Genre: Non-fiction, Essay
Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“This story, like so many stories, begins with a gift.”
In this luminous essay, Robert Macfarlane reflects on the unique emotional response resonance of books given and received – and how such gifts have shaped his own life.
This essay explores the nature of gift giving, especially when that gift is a book. It also touches on friendship, travelling, the power of reading, and other kinds of gifts.
It was the cover that struck me first, and then the title. I’ve been after a book just like this, a book about reading. One that isn’t too long, and one that will discuss reading in such a way as to inspire me to read more, and to embrace the joy that comes from opening a book, and absorbing each word. This book definitely gave me what I wanted.
I don’t know who Robert Macfarlane is, I’ve never read any of his previous books, and before finding this one, I’d never even heard of him. But there’s something about that that makes reading his essay even better. When I started to read, I felt like I was reading into the life of another, the musings of a mind that has been touched by the act of reading, and from gifts recieved from friends.
His insights are inspiring, if at times on subjects I’m not passonate about. He seems like a lover of travel, and while I might want to travel in the future, I’m not a great fan of travel writing. Occasionally, this book slipped into what I imagine travel writing reads like, but Macfarlane has good reason for doing so.
The book that was the ‘gift’ was given to him by his friend Don, to whom the essay is dedicted, and is a book aptly titled A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor. I’ve never heard of it, but Macfarlane urges us to find and read a copy. I’m sure that if I do come across it, I’ll pick it up and give it a read, and see if it is as good as he says it is!
This essay reads, in part, like a mini memoir. One slice of the writers life, which centers on the inspiration that evolved from Don’s gift. But the essay comes back to the subject of books as gifts, and it reaffirms my own opinion that books make the best gifts. You are giving someone an adventure, an insight, a portal to another world. You are giving them the gift of imagination and wonder. I can’t think of anything better.
Oh, and the ending gave me chills, in a good way!
What makes this little book even more of a gem is that all proceeds from the sale of it will be donated to Migrant Offshore Aid Station. So reading this book is not only a gift to yourself, but a gift to others who need it. Or, you could go one better and buy two copies, which will cost £5; one for yourself, and one for a book-lover friend.
Embrace gift-giving, and embrace reading.
Link to the book on Goodreads: