THE BOOKS THEY GAVE ME: TRUE STORIES OF LIFE, LOVE, AND LIT by Jen Adams
“You can tell almost everything you could need to know about a person by their favorite literature.”
The Books They Gave Me by Jen Adams is an anthology of stories about books in the midst of relationships. As the title suggests, each anecdote relays a moment in time that featured (and often centered around) a specific book that was shared in some way. The compilation was gathered from real life stories submitted to the eponymous Tumblr, and each tale is less about the book itself than the impact it had on a person. The collection features books stolen out of spite, novels gifted out of love, and literature shared without meaning or understanding of its recipient, yet each scenario is poignant in its own way. This anthology is the kind of book you can read in short spurts or linger over all day, and each tale will remind you of something in your own life. I couldn’t help recall the books that I had given or received, and I was excited to share The Books They Gave Me with my own best good friend so that she could have the same experience. This book, like the stories within, just begs to be shared.
I currently have not finished the book because I don’t want to lose the connection that it brings.
In this age of the e-book, part of the appeal of being given a hard copy book as a gift is its tangible timelessness. Books are real. You can give a book as a gift. Kindles are great for reading on the subway, and they get people to read more than they might otherwise, but they are flatly unromantic. Paper books offer a kind of permanent charm. They don’t expire; they can’t disappear in a power surge. Books last. — Introduction
Torn between school and the family he was starting, we didn’t have time for letters. So we took quotes from The Sandman and scattered them over the Internet. Those were our letters, our I-love-you’s. — GAIMAN, The Sandman Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones
She was beautiful, for starters, but also bright. I played sports, and outside of assigned reading in school I had never read a book in my entire life. She put it on my desk at the beginning of summer and asked me to read it. I loved her but didn’t think a book could mean so much. I didn’t read it. It stayed in the same spot on my desk for the entire summer, until one day the book was gone and so was she. I wished I’d read it sooner. It was too late. I went away to college and studied English literature. I never wanted to miss out on another bright book or beautiful girl again. — KUNDERA, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
HEMINGWAY, The Sun Also Rises
He didn’t give the book to me, so much as I never gave it back.
I needed it to write a research paper; he needed it because it completed his special edition boxed set of Hemingway novels.
When he left, I hid it so he couldn’t take it on his way out.
Every time I see it sitting on my shelf, I smile knowing my bookshelf is one fuller, and his boxed set is one short.
We got into a fight and one of the things he was mad about was that I hadn’t even looked at the books since he’d given them to me. I tried to explain that choosing a book to read is an art. There’s a magic to it, and when you read the right book at the right time it becomes so much more than just a book; it becomes a symbol for the moment. — PULLMAN, His Dark Materials trilogy
All but one of the books were stolen. I took them at the dissolution of each connection, unwilling keepsakes of soured attempts at love. Unable to make off with their hearts, I instead secreted away their favourite stories. A single novel from each failed relationship, or almost-relationship, gathering dust in a growing collection I kept well apart from the other books. — PAUSCH & ZASLOW, The Last Lecture
I was nineteen.
He was thirty.
I’m not sure he thought this gift through.
For my birthday he gave me a book about a record label on which a band we both loved used to record. But here’s the thing: I have no interest in the minutiae of exactly which producer put which songs together or in collecting the sixteen alternate recordings of a beloved song. I don’t. He does. He bought the book, and presented it to me on the street right outside the bookshop. And this revealed the brutal truth and the answer to the nagging question of why we hadn’t gotten back together. In all our letters, our hundreds of thousands of words exchanged, on screen and in person, we’d explored ourselves more than each other. — YOUNG, Rough Trade
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