Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

ekaterina-shevchenko-ZLTlHeKbh04-unsplash-600pixHappy Christmas! Whoops – careful with that book gift (plus literary events from 24 December 2019)

A book can be the best gift ever, but there are pitfalls. Angela J. Phillip offers brief comments on five questions raised by an article from The Guardian on the etiquette of giving books.

Which book is best?
Ah, this is the hardest question. Do you give what you yourself love to read? Or do you buy what you think the recipient would like? The answer ought to be what the recipient would like, but I have been guilty many times of buying books that I personally loved and giving those. I remember giving my nearest and dearest a book that I particularly loved, but it didn’t work. My three grandsons (despite being avid readers) have still not read it and neither has my son. Elle Hunt in The Guardian calls this type of giving an imposition and I suppose it is, but it’s terribly tempting to try and share something that means a lot to you.

s-o-c-i-a-l-c-u-t-hwy3W3qFjgM-220pixAccording to Elle, giving cookery books is safe so long as they’re not diet books, but I remember being given cookery books when I was young and hating them. What I wanted was fiction, fiction, fiction. Didn’t want to cook. So from my own experience, I would say that nothing is absolutely safe. Even if you know your recipient likes crime novels, for instance, it’s possible to give the wrong kind. On the other hand, why not take a risk?

Apart from when I was little and easy to please with absolutely anything, my favourite book presents have often been poetry books. I have a friend in Edinburgh who gives me a book of poems each Christmas and I love them, especially as I don’t usually buy poetry books anymore. They shouldn’t be a luxury, but that’s what they’ve become. One of the points Elle Hunt made was that a book gift says more about the giver than the receiver. I suppose that’s true, but by the same token, if you know your recipient well enough, then you’re sure to hit the jackpot. For so little, you can give so much!

Keeping a receipt?
This is something that The Guardian recommends, but I never do. I keep receipts for all sorts of other types of present, but never for books. They make the point that the receiver may get lots of copies of the same book. Well, I suppose it’s possible, but a book can always be passed on. No-one has ever given a book back to me that I gave as a gift. I would expect it to be recycled and I’m sure that’s what my friends would do.

Writing an inscription?
The article advises not to write anything in the book so that it can be passed on. That’s sensible, but I still waver. When I was younger, I always used to write something in the flyleaf but in recent years, I’ve wondered about whether to do it or not. Sometimes I do one thing, sometimes another. Turning the question around, I ask myself whether I prefer books with inscriptions and I am quite surprised by my answer. I discover that I prefer inscriptions from close friends, but not from people who are more distant.

annie-spratt-thI_CZAB0MY-unsplash-220pixNew or secondhand?
In view of the concern for recycling, we all ought to buy second hand, but although I buy second hand for myself, if I buy a book as a present, I almost always buy it new. That’s because I think the person won’t think much of me if I give them a used book, but that’s wrong. I shall do my best to change.

wrapped-presents-3298041-220pixWrapped or unwrapped?
Here we go again. It’s the issue over recycling. Did you know that shiny paper can’t even be put with the other paper in the recycling bin? But I am still using wrapping paper (yes, shiny). I shall have to change. It’s easy enough to use newspaper and tie a ribbon round it. Must try harder on this one.

OK folks, that’s it. Post comments on what you think and enjoy doing whatever you do. May every book you give or receive be pure delight.

‘I thought you’d like to read this: the etiquette of gifting books’ The Guardian, December 13th 2019

images from &


Bookshops & Events

Bookbuster 39 Queens Rd, Hastings
Go to Bookbuster’s Facebook page to see more.

Printed Matter Bookshop 185 Queens Rd, Hastings TN34 1RG
Jan 2020: Book launch of Paul Anderson’s Suedeheads & film screening of Horace Ove’s ‘Reggae 1970’ at The Electric Palace Cinema, Old Town.
Please see Facebook page for details of other events.

The Bookkeeper Bookshop 1a Kings Rd, St Leonards
Come and look at the Bookkeeper Bookshop Facebook page to see more.

The Hare & Hawthorn Bookshop 
51 George St, Hastings Old Town
For more information see the Hare & Hawthorn Facebook page.

Angela J. Phillip
I have a new website. As I said last week, only recently begun, but sadly not added to this week because I’ve been caught up with all the stuff that needs to be done for Christmas.

To those who have already signed up for my Newsletter – I am hugely grateful.
The Newsletter will start soon.
Please see:

Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

I would like to thank you with all my heart for reading the Bookchat posts. Please keep reading and sending comments. I wish you the very best Christmas ever with peace, happiness and endless creativity.

Angela J. Phillip


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Posted 09:00 Tuesday, Dec 24, 2019 In: Hastings Bookchat

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