December 16, 2011 — London
Writer: Amy Guttman
It’s become tradition to mock all those unwanted articles of clothing, kitchen gadgets and calendars we get given by friends with the best intensions at this time of year, but I’ve never actually heard anyone complain about receiving books.
That’s probably because to do so wouldn’t be at all PC. Books? Everyone likes books. Why wouldn’t you want a book? But recently I revealed to a few colleagues how ungrateful I secretly am when receiving unwanted books as gifts and was surprised to find I’m not alone.
Now, I can officially come out of the closet and say proudly that my only Christmas wish is to avoid receiving another book which fits my professional profile or ticks the box of one of my interests.
Don’t get me wrong, I love books. I just don’t want others choosing them for me.
Yes, I’m a journalist, but that doesn’t mean I want to read books by other journalists. Yes, I’m naturally interested in current affairs, but on any given day I try to get through at least three newspapers, so I don’t really fancy reading heavy topics at my bedside. And, just because I cook doesn’t mean I want Yotam Ottolenghi’s new vegetarian cookbook – signed, no less, so I can’t even exchange it for a seafood cookbook that I might actually use.
Then there’s the really random ones. Like the one I received from someone I didn’t know very well, a coffee-table book about Art Deco buildings in the Czech Republic, which was given with the disclaimer, “I saw it and thought this was really interesting.” Well, yes, it is, but the best part about books is the connection we have to them. This felt like a souvenir from a trip I never took.
My suggestion for the book lover in your life is a subscription to a literary magazine. The recipient can find inspiration for the next read, avoid a few losers, or simply pick up enough to be cocktail party conversant. There’s plenty of titles in each issue, so at least one is bound to resonate.
Just don’t try guessing for me which one that might actually be.
Amy Guttman is a contributor for Monocle 24