Friday, November 19, 2010

A Caution About Holiday Book Giving

As we draw closer to Christmas, I'll be publishing some bookish gift guides for some of the different types of people on your list. Before I start though, I wanted to just share some words of caution.  Book gifting can be a wonderful thing.  I know that.  But I also know that gifting what you like to someone who doesn't have similar tastes can do more damage than good, especially to a child or reluctant reader.

I went through high school without reading a single book because the books that were presented to me were, in my opinion, a waste of my time.  I didn't find the plots satisfying, couldn't relate to or care about the characters, and wasn't mature enough to understand the social constraints and themes that most of the literature I was supposed to be reading for class was meant to illustrate.  Cliffs Notes were my best friends.  I loved books until eighth grade, but then had a very sad eight-year gap before I discovered them again, all because of one book after another, starting with A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

I'm prompted to share this warning with you because of a similar Dickens story I read today in the Telegraph - only this time it was Oliver Twist, and the author vehemently urges you to let children be the judge of a good book.  It's a short but powerful article, and if you're considering gifting a book this holiday season, you should read it.

I just wanted to share this little caution with you, and hope that you will take it to heart while considering books as gifts.  I am by no means saying that you shouldn't gift books, merely that you should carefully consider the people you're gifting and their lives and not just hand out the books you love.  It's harder than it sounds. (Though if it's a thoroughly bookish person, gifting your favorites can never be a problem! ☺)


Enbrethiliel said...


This is a timely post! I'm about to start shopping for Christmas presents for the children I tutor--and of course I want to get them all books! I'm fairly sure that my nine-year-old girl will like Beezus and Ramona . . . but everyone else is a mystery. And to be very honest, I'd say that two of them might prefer gifts of clothes rather than books! =S

It's worse at home! =( I've tried to make reading a tradition in my family, for the sake of my younger brothers. But even "tried and true" children's classics which don't leap into the action immediately--like The Phantom Tollbooth or even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe--simply don't catch their interest. I can hear their eyes glazing over!

Yes, it's partly my fault for giving them books I believe they "should" read--all of which, incidentally, are in a YA/MG collection I've been putting together since I was their age. (Don't you feel sorry for them, having a book snob for an older sister?) I suppose I should be liberal enough to let them loose in a bookstore to find what appeals to them--even if it turns out to be (Gasp!) Geronimo Stilton. LOL! But I think I've made them think bookstores are chambers of horrors now. =P

Alyce said...

I had the opposite problem when I was a kid - I always begged for books but there weren't any other fanatic readers in my family, so they never bought me books. Who knows, maybe they just didn't know which books I would like. I can tell you that I hated A Tale of Two Cities though. :)

Jo said...

My grandma used to go to the local bookstore and ask for recommendations for books for her grandchildren, describing our ages, hobbies etc. The owner was really helpful and very knowledgeable, and my grandma would always give great books as presents. Unfortunately i don't think there are many stores like that today.