Buy your friend a book

Thomas Schoffelen

I’m a workaholic. That causes me to not spend as much time as I want to with my friends. And I feel shitty about that from time to time. Life’s busy, staying close can be hard.

A few months ago, in a slightly guilty mood, I decided to buy a little gift for a friend or two. It had to be something personal, something that I know about. So what do I know about? Well, mostly these two things: whisky and books. The latter being the more generally appreciated of the two, I decided to find books for some friends that would fit with their personality, where they are at in live, and how I felt about them. I didn’t include any note. I was pretty sure that if they received a book they didn’t order themselves, they would soon figure out it came from me.

The response was very positive. It’s a small gesture (I bought paperbacks, not expensive hard covers!), but it shows people that you know them and that you’re thinking of them.

I’ve started to make it a habit. Every month or so I pick two or three books to send to friends that I haven’t talked to for a while. I try to make it books that are relatively short and easy to read; I don’t want to make people feel like they suddenly have to read this thing only because I sent it to them, especially if they’re not really avid readers usually.


Some of the books I’ve sent people:

  • It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy At Work: simple lessons on how to create a calm company, written by the co-founders of Basecamp.
  • Anything You Want: everything Derek Sivers learned starting, growing and selling his company CDBaby, written as a series of short anecdotes.
  • 84 Charing Cross Road: the letters exchanged between a New York author and a London book shop owner who grow very close without ever getting the chance to meet each other in real life.
  • Nine Stories: a collection of short stories by J.D. Salinger. I’ve still never read The Catcher in the Rye, but I love how Salinger plays with language.
  • Girlie Gangs: even if you’re not someone that could ever imagine reading poetry and liking it, John Withworth shows you wat poems can do.

Go out there, and buy a friend a book today. Preferably from an independent bookshop!

Thomas Schoffelen

Written by

Entrepreneur tech kid, co-founder of NearSt, Londoner, open source enthusiast and aspiring spare time literature geek.

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