As we all slide screaming into the black hole that is Thanksgiving through New Years, it's time to start thinking about presents! Presents are the best and worst part of the holiday season. On the one hand, people give you presents! You get to buy nice things for the people you love! It's great! But on the other hand... how do you politely explain to your grandmother that, while you appreciate the very expensive pair of earrings, you don't actually have pierced ears? What do you buy the guy that you're seeing but not seeing seeing? Is it OK to buy your dad a wallet two years in a row? Luckily, there is one easy solution to all gift-related woes: books. Here's why a book makes the very best gift.
I am a firm advocate of giving people books. My whole family is pretty pro-book-gifts, in fact. This one time I asked my mother if I could borrow her Bill Bryson book when she was finished reading it, and she said "yes," but then pretended to lose it and wrapped it up to give to me for Christmas instead (that may or may not have been the year that she also gifted me a book of CVS coupons).
And while that level of book-related subterfuge is not recommended, here are some reasons to go all in on book giving this season:
1. You’re giving someone a whole world
Giving someone a good book is pretty much sending them on mental vacation for free. All of the vast new worlds with none of the cramped airplane seats. I think Neil Gaiman put it best when he said, “Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it's much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!”
2. Books are easy to wrap
Easy wrapping doesn't sound like a huge advantage until you're trying to wrap a candle, child's toy, or any other non-book shaped object at one in the morning on Christmas Day. Anything that's not a rectangle defies all wrapping logic. Books are the wrapping procrastinator's dream, and most of the good ones look beautiful even when the wrapping paper comes off.
3. Books don’t break the bank
Books are a highly affordable way to shower your loved ones with affection. Sure, there's the occasional pricey hardcover, but paperbacks and secondhand books are usually a bargain (which is good, because I guarantee that trying to shop for gift-able books will end with you buying a book or five for yourself, too).
4. You can force people to encounter new ideas
Tired of arguing with your uncle about politics and how soccer participation trophies allegedly ruined your generation? Buy him a book. A well-written book is much more convincing than any Facebook rant will ever be. I'm not saying that you should try to sneakily brainwash your relatives through quality, diverse reading material... but I'm not saying that you shouldn't do that, either.
5. Books are the ultimate re-giftable
We all know that re-gifting is a capital crime, on par with leaving a book splayed open and then walking away. But re-gifting a book is entirely different. Giving someone a book that you've read and loved and want to share is both poignant and cheap. It's the best of both worlds. Plus, once your friend, relative, or enemy has read their book, they can pass it along and open up a whole new world for someone else.
6. You can personalize a book
A book is gift and card all in one (I told you books were cheap). The only time that writing in a book is permissible is when you're writing an inscription to personalize your gift. It also makes it harder for the person receiving your book to resell it, if you're going to be petty about that (that is, incidentally, how I ended up owning two different inscribed copies of Eragon).
7. There’s a book out there for everyone
Anyone who "doesn't like books" just hasn't found the right book yet. Books come in every genre, style, and font size. Whether you're buying for a mystery lover, a hopeless romantic, or your cousin in college who's already read all of David Foster Wallace, you can find the perfect book to give.
8. Books make people better
Reading makes people more empathetic, according to science. People who read live longer, too. If you give someone a book, you're basically a doctor. And, while that's not exactly true, it seems clear that readers are more likely to be kind and alive, so giving a book makes the world a measurably more OK place to live in.
9. There are no accessories needed
All you need in order to read is a book and maybe also a chair. No batteries necessary. I mean, look, if you're an eccentric billionaire who wants to buy someone a kindle, please go right ahead. But don't feel bad giving someone an old fashioned physical book, either, because books are good at being books (the don't run out of power, it's easy to find your place, and you get to feel all educated and superior when you read them).
10. Books last forever
Maybe not literally... I don't know about you, but I've had an elderly book disintegrate in my hands while on the subway before. But giving a book is really giving a story, and stories last forever. Stories worm their way into your subconscious brain and dig in with their sharp little story claws. Give someone a book, and you slither into their brain forever. And isn't that what the holidays are all about?
Images: Anuruk Charoenamornrat / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images, Giphy (10)