Whoever invented the bookshelf is a real son of a b*tch.
I fill mine with cookbooks. Otherwise the shelves are empty and I feel guilty (but also I love cooking, so the benefits are twofold). Novels and non-fiction are few and far between on my decorative little shelves.
A beer-stained copy of Hamlet lies prominently, left over from my high school days. I quote it occasionally to make it seem like I’m well-read. And wise. Hamlet lives on top of my cookbook pile, so everyone knows I both cook and read Shakespeare.
I’m single. Really.
At the moment, however, my bookshelf is a disorganised rabble of other people’s interests; books I’ve been given for birthdays and Christmases by people I love… but whom, at the same time, are unspeakably passive aggressive with their gift-giving.
Hear me out here.
In my (probably wildly unpopular) opinion, books accompany deodorant and gym memberships atop the passive aggressive gifts list.
They're the work of the devil, simply because they're so unassuming. They seem lovely. It seems the gifter has gone to great lengths. It seems to be a mature and elegant present because books are (usually) intellectual (and we all love coming across as intellectual). In turn, I seem to be appreciative when they're handed to me.
But really it's a big fat middle finger with page numbers and an index.
To all of you who give books as gifts: You ain't foolin' this guy. I'm onto you.
Hamlet once said: "To be... or not to be." It's believed Hamlet delivered this line after being presented with a copy of Sarah Wilson's I Quit Sugar.
I'm 19 and I'm not sure why, but I get a lot of books. I'm convinced my relatives have formed a pact: "You guys know how Luca hates being given books? Right? You know what would be hilaaaarious?
IF WE GOT HIM ALL OF THE BOOKS."
Birthday? Book. Hanukkah? Book. Christmas morning? Booooook.
There are few things in the world more underwhelming than waking up on Christmas morning to a book under the Christmas tree. - Genesis 46:21
That wrapping ain't fooling no one. You're trying to book me. We've talked about this. Do I even have to open it? Is there any point? There definitely isn't unless it's The Guinness Book of World Records.
Side note: The Guinness Book of World Records sits aside The Holy Bible as one of the most extraordinary literary achievements of all time.
I know I'm presenting a one-sided argument. I'm taking my anger out on books and I shouldn't be. It's not their fault.
It's the people sending forth said books that need a reality check.
Because when someone gives you a book, it's not really about you. It's about them. It might be wrapped, with a pretty bow and your name on it, but that book has nothing to do with you. Zero. Nada.
It's the most passive aggressive gift you can give.
"This book... I loved it when I was younger."
"I'm reading this at the moment and it's INCREDIBLE. Completely changing my life."
Some people go simpler.
"Read it. Trust me."
Well no. I won't. You found it interesting. You think it's incredible. It changed your life. But I'm a 19-year-old bloke and I'd rather stick a pencil in my eye than read about the goddamn evolution of the Egyptian hieroglyph.
Listen to the most thrilling moments from Rosie Waterland's 'The Anti-Cool Girl' - a book I wouldn't mind receiving. Post continues after audio...
It's 'controlling' personified. Because when someone hands you a book, what they really hand you is a set of expectations: the expectation you'll have time to read it; the expectation it takes precedence over whatever other 'garbage' you're reading; the expectation you'll wax lyrical about how it changed your life just like it changed theirs.
When you're handed a book, you're handed a sentence.
And then there's the follow-up...
"Have you read Of Mice and Men - the one I got you for your birthday?"
No. I haven't. Because I don't want to.
"You reeaaallly should. You'll love it."
Mia Freedman has some fabulous book recommendations. I like that she doesn't impose them on me. Post continues after video...
The thing I find baffling is people closest to me are the worst. They KNOW me. They should know better. They KNOW I love cooking and sport and podcasts and craft beer... yet buy me books about the British colonisation of India.
Auntie Fran - I'm SURE you loved this book about embroidered pillows, but to be honest? NOT REALLY MY THING.
Have you ever noticed how a book is handed to you? There's an air of elegance, of grace and of wanker. People hand me books as if they are deserving of sainthood.
They close their eyes and extend the gift towards me. The scene happens in slow motion. "Cherish this. You are welcome, my son." In the background, angels.
YOU'VE KNOWN ME SINCE I WAS A FOETUS WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I'D LIKE THIS SCI-FI ZOMBIE NOVELLA.
Sigh. Look, family. I know I'm annoying. And entitled. And unappreciative. But if you give me another "book you enjoyed" or "novel you loved", I might leave the country.
It's not that I hate books. I just hate the ones you give me. And the reasons why you give them.
Am I wrong? Are books the most thoughtful gift in the world? Are you enraged? Let me know what you think in the comments.