In December, over the last few years, I’ve recommended book titles on my blog to help people choose gifts. Because I love books – I love giving and receiving them – I always look forward to compiling the blog posts. This year, though, time and life conspired against me. My blog has been sorely neglected over the last few weeks. And here it is, December 14th, and my to-do list is longer than my arm.
So, my only recommendation this year is to gift someone a book they will love reading. And that might mean putting your own biases aside.
I mentioned before that I’ve been working part-time at a bookstore. Over the last little while, customers have been buying books for gift-giving, and they sometimes ask for help. One of the first questions I generally ask is, ‘what does your recipient normally like to read?’ If that question doesn’t yield ideas, my follow-up is, ‘what are their interests? What are they passionate about?’ Sometimes that gives us something to go on. But not always. Sometimes the customer has an agenda of what they want to give. A classic or a mystery because they themselves love them. A work of historical fiction or the latest award winner because they deem them worthy of time and attention. One woman wanted to buy her grandchildren a ‘serious work of non-fiction to stimulate their minds.’ I wish I were kidding.
It reminds me a little of when my kids were growing up and reading widely. We were reprimanded on more than one occasion by teachers for ‘allowing’ our kids to read what the teachers deemed as fluff (Our daughter loved a genre fiction series and our son learned to read with graphic novels). Our decision to let our kids find their own reading path stemmed from my belief that instilling a love of reading meant letting the reader choose – even if that meant they sometimes read genre fiction – and my husband’s experience as a kid of being given a classic every Christmas and concluding that he didn’t like books. That’s no slag against classics whatsoever, but they didn’t engage him, and it wasn’t until he was a teen and discovered science fiction that he realized he liked books. He’s an avid reader today, and so are our kids. They read all over the place – fiction and non-fiction, genre and literary. They read what grabs them at that moment because they love the places books take them.
Books are, as Stephen King said, a uniquely portable bit of magic. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that we all see magic a little differently. And that’s more than okay!