Recently a friend gave me a book. It is a book that I have several copies of, each have been given to me by different people at different times in my life. I even have a digital copy. Even though I have several copies of this book of varying ages and condition, this one made me just as happy as the first one I was given. She thought of me when she saw it. She considered my interests, and she knew I would get much use out of this book.
The gift of a book is a unique kind of gift. It isn't something that can be done willy nilly without knowing something of the recipient (at least, not successfully-buying the latest NYT bestseller or Oprah book club pick could backfire if the recipient prefers small, independent press books). It can be something we put hours upon hours of thought into, or it can be a spur of the moment purchase, as this was for her, when we see something that is just so very perfect for someone that we can't resist it. The gift of a book requires a knowledge of the person's tastes, their interests, what they enjoy reading and what they do not enjoy reading, their hobbies and favorite pastimes. The gift of a book says that you care enough to learn these things and to look for something that will be enjoyed over and over and over again. Sometimes the gift of a book can be fun, or mysterious-in my family we have a book exchange. We each wrap and bring a book, no names, then pick a book from the pile. Over the next year we read the book, and either keep or recirculate it.
The gift of a book, in the end, is a gift that keeps giving and giving, long after it has been gifted and received. It is a frequent reminder that someone thought of you, and wanted you to have a book they thought would satisfy or excite or challenge or soothe you.