As soon as I see a list like the engaging one offered in this week's Washington Post Book World, I immediately want to argue with it. You can read the article here. Most of the list is smart and thoughtful, but my lighthearted quibbles are with Commandment 2 ("A classic is always welcome, especially in a pretty edition...") and 4 ("Remember the books you love yourself . . . it makes sense to share your passion with others...").
Ahem. Let's start with Commandment #2: much of my life is spent getting RID of books, thankyouverymuch, because if I didn't I'd be overrun with them. I usually donate them rather than selling them, because the hassle of listing them online is greater than the buck or two I'd get out of the transaction. Sometimes on sunny days I put a box of free books on the curb in front of the Booklab townhouse, and then sit back to listen to people stop by the box and exclaim over the pickings (Who would give away this?) Answer: I would, and I do, so please, my beloved friends and family, don't burden my conscience and my bookshelves with any luxurious gift editions. Once I've read them, they are destined for the curb.
And now on to Commandment #4 about giving your own favorite books to others: have you MET my friends? If they all start giving me their favorite books I'll be stuck with duck mysteries where the duck solves the crime, sports-themed thrillers, and religious historicals (these are actual examples from my actual friends, bent only slightly for illustrative purposes). One of my friends gave everyone on her list the same beloved book one year, and I did enjoy it, as did many she gave it to. I liked her variation on the "give people a book you like" theme, but I still couldn't get around the fact that it meant investing hours reading something someone else wanted me to. It felt like college required reading, like eating vegetables, like doing chores . . .
My favorite of these choices is #9, "Support the Midlist" (Yes! There are gems there! Lots o' crap can climb the bestseller list, and much unsung treasure sits in the middle, preparing to be remaindered...). I also suggest buying hardcovers whenever possible, because hardcover sales do a better job of supporting authors.