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How We Choose Books as Gifts

By Bianca Smith • February 14, 2018

Today's International Book Giving Day, which got us thinking. As a society, we're not that good at buying gifts. To get nerdy about it, a 2014 Journal of Consumer Research study discovered, as a giver, we're more likely to choose an expensive, showy gift to show we care, rather than the practical, and often less-expensive version the recipient wants.

We were curious to see if this applied to books too (we did warn the day got us thinking). After all, it was Edmund Wilson who said that no two people read the same book. So we asked on Facebook. Our question and the responses are far from scientific, but we'd like to think the results say that ThriftBooks readers are pretty good at buying gift books. Let's look at why people gift books.

Perfect for the Recipient

This came up so frequently we expect more than a few of you will be rolling your eyes; maybe it's obvious for most. The chosen book may remind them of the recipient or is nostalgic, but it's all them. Very considerate, indeed.

The Giver's Favorite Book

We have had that one book that we gush about and insist everyone must read. It seems we're good at giving it away too. After all, you love the book, and you love your friend—they'll love the book too.

Popular Story

Not that popular stories aren't personal or teach you something but if you don't know the person well something popular is sure to be a hit. The Harry Potter series and anything by either Dr. Seuss or Neil Gaiman were all mentioned.

Teaches a Lesson

Even fiction books are educational, and sometimes better than a stern lecture, even if it is a bit passive-aggressive. (Play nice here). The Art of War made the list—great for a new manager—as did some on religion and The Book Thief. Little Women can teach a young girl that she can be herself and doesn't need to conform to her friends or society. While not a title per se, we were impressed by the suggestions of a diary or a blank book for drawing or journaling. It helps them learn about themselves.

A Limited or Vintage Edition

A vintage or signed edition of their favorite book would make you anyone's favorite person, and it's not always expensive. Sure, a signed first edition, first print of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (the U.K. edition) is out of most people's budget, if you can even find one, but a signed, first edition copy of Margaret Atwood's Surfacing is obtainable.

Are these the reasons why you buy books as gifts? We've included your recommended books to gift below; are there any you'd add?

Read more by Bianca Smith

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