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The many pitfalls of Christmas shopping

Picture the scene: it’s December. You can’t move for twinkling lights and mince pie memorabilia, coffee shops have switched to their festive takeaway cups, and if you hear “All I Want For Christmas is You” one more time, you might scream. ‘Tis the season, and you’re yet to buy presents for all the friends and relatives that you have to show your appreciation for with material goods.

Of course, the main goal of Christmas is to get someone a present that is better than anything anyone else got them. Gift-giving is a competition, and if you’re like me then you’ll be determined to win. Season of compassion be damned, I’ve got a pathological need to succeed, and the holidays are no exception! A book, although simple, is an excellent present to get someone. You can show how well you know them, share something that you love and, most importantly, their shape makes them easy to wrap. However, the procurement of the perfect book can be a difficult task.

The first crisis you face upon entering the bookshop may be the sheer quantity of books on offer (I’m assuming you’re supporting physical shops rather than buying online). Do you go for the bestseller table? Or will that make you seem a bit shallow, not cultured enough? On the other hand, no one wants a gift of a book so dense and difficult to get through that it’s more of a challenge than a present. You might find yourself drifting towards something “a bit different”, something on a shelf rather than a table – off the beaten track. This is probably where you’ll start to get distracted.

As the saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but surely the volume with the cutouts and the shiny embossing is a better choice?

Once you’ve found five books for yourself and a couple to choose from for the intended giftee, it’s time to analyse. Will they really enjoy this one? As the saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but surely the volume with the cutouts and the shiny embossing is a better choice? As you stand there, self-consciously in the way of other harried shoppers, think about the person you’re giving this to. Inevitably, you will be unable to remember anything about them and this won’t help your decision making process. Decide that one will have to do, and move on.

Now that you’ve made your choice, a further question you have to ask yourself is whether they’ll have already read the book. You don’t want the response to your beautifully wrapped book to be a look of recognition and a slightly disappointed “oh, thanks!”. Of course, the easiest way to eliminate the problem is simply by asking them. You may think it’s a bit of a copout, but it is indisputably the best way to avoid the blunder. Although it may take away some of the mysticism of what the present will be, the actual content of the book itself leaves scope for surprise. If they have read it, then you’re back to square one. If not – congratulations! You can go to the till, secure in the fact that you’ve found a great gift.

Although it sounds cheesy, it really is the thought that counts, and whoever you’re buying for will be grateful that you’ve put thought into your present and that you’ve got something that you genuinely think they’ll enjoy

Maybe I’m being a little dramatic. There’s a possibility that I overthink these things a bit. Although it sounds cheesy, it really is the thought that counts, and whoever you’re buying for will be grateful that you’ve put thought into your present and that you’ve got something that you genuinely think they’ll enjoy. A book is a great way to show that you know someone, and there really are so many out there that there’s sure to be something for everyone, if you look hard enough. This festive season, I wish you the best of luck in finding the perfect books to give to friends and family, and of course, yourself!

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