Monday, 28 November 2016

Buying books for Christmas

I refuse to believe Christmas is here given it's still flipping November. But it is, alas, probably time to start thinking about buying presents (unless you want to tear round the shops on Christmas Eve panic buying novelty socks that is). Although I think books can make great presents, they can be quite tricky to get right. Therefore, I  - being the benevolent person that I am (cough)  - thought I would share my tips for choosing the perfect book for a loved one. 

Check that they read
The first, and fairly obvious thing, is to establish whether your intended recipient actually likes reading. While they don't need to have their head in a book every time you see them, it's probably a good idea for them to show signs of not being adverse to reading. For example, they actually own a few or have been known to read the odd book on holiday. If they seem to prefer films/TV etc, take the hint and get them something else.

Check how they read
These days, there are multiple ways to read a book - such as hardback, paperback, or ebook. People will often have a preferred format for reading and may even actively dislike certain formats. I, for example, am not a fan of hardbacks. I do most of my reading while commuting to and from work, so don't really want to lug a heavy book with me on my travels. Someone else, on the other hand, may prefer hardbacks because they like to read a book as soon it's been published etc. It's worth figuring out how they like to read because this may affect whether or not you can actually buy them a book. Rather annoyingly, in the UK at least, you can't buy an ebook for someone (well, via Amazon anyway). Therefore if they only read ebooks, perhaps get them a ebook voucher. I know that's not the most personal gift you can give but, believe me, no avid reader will be upset about an opportunity to buy more books.

Check what they read
Here you have two options - A: Do a covert search of their bookshelves. B: Just ask them what book they want for Christmas. Personally, I think B is the safest bet. Even if you are able to discover who their favourite author is by stealth, buying them a book can still be hit and miss. If their favourite author has a new book out, they may already have pre-ordered it if they are that big of a fan. Also just because they like a particularly author, doesn't mean that they like everything by that author. A Poirot fan is not necessarily a Miss Marple fan and vice versa.
If you live with someone, then clearly knowing what they like to read - and what they have and haven't already got - is a lot easier. Still, just to be on the safe, check before buying. Them knowing what you're getting them for Crimbo is a lot better than them having to have to slog to the shops to take back the version they've bought themselves (or multiple copies if other relatives have also bought it them, so basically tell everyone what you plan to buy).
To keep the element of surprise, you could always get them a first edition or nicely bound copy of their favourite book (depending what it is and your budget). The Folio Society and Persephone Books (which focuses on books by 20th century female writers) are renown for their beautiful books.

Check what you have read
I love giving books I've enjoyed to friends and family - I think it's a nice way of showing you care; you want them to experience the same pleasure you have had. This, of course, depends on how similar they are to you; if you're polar opposites, then there's a good chance they won't like the book you so admired. Failing giving them a book you like, you could always give them a book that you think they might relate to or reminds you of them in someway. (Not a good plan if said book is a horror novel; probably won't go down too well if you tell them that they immediately sprang to mind when you read it).

Check your thoughts
It's naff and a cliche but ultimately, it's the thought that counts. It doesn't really matter if they don't like the book or don't end up reading it; what matters is that you've put thought into choosing the book. A good friend of mine bought me a book (one that I heavily hinted I wanted to be fair) for my birthday this year. By no means the best book I've read this year, I treasure it because of the effort she took to send it to me (sent it to the hotel where I was staying while working at a conference). Therefore as long as they know you spent time and effort choosing something they might like, I'm sure they'll appreciate it.

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