On my last post, the lovely Ruthiella left a comment wondering whether it was easier to buy presents for book lovers, because there would always be, after all, any number of books we’d be lusting after at any given moment in time. When Mr. Litlove read through the comments, he found particular entertainment in this one and said, you should tell your friends just how easy it is for me to buy books for you. And so I offer my humble strategies up to anyone who wants to give their loved one(s) a really good shove in the right direction:
1. The fait accompli
I was in the Fitzwilliam Museum before Christmas, doing some gift buying when I happened to come across this rather gorgeous book on the art of Japanese painter, Hokusai. I knew instantly that I wanted it, and it occurred to me that it would make a splendid present. But, could I risk sending Mr. Litlove off on his own to tackle the really quite large shop they have in the museum? I could tell him exactly which table it was on, but what if the staff moved the display around in the meantime? Disaster! And it is so sad to have your wife look at you on Christmas morning and say ‘How can you possibly have got this wrong?’ So I bought it and gave it to him, saying, here, you can wrap this up for me and stick it under the tree. Guaranteed success.
2. The ten ton hint
When Notting Hill editions first started sending me publicity emails about their box sets, I tried to be strong. I looked at all the books I still have to read and told myself I could withstand. And then they offered me a discount as a special Christmas bonus. And it struck me that these books were exactly what I needed in preparation for more essay writing in the New Year. Mr. Litlove was right nearby, doing stuff on the other computer, and so I simply told my captive audience all about them, and read out the blurb and showed him the pictures and pointed out the discount. ‘Would you like a set for Christmas?’ he asked me. ‘Well, only if you’re sure,’ I said, no doubt looking desperately pleased. ‘I’ll order it for you right now, it will be no trouble!’ Take my advice: never leave the ordering to someone else, all sorts can intervene to make the order placer forget their laudable intentions.
3. The easy-access wish list
I always have a fairly extensive amazon wish list on the go, after all, you want to offer people a bit of choice when it comes to present giving. You need to get this circulated around family and friends nice and early in the run-up to Christmas and birthdays. But it’s good to have one just as an aide memoire for the rest of the year. For instance, when Mr. Litlove behaves in a way that is annoying or thoughtless, relations can instantly be smoothed over by the purchase of a little something from the list. I purchase it and tell him about it later, usually when it comes through the door. ‘Look,’ I say, ‘this is what you bought me for that time you went to London and forgot to tell me you’d be home very late. Nice, isn’t it?’ And Mr. Litlove says, ‘I did? Then I am the most considerate of husbands.’
4. The commission
Mr. Litlove hates doing the supermarket shopping. He’ll man up to it if he has to, but given he is a generally serene person, the supermarket on a Saturday morning is the only time you’ll see the whites of his eyes. I don’t mind it, not least because you can buy two books there for £7. On the whole I tend to resist book buying here, because I don’t want the supermarkets to control what gets published in the UK and we are distinctly headed that way. But just occasionally, because I know Mr. Litlove would want to reward me with a spot of commission for all that pushing and shoving and trolley wielding, I do indulge. Even better when one of the books on special offer happens to be a novel your husband has told you all about quite enthusiastically, having heard some programme on Radio 4 referring to it. ‘I saw that book you were talking about, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and picked it up for you as a treat,’ I say. Mr. Litlove clearly wracks his brains to recall the event. ‘Oh?’ ‘Yes, and if it’s any good I’ll read it after you, if you like!’ Ahh, it’s special moments like these that keep a marriage together.
So there you have it, my top tips for making book gifting as easy and painless as it can possibly be. I mean, Mr. Litlove isn’t even aware he’s had to do anything at all most of the time. How could it be simpler?