Monday, December 21, 2009

Guest Blogger, Tara Hart: The Ins and Outs of Book Gifting

So here it is—yet another holiday season, and I sit here thinking about giving books as gifts. Now I want to start out by saying that I rarely give people books for Christmas; I prefer to give books throughout the year. I feel like Santa all year long because whenever I go visit a friend I usually show up bearing a book—or twenty!

But I have received some great books as gifts…and some others have been groan-inducing. The key to giving a book is the recipient. You have to take into consideration for whom you are shopping. For example, I gave a friend a cookbook for his birthday, consisting solely of soup recipes. Why, you ask? Because this particular friend has a few personality quirks that made this the perfect gift. First, he loves his blender. Second, he eats mostly veggies. Lastly, he has an aversion to chewing. Voila! A book about soup was a huge hit!

A book can also make a great gift when it speaks to something about your relationship. Last Christmas, my best friend got me a book titled How to Talk About Books You’ve Never Read by Pierre Bayard (Bloomsbury Press, 2007) because of the title and the fact that it mentions The Scarlet Letter on the back cover. Now, to get that joke you must know something about me: I faked reading The Scarlet Letter in high school and the teacher still to this day does not believe that I never read the book. This, of course, drove my perfectionist best friend crazy and she never lets me forget it, even 15 years later. The icing on the cake of this gift, though, was that when I was reading it at the train station one day, a guy stopped me and said how ironic it was to see me reading this book because of the number of books he has watched me read. It was great! Now it’s one of those books that I will never part with—the story is just too fun!

As you can see, books are definitely a good gift when keeping the recipient in mind. However, groan-inducing books appear when people buy me books just because I read a lot. Now I can hear you asking “What’s wrong with getting books?” And my answer is “Nothing.” But I do have a caveat: You must never buy books without actually thinking about the books you are buying. Do you know what kind of books the person likes to read? Does the book have to do with an interest of the person you are buying for? Is the book something the person would relate to at this time in his or her life?

That last question is one my boyfriend’s mother did NOT ask herself one holiday season. She gave me The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. I know this book has changed the lives of many people, but as a 24-year-old I was definitely not thinking about who I am going to meet when I die. I was thinking about what I was going to drink at happy hour or eat for dinner. I had just met his family the month before at Thanksgiving and his mother and I talked about our love of books. I can still see Mary now in her local Barnes and Noble, trying to figure out what to get me for the first Christmas I would spend with her family. I'm not bashing Mary for trying, and it was one of the top selling books for 2003 and 2004—but it wasn't a book the average 20-something would enjoy, let alone want to receive as a gift. It was the perfect example of buying a book without thinking about the person receiving it.

Case and point: Books can be the most personal, amazing gift—just keep in mind who you are buying for. A book is a gift that can stay with someone forever.

About the blogger: Tara Hart is a life-long lover of books. Her infatuation with the written word began when she picked up The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. From there she has gone on to devour books of various sizes and ilks, and then she converted her love of reading into a career in publishing. She recently completed coursework to obtain her Masters in Publishing and spends her days negotiating book contracts and chasing foreign books and materials for the clients of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency.

Thanks for joining us at Reading Between the Lines, Tara!

If you or anyone you know would like to guest blog for RBtL, please inquire via e-mail.


  1. Tara has the best taste in books!

  2. Or, there is always the lovely standby of a gift card. If you don't know the person's tastes extremely well or have a particular story you want to share, it's definitely the way to go.

  3. That's an excellent suggestion, Linnea! Thank you!