What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? My wife, Amanda, is an excellent gift-giver, and she’s given me a lot of amazing presents over the years, so I had to think hard about what was my favorite. I finally decided it was an email.
So a little context: I’m a huge nerd, and my favorite genre of book is fantasy – that actually also started because one of my cousins gave me the first Shannara trilogy from Terry Brooks for Christmas when I was 13. I was hooked immediately.
In high school, I discovered Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Two trilogies that just wrecked me. They were the kind of books that peered into my soul and made me deal with stuff, man. I’ve read those six books through probably 5 or 6 times in my life. And then I learned Donaldson was putting out a final set of four books – the LAST Chronicles of Thomas Covenant! They came out slowly – one book every three years. And finally, in 2013, the last book came out.
It was everything I had been waiting for. I felt like my whole life had been building up to that last book.
2013 was also the second year of my podcast The StoryMen (which is now the Fascinating Podcast). We had done about 40 episodes, and had gotten to interview a few authors and artists.
So it’s my birthday (which is in October), and I was getting ready to leave for work. Amanda and I were chatting going through our day, when her phone chimed and she screamed. She looked up at me, her eyes glowing, and said, “Your birthday present is here!”
She then proceeded to read me an email from Stephen R. Donaldson’s publicist. She had reached out and invited him on our podcast, and he said yes. I was going to get to interview my favorite author of all time, a man whose words had deeply shaped my identity.
I had a panic attack. I geeked out hard. But the interview went great, and it remains a highlight of my life.
That gift was so great because I felt so seen. It’s hard to imagine something more uniquely targeted to me. That’s what makes a great gift – gift cards are great and all, but when someone knows us well enough to give us something that we didn’t even know we wanted, but in retrospect is perfect, it makes us feel known, seen and loved.