How Easy Am I To Please?

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

Such a pretty, pretty book

Such a pretty, pretty book

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

Twist your monitors, can't figure out how to make it go straight!

Twist your monitors, can’t figure out how to make it go straight!

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

Some of my Christmas haul

Some of my Christmas haul

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

Such a bargain

Such a bargain

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?



47 thoughts on “How Easy Am I To Please?

  1. Well this is hilarious! I have to admit that I do the fait accompli often, and the ten ton hint. If I am out and see a book I really want and don’t want to wait, I buy it and show him the bill. I get to buy a book every paycheque – I told him once I got my permanent job, that because I went so many years working part-time when I was single, that I feel rich when I can buy a book when I want to. And it works 🙂

    I love your reasons!! lol and the Notting Hill collection – ooh, haven’t heard of those.

    • Susan – well of COURSE! If you have your paycheque then you absolutely must reward yourself for all the work that went into getting it. And books are so cheap, after all, compared to just about any other form of entertainment. Having books is definitely a way of feeling rich on all levels, I think! 🙂 Be warned, Notting Hill Editions are dreadfully seductive. They should come with a credit card warning! 🙂

  2. I also got Hilary. Rachael Joyce is speaking in our local memorial hall I saw today. I know nothing about this book. Is it worth an evening out?
    I laughed at your book photographing having just taken two or thirty for my new page – mrscarmichael’s reading repository. Here I intend to write extremely biased and personal reviews of all books read this year.
    Then I’ll look to the ‘literary salon’ to see what I should be reading.

    • Did you go to see Rachel Joyce? I’ve heard lots of good things about this book, but obviously the proof of the pudding, etc, etc, so I’ll only be able to give you a proper lowdown once I’ve read it. I have been slow on my blog reading this week, but I must come and find your reviews page – it sounds fabulous!

      • Hardly – it ends up being more about me! I think it’s a good thing to record one’s reads though.

        I think she’s speaking on Monday — we are expecting snow though 😦

      • I have this theory that we are never more ourselves than when we write about books we’ve read. Because we read books in the most private and honest place in our heads, so we can’t help but react with our whole selves. So you are just being honest, if you end up writing about you! And of course, that makes me all the more curious to read… 😉 As for snow, though, ugh. Let’s hope it’s not too much.

  3. Love it!

    I have an extra trick, I use a tool called dropbox – it allows you to hold files online and then access them via home computer, work computer, mobile phone etc – and I have a shared folder on their with my boyfriend. On there is a copy of the spreadsheet listing which books I own. He knows which authors I am currently reading/hunting and often when we wander into a secondhand bookshop and he’s had a look for himself (and I am still looking) he offers to go browse a particular author or section, with the spreadsheet open on his phone, to see if they’ve got something I don’t have yet. It means I can spend at least twenty minutes longer in there before he gets bored… 😉

    • Ooh we have dropbox…. however I don’t have a spreadsheet and am not likely to create one at the moment. Hmm. Not to worry! I’m sure there are other ways it can be used to my benefit! What a kind boyfriend to go browsing for you, though. I am mightily impressed! He’s a keeper.

  4. Happy new year litlove!

    Still laughing at this. The only book I received this Christmas was one I purchased on behalf of my partner for me. Although he likes giving presents, he has a weird inability ever to give me a book and prefers to opt for weird-smelling soap or ‘useful’ kitchen equipment (of the teaspoon rather than the expensive electrical variety).

    I have an amazon wishlist which is well known to all my potential book donors, yet alas they have a tendency to go madly off-piste when faced with the opportunity to buy me something I would like to read, and instead purchase something I already have. I feel like a Cassandra in my own bookshelves.

    • Helen, your comments always make me laugh so! What can you do with gift givers who will insist on going off-piste? Fortunately in the UK, if you walk into a book shop with the books still in their Christmas wrappings, you can exchange them for others or store credit. That can be fun in its way! I am so glad that you did at least purchase one book to be given to you by your partner. Now it can so easily become a ‘tradition’ to be enlarged upon in years to come! 🙂

      • I do like the word ‘enlarged’ in that sentence!

        Actually ,do you know, my partner has just ‘given’ me another book, Sara Maitland’s Gossip from the Forest, as a reward for passing the teaching exams I haven’t yet sat. Such a generous man.

  5. Book heaven! I haven’t heard of the Notting Hill books but they look excellent. And I love the Josipovici (as well as your book-buying strategies). Happy reading 🙂

    • Thank you, Pete! I’m very excited about the Notting Hill books, and trying now not to do my usual trick of ‘saving them up for a special occasion’. The Josipovici I’m so looking forward to – I’ve loved everything he’s written so far.

  6. I’m sure all these ideas work with Mr Litlove but there are others…. I’m sure I’ve told you before about the ‘person’ with whom I was keeping company some years ago who, when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, was begged for Book Tokens so that I that I could indulge in that greatest of pleasures, the day long mooch round Blackwells. What did I find on Christmas morning? An electric toothbrush! It wasn’t long before his company was no longer acceptable:)

    • Ha! By the end of your comment I completely understood why you put the word PERSON in quotation marks. That’s hilarious, and yet not, of course. I totally agree that a “day long mooch around Blackwells” sounds about like heaven. My husband is a non-book-buyer (or at any rate shops for them on strictly utilitarian terms–for work or nothing!). I think he really does not understand why I enjoy shopping for books when I already have so many unread ones. He did give me a lovely gift card one year, though, and the guilt-free browsing was quite delightful.

    • Alex, that story is so funny – well, in retrospect at least. and of course, I agree with you completely and entirely – NOT acceptable at all!

      Rohan, a gift card is a thing of beauty and consumer power! I feel better the moment I enter a bookstore, so can’t quite get my head around the idea that they might not represent an Aladdin’s Cave. Ah well, someone has to populate the hardware stores and the camping shops and that person is not me!

  7. Reminds me of the time I made a book list for my husband and at the bottom I tagged on Paris by YSL which, as he well knows, is my favourite perfume. Apparently he and the assistant had a lovely time searching for a book called Paris by some mysterious author known as YSL.

  8. Tried and true methods for extra book buying. Must try a few of these out myself! 😉 It’s funny as I often come across items (many of them bookish) that seem to scream–this is a perfect gift, yet no one seems to ever buy them for me…There is something subliminal about your ideas that I like!

    • I KNOW – the world is choc-a-bloc full of wonderful bookish gifts. I mean, anything published very recently is a pretty safe bet, no? And oh yes, subliminal is good. Hmm, now you’ve got me wondering whether I should tape a recording of me recounting my wish list and play it to Mr Litlove while he is sleeping! I haven’t tried it, and it might work! 😀

  9. Oh my goodness Litlove, how you did make me laugh! The game Bookman and I play is one of us will say I really want to read X and the other will say, so order it and while you are at it, can you get Y for me please? Or we will be in a bookstore and Bookman will walk up to with a book and say, “do you want this?” And I’ll look at it and say, “oh yes!” And he’ll say, “okay, it’s yours.” To be fair, I do this to him too. I must say your #3 made me laugh most. Mr. Litlove is indeed the most considerate of husbands!

    • Ooh I am liking the game with ordering books. Hmm, yes, I can see myself saying, ah Mr Litlove, I have just found this fabulous book on woodworking, shall I order it for you? (And put a little something for myself in, just to keep things neat and tidy). Yes, that could work! I like! 🙂

  10. All sound like sure-fire strategies to me! The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was one of my best reads for 2012 and I believe you will like it very much. How beautiful is that Hokusai! Knowing me, I’d be slitting the pages out with a razor and putting them in frames, so I would probably have to buy two…would the museum discount in that case? No worry. Since I have three children, I could do that, and then still pick up The Secrets of the Tides. That would account for gifts from all the offspring. I like your way of thinking, Litlove! I’ll have to keep it in mind for next year.

    • Three children? You’re laughing, Grad. You need never fear for being without the right books again! I am so glad you enjoyed the Rachel Joyce – definitely improves the likelihood of my liking it too. And oh the Hokusai! The pictures are gorgeous. I would have taken shots of the inside but I would have had to break the spine to keep the book open and well, I couldn’t bring myself to do that. But yes, it is very tempting to put them on the wall!

  11. Oh, this made me and my husband laugh! Number 1 is the plan I always follow for Christmas (and sometimes birthdays). I got five lovely books for Christmas this year (including the latest Mary Russell mystery and Ali Smith’s Artful – lovely!), and it’s just as well I did most of the shopping myself, as the only other present that my husband bought for me (a Parker pen) was hidden by him a little too well, and he has yet to find it!
    I will have to try your other strategies. I think I could get a few new books out of number 3, in particular!
    P.S. I’ve never commented here before, but I do love reading your blog, Litlove.

    • It is always so special when a reader who normally lurks comes and leaves a comment! Thank you, Caroline, and that story about your husband and the Parker pen makes me crease up with laughter every time I read it! Has he found it yet? Oh well, I guess Easter isn’t too far off! I am so looking forward to the Ali Smith – I love her writing. And those Mary Russell mysteries have been on my list to try for ages. I bought a bargain pack of the first three and keep saving them for a rainy day. Goodness knows we’ve had enough of them in the UK this year but I, ahem, do have quite a bit saved up for rainy days so I haven’t got there just yet……

      • Glad you enjoyed the story, Litlove – we thought it was pretty funny, too, and couldn’t resist sharing. My mother-in-law reports that her husband does exactly the same thing when he buys her presents – I guess it runs in the family!
        I completely understand about having books saved up for a rainy day – I foolishly catalogued my books on LibraryThing, and discovered that I own 110 unread books. (I realise that number pales in comparison to some book bloggers, but still, my husband was still horrified!) I think you would probably like the Mary Russells, though, and I look forward to your review of Artful.
        And yes, my dear husband did find the pen on Wednesday, when he was looking through his jacket pockets for something he needed for work. He still hasn’t found my birthday card from last October, though…

  12. *Giggle* From the comments, I guess it isn’t as easy as it looks. At least a gift card to a book store can never go wrong for a book lover, I think. I used to have a wishlist on amazon and my mother would call me and say “I am looking at your wish list, let me know what books you want for Christmas from it”… and my response was “ALL OF THEM MOM, that is why I listed them!” 🙂

    • Lol! Yes, that would be the point of the list! It would be a most generous donor who was prepared to give me EVERYTHING on my list, however….. ahem. But you are quite right – a gift card is always a treat, because it means not only books but the right to browse for a long, long time before buying them! 🙂

  13. This seems a method that should work well.
    The only problem I have is that I don’t consider something a present when I have pointed it out.
    I’m a dedicated surprise hater but I like surprise gifts. Risky when it comes to books.

    • Ah yes, well I can see that’s a conundrum! I love gift book buying that’s a bit of a challenge. But of course, not everyone feels that way. However, the world is full of good and obscure books, and then there’s literature in translation (less so for you!) and recently published books which are often quite safe choices. As the years go by, however, the great surprises are harder to come by!

  14. So hilarious, Litlove – I can’t believe how lacklustre my own strategies have been until now! But I *did* put my Christmas wish in to my husband in very plain terms, and he did deliver Bring Up the Bodies as firmly requested. Just as well.

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