This year’s Independent Bookshops Week runs from the 20th to the 27th of June. While the #bookshopcrawl (see my post about last year’s here – so much fun, I’m really excited for this year’s!) encourages us to visit (and buy something in!) as many independent bookshops as possible in a day, and the Books Are My Bag twitter will be running #indiebookaday, this year will also feature something that I’m really excited about.
This year, BAMB are asking us to give a book during IBW. Bookshops will have special postcards, so that we can share what we’ve bought, who for, and why. I’m very grateful, because the lovely people at Books Are My Bag have sent me a book token to help (as well as a balloon, which I’m thrilled about, some postcards, and a leaflet about the IBW book award), which means I can give multiple books. And that is excellent, because I have a lot of feelings about giving books.
The gift of a book is about more than a stack of paper and a series of words. It’s about more, even, than a story (or poem, or social theory, or whatever tickles your pickle). It’s an act of trust. “Here is something I love,” it says, “please treat it carefully”. It makes us vulnerable. I have cried before, when I have given a book I loved and the person I gave it to was unkind about it. Or giving a book might say, “Here is something I think you would like, please give it the time and the attention it deserves”. The gift of a book requires careful consideration, about who the gift is for, and why we want to give it. Sometimes, it’s because we love it, and we desperately want to share that experience. For example, in this article, Kat Brown tells us that she bought seven copies of the same book last year, as gifts, and how, when she tweeted about it, it sparked a discussion about which books we buy for others, again and again. Other times, it’s because a book makes us think of someone: I own a set of 1932 Larousse encyclopedias, given to me by a friend of my dad’s who saw them in a second-hand shop and thought I would love them. Maybe it would look beautiful on the receiver’s bookshelf, or refers to an in-joke, or might enable a trip or a career change or healing. Sometimes it’s for different reasons entirely.
I’m really looking forward to choosing what to buy, and who for. While it’s tempting to get something I’ve wanted someone to read for ages, and press it into their hands, saying “now you have no excuse”, I don’t think that’s really the best use of my time, effort, thoughts or money. Perhaps I’ll buy as many Little Black Penguin Classics as I can, and think about who gets which one, or give them to strangers. Or perhaps I’ll look around an unfamiliar shop until something leaps out at me (perhaps physically!) as particularly good for someone I care about. We’ll see.
But I know for certain that I’m looking forward to it.