Gimbling in the Wabe: Sharing the Gift of Reading

Sharing the Gift of Reading

I tend to be one of those people who obsess over gift giving.  Not that I do it all that often – I’m actually pretty frugal when it comes to the acknowledgement of the appropriateness of giving a gift.  And I don’t really like getting gifts myself; I think it has something to do with not wanting to be the center of attention.  But I love, love, LOVE to give gifts when the time is right – and there’s no better time than Christmas to give gifts to loved ones.

When I was little, our gifts were pretty practical.  I honestly don’t remember most of them (other than the obligatory socks and underwear in our stockings, a tradition I’ve passed to my own children, much to their chagrin).  But I do remember that every Christmas I could be assured of at least one book under the tree, and not just a slim paperback.  It would be some big, glossy picture book when I was young, or a more substantial, thoughtful (and often beautiful) book when I got older.  Some of those books I still have with me today; some exist only in memories, but I nevertheless still hold them dear.

And, I’ll admit, I would use gift giving as the excuse to spend hours in the local bookstore, perusing the shelves, paging through children’s books, scanning titles and searching for something new that would fit the personalities and interests of the people on my list, especially my kids.  Quite often I would make a separate list during these excursions – a list of books that I myself found intriguing, that I could use when asked, “Well, what do you want for Christmas?”, and come back to later if I didn’t receive them.

But times have changed, and circumstances as well.  My Christmas list has gotten much smaller.  The kids in the extended family have grown up and had kids of their own, too many for the expectation of gifts from relatives they don’t even know.  My parents have aged to the point where their interests are very narrow and immediate, and they bristle at acquiring any more “stuff”, regardless of what that stuff may entail.  My sisters and I decided long ago to stop sending gifts between families, to cut down on the stress and expense of the season that was taking its toll on all of us.  My husband has migrated to magazines and newspapers in the few moments he decides to sit still; I haven’t seen him sit down and read a “real” book in years, not even the occasional political humor works that he used to enjoy.

And my kids…. time has caught up to them, as well.  My son doesn’t really like to read, he says.  He claims that he reads too slowly and doesn’t have the patience for it.  Oh, he does read when his imagination is piqued – he’s loved the George RR Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series, and wasn’t daunted by Tad Williams’ “Otherland” series – he can read and retain and enjoy.  But he spends his free time in other, more “modern” ways.  So no books for him at Christmas time.  And my daughter – oh, my daughter.  My star reader in 5th grade with a trophy for having read more books than any other student in the entire school.  The girl who would pour over stories and picture books, who would lug her copy of the most recent Harry Potter novel everywhere… still so smart and talented, but around Middle School her brain got off at the wrong stop, taking with it her ability to focus on written words on the page.  Reading now is a struggle for her, and books a reminder of how she wishes she could be.  Those she does make it through are very special indeed.

But just when I thought giving the gift of reading was diminishing for me, I was given an amazing opportunity – to write reviews on this website, LitStack.  To receive books with exactly the expectation of sharing them, through my thoughts, through my observations and recommendations.  What a heady thing to have gifted to me!  What a marvelous, fun, fulfilling endeavor!  To think that a book may sell a few extra copies and a writer may get a little bit more support, because of what I have to say about their work.  I have been exposed to so many wonderful writers of whom I may not have noticed on my own – how sweet is that?  I have the potential to give the gift of reading every day!

And now, here in December, editor-in-chief Tee Tate has gone even a step further, offering at least 2 books to be given away every day of the month – every day!  Two books!  Given away!  For free!!!  And no obligations – just comments.  Just a confirmation that yes, this would be a fun thing to have, a good book to read, a nice gift to receive in this time of giving.  It literally makes my heart sing glad tidings of great joy.

So Happy Holidays, everyone!  I hope the rest of your holiday season is indeed as merry and bright as mine is turning out to be.  Please, partake of our gift to you, our readers.  And thank you, one and all!

~Sharon Browning

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