Need a New Year lift? Discover an untapped treasure trove of fresh reads by spreading the book love with your friends and family.
With the New Year fast approaching, we always get an itch to expand our reading lists.
We crave fresh and brilliant reads; not necessarily new books, but the kind that will keep us up late into the night. We yearn for addictive thrillers and moreish biographies. Searing inter-generational dramas and electrifying period fiction.
We want it all: a brand new archive with which to light up our bookshelves (virtual or otherwise).
The problem is, where to start? If anything, we have too much choice now, and a dizzying suffusion of online recommendations and sophisticated search filters actually make the quest more difficult.
How can we tell what we will really love?
One great way to start is with an alternative New Year’s resolution: a free way of spreading the book love among your friends and family.
Choose five people whose reading taste you value (you may know many more than this, but whittle it down to start with, so the task doesn’t seem too huge).
Then, pick four reads that you’d like to pass onto each of them for 2020. They can be absolutely anything, but they must fall into the following four categories: old, new, challenge and wild card.
“Old” here might be some obscure book from your childhood that you truly love, but not many people know about. Or it may be something that both you and your reader of choice adore and share a nostalgia for (say, Winnie the Pooh or Judy Blume).
“New” covers anything that you read and that really moved you within the past three years or so.
“Challenge” is about stretching the limits of your designated reader in some way.
For instance, you might know that they’re desperate to give up smoking, so you give them The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg’s best-selling tome on breaking and making habits.
Or perhaps they’re a sporty type with a hankering for a new challenge? Leap In, Alexandra Heminsley’s account of learning to wild swimming, could be perfect for them.
Wannabe runners may find that extra nudge they need in Bella Mackie’s excellent memoir Jog On: How Running Saved My Life.
“Wild card”, as the name suggests, can be any random book of your choice, from cookbooks to interiors or a travel guide.
But this recommendation, in particular, must chime very personally with the person you’re giving it to, and be based around bringing joy to some aspect of their life.
If you two always talk about her dream of travelling to India, for example, why not choose E.M. Forster’s A Passage To India? Sure, it’s period fiction but it still conjures up a sense of history and place, in the manner of all brilliant travel fiction.
Or your reader of choice might be feeling bored and unfulfilled by their work life, with creative instincts that they’re keen to explore. In this case, Julia Cameron’s classic creativity guide The Artist’s Way might do the trick.
Your wild card choice is the one that speaks directly to your loved one, for an uplifting year ahead.
Once you’ve got your four recommendations in place for each person, simply send over and ask for four in return.
By doing this, you’re spreading a little bit of love with your mate/sister/work wife (especially useful if your budget didn’t reach to Christmas presents). And you’ll show some thought and consideration in this frenetic, disconnected world of ours.
Plus, you get to flesh out your own reading list in return – with books that have been personally scoped to your tastes.
Try it with five people and if you like the results, you can throw it open to others.
Ta-da: a free and simple New Year’s gift that is custom-made to book-lovers, and a 2020 resolution you’ll actually want to keep.
High-fives all round.