Dear Book Nerd,
“When we first started dating, I gave my girlfriend one of my favorite books–the same book I give to nearly everyone, but I was pretty sure she would like it also. She’s never read it, and it sits on her shelf to this day (several years later). In the interim, she has read several hundred books. We are book-compatible in many other aspects, and there are plenty of other people who will rave about the book with me. I should let it go, right?”
– Book Giver
Dear Book Giver:
Oh, man. I know this feeling. I know it well. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Giving a gift to someone, especially a significant other, can be quite nerve-wracking. We wonder: will they love it? Will they hate it? Will they hide their true feelings and pretend it’s awesome to spare us any embarrassment? Will they give us the dreaded “Oh…thanks” when they receive it? Or might they even throw a tantrum, like this kid infamously did when he got books for Christmas?
In particular, giving a book that you love to a person that you love is like giving away a small, fragile piece of your heart and hoping that it doesn’t get broken. I don’t know why that is, exactly, but it’s definitely true for me. I mean, my feelings don’t get hurt if my loved ones don’t like the same movies or TV shows or types of food as I do. But books? Books I tend to take personally, even though I realize it’s not completely rational to do so.
There are a few reasons I can think of that might explain why she doesn’t want to read your gift.
1) The time capsule effect: as long as she doesn’t read it, the beautiful moment that you gave her the book is still suspended like a raindrop about to fall from a leaf. (Sorry, I love me some cheesy similes.) Now I’m going to be a bit hypocritical regarding what I said a paragraph ago: a person very close to me gave me a book many months ago and I still haven’t read it. It’s a book I adored in my childhood and I had mentioned how I wanted to read it again. Subsequently, it was thoughtfully purchased for me online (because it couldn’t even be found in any libraries or local bookstores), and I very much appreciated receiving it. But although it would take me an hour tops to read it, I’ve refrained…because as long as I don’t read it, the moment I was given the book can continue to be savored. It sounds silly, perhaps, but it cannot be helped. Also (and this is probably a bigger reason), I’m secretly afraid that the book won’t hold up to my childhood memories. Which brings me to #2….
2) She’s scared of not liking it. This is an understandable fear, because, as I stated earlier, books are often taken very personally by those who love them. She might not want to risk hurting your feelings if it turns out that this particular book is not her cup of tea. (Of course, NOT reading it can also hurt your feelings, so it’s really a lose-lose scenario.)
3) She doesn’t realize how important it is to you that she read it. You could just rip off the bandage and ASK her why she hasn’t read the book. (I assume you haven’t done that already, even though I’m sure your relationship is rooted in love and trust and you’re free to talk about things that might potentially be uncomfortable). Of course, there’s always the possibility of the conversation going something like this:
You: “Hey, hon. So, remember that book I gave you several years ago?”
Her: “Hmmm….yes. Yes I do.”
You: “So, did you ever read it?”
Her: “Actually, no.”
You: “Okay, sweetie. May I ask why not?”
Her: “Well, you see….”
You: “WHAT IS HAPPENING TO US ARE WE BREAKING UP WHY DON’T YOU LOVE MEEEEEEEEE”
That’s probably how it would go if I were in your shoes, anyway. But I’m sure you’re a lot more rational than I am.
In all seriousness, I totally understand the temptation to wonder why she hasn’t responded to your gift in the way that you expected. I also understand your desire to share and discuss the book that you love so much with this special person. However, perhaps the best thing you can do to preserve your own sanity (and maybe your very relationship) is to consider book gift-giving akin to putting a message in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean. Sure, it would be nice to know that someone out on a distant shore somewhere found it and read it and appreciated it. But maybe the very act of giving the book can be satisfying enough in itself.
Of course, if you DO end up having that uncomfortable conversation about why she hasn’t read it, I’d kiiiinda love to hear about it: DearBookNerd@gmail.com.
Kidding, kidding. Good luck, Book Giver. And please, no matter what, never stop giving them.
Have a bookish question about love or life for the Book Nerd? Ask away! Read the previous question & answer here.
Sign up for our newsletter to have the best of Book Riot delivered straight to your inbox every two weeks. No spam. We promise.