Have you started your holiday shopping, yet? I’ve been at it since before Thanksgiving, combing every website I can think of and hunting for secret deals. I would go into more detail but I have a loving and loyal circle of family and friends who read this blog—or at least, I hope they do (If I find out otherwise, they’re all getting socks and fruitcakes next year, let me tell you)—and I would hate to ruin the surprise.
I have a solution for us all; an idea to help narrow down the choices and aid in finding the perfect gift: give books. I know, I know: Doesn’t it go against logic for a library blogger to encourage people to buy books? No, it doesn’t, and let me tell you why. I know from personal experience that buying books and borrowing books from the library are not mutually exclusive. I own hundreds of books, but I have also checked out hundreds (probably more like thousands) of library books. You can be both a steadfast library patron and a book store regular. So, I do not feel like a traitor when I tell you to buy books as gifts. I especially do not feel like a traitor when I advise you to check out the library’s copy of any book you are considering to buy and give it a “test drive” to make sure it is the right fit for your recipient. Here’s another suggestion: you can save yourself a ton of money and do your book shopping right here at the library. We keep a rotating collection of donated and discarded books for sale in the Circulation Department, and the highest priced hardcover book is only 75¢. The big ticket items (DVD’s and audiobooks) will cost you a mere $1.00. There’s something special and even romantic about secondhand books—they’ve traveled distances and lived other lives unbeknownst to you. That’s an entirely separate blog post, so I digress…
Books are great for all ages and practically any disposition. Really, the trickiest part of this whole book-as-gift concept is finding the right book for the right person. In any gift giving situation, regardless of the specific occasion, you should always strive to find a gift that shows how well you know the other person. We all want to be feel known and appreciated—that there are others in this world that care enough to make us feel special. If you can achieve this, then it doesn’t matter how much or how little you spend.
Giving is all about the recipient; you might hate to read those pet memoirs that are so popular, but if you have a friend that’s an animal lover, you might want to consider getting her/him Travels with Casey or the always popular Marley and Me, for example. Don’t overlook non-fiction; the great thing about non-fiction is that there is always something to appeal to every interest; I’ve typed in plenty of random search queries and have been amazed at the variety of books that have been written on certain subjects.
Books are great for readers, obviously, but they could also be great for non-readers. How amazing would it feel if you were the one to introduce that special book to someone—that one book that turned a non-reader into a reader?! I don’t say this lightly: you could change someone’s life with a book (that’s another blog post all on its own). What a great challenge that would be: to convert the non-reader. You would need to go into it knowing that you may fail, knowing that your gift may end up getting regifted, but the potential payoff if you find the perfect book could be extraordinary.
When selecting a book for the reader in your life, you have a few choices: you can try to find a book that you think they would like, or you could give them a book that has meant something to you and hope or try to predict that it will mean something to them. I think the latter option could create a particularly special moment between two people, especially if you include an inscription or a note explaining how important the book is to you and what you think this other person could get from it. When you share a book, it’s like you’re sharing a part of your soul. In staking an emotional claim to a piece of writing—be it a poem, a novel, an article, or even a quote—you are revealing pieces of your past and present, and communicating deep truths about yourself.
There is also a third option: give a book that you know they already love. For this, you would need to know their personal library very well to avoid the pitfall of getting them something they already have. Personally, I love the idea of giving people the books they loved when they were kids. When I read my favorite childhood books now—or even when I just look at the cover—I feel comforted. It’s a warm feeling of nostalgia and deep appreciation; these were the books that made me a reader.
Lastly, if you feel like adding a little something extra in the gift bag, consider tossing in a bookish accessory. Bookmarks are like snowflakes—there is an endless amount of unique ones. Book lights are also great—I received a book light for Christmas a few years ago and I use it regularly when reading in bed. There are also book magnifiers, which are very helpful for anyone with vision challenges.
I wish that I could give you every permutation of genres, authors, and If You Liked That, Read This suggestions, but it would be endless. Instead, please call the library for suggestions or take advantage of our databases, specifically Novelist, which has a thorough read-alike section. You can even email me directly. I will consult my crystal ball and try to find you the perfect book.
I would love for us to share our stories about some of the best books we have given or received. Who’ll be the first to start us off?
Happy Reading and Happy Shopping,