Books make great presents. I am very rarely given books, as people understandably have no idea what I’ve already got – but I did get one this year, Lucy Wood’s Diving Belles, a collection of stories I read about and immediately wanted to read. I know Amazon is the anti-christ to most independent booksellers, but I am grateful for their wishlist service and family members who read mine! I loved receiving a book, and am so looking forward to reading it.
We are often asked on Facebook and Twitter and in the papers which books we would like for Christmas or which books we then received for Christmas. Less frequently do we seem to be asked which books we plan to give for Christmas. In many ways, a more interesting question!
Not that many people probably give second-hand books as presents, but I am always encouraged by those who do. Why should our gifts always be outwardly pristine and shiny? Second-hand books can be wonderful in their own right; they can also be things that are not easily available new, and out of print books can be very exciting. We had a number of people who did some of their Christmas shopping at the Tree House, and it was lovely to share their decision-making and their enthusiasm for finding books that friends and family were going to enjoy.
I did some of my own there too, of course – if I want other people to support the shop, I should be supporting it myself after all! But it’s also good to spread the love for second-hand books.
I gave each member of my family a book. A Harry Sidebottom Roman historical adventure, an Elizabeth Taylor novel, Raymond Chandler, Alexander McCall Smith, selected poems of TS Eliot and one of the lovely range of foreign fiction published in English by Peirene Press. Each was chosen with the particular person in mind, and that’s one of the things I love about giving books – it is a kind of symbol of the relationship between giver and receiver, a sense of how well we know one another and are interested in habits and tastes.
Choosing books is great fun, and lots of people commented on how lovely it was to come to the Tree House in the run up to Christmas as even when there were quite a few people in the shop, it was peaceful and free of the mayhem in the bigger shops. There was space to sit and spend a bit of time browsing through selected handfuls of books. Some bought vouchers to encourage friends into the shop in the new year.
My message here, amid the ramblings, is not to dismiss second-hand books as gifts simply because they may be outwardly a bit rough round the edges. It really doesn’t matter – it’s the content of the book that counts. Though even with a few rough edges – or sometimes because of them – second-hand books can be beautiful. And quite a number of the books we are given are in pristine or very good condition. Definitely worth a visit if you are trying to think of what to give someone for a birthday, anniversary, leaving gift, good luck gift, any occasion where a gift is a good idea.