tl;dr

Give me a book that has changed your life. Write your name on it. I will treasure it. If you haven’t got a book that has changed your life then go to the library and find one.  I would like to grow old with a shelf of books with names in them. 

Gifts

I dislike receiving gifts. I have lots of good reasons for this, but they might come from some deep brain flaw rather than good thinking.  I know that my dislike of gifts makes life harder for people I care about, so I’m trying to be more open to gifts.

If you get me a gift then I will enjoy the act of gift giving and accept it with a happy smile. I will feel touched. I will remember the act long after the event. I may immediately give the gift to a charity shop if it turns out I didn’t have any use for it, but I can do that while still feeling really quite touched.

Over the years (I first wrote this in 2018) I've worked out which gifts make me happy and which don't. It turns out that there are very few that make me happy, so it's a short list.

  • Give me a book that has changed your life. Write your name on it. I will love it. To be clear, it's the 'life changing' bit that I like, not the book.
  • If books aren't your thing, then introduce me to a friend who changed your life.
  • If you have already given me all of the books that have changed your life, or you don’t feel you know me well enough, then I have an Amazon Wish list that you can find here.
  • I check it pretty often and try to make sure there are ideas that are less than £5, £10, and £20. Second-hand gifts are even better than the new ones.
  • Feel free to give to charity in my name. I like Special Effect, but go wild.

Those are the gifts I like, if you read it and decide to get me something else, then you are, by definition, getting me something I won't like.

Some other notes:

  • Turning up to our house doesn’t need gifts. If you are late because you stopped to buy gifts then you have catastrophically misunderstood my value system.
  • If you are in any way stressed about getting a gift for me, then stop. I don’t want you to be stressed. Give me the gift of you being unstressed. Get yourself a gift. (If you are in any way stressed about getting a gift for anyone, then you aren’t getting a gift – you are trying to swap something physical for some form of acceptance or approval).
  • if you are worried that I might already have the book you have in mind, you can check my Goodreads profile, which has most things I've read in the last decade and certainly everything I own.

Edited to add: I wrote this post partly as a (rather privileged) rant, but in the first year of writing it, this post has brought me far more happiness and deeper connections than I thought possible, and I’ve been particularly gratified to see friends writing their own.

More edits for FAQs

  1. Looking for loopholes on this sort of thing is… not a good sign.  That said, if you are looking for loopholes because you are a mathematician and that’s simply how you think, then you can consider the rules broadly relaxed for you, on the basis that people who think like mathematicions tend to get enjoyable gifts anyway. There’s a paradox here, the more you feel like you should follow this policy, the less likely it is to apply to you.
  2. I’ve started (because this policy has been wonderfully enriching) not buying myself much from Amazon in October (the month of my birth) and December, and instead filling up my wishlist for the month. This means that
    • If you don’t fancy anything on the wishlist, then procrastination might actually work for you.
    • I’ve accidentally created a nice ‘treat yo’ self’ day right after my birthday (and early in January with sales), on which I buy *everything* I’ve avoided buying for a month.