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 Testimonial: My Mom Read My Book!

love aubrey coverDuring my time with the Tigers (4th-5th girls), we were talking about Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur. It is a middle grade book in the realistic fiction genre, and it really tugs at your heart. Aubrey is 11 years old, and living on her own. I’m not going to tell you much more than that! Though given that “What are SpaghettiOs?” was the most frequently asked question of the girls who have checked out the book, I’ll help you out with that link. 🙂

I think that all, or almost all of the 4th-8th grade girls have torn through this book. It is on our Favorites shelf, though it never stays long before someone else checks it out. It turns out that they’re not the only ones getting into the book. Here’s a true story from one reader. We’re leaving it anonymous to protect the identity of the mom. But if you read closely, you can pick up the not-so-anonymous clues*.

I was reading the book, and started explaining it to my mom. And I said, “Mommy, doesn’t that sound sad?” Then she said, “Here, let me read a little.” So she started reading. And she kept reading it.

When I asked for it back, my mom looked up, and she was crying. I said, “Haha, you’re crying!!!” Because I’ve never seen her cry like that**. And she said, “It’s sooooo sad. Taylor, go get me a tissue.” And then I said, “Mommy, give the book back.” And she said, “OK, fine,” but I could kind of tell she wanted to keep reading it!

Then later, again she asked, “Can I read it?” and she kind of took it from me. And then started reading it. We went back and forth, taking turns reading it for a while. But then later she said, “Go brush your teeth, and then I’ll give it back.” I didn’t want to, but she kind of said she wouldn’t give it back if I didn’t go brush my teeth!

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Mr. Sketch has started a trend of using IKEA pillows to remain anonymous!

 After she told us this story, the rest of the girls started in with their stories of, “ME TOO!” with their moms and various books. And that led to other related stories. It reminded me of Sara getting Jonathan to check-out Gregor the Overlander for her. It was pretty awesome and heart-warming to hear the girls tripping over one other to tell stories about times spent with their parents, siblings, and friends around shared books. This story and others like it show how reading is as social and community-building an activity as it is a solitary one. Let’s continue to create positive reading memories with those the closest to us!

Are there books that you loved reading together and talking about with your family and friends? Have you ever had to battle your parents for one of your books that they started reading? If so, who won? 🙂

*It may appear that a disproportionate number of posts are starting to feature my friends, but it’s entirely coincidental. I’m just a (wannabe) beat writer, reporting the good reading stories as they come, you know?

**I did confirm this fact with the mom in question. When I asked her how she liked Love, Aubrey, she responded, “It’s such a tear-jerker.” 

Being “All There” When Reading with or to Your Kids

In our go-go-go, “Always On” kind of society, having real quality time with the people we care about most in our lives is a rare thing. Studies show that our kids are being shortchanged the most in all of this. Sadly, they are growing up in a world where to expect face-to-face conversation that is unhindered and uninterrupted by devices, even or especially with their parents, is considered “too much” and unrealistic.

Before I get too carried away with this topic — I want to save it for a review of an amazing book I’m reading right now about this very issue — I will do the “picture is worth a thousand words” thing. I’ll even throw in a video, so that must be worth a few more words! 

There’s a way in which we can turn reading to our kids into a task, something good we know we should do but only one in a long list if things we need to “get done.” We might even have our phones out and check them on the sly. But our kids notice everything. And when we do this, we forfeit a wonderful way to relate with and have a conversation with our kids, and reinforcing this way of always being “somewhere else,” even with our kids, whom we love very much.

Truly reading with or to your kids is an activity that requires a lot of care, wouldn’t you say? (I’m finding a way to connect each week’s photo challenge to reading!) Here’s a picture of Pastor Ed Kang reading to the kiddos during he and Kelly’s recent visit down to our Gracepoint Riverside & Irvine churches.

Photo and video credit to Kelly Kang, who you can tell from the video is trying to get some love from Kaylee on behalf of Anna. 🙂

And here is a video of the actual “slightly” paraphrased reading from Shel Silverstein’s classic The Giving Tree.

The Giving Tree – as read by Uncle Pastor Ed from hemilykim on Vimeo.

I know we all live busy lives, but when you set aside some time to spend reading with or to your kids, I want to encourage you to be *ALL THERE*. That means you’ll have to put away your devices and open yourself to the possibility of some conversation! I promise, your email and text messages will still be there afterwards. 🙂

Do you have any fond memories of reading with your kids? Or being read to by your parents, or others? How about thoughts on The Giving Tree…do you think it deserves all the hype? Share your thoughts!