During the solitary months and years spent writing a book, it can be easy to forget that it will—if you are lucky—live a social life. That your book might enter the imaginations and memories of its readers and thrive there, that your book might be crammed into pockets or backpacks and carried up mountains or to foreign countries, or that your book might be given by one person to another. Perhaps the aspects of authorship I cherish most are the glimpses I get of how my books are themselves carried, or are themselves given. When I sign books at readings, people frequently want their copies inscribed as gifts. Would you make this out to my mother, who loves mountains?... to my brother, who lives in Calcutta?... to my best friend, who is ill?... to my father, who is no longer able to walk as far as he would wish...? Several times I’ve been asked to inscribe books to young children who can’t yet read: We want to give this book to them now, so it’s waiting for them when they’re ready for it. These conversations with readers, and the stories that arise from this giving of gifts, are among the strongest of the forces that keep me writing.
- Robert MacFarlane, from his essay The Gifts of Reading. You can read the whole thing here.