January 24, 2013

If You Give A Girl a Book...

There is a part of me that's absolutely convinced that part of my mission in life is to make people love books. It's something that really rears its head someone says they don't like to read. Instantly, I have this strong desire to be the person who is able to find that one book that's just so perfect for them in length, genre, setting, writing style, you name it, that they then fall head over heels in love with reading.

It's like a challenge that I just can't refuse. "Oh, you don't really like to read?" [Insert probably not-so-subtle quizzing that I hope will reveal the secret book that will do the trick.] "Hmmm... you know, that sounds a lot like this book I think you'd like..."

This had led to a phenomenon in which I consider every gift-giving occasion an opportunity to give someone a book. I sit down and start thinking of a book for everyone on my Christmas list... but then I have to stop and remind myself that not everyone thinks a book is a good present. I don't gift books all the time, but I do think I'm a pretty good book gifter/recommender when I do.

I try really hard to find a book that will interest that individual - not just a book that I enjoyed. Just because I enjoyed it doesn't mean it fits everyone's reading taste! There are usually five things I like to know that can help me gift the perfect book. I don't sit there quizzing someone (awkward!), I just try to find out through multiple conversations and save the answers away in my brain for future reference.

Five Questions to Help You Gift the Perfect Book

1. What's the last book they read, and why did they read it?
In this case, I think the why is often more revealing than the what. Finding out why someone has been motivated to read in the past can help you find a book that they'll actually be motivated to read in the future.

For example, I have a friend who isn't a huge reader but always gravitates toward bestsellers. When she does take the time to read, she wants to read something that is being read by everyone else. Her motivation for reading has more to do with the desire to stay up-to-date on what is popular and being able to join in on conversations about the book. So, that lets me know that I will do best if I get her or recommend something to her that is either already a bestseller OR (and this is often even better) something that is on the cusp of being the next "it" book.

2. What's one book they really enjoyed and one they really disliked, and why?
It's probably obvious how this one can help you, but it's still something you want to know. If they hated a certain book because it didn't have a happy ending, you'll want to keep that in mind when you're picking a book for them. If they enjoyed a book because it had magic, that gives you a place to start in your search for the perfect book to give them!

3. If they watch TV, what are their two favorite TV shows?
Most people, not everyone but most, enjoy watching TV. And a person's TV show preferences can give you a great head start when it comes to picking out a book for them! It's not a genre, but it comes pretty darn close. It tells you what kind of stories they get drawn into and what characters have won their hearts. Then, you just have to find a book with similar elements (be it tone, characters, plot, etc.) and you have a higher chance of book gifting success!

4. What interests them most in a story: the plot, the writing, or the characters?
This may be hard to find out if they really don't like reading at all, but see if you can figure out which one is the most important to them when (if) they read.

For example, some people need a book with a gripping plot and a significant amount of action. Others might appreciate lyrical, evocative writing more than anything else. And then there are the people who must like and care about the characters to be invested in a book.

Ideally, you want to read a book that has all three things: good writing, interesting characters, and an exciting plot. However, you'll notice that most books will have one that's often a little stronger than the others. So, you don't want to recommend a beautifully written book (that perhaps has a slower plot) to someone who wants adventure and excitement!

5. What do they like to do in their free time?
Finding out what interests someone can help you figure out what they'd actually be interested in reading about in a book. They might love a non-fiction book about a topic the enjoy or a fiction book that includes an activity they like?

If someone is really interested in fashion, how about a biography of a fashion icon or trendsetter? If someone loves sports, what about an athlete's memoir? Maybe they love reality TV, so a celebrity-authored book would be right up their alley.

If someone loves ballet, they might enjoy a book where the main character is a dedicated ballerina. If they love the South, maybe a novel with some good ole Southern charm. Someone who likes hiking might enjoy a book with wilderness adventures.

Use your knowledge about their interests to your advantage and find them the perfect book!

- - - - - - - - - -

Gifting books is an art, not a science. These are things I consider that help me gift the perfect book, but I'll still have a miss now and then. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just won't be able to get someone to read. 

Do you love gifting books, too? Please tell me I'm not the only one who wants to get a book for everyone on every gift-giving occasion! And what do you do if you're giving a book to someone who isn't really a reader? Have you ever asked questions like these to help you gift the perfect books? I'd love your tips for how you help someone find their book soulmate!

27 comments:

  1. When I read the first line I was like "OMG THAT'S ME!". Though I don't gift books that often except to people who I know will love to receive a book / would love that certain book (books are such a personal thing!), I have made it my mission to make people love books in general. And recommending books to people is one of my favorite things to do. I love looking at my bookcase and wondering, hmmm would this and this love this certain book? And if not: which one would make a good recommendation? I get all giddy when people read a book I recommended and when they LOVE it, I feel proud and extremely happy. And the best thing? You can talk books after!! (I recently introduced my dad to Percy Jackson and he loves it hahaha). I love the 5 questions and your line "Gifting books is an art" is just perfect. Great post, Hannah! :D

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    1. Yeah, I've tried to be good about only gifting books to people who will at least appreciate them. Even people who aren't huge readers can still enjoy a book specifically selected for them, but that's definitely not always the. Yay for personal missions to make the world love books! I love recommending books, too, and get seriously excited when I find out someone enjoyed something I recommend to them. Giddy is the perfect way to describe it!

      Thanks for the wonderful comment, Judith :)

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  2. I love reading. So naturally when I run across some who doesn't like to read... friendship is harder to form.

    Great post!!

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    1. I know - I really wish all of my friends loved to read! And isn't it funny how finding out someone DOES like to read automatically gives you a million things to talk about? Got to compare your book taste!

      Thanks so much!

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  3. I LOVE this post. Like, it's seriously probably one of my favorite posts EVER. I love gifting people with books! I agree that it feels like an accomplishment when you can find that one perfect book that will draw them in and get them to start reading - and I like doing that often. Great tips!

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    1. Thanks sweet Alexa! I might just be blushing a little bit :)

      And yes, I LOVE the feeling of finding someone the perfect book for them! I feel like such a success when it happens haha!

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  4. Seriously amazing advice. I love it. SO tweeting it.

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  5. There is certainly a ton of pressure to get people the RIGHT gift, and when you decide you want it to be bookish, that's almost another story. Every holiday I buy books for my two best friends from college and NO JOKE I keep a running list in my email of books I come across that might interest one. They are huge science people but read for fun and have a few other interests. (That sounds funny but one enjoys theatre and the other loves Sex and the City.) I just heard from the one that I pulled a slam dunk this year and that made me so thrilled.

    I think your questions are excellent! Here's to shopping... which doesn't count when you are doing it for other people.

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    1. I know - there's definitely some pressure if you give a bookish gift! Especially if it's for someone who isn't a huge reader. I get crazy nervous hoping they'll like it! I LOVE that you keep a running list of books that might interest them :) I need to do that, too. I have one friend in particular that I'm always on the lookout for books she'll like!

      And yay for slam dunk this year! GO YOU! And isn't shopping for other people so fun?!

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  6. Great post, Hannah! I gift books quite a lot, mainly to friends and my neice and nephew. A lot of my family members just don't read, including my husband, and I've triend LOTS of times to get them to. I don't dwell on it, but try to spend my energy finding the perfect book for a bookish friend instead. :)

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    1. I have a new nephew, and I'm ALL ABOUT getting him books. I'm trying to get him to love reading before he ever has a chance to decide otherwise. And yes, there's definitely a point with some people where you just have to accept that they probably won't come around to reading. In those cases, yes to trying to find the perfect book for bookish friends instead!

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  7. OMG -- you and I are so, so alike! I totally buy books for everyone, regardless of whether or not they're as avidly bookish as I am. Especially my sister -- she rolls her eyes at my book choices each Christmas, but always ends up enjoying the book that I picked out for her ... even if it's the only book that she reads that year =P Your questions are really, really good though, and I hadn't thought of asking people what book(s) they DIDN'T like. It really does shed light on bookish tastes though!

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    1. I'm the same way with my sister! I'm always trying to find books she'll love, even if that's the only book she picks up for a while.

      And yes, asking someone what they don't like is sometimes the most revealing! I've found that people often have a hard time saying what they DO like, especially if they aren't big readers, because they may not have read enough to have a strong opinion. But almost EVERYONE can think of what they don't like - and it totally helps point you in the right direction!

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  8. I always feel bad for people who say they don't like reading, they really haven't found "the" book yet. I try to buy people books all the time. My mom wasn't really a reader, but I've managed to get her reading quite a bit lately, I just had to find an author she liked!..lol

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    1. I completely agree! I think there are certainly people who will never choose reading as their primary free time activity, but I also end up wondering if they just haven't found "the" book yet. Don't you love the feeling when you help someone who isn't a big reader find an author or book they love? SO REWARDING!

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  9. Love this post! I too, love to gift books to people. Obviously, other book lovers, like my sister-in-law for example, are the easiest people to buy books for. I do struggle with the "non-readers" though - like you said, not everyone appreciates a book as a gift. But for the people closest to me in my life, I like the challenge of finding a book just for them. There's nothing better than when the receiver of a gifted book tells you they loved it! On another note - I wish more people gifted books! I've had people tell me before that they choose not to buy me a book because they seem to think I already own all the books! Ha! I wish.

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    1. Ok, I seriously almost included some thoughts on "getting books" in this post. You have no idea! Yes, I've found that a lot of people don't like giving books. They think I either already have too many or are too scared to get me something for fear I'll have already read it or won't like it. I don't know if this happens to you, but some of my family also sort of act like books aren't a good enough gift. I want to be like NO IT'S THE PERFECT GIFT!! And no one ever wants to give me Kindle books because "then there won't be anything for you to open" haha!

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    2. Yes, I agree! My sister-in-law and my mother are really the only people that ever give me books as a gift - but that's because they are both readers and also love books. I've tried (politely) to let other family members know - like my mother-in-law - that books are the best gift you could ever give me! Because she always gives me something odd and says, 'I wasn't sure what to get you!' I love her death, but I don't need anymore slippers ;)

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    3. YES! Whenever certain people say they weren't sure what to get me I feel so confused. Hello! I'm so easy to buy for :)

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  10. This is such a cute post!!! You would be so proud of me: I did ALL my Xmas shopping this year at book stores. Every single person got a book :)

    I have a similar mission in life... get everyone to read. It's so hard with so many recreation activities competing for people's attention these days. TV. Movies. Video Games. Internet.

    Your list gave me some new tools to use in my bag of tricks. I never thought to ask about books they DIDN'T like, but that is important if you're going to make sure that you don't repeat a bad reading experience. I try to use people's interests to my advantage. There's so many zombie books out there to buy for those guys who love Walking Dead ;)

    Great post!
    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

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    1. I am SO BEYOND PROUD of you! Dang girl!

      I've come to accept that not everyone will choose to read in their leisure time, but I do have a mission to at least get them to read a little. Even if they only reads one or two books a year - that still feels like an accomplishment!

      And yes, asking what someone didn't like helps so much! I've noticed that non-readers sometimes have a hard time saying what they don't like because they haven't necessarily read enough (especially of things they've like) to have strong opinions on it. However, almost everyone can think of things they don't like and pretty quickly too. It's really revealing!

      Yay for using interests to your advantage! It's the best when someone has an interest that closely aligns with a genre or type of book that's easy to find :)

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  11. I find that really the only time I buy books for people is when it is a child's gift or a baby gift, for building a library for little people. :)

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    1. Yay for little people libraries! I have a new nephew, and I've already called dibs on getting to buy him books for every gift-giving occasion. And I have to resist buying children's books for my own non-existant children... I seriously want to get books for my future bebes sometimes!

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    2. I also buy all the babies/kids in my life books for any gift-giving occasion too!

      And Hannah - I buy children's books all the time for my future bebes! Mostly thrift store finds, but the odd new book at the bookstore too :)

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  12. I'm always afraid to give books, because I don't want to give someone something they hate, but I like your tips! I do keep a running list of book recommendations on my phone sorted by genre and subgenre, so I always have a list of books to recommend people(whether they ask or not). I do, however, always buy books as gifts for children. After working in a reading program this past summer, I've seen just how important it is to surround kids with books, so I make it priority if the gift is for one or my nieces or their friends.

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    1. I love buying books for children, too! It's so fun to think that you might be able to impact their love for reading or gift them one of those books that will always be a "childhood favorite." I buy my nephew books for every gift-giving occasion! Gotta win the fight for reading now :)

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