Tis the season to give books that no one wants or needs

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I should be writing something about Halloween this week given that we’re in the mouth of the witching season, but instead I’m turning my attention to Christmas for no other reason than I have a joke about Gok Wan that fits better into a Christmas-related column than a Halloween-related column.

I’ll save the Gok Wan joke until the end and instead kick off with the topic of this week’s column - books that only sell at Christmas.

I like to have sole responsibility for the books I read, painstakingly researching the latest fiction and classic novels to find reading materials to fit my niche tastes. However, come Christmas, when unwrapping rectangular objects, I have to brace myself for the fact I may be about to reveal a work of literature that will never come into contact with a bookmark.

Every Christmas I get at least one book that I neither want or need. One year I got ‘Does Anything Eat Wasps?’. The title made me smirk, but the explanation was far too scientific for my liking and everyone knows science isn’t allowed to be funny.

I didn’t make my disappointment with ‘Does Anything Eat Wasps?’ known and my reward was to be gifted with ‘Why Do Penguins Feet Not Freeze?’ the following year. Not wanting to sound ungrateful, I’ve never complained until now.

I realise one paperback doesn’t take up that much space, but like the erosion of a meandering river, these things take their toll as time passes, and suddenly you find yourself with an oxbow lakeful of unread books.

The problem with books is because they tessellate so neatly on a book shelf they rarely get flagged up as clutter.

By far the most popular type of tessellating clutter that’s sold at Christmas is the celebrity hardback. Whether it’s the latest cookbook from a TV chef or incendiary revelations from a retired sports personality it’s guarranteed to sell big.

People will throw money at anything while shopping for Christmas presents so it stands to reason if you’ve got something dubious to sell, the best time to do it is when consumers lose their power of reason. It doesn’t help matters that hardback books are globally regarded as the easiest gift to wrap.

One such celebrity with a new book on the shelves in time for Christmas is Gok Wan. He was in Eason’s in Belfast a few weeks back and I happened to be in the store just before his arrival.

I was offered the chance to meet him, but there was a catch. I had to fork out £14.99 for his new cook book which he would then sign.

I declined the offer without even considering the possibility that I could have lumbered someone with his signed book disguised as a Christmas present.

On the drive home, as fate would have it, I got stuck behind a car being driven by none other than Gok Wan. His driving was erratic to say the least. Every so often, for no just reason, he keep putting on the brakes. I’d say he slowed to a unnecessary standstill at least 18 times between the city centre and the outer ring. Eventually I pulled up alongside him on the carriageway and frustration got the better of me. I motioned for him to wind down his window and, inspired by a classic pop song from The Police, I sang him a rollicking. It went something like this...

“Gok Wan... you don’t have to put on the brake lights!”