Top Tips for Surviving Christmas: A Reader's Guide

Christmas can be a tough time of year for anyone: the overwhelming pressure to have a good time, the stress of preparing an edible meal for a large number of people, trying to find thoughtful and exciting presents for the many people in your life, finding the right balance between suitably stuffed and horribly bloated and, perhaps most importantly of all, trying to avoid getting two copies of the same book.  

Now, for me, Christmas is the time of year I receive the most books. And this is great: Having a stacked reading list for the year ahead fills me with Christmas joy. But there are a few problems that inevitably arise for readers this time of year.

When two people give you the same book

Every reader has been there: talking excitedly about a new book you really want to read, hopeful that someone in your family will pick up on your massively subtle hints and present it to you on Christmas day. The day comes and lo and behold, you get the book and suddenly life is wonderful. Until, of course, the moment you are presented with the same book from another family member. Now, this can be tricky: do you keep quiet and do your best to muster the same enthusiasm of only a few hours ago, hoping no family members inadvertently spill the beans on your behalf? Or do you go for the honest approach, potentially crushing the giftee’s Christmas cheer and putting in motion a complicated alternative present dynamic that may result in no present at all as well as a simmering resentment that manifests itself at next Christmas’ post-dinner board game? Honesty is usually the best policy, but in this case I would advise you just bite your tongue and try to seem as excited as you were when you first opened it. 

Keep your new books out of sight (and sticky fingers)

If, like me, you’re the type of reader who likes to preserve the illusion of brand new-ness in your books, Christmas can also be a tough time. Let me explain: I can be quite neurotic when it comes to fingers, smudges and heavy-handed inspecting of my crisp, unread books. So the moment when a well-meaning family member with gravy-stained fingers asks to have a look at one of my new books can be irksome. So if you’d rather avoid having a pit in your stomach as you look on at your new book being mercilessly mishandled, then it might be worth keeping it out of sight.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that fellow book lovers will like the books you do

Don’t buy books for other people that you want to read

It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming that fellow book lovers will like the books you do. And while your impeccable taste is undeniable, you may find yourself slightly peeved when you see the neglected copy of your much-coveted title gathering dust on their bookshelf six months later. Additionally, you don’t want to be the cause of any ill-will when after the present has been opened you utter the words: “I’d quite like a look at that one when you finish it”, inadvertently revealing the present is more for you than them. Make sure you're getting them what they want, not what you want. Or, if they do want it, nab an extra copy for yourself.

Limit your reading on Christmas day

As much as you may be tempted to skip the family board game or soul-destroying Christmas movie and retire to your room to get stuck into your new books, remember that Christmas is one of the few times in the year when family interaction is compulsory. If that means you have to do some midnight reading when everyone else is deep in a food- and drink-induced slumber, then so be it.

Don’t buy new books in the run-up to Christmas

This one is by and large the most difficult for any book lover and a rare example of when I can actually follow my own advice. As much as you may be tempted to reward yourself for your herculean last minute Christmas shopping efforts by buying the new crime novel you’ve been coveting, I would suggest you resist the urge and weigh up your options post-Christmas. Imagine how good you’ll feel if some thoughtful member of your family actually gets you the book. And if not, then you can just buy it yourself while lamenting how little your family understand you and your bookish ways.

Vouchers as presents seem to be deemed morally abhorrent by certain sections of society

Book vouchers are fine

Vouchers as presents seem to be deemed morally abhorrent by certain sections of society. They are seen as the lazy choice, the gifter having given no thought whatsoever to their recipient. Now, this can be true, but in my experience gift vouchers seem to be the inevitable conclusion to hours of online searching, indecision and self-loathing when you fail in your quest to find the ‘perfect’ present. And while you may very occasionally get lucky with an instinctual choice, more often than not the present will simply gather dust. So if you find yourself on the fence over whether a last-minute voucher is a good idea, take the plunge and rest easy in the knowledge that people like having funds to put towards things they actually want to buy. 

Are you a writer in need of some last minute inspiration for christmas presents? We've got you covered. Click here to read our Writer's Guide to Christmas Gift Giving

Or check out our top Festive Books for Everyone blog.

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