Sunday 1 June 2008

Oh, you'll read it - you'll read it, and you'll like it!

Pretty much since I realized I was a totally incorrigible, inveterate, and addicted book-reader, I've both received and given books for as many gift-giving events as possible. (Had I known that Type Books on Queen has a gift registry, I'm sure Brook and I would have received an entirely different set of wedding gifts.)

I never questioned this practice until recently, when someone (it may have been my hubby, but I can't recall) suggested that giving someone a book is so presumptuous as to border on the downright aggressive. It's true that most people will feel compelled to read books gifted to them (assuming they like the giver - otherwise, into the mineshaft with it!) but it's also unfortunately true that it's sometimes difficult to judge others' tastes. The disjoint between good intentions and accurate knowledge of recipient tastes can thus result in the ultimate pain of the shiteous guilt read. I've been the victim of the shiteous guilt read in my day and have no doubt just as often afflicted others with it. What to do?

Until recently, I maintained an Amazon wish list to give my dear book-bestowers some guidance, and my most book-addicted family members still keep their Amazon lists for the same reason. But the Amazon (or Indigo) list, while failsafe, also takes a lot of fun out of the presumptuous aggression of book-giving. With the Amazon list, there's no chance of having your mind blown by being gifted a super-amazing book you've never heard of (which happened when my bro Roger ignored my Amazon list and gave me Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio - truly, a show-stopping number, that one).

It also takes the fun out of playing the book detective, following the clues of past reads you know your giftee has enjoyed and find something new and exciting based on that. Plus, I've discovered many, many of my own reads while trying to find books for others, including my beloved Iain Banks' The Crow Road, which was perfect for me but would have made my step-dad at the very least look at me askance if I'd given it to him.

I, personally, am willing to remain the victim of aggressive book distribution. I've had far more good luck than bad luck in that regard, and if a book sucks, I can always write a potentially entertaining and likely offensive blog post about it (see, for example, my post on Cormac McCarthy's The Road which led to some verbal thrashings, let me tell you.)

It's sort of a sad thing, but I think my best book reviews are about books I hate; Erasmus was right when he said it was much easier to be eloquent when being a jerk. That said, not everyone resents my abuse of the shiteous book - one person I know cyberspacially told me he wanted to give me books he knew I'd hate just so I'd write blog posts on them. Now that's what I call an endorsement!


Anonymous said...

on an irrelevant note, "cyberspacially" is an excellent word

Bookphilia said...

Why thank you. I'm rather fond of it myself!

Anonymous said...

A quick note regarding reviews--I agree wholeheartedly: a really good scathing review can be a lot more entertaining than a really well-written positive review. They're certainly more fun to write!

Bookphilia said...

Yes, more fun indeed - the language of vitriol is much more colourful and diverse than the language of praise.