Monday, November 19, 2012

The Books They Gave Me by Jen Adams

Jen Adams loves books. Her love of books and curiosity led her to create the tumblr blog People from all over the world sent her notes about the books they sent or received as gifts. Almost two hundred of those stories were compiled in The Books They Gave Me: True Stories of Life, Love, and Lit.

Why did these ideas fascinate Adams? She says, "For those of us who live for the written word, books given and received in the context of a relationship can reveal so much." There are books here that were given by parents, aunts, brothers. Many of them were given while couples were dating. Some books indicate why a couple succeeded, while many show why relationships failed. "The affect of books on real people's lives can be powerful, as the stories in The Books They Gave Me will reveal."

The anecdotes naturally have a variety of writing styles and voices. Each story is accompanied by a full color illustration of the book discussed. I challenge any reader to go through this book, and not think about which book in their collection they would include if they wrote to the author.

My personal favorites were gifts given by family members. One writer received an autographed copy of Edward Gorey's Amphigorey. Years later, asked why that gift, the father answered that "Edward Gorey had seemed like an interesting fellow, and since I already lived in a world of my own, they thought I'd like some company." My two favorites though, were the gifts given by brothers. One young woman moved to graduate school to find a gift of Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master from her younger brother. Then, there was the eleven-year-old avid reader. Her tiny Catholic school refused to allow her to read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. In later years, her older brother gave her all kinds of books. But, that Christmas the inscription in the front of Bradbury's book read, "Little Sister. read everything you can. Learn about all the ideas that this world has to offer. Subvert Authority! Love always, your big brother."

We should all have people in our lives who know us well enough to give good gifts. And, this year, may you all be thoughtful givers if you give books. Remember. Your gift might end up on some blog, or in some book such as Jen Adams' The Books They Gave Me.

Jen Adams blogs at

The Books They Gave Me by Jen Adams. Free Press (Simon & Schuster). 2012. ISBN 9781451688795 (hardcover), 235p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


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Karen C said...

This sounds so interesting and I'll have to add to my wish list.

Lesa said...

It has beautiful illustrations, Karen, with the covers of all the books. I think it has limited appeal, but it's definitely for readers.

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