Book Box: The Gifts of Reading

Dear reader,

Last month, at a book club in Bangalore, we talked about giving books as gifts.

We sat around a table, over cups of cappuccino in a quaint cafe, and people took notes, as all sorts of fabulous headlines popped up – book remedies for stress, existential angst , new parenthood and career crises.

“A man called Ove – that’s the equivalent of a big hug. Also, maybe you should talk to someone, those are the books I gift most often,” V said.

‘To new co-workers – The first 90 days. To friends Man’s Search for Meaning, says S.

“Atlas of the Heart – this beautifully illustrated book by Brene Brown,” said D.

In the end, in anticipation of all the upcoming birthdays and festivals, we headed over to Champaca Independent Bookstore to pick up some of these amazing books – gifts for ourselves, advance gifts for others!

Champaca Bangalore Bookstore.

“I take a book to meet a friend. I take a book to meet an enemy. My mind is made of books, says Max Porter in the fascinating The Gifts of Reading.

It’s a collection of essays you can ponder for hours, as writers like Philip Pullman, Roddy Doyle, Imtiaz Dharker and Robert Macfarlane tell how gifted books changed their lives. And how they in turn were inspired to reciprocate, giving books to the people around them.

The gifts of reading.

It’s such a well-written book that I found myself underlining every fifth line. Like these lines from SF Said, the Lebanese English author of children’s books: “Books can come to us as physical gifts. They can also be gifts of time and energy, such as when adults read books with children; or through the gift of recommendation, which can also change lives, as librarians and booksellers know very well.

Pico Iyer’s essay was particularly fascinating to me; moving with him from Mumbai to Japan, from Graham Greene to Rohington Mistry, and came to an absolute chord as he puts it, “reading is the richest conversation I know”.

So this festival season, head to the nearest bookstore and pick up some gift books!

Here are some ways to choose the perfect gift books —

Buy gift books Option 1: It’s all in this book!

The new remedy.

The Novel Cure is as fast as its title suggests – it has bookish medicine for every ailment! If it’s depression, cheer up with Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle and Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. If it’s low self-esteem, read Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, and if it’s extravagance, then Rumer Godden’s Kingfishers Catch Fire – and so on – until that you reach “lacklessness” and come right back to “surrender”.

Buy gift books Option 2: Investigate book listings

There are a plethora of lists online, ranging from book recommendations from Barack Obama to Bill Gates – plus, you could take advantage of Book Box recommendations – here are the best books for dads, the best books for moms, books gifts for brothers, sisters and friends. Medical histories, college histories, and the best books on architecture and fiction for economists. Books on democracy, mythology, spirituality and personal finance.

I wish you a happy Diwali and a happy gift! See you next week, happy reading!

Sonya Dutta Choudhury is a Mumbai-based journalist and the founder of Sonya’s Book Box, a bespoke book service. Each week she brings you specially selected books to give you an immersive understanding of people and places. If you have any reading recommendations or suggestions, email him at [email protected]

Opinions expressed are personal

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