The Art of Buying Books for Other People

Christmas (noun)
The most wonderful time of the year; would be absolutely magical if it weren't for the month of pure hair-ripping agony that proceeds as you try to buy people presents.

Maybe I'm a pessimist - or overly fussy about buying the right gifts. I'm inclined to believe that my friends and family are just downright impossible to buy for (I'm looking at you, Mother-who-has-everything), but I'm not going to go too far down that road at risk of starting a feud.

If you've ever had a similar dilemma, though, you may appreciate this post. Because as bookworms, we have hour upon hour of blissful experience selecting and buying books ... but buying them for others?

Is that even a thing people do? And how the heck are we supposed to do it?


Step #1 ~ Let go of what YOU would want to read

So ... go with me here. This might mean that you end up buying something for your nearest and dearest that you HAVEN'T ACTUALLY READ.
Please stop hyperventilating.

My point is that different people are always going to have different tastes. You have to come to terms with the fact that sometimes, those tastes do not interact ... at all. Trying to find a book you both like is akin to expecting Donald Trump and Theresa May to agree on Twitter. Except with maybe less chance of a world war.

That isn't to say you can't give your friends and family something you've read and loved if they'll genuinely like it! And you should definitely make sure that you choose something that looks interesting! Just remember that your usual TBR tick list isn't necessarily going to be applicable.

Step #2 ~ Be willing to accept help

You see, this is why physical bookshops are so important. If you find a friendly employee with more experience of your intended giftee's kinda thing, USE THEM. If there's no friendly employee around and you happen to be an adult attempting to buy for a pubescent family member, then you'll probably find me at some point. I rarely make a bookshop trip without managing to attract some sort of lost-looking older person looking for recommendations.
If you're looking online, maybe find a blogger or Goodreads reviewer who seems to have similar tastes to them, or look up the backlist of their favourite author. If you know a couple of books they've read and enjoyed, What Should I Read Next? is a resource to try. Only problem is that you've got to use a pretty well-known title for it to actually work, so it isn't a cure-all solution.

My point is - do your research, punks!

Step #3 ~ Avoid the most well-known books

I'm guessing the majority of loved ones you'll be buying for aren't going to have a Goodreads account. If they do, then honestly I don't know why you're bothering to read this - just go buy their To-Read list.

(Yes. All of it. You can get a loan for buying thousands of books, right?)
As long as they don't, then you have no way to absolutely ensure that they haven't read a book. Sorry. But if you want to try and find something they're unlikely to already own, then don't go for anything on the bestseller list - especially if they're a voracious reader. This sounds simple enough, but if you're following step one and going for a genre that you don't usually read, then you might not know which books are widely read.

Again, research is key. But ...

Step #4 ~ Don't spend too much time on this, yeah?

Given that it's the second week in December, I can concede that you probably don't have hours and hours to spend on this whole enterprise. I'm guessing you're going for a book because you can get free delivery on Amazon and still have it within a couple of days. But I'm going to give you the tip anyway, because if you spend too long searching for the perfect book ... well.

The thing to remember is that the graph representing time spent searching for gift and quality of gift doesn't necessarily look like this:
You're probably already exhausted. It's nearly Christmas, you've been planning the next couple of weeks for the last couple of months, and this is the thirteenth - or thirtieth - difficult gift you've tried to procure in the last four days. 

If you spend more than thirty-five or forty minutes scrolling through book lists or traipsing through local bookshops, your desperation will be building with every passing second and your gifting standards will drop with every bite of your fingernails. Keep your head clear. Find the first thing that you believe will work.

Congratulations. You just bought a book.
In the comments: Have you ever tried to buy a book for a loved one for Christmas? How was it - child's play? Akin to trying to outsmart Stephen Hawking? Or somewhere in between?
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  1. Just buy Six of Crows. Everyone loves Six of Crows! ;)
    I've never bought anyone a book that they hadn't asked me for, but I'd probably go on genre. If they read detective fiction, get them a detective fiction novel and so on and so forth.

    1. I have not yet read Six of Crows. I'm only just beginning to realise what a sin that is ... but never mind! Guess who got Book Tokens for Christmas?

      Buying on genre is a great technique, but then I always worry that I'll choose something they've already read. Maybe I'm just being paranoid?

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by!


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