I’ve been spending a lot of time with books this year with my novel being published and the need to promote it. This experience has re-invigorated my love of giving books as gifts — and not just my book either. For the last few months I’ve been collecting gift books for Christmas giving, and the last few will have to be found in the next two weeks. To be honest, not all of my books are purchased new.
Some gift book might come off of my own shelves, just the right book for someone I know well, and I don’t mind giving it up. Some books are adopted like stray cats when I stumble over a title at a yard sale or secondhand store while others I buy from authors to support my fellow writers in their efforts to be read. Sometimes books are ordered fresh and new, unopened with crisp bright jackets. The books are those title I find that must go to one particular person like when I found the book, Princess Bride for my daughter because she loved the movie so much and later the book, As You Wish by Cary Elwes about the making of the movie for the same reason.
A book gift giving is not that easy because some people are not avid readers or have very narrow, particular reading tastes. With these people I treat it like buying socks, everyone needs them and size is pretty easy to match, so I buy good socks like I would want, knowing that the person probably needs them. Even if people don’t like to read much, we know reading is good for you, so buying that person a book is not a bad thing and it says, “I thought about you," which is better than buying them chocolate, which unless it is very special chocolate, says, ‘I thought about you but it was at the last minute”. Which is better, buying them candy, which they will eat but is bad for them or buying a book, which is good for them but they won’t read?
Besides, most people will read something even if it is only a book of poetry or jokes for reading on the throne — Yes, there are books published specifically for toilet reading.
Some of my friends are easy to buy for because they have a strong interest like horses, tie-flying or travel. A football fan of mine is getting, Joe Buck’s memoir, Lucky Bastard, about working as a sports announcer. Others are easy to buy for because they are veracious readers in a variety of genre, or I know an author or book type they would enjoy. Teachers are easy to buy for because they love books for their classroom, and e-book readers can get a easy to spend gift card, easy to use but not so personal as book one picks himself.
Sometimes books are a nice surprise that leads the reader to a new place, for example, I once received as a gift, a copy of Reverence for Wood by Eric Sloan. This carefully written and wonderfully illustrated book of early American technology from America’s farmland is a joy to the eye and ear. It also led me to Sloan’s other work of a similar nature.
Old books have a special place of their own, be they valuable antiques like a two hundred year old bible or first edition Gone With the Wind, but most old books are just wonderful insights or artist marvels. My leather-bound book of Kipling’s poetry has the most supple leather jacket that one wants to carry it in hand for a whole day, and The Art of Skiing (copyright 1933) that my daughter-in-law gave me is a wonderful visit to the early days of skiing as a family sport. It isn’t the value or the author that counts, it is the connection to the reader that the right book can make.
So next week, or the week after for you last minute shoppers, stop by the old book merchant or secondhand store and see if you can find a book for some one you care enough to give a gift to. Who wouldn’t benefit from a little more reading?