The retail sector is hotting up – at least my little part of it is. I work in the local bookshop and it is more than pleasing, it is utterly fantastic and delightful and heart-warming to see that scanner going zip-zip-zip on BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS!

I usually enjoy helping people choose their gifts. Picture books for younger children are usually not much of a problem, but there are lots of parents and especially grandparents all at sea about junior and YA fiction and they’re really grateful for a bit of guidance through the maze of series and genres.
The most difficult are the customers who want to buy books for people who don’t actually read. You have tortured conversations, trying to elicit a tiny bit of information that will help.
What do they usually read?
They don’t.
Well, fiction or non-fiction?
I’m not sure.
What are they interested in?
I don’t know.
Do you think they’d like this? (Cookbook for a woman, book on sport for a man.)
It is then that I suggest a gift voucher. But that’s often rejected as well – people don’t like gift vouchers, I’m told. It looks like you don’t care enough to choose something.
Maybe then I go into the back office for a silent scream.

But much more often, it’s a happy experience a bit like trying on clothes; after two or three goes there will be something that hits the spot. And I always emphasise that if it’s not right, we are  happy to exchange – in fact, we’re open on Boxing Day for that very reason!

As a writer, of course, it behoves me very verily to give books as presents (I’m also giving chocolate) and I am. Last night a quartet of friends gathered at my place for dinner and I gave them each a little cookbook  – Maggie Beer, David Herbert, Karen Martini, Belinda Jeffery – wrapped in a bad-taste tea-towel from the Op Shop. I have already given my husband his book – couldn’t wait – and he’s finished it and now I’ve just (only half an hour ago) finished it too. It was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and it was fantastic…
…a great big juicy novel in which to immerse yourself. I don’t think I will be able to read any  fiction for a little while.

Other books neatly wrapped ready for Christmas Day are The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane, a V&A book on 1950s textile design and small book on drawing – Freehand by Helen Birch –  for my teenage niece and a fancy edition of The Lord of the Rings for my teenage son. I’m also giving The Light Between the Oceans by M L Stedman and The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk and I’m still thinking about something for my eighteen-month-old great nephew.
What does he usually read?
Fiction or non-fiction?
What is he interested in?

I think I’ll just take a punt on a Spot board book.


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