Gifts_xmasShould you always give books—either p-books or e-books—as gifts?

At Book Riot, Sharanya Sharma has posted a timely essay on this topic for the holidays.  She gives books even to loved ones who profess not to want them—because she hopes that someday they’ll love reading as much as she does.

“Yes, ” she writes, “I’ve heard it before. You don’t have time to read. You don’t have the patience to sit with the book. Couldn’t you just see the movie(s) anyway? (You say that last one teasingly, just to see my face contort in outrage.) All of these remarks tell me one thing: the right book hasn’t found you yet…”

As a fellow reader, I feel Sharma’s pain. But as a gift-giver, I object to her methodology. The fact that it’s a ‘book’ doesn’t make it suddenly not a gift, and I always have chosen my gifts with the recipient’s interests in mind.

That’s why I bought toy cars for my nephew even though cars don’t interest me. It’s why all my niece’s holiday gifts this year have a kitty theme. It doesn’t matter if I like cats. She does. And I think it’s selfish to make their holiday presents about me.

I think we’ve all had experiences with seemingly mainstream things that don’t appeal to us personally. My most dreaded aspect of the holidays is the workplace functions where co-workers try to push alcohol on me, even though I don’t care much for drinking. It’s not a moral thing. I just don’t care for the taste of it. And yet many people seem to take the same attitude Sharma espouses for the books: I just haven’t found the right one yet. If I did, it would change everything. And so, in the service of their desire to convert me to the normal thing they like to do, they make me come to dread their holiday parties.

Books are something many people enjoy. They are a worthwhile hobby—for me. But I have to accept that this is not a universal truth. If someone wants a book, I am delighted to give one to them. But I will also spend my money on the toy cars, kitty toys and sports memorabilia as the recipient dictates. Because in the end, for me, a gift is about the recipient, not the giver.

Imagine credit: Here.

Previous articleHow to set up a new Android smartphone – accounts, passwords and all
Next articleCILIP launches My Library By Right campaign to pressure UK government
"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. Unfortunately, gift giving is fraught with all kinds of meaning besides just doing something nice for someone.

    I have the opposite problem. We draw names for Christmas and my siblings always want to get me clothes and jewelry that I don’t need and don’t wear often. I work from home. I’m currently wearing workout clothes but also wear jeans or shorts almost every day. When asked what I wanted, I created a list of physical books on Amazon for her to pick from, I could feel her disappointment.

    I’d prefer to drop the whole thing. If there’s something I want, I get it. I’m trying to clean out my house now that the kids are gone, not add more crap to it. My siblings don’t know me well enough anymore to know what I like or want, we mostly end up exchanging gift cards. Stupid. At least I got them to drop the birthday gift giving. I don’t even give my adult children gifts anymore unless I know there’s something specific that they need, I give them money.

    Back to books, I always gave books to the kids when they were little, but none of them seem to be readers now, not even the youngest two who are in middle school. When I have to give them a gift, I give them money.

    My new grandson is another story. He will be spoiled with books and read to constantly.

  2. I loved all the books which were gifted to me when I was a child. However, as an adult compulsive reader, I know what I do and do not want to read. My father would send me books which HE had liked, telling me I MUST read this. Most were in his area of interest but not in mine. Sometimes I would skim them in case there was a test. My family gives me Amazon gift cards so I can do my own thing. This might seem cold to many people, but it works for me. Gift giving is all about what the recipient wants, not the giver.

  3. This brings to mind the year we gave our youngest niece books for Christmas. She was struggling with her reading skills and her tutor had recommended these books; and her mom said that niece had even asked for these books. We watched as she opened the package, saw a look of horror and dismay hit her face, and then she angrily tossed the books on the floor and shouted, “BOOKS?! I don’t want stupid books! I wanted games!” She never read the books, she refused to see her tutor any longer (at the prime age of 8 she was setting the rules), and to this day she can’t spell and struggles to read even the simplest things. Lesson learned. I love receiving books – always have; but like many of you I am pickier as I’ve grown older, so for me give me an Amazon gift card and I’ll browse and read to my hearts content. Just don’t give me clothes. 😉 😀

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail