In this age of Kindles and iPads, e-reader this and mobile platform-that, one of the most enduring uses for good, old-fashioned paper books (how long before they’re called ‘offline reading systems?’) is as gifts. I can’t remember the last present I bought someone that wasn’t a book; and my favourite gifts to receive have pretty much all been books, too. The practice of giving just isn’t going to be the same electronically.
Call it monotonous if you like (and I’m sure some of my less literally inclined recipients may), but surely book-giving is exactly the opposite of repetitive? Every package is different; instant art, right there in your hands. And that’s before you’ve got on to the content. I may not be sure of my friends’ taste in clothing, or jewelry, or games; but it’s a pretty fair bet I can come up with something that matches her taste in terms of a little light reading material.
Some birthdays, though, all pretence of matching the book to the person are thrown out of the window. The books are just too obvious to miss. AA Milne’s Now We Are Six is the only possible option for anyone turning that critical age. The birthday girl/boy is usually astonished by the idea of a book made just for them, and it’s not a book that people seem to have just lying around, so there’s no fear of the child’s face crumpling as she tears off the gift wrap only to discover a duplicate of the 45 copies she already owns.
My biggest thanks of last year went to author David Nicholls, whose One Day solved an extra issue for me of what to buy my July 15th-born pal R. for his birthday (the book, for the three people left on the planet who haven’t read it), is centred around 20 years of meetings between two friends, always on, yep, July 15th).
And now, as we all creep into what we can only call (whisper it) middle age, another old classic is doing the rounds again. What better gift for someone turning 42 than a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy? Wrap it in a towel if you really want full geek points.
Any I’ve missed?