The Myth of Valentine’s Day Books

Josie Leavitt - February 1, 2016

Every year we usually order a paperback Valentine’s Day display. The display – and it honestly doesn’t matter which publisher it comes from – contains a mix of titles about love from the perspective of small animals, classroom Valentine’s issues, and often a book or two about familial love. These books are cute, often adorably illustrated and usually don’t sell all that well. Sure, you’re all wondering, well then, why do you keep ordering them? Excellent question. I think we’ve succumbed to the pressure of having a display for a lot of holidays, which, in theory makes good sense, but often times these are not the books people give for specific holidays.
The problem with Valentine’s Day books is many parents (let’s face it, kids are not streaming in the store to buy books with hearts on them) don’t necessarily think of books for Valentine’s Day. Yes, this is a holiday about love, and books are great way to share love, but there is something about this holiday that begs for a homemade card rather than a book about Valentine’s Day. Or, for older customers, this is the holiday to share a beloved book with someone in your life. To me this is the real reason to give a book for this holiday: there is something lovely about a friend loving a book so much that they have to share it with you. Yes, flowers are beautiful, too, they die too quickly, whereas you can savor a book forever.
Teachers will buy books about Valentine’s Day to help explain the holiday to their class. These books are actually fabulous for that. Kids don’t know the traditions behind holidays, and these simple books give the background to holiday without getting into too much detail about pagan rituals and greeting card companies. One really cute thing about Valentine’s Day is that kids will often want to buy their teacher a book. This just kills me. Earnest kids who love their teacher and want to get him or her a book are so sweet. They carefully look at all the selections and they choose one that they think will the teacher will like. These decisions are not made lightly and I regret that I can’t be there when the child nervously stands before the teacher and gives them the book.
Male customers always seemed surprised when it’s Valentine’s Day. This amuses me endlessly every year. It’s not as if the date ever changes, it’s not a floating holiday like Easter. It’s always February 14th. It will always be the 14th. And every year on the 13th and 14th men stream to the store asking for suggestions. I once told a customer, “Get her something that makes it seem like you thought about her.” He shook his head and realized that he was going about it all wrong. Rather than giving from his heart he was succumbing to external pressures to get, not just a gift, but a perfect gift. He told me some things about his wife and he realized what would be perfect would be a journal and a funny card.
I think any holiday is just a reason to share books, so this Valentine’s Day, share a book with someone you love. As our signboard often says this time of year: Chocolate Is Fattening, Flowers Die. Books Are Forever.

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