A festive post? In November? The scandal! Well, although I am coming at this post from a festive viewpoint, I like to think this post would apply all year round for birthdays, gifts, and the like.
If you know me, I am one bookish girl, and I think there’s no greater gift than giving someone a book you think they’ll enjoy. So with Christmas coming up and buying gifts online being the safest bet, I thought I’d make a kind of gift-giving-guide for books! I’ve (loosely) taken the five types of people you are bound to have in your life, and racked my brain to work out what books would be great gifts for them. Without further ado, let’s start with Person One –
The Person Who Only Reads ‘~Real~ Literature’
Also applies to – The Book Snob, The ‘I Studied Literature at University, you know?’, and The Austen Obsessive
As a ‘I Studied Literature at University’ Person myself, I know these people well. My classes were full of people who only read ~real literature~ and who said ‘let me play devil’s advocate here’ at every opportunity. They love the classics, flopping between Dickens, Orwell, and Kerouac at every opportunity, with a bit of Dan Brown thrown in if they were feeling contemporary (oh, and don’t forget talking about Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen if they were feeling some ~diversity~).
My advice for buying gifts for these people? Hit them with the classics they haven’t read; the ones that don’t make up the stereotypical canon. Shake their brains up a bit, prove that it’s not just old white men who write incredible novels. Here are the three modern classics that I think should be in the canon, and will rock these fella’s worlds.
Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys is a tragic story of a chorus girl taken from her home in the Caribbean, to England, where she has to fend for herself. It’s a little bit saucy (at least for the time it was written), a little bit depressing, but an incredible novel all the same. Whilst a lot of people haven’t heard of Voyage in the Dark, most people have heard of The Color Purple, Written by Alice Walker, it’s tale told over forty years of a black woman living in rural Georgia in the 1930s. It’s brutal, heartbreaking, and vital reading for anyone who says they know a thing or two about literature, in both written delivery and plot. Finally, we’ve got Orlando by Virgina Woolf. Woolf’s an author everybody has claimed to have read (but most often hasn’t). Why? Well, her work can be pretty twisty, and Orlando is no different. It’s essentially a tale of numerous loves, with some gender-switching in the middle, and a protagonist that only ages thirty-years over a three-hundred-year span. Go on, give it a go.
Your Partner’s Uncle’s New Girlfriend Who You’ve Been Asked to Get a Gift For But Have Never Met
Also applies to – ‘Oh Shit It’s Secret Santa’, The Quiet Cousin Who Sits at the Back, and The Office Buddy
This person is always an unplanned worry at Christmas. You get told you need to get them a gift and your stomach just drops. “Oh my goodness, what do they like? Do they drink? Are they vegan?” Just eliminate aaaaall that worry, and get them a book. As it’s been a spectacularly shitty year for all, make it a positive book, one that feels like a warm hug on a winter’s evening. I’d recommend The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy.
There isn’t a direct storyline in this book persay, it’s more a beautiful collection of conversations, drawings, and quotes based around the titular characters. The book is honest, hopeful, and has made me break into tears on more than one occasion. Even if the person doesn’t read it, it’s a beautiful coffee table book and great conversation starter!
The ‘Books Are Boring’ Bunch
Also applies to – The Student Who Has a Terrible English Teacher, The Person Who Has Only Read Harry Potter, and The ‘Films Are Better Than Books’ Crew
Look. Everyone is allowed their opinion, I’ll respect that. But ‘books are boring?’ Ding dong, you are wrong. I’m sure these people have their reasons for believing books are boring. Maybe they had a teacher at school who made them read Shakespeare one line at a time, and killed whatever love of literature they had. Maybe they tried out reading something like War & Peace instead of starting with something more reader friendly. Maybe there’s a deeper seated issue at play.
For all of these people, I would try to show them that books aren’t just walls of words, and this is where graphic novels come in. Here are the three graphic novels/series I would recommend to get the ‘books are boring’ crew reading –
Starting off with a graphic novel classic, this one hits home for the ‘films are better’ crew too; Scott Pilgrim vs the World by Bryan Lee O’Malley. Just like it’s film adaptation (which is now a cult classic), this series is fun, weird, and wonderful. Perfect for the designated nerd in your family (and I should know; I am the designated nerd in my family). Moving from a wild and wacky nerd frenzy to an autobiography of living through the Islamic Revolution, we have Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I think telling this story through graphic novel form is ingenious; it really opens up the ways you can learn about something, and the art is just incredible. Finally, I’ve gone for a staple in the graphic novel world: DC’s Watchmen. It’s bloody, brutal, and anything but boring.
The Family Member Who Mentioned How They Don’t Like the Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert
Also applies to – The ‘I’m Not Racist But…’ Group, The Person Who Re-Shares Brexit Posts on Facebook, and Anyone Who Says ‘What About The White People Getting Killed By Police?!’
Ooh, I felt that collective sigh. We’ve all got at least one person like that in our lives. I’ve lost count of the amount of conversations I’ve had to duck out of to ‘get a cup of tea’, or ‘pop to the loo’, or simply just leave the room to stop exploding. But this year, with everything that has gone on, I’m taking a different approach. Talking hasn’t worked, arguing hasn’t worked, so I’m taking on the approach of ‘Merry Christmas everyone, it’s time to get educated’. And I am doing that by buying copies of Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.
Reni Eddo-Lodge is an exceptional journalist and author and this book is no different. The blurb calls Why I Am No Longer.. “the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today” and honestly, I could not describe it better myself. It’s honest, hard-hitting, and I’d call it vital reading for every person in Britain. Some of you might be going ‘hmm I don’t know if this person in my life would actually like this book’. I just look at it as I’m giving them the gift of knowledge, and you can’t go wrong with that.
The Person Who Reads Everyday of Their Damn Lives
Also applies to – Your Grandma Who is The Head of Her Local Bookclub, Your Friend Who Runs a Bookstagram, and The Working Parent Who Just Doesn’t Have Time to Read
Ah ah ah – before you say anything, it’s not cheating despite the fact I am not recommending a book. I’m recommending thousands if not millions of books. I’m talking about giving an audiobook membership as a gift! Personally, I love Audible (this is obviously not sponsored, but I’m game if you are Audible…) I love reading audiobooks for so many reasons; I can listen to them on the way to work, when I’m cleaning, as I fall asleep, on journeys – the list goes on. Also, I can’t have two physical books on the go at once; my brain just doesn’t work that way. But I can have a physical and audiobook on the go!
Having an audiobook membership means I literally can read aaaaall the time, and that’s a dream for a bookish human. If you want to know what audiobooks I recommend, I’ve written a post all about that. But the chances are, if you want to read it, an audiobook site has got it.
So, those are the best books to give as gifts for everyone in your life, from your best friend, to your grandma, to your third cousin twice removed. At least, you should be able to fit yourself or someone else into those categories, whether they are a loose fit or fit like a glove!
Let me know what you think of my choices, and don’t be afraid to ask for some recommendations in the comment below if you’ve got a particularly tricky customer. Also, if you are buying books as gifts this Christmas, try to buy through local and small businesses. They really need our support this year. I’d recommend using Bookshop, as it collates stock from hundreds of independent and local sellers!