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The Most Meaningful Bookish Gift You’ve Ever Given: Finalist #1

Amanda Nelson

Staff Writer

Amanda Nelson is an Executive Director of Book Riot. She lives in Richmond, VA.

This giveaway is sponsored by Read It Forward.


Read It Forward is a Book Geek’s best friend. Since 2008, Read It Forward has been surprising readers with weekly giveaways, behind-the-scenes sneak peeks at new titles and new voices, and literary lifestyle chats. Discover your next great read … read it first and pass it on!


In this giveaway, we asked you to submit the story of the most meaningful book you’ve ever given someone as a gift. We’ve narrowed the field down to three finalists, each of whom win copies of The Martian by Andy Weir and Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda. Now it’s time for you to vote on your favorite! The winner will receive a pack of 10 books from the folks at Read It Forward! Voting will end 11:59PM EST, Tuesday, January 20th. Vote here!


Finalist #1: Misa

When I was very little, one of my mother’s most valued possessions was a set of Little House on the Prairie books and she read them all to me many, many times.

We were quite poor. My mother, however, made it seem not so bad by saying that we were doing things “just like Laura and Mary.” If our electricity got turned off again? It was just like Laura and Mary. Tight Christmas? “Remember the Christmas that Laura and Mary got tin cups, a little cake, a candy stick, and a penny and they were so happy? Christmas doesn’t have to be huge to be special.” We lived overseas for a few years (my dad was in the military) and every time it was hard for one reason or another, we talked about how, many times, Laura and Mary lived so far away from their family and everything they knew, as well. My mother made nearly all my clothing for quite some time and she talked about how Laura’s Ma made her clothes, as well.

Those books – and the creativity of my mother – helped make life tolerable when it otherwise would not have been.

The years went on, my mother had more children. She worked more. She didn’t have time to read to us as much nor did we all take care of her books as well as we could have. By the time I was a pre-teen, the books were all missing, destroyed, or badly damaged.

One year, I babysat to make money for Christmas. Sometimes, I was babysitting nearly all weekend. Eventually, a week or two before Christmas, I had enough money for what I wanted to buy: a new set of Little House books for my mother.

When she opened them, she immediately started crying. She loved those books. I don’t think I’ve ever given her a gift that made her happier than that one did.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The day after Christmas, there was a really bad ice storm with lots of snow. It knocked out power to thousands of people in the area. We lived in an area that wasn’t prepared for cold weather and, because of the location of her home, we were some of the last people in the area to get power back – more than a week later. Once again, we were like Laura and Mary, reading by candlelight, the kids sleeping together in the main to stay warm.

We read through the entire Little House series before the electricity came back on.

To this day, it is not only the most meaningful bookish gift I’ve ever given, but it’s the most meaningful bookish gift I’ve ever received. I may have given my mother books for Christmas, but she gave me the gift of reading and way to cope when life got hard.


Vote for this finalist here!