or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 12/29/08

   January 3rd, 2009 Brian Herzog

gift bookWhile I was home for Christmas, one of my brothers asked me:

Is it okay to read a book before you give it to someone as a gift?

I thought I'd post it here to see what other people thought, because I'm curious if there is a consensus.

I don't have a firm opinion on this, so I could be swayed. But after I thought about it, giving a pre-read book seemed okay. Having read it means you're better able to know if the person will like it, and you can talk about it with them (I always read the books I give to kids for these reasons).

Also, unlike many other objects, books can be gently used and still be in perfect condition. I like sharing books, and give books to people off my own bookshelf all the time. Usually not as wrapped gifts, but if the only copy I could find of a book someone really wanted was in a used book store, I would have no problem making a gift of it.

So, I think used books make good gifts, so long as they are still readable (but then, I work in a library). Which means, I think the real question is this:

If you buy someone a book as a gift and you read it before you give it to them, do you tell them?

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