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So You Received a Terrible Book as a Gift

Peter Damien

Staff Writer

Peter Damien has been reading since time out of mind, writing for a very long time, and been hopelessly lost to a disgraceful addiction to tea for a few years now. He writes short stories, comics, a lot of articles, and novels at an achingly slow pace. When not staring at words, he spends a lot of time in the woods, as befits a man of his hairstyle. He lives with a billion books, a tolerant wife, too many animals, and also two small boys. When it comes to writing, the small boys are, frankly, no help whatsoever. You can find Peter on Twitter, if that's the kind of thing you're into. Twitter: @peterdamien

Hi everybody! Welcome back after Book Riot’s nice holiday hiatus! It was hella dope, a phrase I learned over that nice holiday hiatus and then decided I would never stop saying until someone threatens me with legal action or I forget or learn some other phrase. I watched some fun television shows, I read some good books, I had some good food, I…

Hey, buddy. Why the long face? What’s up? Someone gave you a book for the holidays, and it’s clearly, obviously, blatantly awful and you don’t know what to do about it, huh? Jeeze, that’s rough. Hey, what book was it?

Oh. Oh. That one.


It’s okay. Calm down. I’ll walk you through this.

Option One: Assess the person who gave you the gift. Are they, for example, fantastically old? If so, you’re getting off pretty easy here, because it’s possible they may not remember giving you the book at all and all you have to say is “thank you.” Prepare a nice little gratitude statement and write it down so you can use it next year when they give you another copy of the same book. Easy! But the problem is, there are lots of gift-givers in the world who are not fantastically old and these “non-olds” may cause you problems.

Option Two: Assess if it is a terrible book or a crazy book. The differences can be very subtle. Maybe they just gave you a novel that you, personally, think has the literary merits of a log rolling down a hill (i.e., 3% literary). If it’s a crazy book, be careful! They are trying to convince you of something when they give you the book, paired with pointed looks. For example, you unwrap a copy of, say, Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and the gift-giver says, “there are some very interesting ideas in here,” then you are in trouble. When this happens, it is very important to indicate how super busy you are. Either you are in school with a lot of school reading, or you work for a major publisher on the side (but never mentioned it because you’re shy) and so you have a lot of reading there. Basically, you need to delay the inevitable discussion for as long as possible, or you will never escape the internet links and further books as the person tries to show you how Bill O’Reilly was definitely receiving his super accurate Jesus info from the Lizard People who live in the Hollow Earth.

Option Three: Invent an opinion on the book. This is how you survive not reading the book without admitting you didn’t read the book and probably won’t read it, unless you are actually tied to a bomb that will only defuse if you read the book. Some gift-givers will be satisfied with you saying “I read it, it was pretty good!” and then move on. Others will want to have a dreaded conversation about the book, however. Never fear! You too can contribute a little bit to this discussion. All you have to do is remember LRV: Look at the cover, Read the back of the book, and then Visit Amazon and read a couple reviews. Go for a three star review or so. Too many stars and you’ll seem enthusiastic, and you’re doomed to many discussions and more books. Too few stars, and you have to go have a fight outside. Pick a review with a couple paragraphs, so that the plot is not only summarized but maybe a couple opinions are had about it. Those opinions are now your opinions. Protip: pick the review carefully! A three-star review could still be super in favor of Lizard People and worse, Bill O’Reilly, and now you’re super in favor of those things. Maybe it’s three stars because his books didn’t feature enough about the lizard people (I think this about most books.)

These are fairly good solutions and should see most of you through the problems. If you want some Next Level Shit, I’m gonna offer that below. Don’t keep reading unless you really need it though. Most of you are fine!

Hi! Welcome to the Next Level Shit!

Option 4: Exchange the book for another book. Okay, deep breaths, partner. This requires confidence on your part, but we all believe in you. Take the book to a bookstore and exchange it, or just buy a whole other book. Later, indicate the new book you bought and thank the gift-giver again for giving it to you. When they mention it, look momentarily confused and then point out with confidence and assertion that this is definitely the book they gave you, and don’t they remember the discussion you two had about this exact book? Your tone of voice should clearly indicate that if anyone is at fault here, it’s them and they are possibly losing their minds. The nice thing about this technique is, it actually works better as the years go by and the gift-givers perhaps begin to move from “not-old” to “old.” I’m just saying.

Option 5: Fake your own death and start a new life in another country. Look, I told you this was next-level shit, don’t wimp out on me now. This step really works. For example, when I was a teenager, someone got me Chicken Soup for The Writer’s Soul, which is why I no longer go by the name Gary Waltzenberger, if you were wondering. There are perks to this technique, such as you get to travel to a new country, start a new life fresh with no ties or difficulties from the old life, and also now you don’t have to read that copy of Atlas Shrugged or Tuesdays with Morrie or, you know, whatever book. Those titles are definitely random, I have no baggage about them, thanks to the name change.

Once you are settled into your new life, strongly indicate in all conversations exactly what sort of reading preferences you have, and occasionally say, loudly, the sort of books you hate reading and hint strongly that people who read them, or buy them, quickly stop being your friends. This will deter everyone in your new life and you’ll be able to hang onto the new identity for several months or a couple years, if you’re lucky.

There, see? I told you I could help. You’ll be fine. I mean, in the future. That book you received over the past holidays…look, I’m sorry. There’s nothing that can be done for you. You’re doomed.


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