives. All we have to do is think about it and we can recall these thoughts and experiences on demand with the use of our memory. Some people store only unpleasant memories. Every slight is filed away. When a later encounter is made with the person responsible for the offense, the individual is chastised again, either mentally or verbally. After a period, the memory storehouse is full of unpleasant thoughts. The mind is filled with suspicion, resentment and hate. For others, only pleasant thoughts are stored for safekeeping. Such thoughts can be summoned at a moment’s notice. They restore faith and re-establish confidence in life at difficult and trying times. Remember with the coming of the New Year, look to the future with hope – the confident expectation of good. Use the gift of memory to your benefit. Enjoy past experiences and remember life is what you make of it. Make it good. And as for reading or giving a book this holiday season, there are plenty of other wonderful books waiting to be read. So go on line, visit your favorite book store or swap books with a fellow reader. Just remember, this is the perfect time of year to read a book.   John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.