Judge John Hodgman on Gift Etiquette for Books

Claire writes: Is it OK to read a book before giving it as a gift? I believe it’s my property until the moment of gifting, and it takes nothing away from the recipient if I read it before handing it over, so long as I don’t damage it. But my husband says that’s rude.

For me, it’s not the cost of the gift that counts, or even the thought. The real pleasure of getting a gift comes in wondering how my friend messed around with it first. Did she wear these socks to the gym? Did he drink half this wine and top it off with water? It’s a fun game! But I might be an outlier. I think most people consider gifts an expression of generosity, actually. If you want to be sure, just ask: “Oh, I read that book before I gave it to you because I figured I could get away with it. I also wore that sweater around town and pretended to be you for a week. That’s cool, right?” See what your friend says!

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