The Gifts of Reading

Our local bookshop, Fullers, my home away from home, that I mention a lot in my posts had a Christmas shopping day yesterday. They usually have a night time spree, but with so many people who buy books they have stretched it out over a day in order to have less people in the shop at one time. As Tasmania has not had a Covid case in months, due to strong lockdown of our state (take note Americans) we have bookshops and libraries that are open and thriving.

It was also double points day so I went down to see what Christmas presents I might pick up. I got distracted by the book I am going to share with you here today and bought it. It is easy to get distracted in book shops by books WE want!

The book I bought and have begun is called: The Gifts of Reading: Essays on the Joys of Reading, Giving and Receiving Books. Inspired by Robert MacFarlane (a British writer). Published 2020 by Weidenfeld and Nicholson, it was developed to give to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) which does vital work saving migrant lives at sea in the Mediterranean and the Bay of Bengal, and which relies on donations for its continued operation. It also crossed paths with Jennie Orchard, long term supported of an NGO, Room to Read and John Wood, its founder. This organisation transforms the lives of tens of million of children, especially girls, in Asia and Africa.

There are 23 essays/chapters from various authors including, Robert MacFarlane, William Boyd, Roddy Doyle, Pico Iyer, Jan Morris and Michael Ondaatje to name a few.

The last three chapters are called The Gifts, (a list of books these authors gift to others regularly); Acknowledgements of everyone else involved in this project and Room to Read, information about the organisation.

Cover painting John Craxton

Today I randomly chose a chapter with and the number that came up was Chapter 1 called The Gifts of Reading by Robert MacFarlane. Robert MacFarlane now teaches at Cambridge in England. Quite appropriate I thought. I have set up a lounge chair on our very small front porch, with a cushion. I bribed Ollie to sit on it with me with liver treats and settled down on a lovely, cool, cloudy spring day to read.

This chapter tells about a time living in Beijing with a friend, the books they read and some of his travels. He was teaching there for a coupe of years and then did some walking trips into the mountains of southwest China. He and his friend talked a lot about books. The books they have received as gifts and those they gifted to others. More importantly they discussed how those books impacted on them receiving them as

His favourite two books he gives to others are Patrick Leigh Fermor’s- A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople: from the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube. This book tells the story of Fermor’s legendary walk from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in the early 1930s, started when he was 18. However he did not write the book until the 1970s so it is stated be narrated with the wisdom of an older person of his youth.

Fermor makes it seem as if anyone could just walk out the door and keep going. He writes, “The comforting rhythm of his journey- exertion, encounter, rest, food, sleep; exertion, encounter, rest, food, sleep- rocks its readers into feelongs of happiness and invulnerability. I could do this, you think, I could just start walking and keep going for a day or two, or three, or four, or more…”

The second book he gifts is Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain. Published in 2012. Amazon describes it as: In this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.

My intention is to read a new essay every day or two and if they move me I will try to share a couple more with you. However if there is a bibliophile in your life this would make a lovely Christmas present.

13 thoughts on “The Gifts of Reading

  1. i love books about books and this sounds like a good one… i read the Fermor several years ago and found it quite inspiring; not to the point of hiking Europe, tho… yet…

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  2. If I lived anywhere near you I would be dropping hints like mad and hoping to find both books in my Christmas stocking. PLF is a marvellous writer, one of my favourite travel writers. Enjoy.

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  3. I’ve heard about this one and it sounds just marvellous. I’ve actually read the title essay in a small pamphlet and absolutely loved it (and The Living Mountain too). Trouble is, I think a book like this might be the final straw for my TBR!!

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  4. For obvious reasons my family complain if (when) I give the same book twice, but if I had unlimited people to gift to then the book I would give most often would be Robyn Davidson’s Tracks. The difficulty with books is that the best ones, like Benang say, are often left unread. So my no.2 gift book might be Kim Scott’s True Country. And yes, like you, I am unable to buy books for others without buying a couple for myself.

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    1. I read Tracks yrs ago when it first came out. Something about the dog I did not like but don’t remember. Did it die? I am hopeless buying books for others. One for them, two for me, one for them, two for me. You get the idea. I’ve not heard of Kim Scott’s book. Will look it up.🐧🌷


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