After a couple of wonky years largely being kept apart, and against a rising consciousness around how much we consume and throw away, there's never been a better time make sure the gifts we give have real meaning.
Naturally, we think a book is the best way to do this. But how can you go one step further than just wrapping it in snowman-themed paper? Here is our guide to elevating a book into a treasure to remember for a lifetime.
Write a meaningful inscription
Arguably the entry-level way of personalising a book gift: you’d have to have a pretty good excuse not to write a note inside the cover of a book you’re giving to someone. From something as simple as noting the date, to a more elaborate message that explains why you’re giving this book to that person, an inscription gives a book gift context and meaning. Not sure where to start? We’ve got some tips for that too: How to write the perfect book inscription.
Match the wrapping to the book
It’s quite difficult to hide the fact that a wrapped-up book is a book, so instead capture that excitement by choosing packaging that hints at what’s inside. Have you found a beautiful copy of Moby-Dick? Find some nautical paper, perhaps use a whale-shaped gift tag! Sustainable and reusable options are even better: a Furoshiki, or Japanese wrapping cloth, would be a lovely touch with any book, but even more so on a Japanese title, such as Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police. There’s no limit to your creativity if you’re prepared to put in a little effort: what about a copy of the newspaper announcing the result of the infamous obscenity trial for a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover?
Seek out beautiful editions
If you’re buying a book that has been around long enough to have had several editions, then good news: you have the option of tracking down the most beautiful version of the book you can find. Whether that’s a contemporary clothbound classic or a first edition, an unusual cover discovered in a charity shop, or even an edition in another language as a souvenir. Why not give different versions of the same beloved book each year? If the book you want to give is more modern, keep an eye out for special editions created for specific booksellers or at certain times of year.
Annotate the copy
If you’re sharing a book you love, what better way to explain why you love it than on the pages itself? Using a sharp pencil, underline lines that mean something to you – and you’d like to draw the reader’s attention to – or write notes that will express your enthusiasm or understanding of a certain passage. This way, your recipient will feel like they’re sharing their reading experience, even when you’re not there.
Plot a treasure map
Just because you’re giving a book doesn’t mean you have to give it straight away! Why not make the book the prize at the end of a treasure hunt? You could do a tour of bookshops, picking up a pre-bought book at each one, or arrange a walk around locations that are meaningful in the book you want to give: streets from Dickensian London, for instance, or around Oxford’s colleges before an offering of one of Philip Pullman’s books? That way, the book you give will be imbued with the fun and memories of the day you shared as well as the words between its covers.
Reflect their inner bookworm
Chances are, if you're buying something for a bookworm, their love of literature goes beyond the books themselves. If you've chosen the tome in mind, there's a good chance the Penguin Shop will stock an according essential to match. Because how better to proclaim your reading obsession than with a bookish tote bag or mug? Penguin's iconic design has been tastefully extended to all sorts of everyday items, to fill bookish types' lives with literature.
Present it with a promise for future fun
If you’re giving someone a book that they may not have encountered before, it can be nice to think of an experience that the pair of you can share in the near future to reflect on the book’s contents. This could be something as simple as a diary invite for a mini book group-style catch-up once the recipient has read the book, or something more elaborate and specifically tied to the book – ranging from a meal in a restaurant that has a connection, to Eurostar tickets tucked inside the pages of Simone de Beauviour’s The Inseparables.
Smuggle in a couple of extra presents
Giving a copy of Genzaburo Yoshino How Do You Live? Why not also give a journal, with a message written on the first page for the recipient, to ape the writings shared by the uncle and the nephew in Yoshino’s heart warming story. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland could be accompanied by a box of cupcakes; Yotam Ottolenghi’s Flavour with some of his more hard-to-find ingredients. Even something as straightforward as a bookmark can be a great addition. This can be a great way of bulking out a smaller gift while staying true to the sentiment behind it.
Create your own book subscription
If you have too many books that you’d like to share, it might be worth thinking about spreading out your gift – such as one every month, or a few every season, to keep the giftee on their literary toes. You could theme these – for instance, Victorian classics – give a book that works with the time of year, or simply give them in an order that makes sense to you. As for inscribing, writing notes, wrapping them beautifully or offering bonus experiences, that’s up to you!
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Image: Alexandra Francis/Penguin