Books as cultural signifiers
Last week, a woman came into the bookstore to get a copy of "A Sport and a Pastime" by James Salter. She said she always gives it as a gift to people she's getting to know. Those who love the novel as much as she does become her friends for life.
This is Edan Lepucki at The Millions on giving books as gifts: "For many of us, books are cultural signifiers: if you like this, you will like that, and I will like you. A book serves as an aesthetic litmus test, a conversation starter, a way to understand one another through a third party."
I used to give Bel Canto as a gift, then for a while it was The Stone Diaries, but those weren't compatibility tests or anything. They were merely awesome gifts! Though by virtue of the fact that they were awesome gifts I personally loved, they were obviously charged with friendship-tending significance. Lepucki again:
Reading is both a public and private act. It's private in the sense that no amount of discourse can mirror or capture the intimate experience a reader has with a book and its author. But that discourse is precisely why it's public—the blog posts, the reviews, the conversations over coffee, all of that affects and informs your reading experience. When you give someone a book you love, you're inviting them to understand a private encounter you had with a text. It's the fusing of the public and the private, the social and the intimate.
James Salter I'm keeping for myself, you greedy bastards.