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Books are the best Christmas presents – here’s why

It’s that tricky time of year again when everyone is searching for the perfect Christmas gift. To save you the trouble of dealing with over-eager sales assistants or giving yourself an eHeadache visiting online stores, I’ll provide an easy answer to where you can find all of your gifts in one convenient location: the bookshop.

There are loads of reasons why books are the perfect gift. Notably, in an age of conspicuous consumption, books leave a longer lasting impression on the recipient. While they might physically last longer than the latest (admittedly cheap) plastic toy and gadget that is intensely enjoyed before it inevitably combusts, books also leave an emotional or intellectual mark on the reader.

Of all of the gifts I was given as a child, it is the books that remain, and that I am looking forward to introducing to my children decades later. In particular, it is those with a short inscription that remind me of the time in which a book was given, and a reminder of whose thoughts I was in.

Already, my children ask me to read the inscriptions on the picture books they have been gifted, and are pleased when they hear their names. These books have already outlasted so many toys which, however thoughtfully given, have come and gone.

As an adult, a book has an ability to entertain, move and change the reader in a way that few toys, socks or jocks, can. The gifting of a book is a link between the giver and the recipient – perhaps something that they have enjoyed themselves, and wanted to share. Or an acknowledgement of a particular interest or hobby. Whether you enjoy business or booze, footy or flowers, Jimmy Barnes or Julia Gillard, there is a book for you.

Afterwards, it is a gift that can be shared further, between family and friends, igniting sparks of conversation and debate.

For children, books are a sneaky way of offering something that is ‘good’ for them, dressed up as a treat. My older brother is still aggrieved about the year that Santa brought him a school bag and school uniform for Christmas, an insult only exacerbated by the sight of my pink roller skates. Books, on the other hand, are as much about entertainment as they are education (although I’d advise Santa that something plastic, bouncy or tasty alongside the bookish delights of Roald Dahl and Andy Griffiths would be wise). An article on the BBC explores the Four Gift Rule, in which children receive something they want, need, wear and read. I think it is an excellent rule, particularly in a world in which consumption is a little too easy for parents and children alike.

For a gift that will be remembered, enjoyed and shared, that shows consideration of the recipient’s personality, interests and age, there is nothing like a book.

Here are some books that will appeal to different readers this Christmas.

Crowd pleasers

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeywell

I haven’t heard a soul say that they didn’t enjoy this book about an awkward young woman learning to navigate the workplace and confusing social expectations. While at times sad, it is also a heart-warming exploration of loneliness and past trauma, and its impact on how we see the world.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Who doesn’t love a Liane Moriarty book? Her new novels is about a group of strangers who attend a health resort, and how the experience changes them.

Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton

A book about Brisbane’s underbelly that is warm and life affirming? Boy Swallows Universe is unlike any other book you’ve recently read. The story is about a teenaged boy attempts to avenge a wrong, exploring good and evil and how the two can be terribly hard to define. Boy Swallows Universe is funny, tender and full of heart.

The Geography of Friendship by Sally Piper

The story of a group of friends embarking on a bushwalk that they first tackled years ago is a study of memory and friendship, exploring the complexity of women’s friendships in the wake of a traumatic event. The Geography of Friendship is a gripping story that is impossible to put down.

Self-improvement and non-fiction

Christmas is not the time to give Spotless to your messy housemate or Mastering Your Mean Girl to your sister, but a well-chosen personal development book can be a thoughtful and appreciated gift.

The Barefoot Investor or The Barefoot Investor for Families

Most of us learnt little about financial management, so Scott Pape’s books can help fill all the gaps in our understanding of household finances, and the little changes that can make a big difference in the future. These books will make you wish that you had known all of these strategies and tips earlier and wonder why it’s not taught in schools.

Boys Will be Boys by Clementine Ford

This is one for those who are unsure about why everyone is talking about ‘toxic masculinity’ and #metoo. It examines how society needs to change in order for gender equality to be possible. It is a great read for mothers of boys who wonder how best to raise their sons to respect women and ensure he doesn’t make the mistakes of some of the men who have gone before him, both protecting him and the women in his life.

Axiomatic by Maria Tumarkin

Axiomatic is a collection that explores topics of youth suicide, drug addiction and the Holocaust, in a style that combines narrative, reportage and essay. The stories of pain and grief are written with clarity and honesty, which gives them an unexpected beauty.

Collectors’ books

Many publishers offer beautiful series of classic books for collectors. From cloth bound beauties to eye-catching hardbacks, these books both look striking on a bookshelf and offer readers the opportunity to discover or rediscover some of their favourite classics.

All-time favourites include Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary and War and Peace.

Prize winners

If you don’t trust your own choices, go with the judges of some of the world’s most prestigious literary prizes.

Milkman by Anna Burns

Not for the irregular reader, Milkman is innovative and complex, and would suit the literary connoisseur who is prepared to work for the rewards of a great read. This would best suit your literary friends.

The Life to Come by Michelle de Krester

This book has attracted attention from Australian and international judging panels. This year, it won the Miles Franklin Award and was shortlisted for the Stella Award. It has also been nominated for the 2019 Dublin Literary Award.

Tracker by Alexis Wright

Winner of the 2018 Stella Prize, Tracker is a collective memoir of Aboriginal leader, political thinker and entrepreneur Tracker Tilmouth. The Life to Come was written after Wright interviewed Tracker and his friends, family and colleagues, weaving his and their stories together.

The Choke by Sofie Laguna

Not for the fainthearted, The Choke is an extraordinary story about a young girl growing up in the Australian bush that is disturbing, and astonishingly good. Shortlisted in last year’s Stella Award, it is perfect for those who love fiction that moves and changes them.

For younger readers

Picture book: Florette by Anna Walker is a gorgeous story about bringing nature into the city. It’s pictures are so pretty they could hang on the wall, and the story is simple but lovely. Florette was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Children’s Picture Book of the Year award.

Junior chapter book: It is hard to go past the Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. These books are pure joy, as Andy and Terry enjoy the fun and adventure of their treehouse, including an ice-cream parlour staffed by a robot and its own shark tank. The Treehouse series suits children aged between six and nine.

Older children: Nevermoor, and its recently released sequel, Wundersmith, follow in the footsteps of the Harry Potter series in conjuring a magical world. A young girl, Morrigan Crowe finds herself thrust into the land of Nevermoor, where she discovers friendship, loyalty, and a whole new strength within herself. These books, written by young Australian writer Jessica Townsend, suit children aged between nine and 12.

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