Buying books as presents – it’s a minefield! Regular writer Emma Lock helps us to negotiate it…
The nights are getting longer, the weather is getting colder, and John Lewis is once again looking festive and inviting in its sea of fairy lights. Christmas shopping season is upon us, and books are popular presents every year. They can make brilliant gifts: a thoughtful, well-chosen book is more personal and much more long-lasting than yet another tin of Quality Street. However, a book can also be a really rubbish present – either because you didn’t think it through properly, or because, for whatever reason, the recipient just didn’t like it. With this in mind, how can you try to ensure your gift is remembered for the right reasons?
Firstly, always ensure that the book is at least vaguely suitable for the person you’re buying it for. An arachnophobe is unlikely to appreciate a book about spiders, and buying a book of romantic poetry for someone who has just been through a painful break-up is likely to result in the book becoming firmly embedded in your skull (and not in a metaphorical way). Bear in mind that books are often heavy and have sharp corners. Ouch.
Some books are safer bets than others. Cookbooks are often a great idea, particularly if you know someone likes a particular chef or cuisine – a Nigella cookbook I was given last Christmas has seen A LOT of use. Another option is the plethora of humourous books about a range of subjects that bookshops stock at this time of year. The light-hearted (and affordable) nature of these books makes them ideal presents for those people you might be slightly unsure about buying for. ‘Coffee-table’ books are also popular presents – large books that sit on the coffee table for perusal at your leisure (not books about coffee tables – that would just be weird).
Equally, there are some books that it’s not a good idea to give as gifts. Self-help books are best avoided, as there’s too much potential for embarrassment or offence. Political books are treacherous – politics is an incendiary topic at the best of times, and someone attempting to second-guess your political leanings can be extremely offensive. Any sexually explicit books (Fifty Shades or similar) are to be approached with extreme caution. Giving them to anyone you’re related to is really, really wrong; giving them to friends is risky (subconscious associations will be formed), and as for giving them to your boyfriend/girlfriend…I’ll let you work that one out.
The best advice is to tailor your gift to the recipient’s interests. If you know someone well enough to be buying them a present, you should have an idea where at least some of their interests lie. My brother recently bought me Sandi Toksvig’s latest book for my birthday, which I was ridiculously thrilled with because I love Sandi Toksvig – a fact he clearly hadn’t missed. Paying attention to someone and what they like is the best way to ensure any gift goes down well.
So, that’s a potted guide to the minefield of Christmas book-shopping. If all this has sent you into a spiral of indecision and panic, don’t worry – if all else fails, just go for chocolate, or socks. Or perhaps… a book about chocolate socks. Who wouldn’t be pleased with that?
Emma Lock, Books Teambookmark me