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Gift or Regift?

Books make great gift. New books, used books, cookbooks, but this post is about fiction, and book giving etiquette. Here's the question. Is it okay to buy a book as a gift and read it before you give it away?

I ask this because books are a big part of my family's gift giving tradition. I've gotten antique books, new books, rare books and cookbooks as gifts for birthdays and Christmas and I've given them as well. 

Obviously, an antique book in my price range is seldom going to be pristine. Used books, purchased to fill out a collection, will usually look used. But new books with pristine spines look, Here's where my question comes in to play. Is it okay to read a new book before you give it as a gift?

Here's why I ask. My mother was a slow reader. I'm a very fast reader. We used to read a lot of the same things, so I often bought her books that I wanted to read as well. If I wanted to read them in the same calender year they were purchased, I had to read them before I gave them away, or buy two copies. Authors would vote for the two copy route, but my wallet and my bookshelves leaned more toward reading before gifting.

If you read a hardback book and are very, very careful, you can read the book with no external signs that the book has ever been opened. Not so easy with a paperback. I'm a spine cracker. I like to roll the front cover of the book around so I can hold the book in one hand. My paperback books are decidedly lopsided when I finish reading them. That's the way my mom used to check through our shelves for books that I'd already read. I don't worship books, I love them like a well worn stuffed animal. I don't read paperback books before I give them away, but I'm serious in getting into the hardback one's before they get wrapped and tucked under the tree. I've been known to read into the wee hours of Christmas morning, to finish a book and hastily wrap it moments before the start of the paper shredding chaos that is our Christmas mornings.

So here it is, the real question. If you buy a new book as a gift and read it before you give it away is it still a new book? Should I just bite the bullet and hope that some day, some time, I'll get to read the book? And finally, what do you guys do? Huh? Come one, you can share, we're all friends here. Spill the beans.


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