Penguin is one of my favorite publishers: They produce beautiful editions of classic books. (Those clothbound covers that you see at Church Street in my Daily South picture? Those are Penguin books.) They have an amazing bookmobile that travels around NYC. And their mascot is a penguin. Come on — that’s adorable.
This Christmas, Penguin’s doing something else I think is pretty great — they’re donating a book to Save the Children each time #giveabook is used on Facebook and Twitter (up to 25,000 books). The idea is to give books to charity, sure. But it’s also to promote reading and the idea of giving books as gifts.
Last year around Christmas, I wrote about why it’s sometimes a bad idea to give a book as a gift. I stand by that now — giving the wrong book isn’t good for anybody. Every book that’s given thoughtlessly reinforces the (totally wrong!) idea that books are boring.
But just as giving the wrong book is a gifting disaster, the right book can be the absolute best gift you can give. The right book taps into who a person really is, what they love, and the potential of who they wish they could be. It sends them on a trip to another country, or another time, or to Mars. It can help them grow into something new, or validate who they already are, or allow them to escape a busy and stressful life for awhile.
The right book is a journey and a keepsake and a connection between yourself and the person you’re giving it to. The right book is magical.
How do you find the right book? Visit an independently owned store. Obviously, the discounts of Amazon are tempting, but those computer-generated recommendations aren’t likely to lead you to the magic book — a person, especially a person who’s dedicating their life to bookselling — will.
So, what about my book? The Localist just released this week, and that’s no accident — I’ve pretty much been killing myself (and putting a great strain on my family and friends) to get this book out by Christmas and the gift-giving season. I really want you to buy this book, and to buy a copy (or two … or six) as a gift. But I don’t want you to give it to everyone, because it’s not a kind and thoughtful gift for everyone.
Who would enjoy The Localist as a gift? Anyone who’s into shopping locally or eating local food or buying American will probably like it. Anyone who likes books about changing your life, or blogs turned into books (like Julie and Julia) could really get into it (this whole thing started with a New Year’s resolution to buy locally and blog about it). And anyone who owns a small business or dreams about owning a small business will find their choice of lifestyle applauded and validated. (As a small business owner, I know that a little applause can go a long way — and we don’t hear it often.)
If you do give The Localist — or any book — snap a picture of that gift and hashtag it for the Penguin promotion. It’s not just because #giveabook is an easy way to get a book donated to a kid. It’s also a great way to encourage more people to give books as gifts, or at least to be thoughtful about what they’re giving instead of just grabbing the closest thing on sale.
You can come buy a copy of The Localist at my Wish List party tonight — I’ve also invited some fantastic local vendors selling really perfect Christmas gifts (like local honey, locally made candles, French-style macarons, book-themed prints, wonderful artwork, adorable stuffed animals, my very favorite whole leaf tea and fantastic leather goods). We’ll have beer from Avondale (in their new cans!) and food made by local chef Neal Sims. It’s going to be really fun, and it’s a good way to get a lot of your Christmas shopping knocked out early. These are gifts that are meaningful and that help our community — and they also happen to be gifts that your friends and family will really love.
Should we give books for every gift? Probably not. But let’s not forget that the right book for the right person really can be the very best gift — and sharing it on social media helps spread the message of books to even more people. Right now, it’s even a way to #giveabook to a child who needs one — and if that doesn’t capture the magic of the holiday season, I really don’t know what does.
Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local, and Reclaim the American Dream. It’s available to order at your local bookstore, or you can buy a paperback here or an ebook here.