What to do when you are given a ‘Bad Book’

Every book lover has been there – you’re given a ‘bad book’. So what do you do next?

Let’s set the scene: perhaps it is early on a quiet Christmas morning or maybe you are turning a year older on your birthday. Either way, waiting patiently for you, is a book-shaped gift, lavishly wrapped with equal care and attention. You gently pick it up. Yes, it’s definitely a book. Your book-lover’s heart skips a beat.

A book!


Holding the precious object in your trembling hands, you carefully reveal it, tearing off the wrapping paper and you are already assessing it. Paperback? Hardback? Thoughts of books you have longed for run and skip through your mind. What will it be? As the last vestige of paper slides gracefully off the cover, your new book reveals itself as you hold it carefully in your trembling hands.

Oh dear.


We’ve all been there. A friend, relative or loved one buys you a book that just isn’t quite you. Either through misunderstanding or misintention, this shiny new addition casts a long shadow over you and your reading future.

So what now? There are three things to keep in mind. Firstly, we have to ask is there even such a thing as a bad book? Don’t immediately judge the book by its cover. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as Coleen Rooney will very much vouch for, so go take another look. Would it be too far-fetched to try something new? Take a breath. Open the cover. Read the first line, paragraph and page. Is it really that bad? Could it be for you? With all the many, many books in the world, there will always a book for somebody and perhaps today your darling relative has given you the gift of stepping out of your comfort zone and into a brave new reading world.

Secondly, whatever you do, don’t take this book as a personal insult as you’ll hurt not only yourself but the person who gave it to you. Remember to smile, say thank you and then try to assess the situation – is their face eager and fit to burst with excitement as you ponder this new gift? Let’s not crush their bookish enthusiasm. No one sets out to give an unwanted present, let alone ‘a bad book’.  This book may very well mean a lot to the person who gave it to you.

Finally if you really can’t bring yourself to read it, place it on your shelf where it can feel loved and cherished amongst your many other books. One day you’ll reach for it when searching for your next read and remember the exact time and place it entered into your possession. Time will have moved on and you never know, so may have you and your reading habits. We’re not always the same readers we once were.

Books, regardless of their author or subject, still make wonderful gifts. Their stories live on forever within their pages and even the most battered and loved, or tattered and forgotten, books always have their very own stories behind them.

And don’t forget – if you’re a booklover you’ve no doubt given books as gifts as well. Was little Jonny really smiling at you as he got that copy of Finnegans Wake for his fifth birthday?

Was he?


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