Book 'Em This Season


We all remember where we were and what we were doing when we finished. We experienced the utter exhilaration, the awed silence, and the pining for more. It’s a personal experience that we have each shared over a duration of time and were better off for it, mostly. Either way, it leaves an indelible impression, evoking some sort of emotion, and spawning years worth of conversations.

I’m talking about reading.

Rarely in this day and age can you be this quiet and learned and intimate — the lost art that is a craft, one of the last crafts that delineates art.

Based on how quick the words Internet Column became Web logging and that turned into blogging, we all know reading is changing and changing rapidly. I was reminded of this the other day. In this vein, I spied a recent discussion thread on a popular social networking site — let’s call it libro de cara — where a nominally famous author and cultural critic said he was at a popular bookstore that rhymes with Carnes and Sobel and was perplexed about what to get for friends.

Being the mischievous twit that I am, I suggested he buy a Kindle, then invite 12 friends over, for some wine, cheese and a little paragraph-paragraph pass action.

No, No, that’s two paragraphs and you let go of it, it’s her turn — pass the Kindle before I get ugly off in here!

I pondered this in the context of the Holiday Season we are now embroiled in and I thought what better time to just give away a book for Christmas. Not buy one — give one away that you already have and preferably, have already read.

We all have a book sitting on our shelves that may or may not be in mint condition, but it may be in mint condition and if it is, then that’s all the better. But this book sitting on our shelves changed our thinking, made us more well-rounded, made us mad, made us idealistic, made us cynical, but in all ways it enraptured us.

Suggestion: If you care about a person or group of people, find some books that you’ve read and taken care of and write a personalized note.

Thought you might like this because…

You're never look at things the same after you…

I was such-and-such years old when I read this and I gotta tell you…

This is right up your alley, literally the story begins in an alley…

I’m talking about a book report, which is really the most original part of the gift. A book report, complete with the book itself, given to a grown person, impressionable teenager, spouse, office pal, whoever.

Give it away because with this nearly no-cost gift, it’s literally the thought that counts and if they read it, the impression will last longer than the new Halo or even that Pass-the-Kindle party you had — not to mention hundreds of dollars cheaper.

Here’s the deal: get a nice card and write a hand-written or neatly typed note, or make a book marker with a famous quote from the book or with a memory you shared with the gift recipient. Even better, if you have personal info and the person is a close friend, fill out a library card application and put it in the book. We all could use a trip there; they have DVDs and software rentals and Internet access for — gasp — free.

If you’re gonna book ‘em, here’s a tip straight from Colonel Obvious — the Capitan has been promoted — the book should be “pre-owned” and not “used” if you know what I mean. It should be classic and antiquated but not archaic and asbestos-laden with the pages of ears like Golden Retrievers. Moreover, an overabundance of highlighted sharpie notes, saying “I really like this part right here” and “I know riggggghhht,” are equally unacceptable. Also on the don’t-do-it list are literally swollen passages from when you thought it was cool to read under an umbrella in a warm thunderstorm.

The book ‘em initiative is really what the Holiday Season in general and Christmas is about — not just the giving of things, but of ideas, thoughts, experiences — things that make lasting impressions. It’s about transcending the temporary December 25-31 gratification and compulsory euphoria of most consumer goods.

Case in point, my son, who just turned four, four days before Christmas mind you, yawned when he got a new bike from me — literally yawned. But his eyes lit up like white-hot distance quasars when I gave him a considerably cheaper toy replica of a municipal bus line we’d rode out to the park one day, and an accompanying book full of pictures of buses.

That’s the spirit of this book ‘em initiative. I don’t remember half of what I got last year for Christmas, but I remember what I gave. I remember the priceless coffee table books and re-gifted children’s books that were passed to me over the years for Christmas, the ponderings they inspired, and how it feels to read that last sentence.

Feel me on this one people, I said, how it feels to read that last sentence — Happy Holidays.

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Guest's picture

The real value of a book is in the reading. it's just as good when it's old as when it's new. Cost wise there is no comparison, used books are very inexpensive. reading is a great joy.

John DeFlumeri Jr

Guest's picture
D. Hodgkin

Excellent suggestion! I regularly visit my local library, and enjoy browsing the shelves to discover the perfect, new book. Your article has inspired me to look through my personal library and "loan" a book to a friend or two this season. :) Or, I will visit a half-price book store and purchase copies of a particular book. Happy holidays and happy reading.

Myscha Theriault's picture

I particularly like the suggestions you have for personally starting off the various book introductions. That really makes it personal and intimate. It also elevates regifting in this instance to the level of classy and elegant, sort of like passing down an heirloom only not necessarily inside the family.

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Julie Rains's picture

I love the idea of writing a personal note, something I had never really thought of. I am giving books this year including one that is pre-owned; it's not from my personal inventory (the copy I read was from the library) but one I ordered via paperback swap.