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Essays

How to Ask for Better Bookish Gifts

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As the holiday season approaches, the gift-giving traditions are kicking into high gear. With this season comes memories we all have. That one aunt or well-meaning parent who knows you’re really into books. As they shop, they grab anything book-related, wrap it up, and throw it under the tree.

50 Shades of Grey box set
That’s a no from me, Grandma.

Now you’re a science fiction fan with a Jane Austen collection. A cozy mystery fan with the 50 Shades box set. Or now you have a set of vintage Elvis bookends that you’ll only bring out when that particular aunt comes to your house.

Of course, you’re a polite person. You smile and glow with gratitude as you unwrap these gifts. But they aren’t what you wanted. So, the question is: How to you ask for better bookish gifts you really want?

Wish Lists

This one is pretty straight forward. It took me a few years, but I managed to train my mom and grandma to go straight to my Amazon wish lists. I have several lists for board games, kitchen stuff, records, and of course, books. You can be as specific as you want, picking the exact book in the exact printing you want. There are plenty of other websites with wish lists, too, but I know I’m not going to train my relatives to look at indie bookstores or Better World Books. Still, I’m guaranteed to get exactly what I want.

gift box in pink wrapping paper with gold ribbon and confetti

Drop Those Hints

This one is trickier. One of my relatives used to latch onto one particular theme and ride it into the ground. I like Star Wars? Suddenly I was overwhelmed with shirts, toys, wall decorations, and all sorts of Star Wars stuff that I didn’t want. Then it was Batman. Back to Star Wars. You get the idea. So I made a plan: to work what I really wanted into casual conversation.

Grandma: Have you seen any good movies recently?

Me: We had a Star Wars marathon at home last week.

Grandma: Are those new ones any good?

Me: Some parts. I really think they’re overdoing it with all the merchandise, though. I love Star Wars, but nobody needs all that junk.

Grandma: *nods with a look of deep contemplation*

Me: And those novelizations? No thank you. I’m here for movies based on books, but not the other way around.

Okay, not exactly subtle and not an actual conversation I had with my grandma, but you get the idea. You’ve had all year to work this, but now is the sprint to the finish. And we all need to spend more time with our grandparents while we have them.

Subterfuge

So you have an uncle who never asks you want you want. Not directly, at least. Every year, though, you find out he was asking your mom, your significant other, and your neighbor’s dog what you want. That uncle wants to be sneaky and make sure that you have no idea what they’re getting you. Realizing this uncle does this for every member of your family sounds exhausting. And you need better bookish gifts.

How do you counteract the sneaky relative? With your own sneaky-sneak, of course. Plant the seeds and drop the hints with people your uncle is going to ask. Make some coy Facebook posts about things you like and don’t like. Mention that book you really want in earshot of your uncle, but not directly to him. Invest in repelling equipment, a grappling hook, and ninja gear so you can break into his home in the middle of the night and replace his white noise machine with subliminal messages about your bookish wish list. You can do this. I have faith in you.

Be Direct

When all else fails, tell it like it is. The best route to better bookish gifts is direct. When Mom asks you what you want for Christmas, don’t just shrug and say, “I don’t know.” Tell Mom what you want. Be polite and reasonable (my Mom isn’t going to buy me a first edition Fahrenheit 451), but just tell it straight: Mom, I’d like another year of Marvel Unlimited, the UK hardcover of She Who Became the Sun, the hardcover of A Master of Djinn, and bookish dishtowels. Done.


Give those loved ones links and direct answers. Or trick them. Just get the job done. Then ask them what they want, because really, the holidays are about gathering together and seeing everyone’s eyes light up when a thoughtful gift is unwrapped. And pie. Holidays are definitely about pie. But this is Book Riot, not Pie Riot.