Books as Gifts: Easier Said Than Done

The most popular question I get from people at Gracepoint Berkeley church, and our church plants, is about a recommended reading list. And even more so, since it is Christmas time, and people are trying to buy gifts for nieces, nephews, cousins, and other friends and relatives.

But are you surprised by the title of my post? The reason is because it’s really hard to know if the person 1) already has the book, or 2) will like the book! So this requires you to know the person’s reading tastes and history fairly well. In fact, I have gotten several book donations to Bibliopolis from patrons who received books they already had as gifts from relatives, as well as books they received that they didn’t like.

Another thing to consider is that other people might get the same book for your friend/relative. How many of you received several copies of The Return of the Prodigal Son for your baptism? 🙂 An amazing book, but you end up with multiple copies that you feel like you can’t give away, because people have written personal notes at the front of the book!

So if you are positive person X wants a certain book because it’s on their wish list, or her mom told you, then go for it! If you’re not sure what to get for person X, but you know they don’t read all that much, so you’re pretty sure anything you buy will be new to them, then maybe you’ll find my recommended reading list as a useful starting point. I’d been working on a list, but realized it’s never going to be “ready” or finished. It is going to be forever in progress, so I decided to just share what I have so far. I invite you to help me add to it as well.

If you’re not sure what to get your person X who is an avid reader, or who has very particular reading tastes, then I really do think a gift card to a local book store, or online book seller is ok! Of course with a card from the big-A, you can’t prevent person X from buying toys or a juicer, but one can hope!


Do you buy books for people? Do you have go-to books you gift? Any favorite books you received? Or stories about bad book gifts? 🙂

Reading Snapshots: Car Reading Edition

Not to be outdone by little Juliet, 10-month old Hudson’s getting into the game! He wins for the youngest reader featured thus far, and I think Gracepoint Riverside church is throwing its hat in the ring for the “most pictures featuring kiddos reading” award.


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Awards aside, books are a great way for kiddos of all ages to make use of time during car rides short or long. Nowadays many cars have screens so you can watch movies while on the road, but so long as you don’t get carsick, how about read a book instead? And if you do get carsick, or want some family time, how about listening to an audiobook together? I’ve heard from different kiddos that they loved listening to The Chronicles of Narnia or other books with their families. And it’s not just for kiddos! In fact, this past weekend, I listened to A Little Princess with Sarah, Elise, Michelle, and Kristen on the way up from LA.

Do you have any road trip reading memories? Did you listen to any audiobooks driving to and from Thanksgiving destinations? Creativity, Inc, perhaps? 🙂

Books & Babysitting Part 4: Reading is a Social Activity

We often think of reading as a solitary activity. And in some ways it is. But even when reading alone, reading is first and foremost a conversation. It is a conversation between the reader and the author. This often sparks an inner-dialogue within the reader. And more often than not, this leads to a dialogue with another person. The urge to share the experience with another person is almost inevitable. Whether it is talking about the book, or actually reading the book together.

One thing I have noticed in this first semester of Bibliopolis, where I’ve been interacting with readers of all ages, is that an almost universal component of the reading identity is wanting to read to and with other people. Time and again, I get surprised by the kids who initiate reading to others. It’s not just the “best” readers, as we might suspect. And I think it’s a powerful part of the process of growing as a reader. Sometimes you read to someone younger, who you’re only a couple of steps ahead of in life and in reading-life, or sometimes it is something like, “Hey, listen to this!” to your peers. When I was teaching high school, I observed this happening time and again during lunch time, even between a couple of senior girls who would read parts of their favorite books to/with each other (I promise, they were very mature, well-adjusted, and intelligent students!)

All this to cue today’s reading snapshot, a picture of Ashley from Gracepoint Berkeley church, who is in kindergarten, reading to the younger kiddos (and Auntie Kim) during babysitting.

I just hope that she’s going to show the pictures! Or else she’s going to experience Camp Kennaisee 🙂