This beautiful full-color treasury of stories about gift book-giving celebrates the enduring power of literature: stories of significant books people have received and what those books mean to them.
THE GIFT OF A BOOK BECOMES PART OF THE STORY OF YOUR LIFE. Perhaps it came with a note as simple as “This made me think of you,” but it takes up residence in your heart and your home. The Books They Gave Me is a mixtape of stories behind books given and received. Some of the stories are poignant, some snarky, some romantic, some disastrous—but all are illuminating.
Jen Adams collected nearly two hundred of the most provocative stories submitted to the tumblr blog TheBooksTheyGaveMe.com to capture the many ways books can change our lives and loves, revealing volumes about the relationships that inspired the gifts. These stories are, by turns, romantic, cynical, funny, dark, and hopeful. There’s the poorly thought out gift of Lolita from a thirty-year-old man to a teenage girl. There’s the couple who tried to read Ulysses together over the course of their long-distance relationship and never finished it. There’s the girl whose school library wouldn’t allow her to check out Fahrenheit 451, but who received it at Christmas with the note, “Little Sister: Read everything you can. Subvert Authority! Love always, your big brother.” These are stories of people falling in love, regretting mistakes, and finding hope. Together they constitute a love letter to the book as physical object and inspiration.
Illustrated in full color with the jackets of beloved editions, The Books They Gave Me is, above all, an uplifting testament to the power of literature.
In this morsel-at-a-time book, editor Adams pulls from her blog of the same name 200 anonymously submitted anecdotes about books given between friends, family, and lovers. They are sad (an adult daughter receives The Runaway Bunny from an absentee father and recalls hearing the story in her mother's voice), ethereal (a traveling stranger becomes a temporary lover and leaves only a Rilke book, while the narrator doesn't even ask his last name), sweet (a mother gives her working daughter Forever Young for her 18th birthday), deliciously vindictive (a spurned lover hides a Hemingway book belonging to a boyfriend's boxed set: "Every time I see it sitting on my shelf, I smile knowing my bookshelf is one fuller, and his boxed set is one short"). The result, taken holistically, is not only fun but provides fascinating insights into the relationship between people and books. However, the same brand of story sometimes repeats itself: prone to repetition are ill-suited titles that precede the dissolution of relationships and books of wisdom given by mentors or parents. Nevertheless, there are enough uniquely charming stories to make for a satisfying read.