Would you gift someone a book that you’ve never read?

It’s a common practice for many Gulf News readers, who said their go-to books for gifts were self-help books or motivational literature – not books they’ve personally read and loved.

Mary Young, an Indian national, wrote on Gulf News’ Facebook page: “I always gift books and most of them are in the self-help category. Recently, I gave someone ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren.”

Haseeb Yousafzaii wrote on our Facebook page: “I gave my grandfather a book on raising chickens, for his birthday.” Yousafzaii admitted that he hadn’t read the book, but knew it was a subject his granddad, who owns a farm in Pakistan, would enjoy.

Self-help remains the world’s bestselling genre, and is a $11 billion (Dh40.4 billion) industry in the US alone.

According to Dr Andrea Tosatto, a clinical psychologist based in Dubai, picking out a book for someone can cause more anxiety than you think.

He said: “One of the needs human beings have, is the need to be accepted. Making a gift out of a book that you know has received a lot of positive feedback from critics, the book store and so on, reduces the chance of the recipient rejecting it. It’s a safe option, used by people when giving books as gifts.”

Research by UK-based Nielsen Book found that in 2013, 15 per cent fewer books were bought as Christmas presents, compared to the year before, and books bought as birthday presents decreased by eight per cent, year-on-year.

However, the number of people buying a book for themselves have remained roughly the same.

Could the stress of the receiver not liking one’s personal recommendation be a factor?

Dr Tosatto said: “What you select for yourself comes from your personal taste. But if you see a bookshelf of ‘bestsellers’, you know they have been selected by experts and represent a survey of what society wants to read. So most people would go with that.”

The fact that self-help books were many Gulf News readers’ first choice pointed to an interesting shift in UAE’s reading community, he added.

“It’s a young society, with people who are driven, and are focused on achieving certain goals in their life. Some succeed and some don’t. But by sharing books on successful people and tips on how to achieve more, they are encouraging each other to make it happen. It’s something positive that the community is doing.”

Shaheeda Abdul Kader

Shaheeda Abdul Kader, an Indian entrepreneur based in Dubai, said: “When I gift a book, I want it to have a lasting emotional impact. It should be entertaining and memorable, inspiring and motivational. I personally go through bestseller lists or recommendations from people I follow or admire – especially venture capitalists, angel investors and when Oprah used to curate her own reading lists.”

Filipino national Rafael M. Galing, wrote on Gulf News’ Facebook page: “I often give books to friends who are network executives and are eager to learn. The books are usually about business, self-development or even understanding social phenomena.”

However, not everyone looks at expert recommendations to make a decision.

Michelle Ann Bethel

Michelle Ann Bethel, an account executive based in Sharjah, said she actively avoids checking out bestselling novels.

“I have read books that have been on bestselling lists, and never liked them. Most of the time, I give people what I like to read. Right now, I would give ‘P.S. I Love You’ by Cecelia Ahern.”

Mayank Thakkar, a Dubai-based company director, said when giving books as gifts, it all depends on who you’re giving it to.

“The book usually has to appeal to me personally, before I consider it for someone else. But if I’m giving a child the gift of a book, I definitely might not have read it. Harry Potter, for instance, was a big trend, and I would definitely choose that as a gift for a young person.”

Edvhielou B. Fajardo

For Edvhielou B. Fajardo, a Filipina public relations coordinator in Dubai, there was one important reason to give a book as a gift.

She said: “I gift books because I would like to encourage people around me to appreciate the importance and advantage of reading. Fictional narratives and inspirational books are my favourite genres for gifts.”


Top 5 gift recommendations from #GNBookClub readers:

Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist

Henry Cloud’s Boundaries - When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life

Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages

Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy