Just Give Me a Gift Card: A Holiday Lament for Book-Lovers

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The plight of the modern book-lover is pretty grim during the holidays. We should be rejoicing, for this is the perfect time to get free books, and yet we live in fear that under each layer of festive wrapping paper lies an embarrassment. One that we will make us cringe inwardly while we don a fake smile and thank Uncle Dave for the uninteresting, uninspired paperback he pulled off the shelf in the grocery store check-out line.

So let us commiserate, fellow book-lovers, for the time of despair is nigh upon us once more.

The problems are myriad, but one of the most common is the unwanted book. It seems strange for us to say. We love books; how could we possibly not want a single one? But then we open up a present to find a book we bought and read years ago.

Remember when The Secret was big a few years ago? The saturation rate of hokey, wish-fulfillment paraphernalia amongst our presents was intolerable, and we never cracked a single cover.

It gets much worse than that. There’s the constant danger of receiving a book with a clear political motive, a vapid celebrity tell-all, or, heaven help us, a self-help book about the latest financial fad. Remember when The Secret was big a few years ago? The saturation rate of hokey, wish-fulfillment paraphernalia amongst our presents was intolerable, and we never cracked a single cover.

The worst part is that the giver thinks he or she is doing us a favor. “This will change your life,” they whisper with a self-satisfied sigh as you tear open the package. “Then why are you still unhappily divorced, morbidly obese, and living in a dump?” you’re tempted to ask, but you swallow the urge and place the waste of paper on a growing stack of books you’ll never read.

If this happens often enough, you don’t feel bad when someone gets you a book that you already own. You actually want to hug the giver because they at least understand what you like, and they’re not trying to convert you to a new pseudo-philosophy.

It seems like technology should be helping us more. I mean, we have entire social networks built around loving books, and certainly people should be able to find out what we like in any number of ways. And yet, Grandma has no idea what an Amazon Wishlist is, mom can’t find the list of books you emailed her, and your brother didn’t even get you a greeting card. So much for technology.

In fact, technology is just making it worse. There’s nothing so disappointing as finding out someone bought you a Kindle eBook for your Nook eReader. That’s like getting someone socks instead of a Red Ryder BB Gun.

Traditionally, society considers it thoughtless, possibly even heartless, to get someone a gift card for Christmas, but if someone would just give you an Amazon gift card, or better yet, a gift card to a real bookstore where you can huff the smell of paper and ink while you grab armfuls of books, you’d probably start crying. I mean real crying, with tears of gratitude so large that others might think the giver pulled your baby from a burning building. All because they gave you the power to pick instead of giving you a disgrace to hide in the back of your bookcase.

And still they won’t believe us when we say, “Just give me a gift card, Grandma.”

Really.

Just give me a gift card.

Daniel Hope

Column by Daniel Hope

Daniel Hope is a writer, ukelele player, and unrepentant nerd. He has worked as a technology journalist (too frantic), a PR writer (too smarmy), and a marketing writer (too fake). He is currently the Managing Editor of Fiction Vortex, an online publication for science fiction and fantasy short stories. At FV, he's known as the Voice of Reason. That means FV staff members wish he would stop worrying all the time. He thinks they should stop smiling so much.

Daniel Hope lives in California and dreams of writing more. When distraught about his output, he consoles himself with great beaches and gorgeous weather. He recently published his science fiction novel, The Inevitable, on the Kindle Store and Smashwords. Find out more at his site: SpeculativeIntent.com.

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Comments

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On December 19, 2013 - 11:48am

Traditionally, society considers it thoughtless, possibly even heartless, to get someone a gift card for Christmas...

I think this attitude is definitely changing. I remember growing up though how intense this sentiment was; that a gift card was the epitome of a lack of class and imagination. Seeing the limits of too many people's imaginations of late, I'll take a card any day. In fact, unless it's a book you wrote yourself--and even this has its limits--don't give me a book. Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and especially the local indie bookstore (especially Vroman's in Pasadena [hint, hint]) gift cards will never go amiss. 

LeahD's picture
LeahD from Boston is reading The Devil In The White City December 22, 2013 - 10:04am

The worst part is that the giver thinks he or she is doing us a favor. “This will change your life,” they whisper with a self-satisfied sigh as you tear open the package. “Then why are you still unhappily divorced, morbidly obese, and living in a dump?” you’re tempted to ask, but you swallow the urge and place the waste of paper on a growing stack of books you’ll never read.

I cringed just reading this, because I think all book lovers have experienced something akin to this on a holiday. You don't want to seem ungrateful, but at the same time, you kind of want to vomit.