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Against best books

It’s the time of year when media outlets are publishing gift guides and “best books of the year” lists. I am contributing a suggestion to my own local newspaper’s holiday book recommendations. And it might sound contrarian, but I’m not recommending a book. Here’s what I’m submitting instead:

I spent days considering what book to recommend. Every time I settled on one, I reconsidered. My idea of the perfect gift book is not going to be yours, and might work for your sister but not for your grandfather, your niece, or your teen. So I suggest the gift of professional reading advice.

This year, wrap a library card application and a gift card to your local independent bookstore. These two places offer what no big box or online mega-seller can: good old fashioned readers’ advisory. In other words, staff who can help anyone who walks through the door choose a book after a few minutes’ conversation. Both libraries and indie bookstores have e-books as well, so this gift works for even your most techie friend. If he already has a library card but hardly ever uses it, pick up or print out the latest brochure on the library’s services and activities, which have probably changed in the past few years. If your gift recipient uses the library regularly, honor her with a donation.

I’d include a short guide to excellent readers’ websites, apps,blogs, and podcasts, like Goodreads, Books on the Nightstand, NancyPearl.com, ReadKiddoRead, or LibraryThing. Visit these sites, copy and paste information about them onto one neat page, and print it on pretty paper. Add a homemade coupon good for an outing with you to the library or bookstore and a treat after, and you’ll give a gift unique to each recipient that no one will return.

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About Deb Baker

Deb Baker is a writer and insatiable reader. By day she's adult services manager at her small city's public library with a particular passion for readers' advisory. Her poems and essays have appeared in journals on three continents, and she's the Mindful Reader columnist covering books and authors from New Hampshire & adjoining states for the Concord Monitor. She's also a member of ALA, PLA, NHLA, and the National Book Critics Circle. She muses about library issues at The Nocturnal Librarian (http://thenocturnallibrarian.com/) and blogs about books, reading, and life at bookconscious (http://bookconscious.wordpress.com/). Her family includes two awesome offspring, a husband, and the cat who adopted them.

6 responses to “Against best books

  1. Pingback: Coming up in the Mindful Reader « bookconscious

  2. Fantastic advice. I read a book that has appeared on several year-end best lists, and it was the worst thing I read all year. “Whose best?” is the question. Reading tastes are as personal as taste in clothing or food, perhaps even more so, and should be treated with as much care and discrimination as either.

  3. In our ‘connected’ age, the personal connection is what becomes most valuable. The indie bookstore gift card is brilliant.

  4. Pingback: Swiss Army Librarian » Librarian-Related Gift Ideas :: Brian Herzog

  5. Pingback: December Mindful Reader column « bookconscious

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