Nathan Young over analyses the minefield of buying loved ones books.
Buying someone a book as a gift can be a gamble. A bottle of whiskey or a box of fancy chocolates says “here you go, an easy gift that literally anyone would like”. Socks say “You were on my list of people to buy presents for”. Books say “I’m designating eight or so hours of your life to this piece of art, I hope that’s okay”.
With it being such a gamble, it’s not something one should do to everyone on their Christmas shopping list. I would shy away from buying anything with as much meaning and, let's be honest, time commitment as a book for anyone whose tastes I was not intimately connected with. Something being a bestseller or having a celebrity endorsement is almost certainly not a good reason to pick that book for someone else.
I am far more likely to read these than whatever “unputdownable” drivel my more distant relatives think I might like
This isn’t about bibliophiles versus philistines, either. One relative of mine who practically never reads has received a book from me several times now. It’s never been the wrong gift, (although it isn’t always perfect) because I know this guy's humour. For his revenge, he got me two Ben Shapiro books labelled “Merry Christmas, liberal” last year. Touché, but I am far more likely to read these than whatever “unputdownable” drivel my more distant relatives think I might like.
Matching a book with someone’s taste in literature is hard. Matching a book with a reader based on their tastes outside of literature is even harder. If you can take that risk with a close friend, lover, or relative, then be my guest. Otherwise, stick to something easier. Novelty socks, food, or alcohol may all seem dreadfully lazy choices as gifts, but I can guarantee that they are far less likely to be sold online come boxing day than a bad book.