At this time of year we're surrounded by Christmas decorations, fake trees, the pile of cards we haven't had time to send yet, and the gift list we haven't had time to shop for. So here are some great reasons to buy books as gifts! (and some shopping hints)
1. Books last. Long after the plastic toys are broken and the CD scratched, a book will still be on your shelves to be read again and again (kids love re-reading their favourites). Even board books are made to stand the test of a grabby, munchy toddler. I still have books from my childhood that are more than ... lots of years old.
2. You can buy a book to match every area of interest. Are your in-laws renovating? Buy them a home style book. Is your grandad a cricket fanatic? There's always a new cricket bio out. Is your nephew keen on comics? Try a graphic novel. You don't have to stick to fiction, and if you're really stuck, you can buy a book voucher.
3. In a large bookshop, you can buy every gift on your list in one outing!
4. You can create a lifelong love of reading and books in a child, simply by buying them several paperbacks of different kinds. You don't have to put all your eggs in one expensive hit-and-miss basket/book and risk them not liking it. Or you can take your grandchildren or small family members on a bookshop outing, and let them choose. Little ones would love it if you laid out a dozen picture books and let them pick one or two. Pull all kinds of books off the shelves and experiment. Don't just stick to the classics that are all the bookseller can usually recommend!
5. Books are biodegradable. If someone has finished with their book and wants to throw it away, it will rot nicely in the compost. But even better, if they want to swap with someone else, they get double enjoyment! And books are easy to wrap!
6. Books are great stress relievers. If you know someone who has had a hard year and always seems to be working (and has trouble winding down over the holidays), a book will take them out of this world and into another. It will also help them get to sleep at night - or if it's exciting, it may keep them awake but in the best possible way. They'll be engrossed in something that is not their work problems.
7. While you are in the bookshop, taking your time and having coffee and cruising around the shelves, you may well find something special for yourself to read over the holidays.
I have a holiday stack (OK, I have two or three holiday stacks, as I've had a busy year) and can't wait to get stuck into it. Just finished the last Stieg Larssen - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - and am now halfway through Rain Gods by James Lee Burke. Next might be Liar by Justine Larbalestier (just found it under a pile of other stuff). And don't forget, if you spent too much on gifts and can't afford your own holiday reading stack, go to your library!