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The art of gifting books

Author David Nicholls thinks “gifting books feels like changing the music at someone else’s party.” He has the opinion that books are not a good present because it feels like you are imposing something on someone. Personally, I don’t agree with this, especially since I have always enjoyed receiving books. But, something to consider is whether you are buying a book based on the receiver’s personal taste, or on your own.

Whilst buying someone a book from their favourite author might be happily received, gifting them a book that you loved yourself might not be as appreciated, especially if it is very different to what the receiver normally reads. It might even be perceived as showing off if you give something like a challenging classic, for example, The Iliad

Nevertheless, I would not say it is always wrong to gift a book that is slightly different to someone’s taste. Whilst “changing the music at someone else’s party,” may suggest that their music taste is not good enough, receiving a book that’s different from what you usually enjoy does not necessarily mean that the giver is trying to present their favourite author as superior to yours. It just helps you to expand your world.

People often say that you can find out a lot about people by the books they read

Just because the book is different to what someone likes to read, does not mean they will not enjoy it. In fact, the receiver might fall in love with a genre that they never tried or even considered reading before! A lot of the time, we need a push from others to step outside our comfort zone.

I think that if both you and a friend enjoy reading and are open to book recommendations, then it can actually be a nice little tradition to give each other books that you enjoyed. People often say that you can find out a lot about people by the books they read – not to say that you should solely judge people based on their bookshelf. 

An important thing to consider though, is that some people may really not be readers at all. Giving these people a book as a gift may come across as condescending, or just a little strange. Whilst it does happen that people come to love reading unexpectedly, I wouldn’t take someone’s birthday as an occasion to force the hobby on them. 

Consider buying them a gift card for a bookshop… You are still sharing your love of reading without suggesting that someone has to share your taste

The way you give the book to someone might also affect how the receiver will interpret the gift. For example, are you just finding any best seller to give them, without actually finding out more about the text or considering the suitability of it to the receiver? Also, if you have given them books before, how have they received them? Have you been gifting classics every year that seem to remain forever dusty on the highest shelf? If so, then it is probably best to stop giving books. 

Another thing to consider is that if you really do want to give a book to someone, you can always consider buying them a gift card for a bookshop. It saves you the stress of trying to find them the perfect book and allows them to choose a book that they are more likely to enjoy. You are still sharing your love of reading without suggesting that someone has to share your taste.

When buying a gift, you should realise that even if you think it is a very ‘standard’ gift and suitable for anyone, it might not be true. The good thing about books is that, even if that person does not appreciate it, for whatever reason, they could easily donate it and your gift would not be wasted. However, whether or not to gift a book depends so much on the individual, that it is probably still best not to give books to people you don’t know too well. And if you receive a book from someone that is not what you like to read, don’t automatically assume that that the giver is judging your book taste.


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