While I can’t say that I would pick a book over diamonds, on Christmas day after a day spent eating turkey and dressing, homemade rolls, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli salad, and too many other things to mention for the mid-day meal, I am ready to curl up with a good book. I can’t really remember when my mother’s tradition of giving me a book or books as a stocking stuffers started, but I do have memories of my dad and brothers watching the Bowl games on television while I found a quiet corner to read. My mother was multi-talented in that she would stay in the same room as the game, but still read the book that I had put in her stocking. Our stocking tradition continued way into adulthood but after I moved away she and I would browse the book selection together, giving big hints on our choices or even sometimes just picking the books out.

As readers most of us love opening a present containing a book by our favorite author. And because of this we often look to books as the perfect gift, too. But my experience over the last few years has shown me that buying a book for someone is similar to buying them perfume. You just have to know their taste because books can be a very personal gift.

I have a beloved aunt – like a second mother to me – that has sent me books on and off for Christmas. I remember when I was thirteen she sent me a book on etiquette – something that I sure didn’t consider riveting or appealing, especially at that age. The last couple of years she has included a book in my gifts, and while I love books, she has no clue what I like to read. One year she sent a book about the history of tea. I rarely drink any kind of tea, even iced tea. The last two years she has sent religious books. Now maybe if I was on a desert island with no other book, then I would read her selections but since there is a world of books out there that I do like, the books never get opened.

It made me reevaluate giving books as gifts. Surprisingly, my brothers – the same ones that you would find more often in front of the television or outside playing football, are almost as big on reading as I am. For years, I bought one brother a book for Christmas, but I knew exactly which one to buy, since his favorite author always released a book around this time of year. A couple of times, my sister-in-law or niece beat me in ordering the book, so I branched out a bit, since we had similar taste. I had more successes than failures, but still did send a few duds his way. My other brother read and still reads mainly science fiction, leaving me in the dark on what to buy. After I fell in love with my Kindle, I picked out my father’s gift to him, and sent him one. He said all the right things, but it took him a couple of months before he actually used it. He later told me that he didn’t think he would like it. Now is he is the one that has discovered all kinds of self-published authors via eBooks.

However, my former neighbor received a Nook a couple of years ago for Christmas, but like many readers she still loves the feel of books in her hands, and there is nothing more enjoyable to her then browsing in a store. She moved away, but last time I talked with her she was only using her Nook occasionally.

When I adopted a soldier, I had no idea what to send. One month I sent Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol. I pre-ordered it and had it shipped to her directly. After I checked it out from the library, and quit reading it after about 20 pages, I could only hope that the recipient’s tastes were different than mine and that she enjoyed the book.

I can’t say that buying books or eReaders is any different than buying most gifts. I know I need to be cautious about letting my own tastes intrude in the buying decision. If I know that the person is a reader, now I prefer sending gift certificates. And to be honest, I would much rather have a gift certificate then someone sending me a book that I will never read. I know that it is the thought that counts, and I do appreciate that, but it seems a waste of their time and money. After all, even among romance readers, tastes vary wildly and unless I know someone very well, choosing a book can be hard.

Do you like to receive books as gifts? Do the people that give you books know your taste? Are you one of those people who received an eReader but never uses it because you love the feel of books? Do you give books as gifts, and do you know if they are appreciated?

– Leigh Davis