How to buy books as gifts

Book smart: Former Frog Hollow Books owner Heidi Hallett dishes on how to buy books at the holiday.

When it comes to books, Heidi Hallett knows best. She loves to give books almost as much as she loves receiving them. But Hallett agrees, if you’re looking for an easy way out this holiday, buying books isn’t it. “You have to be a bit of a detective and do some snooping and sleuthing,” she says. Sneak a peak at your loved one’s bookshelf for starters, but be wary of decoys in the form of bad gifts from holidays past (say that Chicken Soup for the Soul collection). Next, pose the right questions.“Ask if you can borrow a book or if they can suggest a good book to you. That might give you an idea of the types of books that get them excited.”

If you can peg your book-worm’s genre of choice, here are some specific suggestions. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is the first of a three part series for mystery buffs with a dark sense of humour. For big laughs Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is the newest from David Sedaris. For lighter readers try a compilation like Alexander MacLeod’s Light Lifting or Malcolm Gladwell’s essay collection What the Dog Saw.

Still lost? Consider your recipient’s pastimes and quirks. Hobby-targeted books (cooking, gardening, DIY) are usually a safe bet, and don’t underestimate the power of a good biography. Many people rule out non-fiction but it tends to be an easier buy. If you’re shopping for a reluctant reader, “Give them something visual. And that doesn’t have to mean a coffee table book with pictures of geography or animals.” Above all steer clear of the self-help section. Hallett suggests sticking to feel good reads, nothing too heavy. Also, don’t assume that if you liked a book, your mother, friend or lover will too. Take the time to investigate a little and ask experts for advice. And if all else fails, buy an empty book. Give your loved one a journal and let them fill the pages with their own tales.

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