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The Privilege and Pressure of Being a Book Claus

Kit Steinkellner

Staff Writer

Kit Steinkellner is a playwright, screenwriter, and creative writing teacher. She also writes about books and reading  at Books Are My Boyfriends. Follow her onTwitter: @BooksAreMyBFs

I love the holidays hard. Still, Thanksgiving-thru-Christmas stresses me out THE MOST, for all the normal reasons holidays stress people out. (Making sure everyone I talked to for longer than two seconds this year gets a holiday card! Figuring out ways to not get fat during Thanksgiving and also Christmas! Finagling my way into all the holiday parties while fending off surprise attacks from friends who are good at singing and want to go caroling!)

But the holidays ALSO stress me out for a reason I am sure my fellow contributors and our readers can relate to: holidays mean presents, and for a bookish person, that means a lot of people in your life are expecting you to give them THE PERFECT BOOK because you’re their friendly, neighborhood BOOK CLAUS.

The pressure of being Book Claus is so hardcore. Or at least it’s hardcore for me. If you read a lot of books and talk about books on public platforms (check and check), somehow you find the title of “Book Expert” conferred upon you. You didn’t ask for the title! Still, you got that title and all the privileges and responsibilities that come with the position. Privilege: You get SO many smart points. When you read for fun, people think you are a little bit magical and a little bit of a superhero, like if Hermione were also a Marvel character. Responsibility: The people in your life have SKY HIGH expectations re: the book(s) you’re going to get them as presents. It’s hard to live up to expectations; it’s super-freaky to imagine disappointing; you hope and pray if you just put enough thought/care/effort into your book gifts, you’ll eke through this holiday season semi-successful as per usual. Aaaand… that’s where the 30 truckloads of stress and anxiety come from every f—ing December.

Even though I never asked for the title of “Book Expert,” I’m still SUPER grateful that the occasional person chooses to bestow it upon me. I don’t take that trust lightly at all. I want to NAIL IT as Book Claus ever year. Being Book Claus does feel a lot like being like Santa Claus, we share more than just a surname! We Book Clauses spend all year reading and filing away the perfect books for those in need of A+ reading material for the coming year. Imagine how heartbroken Santa would feel if the kids on the nice list were disappointed with their rocking horses and model trains. THAT’S how heartbroken I feel when I give a person a book and the response is “Oh…this looks…thanks.” I’m always aiming for a “This looks AWESOME” or “I’ve been WANTING to read this!” or “This is PERFECT for me!” or, best of all, when someone dashes off a thank you and then runs to a corner to start reading immediately.

So I’m coming to terms with the stress. I’m figuring out how to manage it, but there’s nothing I can actually do to get rid of it. In order to stop being stressed about my book receivers’ opinions, I would actually have to stop caring about their opinions, and that’s not going to happen. Faith is a scary thing to have someone place in you, but, it is, of course, a good thing. It means you’ve done something to earn that faith in the first place.

What about the other Book Clauses out there— how do you deal with the anxiety that goes along with book giving? Or are you a mighty oak without any stress regarding this ordeal at all?


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