Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bad Book Gifts

Books make fine gifts as, if chosen well, they are both reasonably inexpensive and personalized. It is always nice when someone takes the time to seek out a volume particularly suited to your interests and temperament. On the flip side, a poorly chosen book might be worse than no gift at all. We tell our kids "It's the thought that counts," but when the thought is "I was too cheap and/or busy to get you something you want to read," well, you are better off just getting a box of See's.

Among the categorically bad choices are:

The Book Club Selection You Failed to Return in Time: As a former member of the History Book Club, the Science Fiction Book Club, the Library of America and the Folio Society, I can say that sometimes I ended up keeping the monthly selection out of laziness. Only once though did I use one of these as gifts and, boy, did I pick a doozy. You can be assured that the recipient of the Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History saw through my ruse.
British Editions: This may be a Portland-only problem. If you receive a British copy of a book, your friend either recently returned from Britain, enjoys paying high shipping rates or picked up the book at the remainder section at Powell's. If you really want to rub in your cheapness, be sure to get one with a big black remainder mark on the bottom.

Your Favorite Book: If you give someone your favorite book, they are sure to hate it and will avoid you so they don't have to discuss the book. One of my favorite aunts loves A Confederacy of Dunces, which I couldn't finish. Thank goodness she didn't give me a copy because I can just pretend I haven't read it when she brings it up.

Children's Books You Fail to Read Beforehand: This one is avoidable as you can usually skim through a children's book at the bookstore. If you don't, you might fail to notice that the story talks about making sculptures with cat poo, having your head pop off and go on its own journey, or reveals the true nature of Santa Claus. Giving a child the last one is a quick way to get some egg nog thrown in your face.


Anonymous said...

Tee hee. Good timely post here. As the recipient of some variety of "Chocolate for a Woman's Soul" book every year from my mother-in-law, I can attest to the aggravation of the poorly chosen book present. (My mother-in-law is so nice, though, I just don't have the heart to tell her those books are part of an evil empire that she should stop supporting. The things we do for love.)

Tripp said...

My father-in-law is the same except that his go-to book gift, one of his favorites, is the latest Clive Cussler. Now, he was never Alan Furst, but his 70s and 80s books were pretty good. The recent stuff is so weak that my local used shop won't take them as trade-ins.

Taking a quick look at Amazon I can see your mother-in-law can lay many a "Chocolate For" volume on you.

Anonymous said...

I think I have you both beat. My mother in law favors the "inspirational story of the Christian athlete whose ghost writer is really not a good writer either." Yet she tries so hard to come up with something good that I can't bring myself to return them.

Another bad book gift is the gift with the implicit message that is perhaps unwelcome but certainly good for you. I'm pretty sure that my mother in law is not interested in turning me into an NFL quarterback, but she wouldn't mind it if I happened to start reading my bible every day (like Kurt Warner!). SCM

Tripp said...

On a similar note, I suppose giving someone a diet book would be in poor taste.

Brack said...

". . . The quantity of England's money supply surged from 1305 to 1310, and prices of the most humble commodities increased sharply. Eggs, which had cost less than four pence a hundred before 1305, suddenly rose above sixpence in 1306 . . ." p.32

I kid you not.

Tripp said...


A) The price fluctuation of eggs in the 14th century makes for riveting reading.

B) OK, that's not true, but you still own the book at least.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the dread tome lurks on my bookshelf like that creepy-ass toy monkey in Skeleton Crew.