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For those of you expecting Julie here today, sorry, you're stuck with me again, while Julie gives her hands a needed rest. She'll be back soon.
In the meantime, I spent this past Monday night doing an onstage chat with the multi-talented Robert J Wiersema, a bestselling author who's also, in his own words, a "promiscuous reviewer" and, for the past twenty years, a dedicated bookseller. We were meant to be promoting his new novel, Bedtime Story, but as writers will do, we strayed slightly off topic, and ended up talking about what his job in the bookstore has taught him, and how he's observed that there's often a very great difference between what book someone will choose as a gift for a person they don't know that well (this is when, Robert says, people go for the prize-winning novels, the big books that everyone's talking about), and the book that same person would buy as a gift for an intimate friend.
For our friends, he's noticed, we choose to give books that have meant something to us; have touched us, perhaps even changed us. We're giving, in essence, a bit of ourselves, neatly bound between covers.
I know this is certainly true when I buy for my children. I wander away from the "New and Hot" table and search out the Little House books and The Wind in the Willows, or Owls in the Family, all bits of my own happy childhood.
When it comes to my grown-up friends, I tend to tailor the book to the person as much as I can, so it's arguably more a little piece of them that I'm trying to give, to show how much I value them and understand and love them. For instance, I might buy my husband a book that I know he's been longing to have, even though it might be one I'd never read myself.
But I do squirrel away extra copies of my best-loved books: Mary Stewart's classics, Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice and The Chequerboard, and Gregory Clark's May Your First Love Be Your Last, among others. And when I give them to people, I actually do feel I'm sharing a bit of myself.
With the holidays swiftly approaching, I know I'll be spending a lot of time combing the bookstores for gifts; only now, thanks to Robert, I'll also be sneaking a glance at what others are buying, and trying to guess from their choice of book whether they're buying for people they work with, or people they love.
Come back Sunday, when Anna will be posting (unless she gets waylaid and winds up drinking wine and watching Robert Downey, Jr. movies with our Julie...)