Like many of you, I am spending some time this week reading, much more than usual since I have some time off for the holidays.

One of my new books is an essay, The Gifts of Reading, contained in a small beautiful Penguin book, by Robert Macfarlane. Macfarlane is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. When I think of Macfarlane’s work, I think of humanity’s relationship with the natural world. He is a great walker, from a country famous for its walks and a remarkable writer from a country famous for some of the most remarkable breakthroughs in the development of literature.

In The Gifts of Reading, Macfarlane explores how books given and received as gifts can affect us profoundly. He speaks about books that he has received and given. He urges the reader to give similar gifts and provides us with the list of the five books that he most often gives to others.

Reading this essay, and his list compelled me to think that I should be more conscious of the possible impact of the gift of a book.

One of the last books I gave as a gift was Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. I had been invited to dinner but was so late at work that I had not been able to obtain a suitable gift. I was mortified. Sitting down to a glorious meal in a beautiful garden on a hot summer evening, I listened to an accomplished cook speak about how she chose different food for different people. Her culinary anamnesis reminded me of Ottolenghi and the answer to my mortification was his beautiful cookbook. I had the book sent to my host. Recalling her enthusiasm while reading Macfarlane’s essay was the best possible proof of his contention that the gift of a book can be powerful, a gift that can truly change both the giver and the receiver.

There is something to think about when you read the book that you received for Christmas.

(Note: I read the 2017 Penguin Edition of this book)

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