Don't buy books as gifts

20:34, Nov 14 2013

I have always thought holiday gift guides were lame. It's not that I don't appreciate some inspiration on what I can get that cousin of a friend of a friend for Christmas - but that the entire idea has been co-opted by advertisers.


Seriously, advertisers and marketers LOVE holiday gift guides. They cottoned on early to the fact that people are inexplicably drawn to lists. If you don't believe me, just look around the internet. Top 10 this, top 5 that, 18 reasons this, 25 ways that, and so on...

I'm not entirely opposed to being sold things. It's how people make a living, and there's a shameful part of me that thrives on consuming. I spend an inordinate amount of time browsing for clothes and literary treasures online. I have my eye on several books, an iPad cover that looks like a book, literary quote t-shirts, and a reading light shaped like a lantern.

So in that spirit, whenever I'm asked about what books I would recommend people buy for their loved ones for [insert celebration here], I now say "don't buy them a book".

It's a little like how the SPCA recommends that you don't buy people pets for Christmas unless it's something that's been discussed before. It's good advice too. I have a cat that was a gift from an ex, and while I love her black-and-white furry goodness to bits, that was 8.5 years ago and she's still going strong.


While a book isn't as permanent as a pet...for one, you can give books away with less of a guilty conscience than a puppy, kitten or baby bunny, giving someone new, unsought-for reading material can be a ticking time bomb. What if they don't like it? What if they already have it? What if someone else gives them the same title? What if they're secretly insulted by it?

A book is a very personal choice, like underwear. Unless the person has dropped huge hints, literally as in: "here are the titles I'd like for Christmas, my top picks are highlighted", then don't buy a reader books.

But of course, the best presents reflect the interests of the person. So if you're still determined to get literary-themed gifts, think outside of the box. Book vouchers instead of books. A nice bedside lamp to read by. Reading snacks (my personal choice: Trade Aid dark chocolate). Gadgets like e-readers, lighted reading glasses, a book cushion you can rest books on. The list is endless.

Or hey, if you have a teeny (or no) budget, why not try going for something that requires no cash? I've always liked the idea of taking a friend along to volunteer for a day at a retirement home, where you can read to those who are bedridden or whose eyesight just isn't what they used to be anymore.

Those with some crafting skills can make bookmarks, or why not lay on a literary feast with food items prepared from the person's favourite books? As anyone will tell you, the most precious gift of all is your time and attention. Even advertisers know that.

What are some of your ideas for literary gifts?

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