Despite being a book fiend, I am more than happy to not receive books for Christmas. I prefer that most people keep far far away from choosing a book for me. See, I’m funny in my reading tastes – as are most people – and what may resonate with many and hit the bestseller lists rarely interests me.
Let me give you some examples:
Christmas books from previous years that did not hit the mark:
How Late it was, How late – James Kelman
Welcome to the Monkey House – Kurt Vonnegut
The Snapper – Roddy Doyle
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Berniere
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris
Full series by Janet Evanovich (this one should have been full of win because she’s a fave author yet 4 years later they still have a ribbon wrapped around them)
A Little Bush Maid by Mary Grant Bruce (I mean, seriously! I couldn’t get past the title page)
and many many more.
I’m a Libra – let’s aim for some balance in this blog post!
Christmas books from previous years that did hit the mark:
Lake Woebegone Days by Garrison Keillor
Perfect English by Ros Byam Shaw
Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris
Twitterature by Aciman and Resin
Neither of these lists are exhaustive as I have received many more books than I can be bothered to remember. The books on the first list must have many wonderful qualities for them to have inspired many a reader to buy and many a bookseller/librarian to recommend them but sadly they were not able to interest me at all. I cannot pinpoint why some books grab me from the first page yet others with similar elements just leave me cold. And certainly, if I can’t put my finger on this elusive quality it would be near impossible for someone else to guarantee I will like their selection. This year, I have been especially lucky. I only received two books and both books were hits. I received Things Bogans Like and a 4-novels-in-one Mills and Boon Summer Special collection.
Reading choices are very personal and subjective. There are so many aspects to selecting a book starting from aesthetically pleasing elements such as great cover art, beautiful paper stock, well designed layout and a well chosen font. Once we overcome the form over function aspect of book selection we start looking at the content. From well written prose, dialogue intense, character driven, settings, genres, time periods, sex, no sex, gruesome murder, cozy mysteries, steampunk, graphic novels, romances, tragic love stories, epic poetry, adventure, pirate books, fantasy, unicorns, faeries, trolls, travel, war, monarchies, geishas, revolutions, classic literature and the list does go on and on and on and on….. Enter the quagmire of book selection for other at your risk!
I appreciate the sentiment behind the book as a gift but unless it is a surefire win (ie, I have told you that I want a specific title) and you really insist on buying me books, opt for the gift that doubles in giving by purchasing me a bookshop gift card instead. I don’t think that this is impersonal – it is highly practical and more likely to not end up at my kids’ school fete’s book stall next year.
I do wonder though, for all the lovely book gifts, how many givers of books didn’t really stay up all night wrapping gifts (it did come in a gift box, after all) but were up furiously reading, making sure they didn’t break the spine and finishing that wonderful book that they would have loved for someone to have bought them instead.