The Books They Gave Me

In which we reflect on books given us by loved ones.



I have a favorite book - Caravan by Dorothy Gilman. I have several copies but one of these is special. It was given to me by my mom and read at the exact perfect time (and then read again and again and again). This one particular copy of Caravan comes with me when I travel - a symbol of adventure, and a reflection of the type of strength that I aspire to. It is falling apart, stained with mud from Ecuador, full of sand from Africa, dog-eared, watermarked from several oceans and loved like no other book I own. I am grateful to my mom every time I pick it up - more and more delicately as the years and miles go by.



We had been confused as both sisters and lovers, we always were so close. My friendship with you felt something like home, a safe place where I could really be myself. And you returned that.

Then time went on and you found A. A and you were magnificent and dangerous together. You encouraged each others’ obsessive thoughts of thinness and starvation. I tried to drag you back, but the more I persisted, the more you faded away.

One day I cry on the phone while you tell me about your newest diet. You get angry, say I don’t understand. I tell you to talk to me, make me understand.

You lend me Wasted. Marya Hornbacher’s writing is enticing. I read late at night and I read it quickly. It captures my mind thoroughly, creates snakes of those thoughts through my mind, and suddenly I get it. I get that even though I tried to be understanding, I wasn’t. I get that I cannot logically argue you back to health. I change my methods, I let you talk about the darkness under all that obsession. You tell me things then, you let me know what’s going on.

Over time, you get better.

I always value this book as the thing that connected us back together when you were so hard to reach. I value this book much more importantly as the way I came to understanding how I may be able to help. Not that it was only my help that allowed you to get better. You had done so much to be on that road. But knowing I wasn’t being useful to you before was impossibly difficult for me. To think that I couldn’t connect with you was incomprehensible. It’s a beautiful book, written with incredible depth to emotions as well as a scholar’s understanding of the way disorders develop. I cannot thank Marya enough.

daniellego asked: Are you still giving out bookplates? This is really such a cool idea as I'm always giving books to people.

Yes! The bookplate is a jpg file that you can print on adhesive paper. Email us at and we’ll send you the file. 


Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women. It was ironic that she gave me this book.. She was beautiful, wild, and uncontrollable. I recognized this when I first started dating her, and never dared to attempt to set rules or boundaries for her. I was thankful for the book, but never quite found the time to read it. As it sat on my  bookshelf collecting dust our relationship progressed; it became firey, tumultuous, passionate… until at a certain point the fire raged beyond either of our control. She broke my heart, the details of which I feel would be unfair to divulge… but leaving me with such a book seemed fitting. I finally found the time to read it, in the long hours of bitter regret, depression, and insomnia that she left me alone to face. Through eyes brimming with tears I absorbed every page, hurting and healing as I read, seeing pieces of my lost love in every paragraph. I doubt the book would have meant half as much had it come from anyone else, or if it had been given to me at a different time. We don’t talk now. But I still re-read that book.

ruthlivingstone asked: Do the books have to be given by lovers? Or by other loved ones - parents, children, etc?

We post stories of books given by all loved ones… lovers’ stories may have more zing, but they tend to be bitter (as reviewers have noted!) We love variety.  

Anonymous asked: Where do we submit our stories?

You can share your stories using our submission form here, or by emailing them to us at Click the “contribute” link above for more details.