Francesca Di Fazio


The annual struggle has been solved - here’s some top tips on finding the right novel to gift during the holidays.

If you’re like me - a person with little time, little money and not much of an imagination - your annual quest for Christmas gifts is likely to end up in a bookshop. It’s a glance at the bestseller shelf, then choosing a volume of a reasonable size – neither too slim, nor too bulky – before you’re off to the cashier. “Can you please wrap it? It’s a gift…” and there you go. Mission No-Empty-Hands: accomplished. Books can be easy last-minute solutions, but because of this, they can be perceived as lazy choices by the recipient. A vague photo on the cover, large-font on the pages and the author’s name much bigger than the title? Auntie was definitely in a rush.

And yet, books have such huge potential as gifts - even more so at Christmas. There’s a wide variety to choose from, they can fit different budgets, and they look great in wrapping paper. The solution, then, is not to stop gifting books, but rather to make it our first choice. I can guarantee that a reasoned and genuinely interested search for the perfect book to gift has the potential to turn into a long journey, ending more often than not in extra purchases. So, for the sake of your time and your pockets, here’s some advice to navigate the shelves more confidently in search of the perfect paperback gift.

Books aren’t all about reading. Sure, not everyone enjoys reading long texts. However, not all books are made of densely written pages. If your recipient is passionate about the work of specific artists, designers, stylists or photographers, check out the Art, Fashion & Photography section. Rather than books, these volumes are beautiful collectors’ pieces that will give an aesthetic touch to any shelf or coffee table. If, on the other hand, you still see narrative as a necessary component of book-objects, graphic novels and auteur manga combine art and dialogue in a wide range of genres. Finally, more traditional readers will certainly appreciate illustrated editions of classics, like those published by HarperCollins, which I also recommend as an appealing way of introducing younger readers to fundamental literary milestones.

Think about your recipient. It is definitely possible to understand if a gift was chosen without care. This is especially true for books, as the same story can deeply touch one person whilst meaning nothing to another. Your quest should therefore take into account your recipient’s taste, experience and passions. Maybe they’re going through a particular phase of their life and could find some comfort in well-written stories about similar experiences and emotions. Like all art, literature is a powerful way of communicating, so use your gift to create a dialogue with the other person. Novels and memoirs can provide that kind of intimacy, though I’d argue that poetry remains the most valuable means of expressing emotions. If you tailor your choice to what you want to express to the reader, they will notice.

Put something of yourself into it. If you’ve chosen the book for a particular reason, tell your recipient. Attaching a written note to the present will add significance to it. You can also make the gift more personal by adding a dedication or annotations directly on the pages. The books I feel more attached to are those that my friends annotated before gifting to me, because reading their comments brings me closer to them now that we live in different countries. In brief, don’t underestimate the power of words and the importance of communication in human relationships.

Finally, dare to be original. The whole point of gifts is giving something to others that they, for one reason or another, would not buy themselves. So, why not take the opportunity to introduce your recipient to something new? It could be the occasion to initiate a non-reader into literature, or to expand a reader’s perspective. Choose an author that you love, your own favourite book, or find something you have never read and buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. If you live for drama, spice up the family Christmas dinner by bringing up the controversial non-fiction works that you have gifted to your uptight distant relatives (pro-tip: give them books arguing for different ideas and watch as all hell breaks loose). In one way or another, novelty is always fun.

Now that you’re equipped to gift books for Christmas in a non-last-minute, non-dull way, take a couple of hours off, go to your closest bookshop and start bustling about the shelves. Enjoy the hunt!

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