I was talking to my…person-whose-complicated-relationship-to-me-doesn't-have-a-clear-name, let's just say she's my sister-in-law. Anyway, she has spent a lot of time lately with my heavy-reading nephews, and in this season of gifting etc she asked them what they wanted. They expressed the sentiment that what they wanted was toys. And please, not a book?
Before we get carried away with our feelings on this particular point, let me just say that I knew what they were talking about. I mean, do you remember how cools toys are? Toys are great! They are fun, and the fun comes all at once—it's immediate. I identified with what the boys said, is what I'm saying.
But. Of course there is a but. As in, but I was thinking: A toy is sort of like the popular kid—infinitely appealing in ways both nameable and indescribable, but bound to disappoint you in the end. But a book? A book is like that nerdy kid, who doesn't seem so great at first but reveals, over time, unexpected depths of affection, humor and mischief, providing more true pleasure than a dozen Barbies (or popular kids, or this is where the two strands of the metaphor merge and dissolve).
That's what I was thinking. And the truth is, of course I will end up buying my nephews toys, because I have just the right things in mind (I hope). And because I want to respect their wishes (that's pandering, right?). And I know they have, and will continue to have, a million books in their lives.
But me? I could really use a great book right now. And I like to think (though no doubt I am wrong) this is partly because I have come to appreciate what actually makes me happy as opposed to what only promises to.
Doesn't that sound edifying? It's maybe less so when you see the actual books I am coveting.
But no matter, enjoy whatever you have, everybody, be it books or toys or family or good food or all those good things. Have a good holiday!
6 thoughts on “Book as Gift”
I hear you. But as someone who grew up in a small apartment with not very many toys, I ALWAYS wanted to see fat boxes when I got presents. Clothes were things my parents bought me anyway, and I carried armloads of books home from the library every week. But there was no toy library. I wanted toys and games, but mostly toys.
Can I recommend a book for you? Arthur and George. It’s about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and it’s by Julian Barnes and I think it’s a great holiday time reading book.
Well, my holiday season was made happy this year when both my 8-year old boy and my 11-year old girl asked Santa for “complete series” of books this year. It’s a book-centric Christmas!
(there’s a satisfyingly book-shaped package under the tree for me as well…)
Happy New Year, everyone!
There’s an interesting comment on this issue of books as Christmas gifts, along with an intriguing recommendation for 11-year-olds, here: http://crookedtimber.org/2011/12/27/mad-science-for-kid/
I haven’t seen the book she mentions yet, but plan to get hold of it soon…
I’ve never really thought about it, but both today and in the past, for me Christmas wouldn’t be/have been Christmas without an equal helping of toys and books. You do need fun things that aren’t books, but it would be really disappointing to not be able to settle down with a book after the orgy of unwrapping and playing with whatever your fun things are. We have a sort of tradition (without anyone saying it should be so) of spending at least part of Christmas and Boxing Day curled up in my parents’ living room paging through our new books.
As a child I think one is prejudiced toward toys, but books matter just as much as they do to the adults, as you were saying.
I ended up with a couple books from my overflowing wish list that I expected to enjoy but which I really, really, really loved: Ormondroyd’s David and the Phoenix, and Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. The former I had read many years ago and was lovelier than ever. The latter was new to me and frankly the description didn’t look all that exciting but got great word of mouth and reviews and so I took a chance. It was so addictive I got cranky whenever I had to put it down, and tore through it in one day.
Three cheers for books! And happy holidays to you, Diamond!
Speaking “after the fact”… I gave books to all three of the smalls in my life, with varying “success”. The two board books I gave the 16 month old went over very well. The almost-three immediately crawled into my lap with “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”. However. The four-and-a-half is very much in the thick of knowing what’s coming in terms of the Hanukkah present deluge (unlike the other two, who seemed understandably overwhelmed). I chose for him two books about kid superheroes (“The Amazing Secret of Awesome Man” and “Superhero Joe”) as he is the type of small person imbued with deep, deep superhero love. The grandparents were trying, valiantly, to “spread the presents throughout the night,” and mine came fairly late in the game (after a complete set of Star Wars figurines and some much-coveted MagnaTiles, among other things). His parents encouraged him to sit down with me to read the book (we picked “Awesome Man”) and after a brief conference with grandma he did sit with me…for a while. Halfway through the book he started turning the pages for me very quickly, and said “Lauren, I have to finish this so I can open another present.” I get that a book can be less exciting. I really do. And I understand the excitement of being a small person next to a big pile of presents. But…it left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t know whether this means I should try for a toy next year, or keep feeding him unwanted books in the hopes that he comes to appreciate them.