At this time the spectre of Christmas shopping looms for many. Advent has been counted down in ‘shopping days ‘til Christmas’. Shops have lost their collective minds as festive madness takes over. Now, I have to confess, I am not a good shopper. I suppose over the years, and out of necessity, I’ve become adequately proficient, but I’m certainly not what anyone would call a natural. Genetics short-changed me. My mother is a shopping genius. She wakes up on a shopping day with an inner glow. Excitement pervades the air around her. She will tread the crowded pavements with a spring in her step and move easily in and out of unfeasibly warm shops that play Slade on loop. She will smile without a hint of Inner Fear at the pouncing shop assistants and sigh happily as she breaks to drink coffee and tick off the things on her list she has successfully bought. When she later returns home, laden with bags of lovingly chosen gifts, she will bid a cheery hello and answer ‘yes, I had a super time’ when someone enquires cautiously after her day. Me, on the other hand? Well, suffice it to say I need a decontamination zone to recover in – a darkened room with an intravenous gin drip would do nicely – after a day of Christmas shopping.
But in my advancing years I’ve found a way to deal with my Christmas shopping. Admittedly, a part of this involves sitting in my pyjamas and trawling the online shopping mall from the comfort of my home. But even I need to venture out and immerse myself in a little bit of Christmas cheer – I’m not totally devoid of festive spirit – and for this I have found the answer. A book shop.
Ahhhhhh, and breathe.
From the moment I step inside and leave the clamouring crowds and the flashing lights and heady smell of commercialisation behind me, I am swathed in a feeling of calm. The assistant won’t pester me or hassle me. He or she will look up and smile, say hello, then lower their head and let me continue. They know that I know I can ask for help, for recommendations, for guidance. But they also know that a significant part of the joy of shopping for books is the browsing. Being alone and peaceful. Running the tips of my fingers along the spines and over the covers, waiting for something to catch my eye. Something that brings the person I’m shopping for to mind. Something perfect.
Books undoubtedly make the best presents and within the walls of a bookshop lies a book for everyone. You can choose a book to suit an individual’s interests or passion. You can show people you respect their tastes or views. You can share books you’ve enjoyed and write messages inside them saying ‘I adored this and know you will too’. And later, on Christmas day, during that period of sated peace beyond the feasting, you can cast your eye around and watch your loved ones reaching for their new books – that autobiography, that beautiful coffee-table book, that novel you so enjoyed – and feel a warm sense of satisfaction. Then, some time on, when the book is read, the gift will be enjoyed all over again, and the person you shopped for might drop into conversation ‘by the way, I read that book you gave me for Christmas and I absolutely loved it. What a brilliant choice. You’re so good at buying presents.’ And then you can smile to yourself…
Wishing you all a very peaceful and bookish Christmas.
Pre-order In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings from Goldsboro Books
Follow Amanda on twitter: @MandaJJennings