Booking Through Thursday: Gifts

January 7, 2010 at 10:14 am | Posted in Book Blather | 3 Comments

Here is my response to this week’s Booking Through Thursday:

What books did you get for Christmas (or whichever holiday you may have celebrated last month)?

Do you usually ask for books on gift-giving occasions or do you prefer to buy them yourself?

Oddly, I got almost nothing but books for Christmas.  Cookbooks, more specifically.  In my family, we are practical, and we each write a wish list that is ideally distributed after Thanksgiving.  (The idea is to have at least a dozen items, ranging in price from pocket change to “yeah right.”)  My list was about half cookbooks, and I never dreamed I’d get so many, including a couple that weren’t on my list.  Here they are:

Vegan Yum Yum

The Urban Vegan

The Vegan Table

The Accidental Vegan

This Crazy Vegan Life

The Indian Vegan Kitchen

In Search of the Lost Taste

Last year I bought books for everyone, and didn’t receive any.  This year I only bought two books as gifts, and I got a whole stack!  Go figure.

My family used to try to buy me books as gifts, but invariably it would turn out to be something I’d already read.  I don’t really keep reading material around for the long term, so cookbooks are the only thing that I know will retain my interest for more than a day or two.  Now that I’m spending so much more time in the kitchen, it’s nice for everyone, because nothing makes gift shopping easier than a clearly defined persona.

Buying books as gifts for others takes a lot of thought.  It’s even harder when the person isn’t necessarily a big reader or doesn’t have clearly defined interests.  I try to read whatever I am planning to give, and then go out and buy a copy, which evidently can backfire.  I bought my nephew a copy of a book we had read during Reading Hour and really enjoyed, and when I tried to say, “I read that,” my brother accused me of giving a used book.  I bought my dad a book I was positive he would love, and later found that he finds trade paperback format uncomfortable to read.  (He did love the book; he just would have loved it a lot more if it was a grocery store size).

Over the last few years, we’ve been in an ongoing discussion about the commercialization of the holidays.  I’ve been pushing for us to stop the steady, competitive rise in price level of our mutual gift-giving.  Finally this year my parents got on board, saying they just had Too Much Stuff Already and would rather receive experiences or do family activities.  We’re still talking around having the adults just draw one name out of the hat, or do a White Elephant exchange instead.  What I’d really like to do is Adopt-a-Family.  Last year I made charitable donations for everyone, with a book apiece as a small wrapped gift, thinking we had all agreed to do this, but everyone else had still done the usual buying extravaganza.  Habits are hard to change.  I think books are great gifts because they can lead to sharing and great conversations, as well as keep publishing alive.

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