Thursday, November 22, 2007

Let's pretend

Let's pretend this is a hypothetical situation.

Let's say that early last summer someone reading a best-selling novel told you that she intended to give said novel to you once she was done. Let's say the best-selling novel is one that many book bloggers would say is a worthy novel, so that you unsurprisingly said, sure, you'd like to have it. No hurry, though, lot's to read in the meantime.

Let's say that in the fall same someone calls you and asks if you've read the novel. You say no, mention that she'd promised to give her copy to you once she'd done. Oh, she's still reading it, she says, and has thought she'd pass it on to X when done. But it is a wonderful book and she hopes that the birthday money and gift card she's giving could be put to use to buy yourself a copy.

Well, you think it's fine if she wants to give the book to X; X really only reads books that are given to him and you have quite the stockpile. The book in question is still a top seller and you're sure in a year or so you'll be able to pick up a used copy for a song, or pluck it from the library shelves for free, so you spend the money on out-of-print Steads and Women in Love and Felix Holt instead. You are happy.

Then, on Thanksgiving, you're told that she's finished the book, that it is one you ought to read immediately, but that she's giving her copy to Y, who is also at her house for Thanksgiving. She wants to know if you'll buy yourself a copy if she writes you a check. Well, yes, you tell her, but there's this three-month moratorium on purchasing books, so it'll be February before you order it. She's quite concerned about the delay, because this is a book you ought to read immediately, and she wants you to go online and order two copies, one for yourself and one for X so that she can give them to the two of you as Christmas presents. Or maybe she should get a book by John Grisham for X. . . But before she can decide there are distractions and you eventually leave her home without ordering books for her to give to anyone.

Let's say that by now you are developing a little fatigue regarding this book. You were happy at the prospect of receiving it in a casual offhand manner, and you were happy to not aquire it at all but to have money for other books instead. But unless this book is chosen as the next Slaves of Golconda selection, you'd rather not be pressured to read it on another's schedule, i.e., immediately, because it's no longer sounding like a gift, but an obligation.

So the hypothetical is, after saying thank you most graciously if/when you unwrap this book Christmas morning, would you:

read it immediately?

shelve it until you feel the whim to read it?

exchange it at the bookstore for, say, the new Ali Smith, and purchase a used copy in a year or two when it shows up at the used bookstore at which time you'll shelve it until you feel the whim to read it?

offer me additional suggestions in comments?


  1. I'd say receive it graciously and then immediately shelve it equally graciously. ;-)

  2. Tell us what the book is and then those of us who have read it can offer an opinion as to whether you should bother. After all, if it's taken her this long to read it in the first place it doesn't sound as if it's much of a page turner.

  3. I don't think it's the book's fault that it's taken her this time to read it--she's been sick, her husband's had surgery, she's been imposed upon by lots of the family who live in the same town with her to the point that she really just set it aside until fall and started over from the beginning--but for what it's worth, the book is A Thousand Splendid Suns.

  4. And Myrthe praised this book highly just a few days ago. I should just quit being obstinate and read it and then pass it on to my daughter who was the Northern Alliance rep on her high school's Model Union team.

  5. Well, I'd be highly annoyed, certainly. Sylvia's response made me laugh, but I'd probably go with Myrthe's -- unless, by chance, holding the book in your hands and reading the back cover makes you get interested in it once again. I really don't like it when people order me around about what I should read!

  6. Oh, if she forgets who gets what and I wind up with the John Grisham I'm definitely going with Sylvia's blowtorch suggestion!

  7. Err, Model United Nations, I meant. Don't know what a Model Union is, actually.

  8. I hate feeling obligated to read anything and the more put upon I feel the less likely I am to enjoy the book even if it is good. So if you get it for Christmas, unless, as Dorothy said the back cover makes you want to read it right away, I'd go with Myrthe's suggestion and shelve it until the right whim strikes. Though Sylvia's blowtorch idea is very appealing.

  9. Go for the Ali Smith!

  10. Definitely go for the Ali Smith.

  11. This may sound like some kind of sarcasm, but I assure you, it is not. I think it is the only way to resolve this current dilemma, especially from ever occurring again.
    Here is my solution:
    That way, you get the next book from this person, before they hand it over to X.


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