How (Not!) to Gift a Book

As someone who loves books, getting them as a present can nevertheless be a horrible experience. Because unfortunately, books seem to be the elitist’s scented candle. Some people give books when they don’t know what else to get you. And usually you are stuck with the newest bestseller or Nobel Prize winner regardless of your usual reading taste.  

Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely fine to get someone a popular book, but it also has to fit the person. From my experience, some people tend to give you books because you ‘like books’. They don’t take the time to actually think about the gift and just grab a novel from the first display in the store. They act as if all books are the same and since I enjoy reading, I have to love every book. But I don’t! I have spent a considerable amount of my time figuring out what kind of stories I like. Maybe I am generalizing a bit too much here, but I am tired of getting books I have no interest in reading. Perhaps some people do put a lot of thought into this gift – but still manage to get it completely wrong.

However, it can get even worse. In the category of terrible book givers, there is one extremely horrifying subcategory: the sort-of-interested one. This person doesn’t only give you a book you never asked for; they also want to know your thoughts and opinions on it. Well, they don’t really want your honest opinion. Instead they just talk about their own experiences and glance at you for some approval. In these moments I am never quite sure what to say. Because if they actually liked this boring brick of a book, I don’t want to hurt their feelings by telling them that I haven’t read it or that I hated it. Therefore, I usually just smile and nod, which seems to suffice. If anyone has thought of a way to politely guide them towards something more up my alley, let me know.

So, if you are thinking of gifting books at Christmas, please consider the person to whom you are giving it. Don’t just buy them anything. And if in doubt, maybe get them a gift card instead, or – if you find this too impersonal – offer to go book shopping with them (but be warned! This might take a while).  

[Christina Schröck]

Image courtesy of Aike Jansen. 


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