Mother’s Day and my dad’s birthday fell within a day of each other this year. So last week, I made a bold choice: I dared to dive deep into the abyss that is shopping for books online, knowing I could not, and would not, be getting anything for myself.
It was a much more rewarding experience than I expected. Shopping for books for other people doesn’t come with quite the same kind of excitement as getting something for yourself. You know what you like and what you want. But shopping for another person, you’re faced with dozens of books they might like, and you’re forced to decide which one they’ll love the most.
I find the best test of how well you know someone is to pick out a book for them. Because buying a book for someone can have a multitude of purposes. Is someone you know interested in learning more about something? Get them a book about it. Are they looking for a good mystery? Buy them a mystery novel. Are they dealing with something personal? Get them a book that tells stories of hope.
I don’t think it’s possible to disappoint someone with a book. Neither my dad nor my brother are huge readers, but they’ve never been disappointed opening up a book from me. A book says, “I know you might not read this, but I thought this story might interest you and got it for you because I care.” My book-hoarding friends love to get books they don’t have to pay for (books are expensive!). People who don’t love to read will still find joy in receiving a book about a subject they could talk about for hours on end.
Though I’m certainly not one of them, there are people out there who read a book once and then give it away. That’s almost even better — not only does one person get to enjoy a story, but then they get to pass it on to someone else who can experience it. And then they can pass it on … and so on.
A book isn’t just used once or for a short time and then thrown away. It’s an experience many people can benefit from, not just one. Books don’t become outdated — you don’t get rid of one book to replace it with a newer model. And, possibly my favorite thing about books: once you’re done reading them, if you don’t give them away, they become decorations. My bookshelves are not full of forgotten pages. They’re a display of all the places I’ve been, all the people I’ve met, all the adventures I’ve had. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way (give a shout-out!).
Not everyone loves to read every genre of books. But books are versatile — there’s something out there for every person. I never have to wonder what I’m going to get someone. I only have to consider which type of book, which individual story, I’m going to gift them this year.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.