Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Second Annual 50 Books Holiday Gift Guide

Book lovers are picky bastards. I was going to say "Book lovers can be hard to shop for," but the unspoken clause that follows that sentiment is "because they're picky bastards," so let's put our cards on the table.

There are some god-bloody-awful tchotchkes for bibliophiles out there. Don't let yourself, or a loved one, become another holiday victim of bad taste. Let the Official Second Annual 50 Books Holiday Gift Guide hold your hand through this tortuous process labour of love. Our team of dedicated shoppers has scoured the web, and in our collective wisdom, here are your top 10 choices.

1. An actual hand-selected book
HAHAHAhahahaha. Let's give ourselves a moment to get over our laughter at that idea. I my very own self am terrified at the prospect of walking into a bookstore and, without any external assistance, selecting a book for the hardcore readers in my life. Chances are, anything I'll pick out will be (a) wrong, or (b) already read. You're on your own here, friend.

Well, if you MUST, I can maybe throw you a bone or two. Since a disproportionate number of book nerds also tend to be food nerds, let me suggest The Book Lover's Cookbook, a collection of recipes culled from books as varied as
Little Women and The Importance of Being Earnest and presented, along with the passages that inspired them, for your delectation by chefs (and book lovers) Janet Jensen and Shaunda Kennedy Wenger. And while I can't claim to speak for the craft nerd in your life, I know that I'VE certainly been coveting Craftivity, the new book put out by the inspiring folks over at one of my favourite craft sites, SuperNaturale. Why do I need this book so badly? Let me point you toward Exhibit A, the pompom rug pictured here.

2. Wish list
But really, you should just tell your loved ones to get off their sorry asses and create an
Amazon/Chapters/Barnes & Noble/Powell's wishlist already. Really now, what's their excuse? There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a wishlist available for people to consult. There IS something wrong with doing an unsolicited mailout of your wishlist's URL to every single person you know, but if your wishlist is just sitting there meekly waiting for thoughtful family and friends to find it, there's no breach of etiquette here. (And it's not too late! If you pester them today and they get a wishlist up by tomorrow, your order could still get to them by Christmas.)

[Updated to add Powell's to the list. Thanks for the reminder, reasonably prudent poet. I knew I was forgetting someone!]

3. Gift certificates
Some people hate gift certificates, I know. They find them anonymous and cold. I beg to disagree.
A well-selected gift cert is a thoughtful gesture. Giving the gift of book shopping to a book lover is a wonderful thing. Giving the gift of shopping at, say, Home Depot to a book lover -- now THAT'S anonymous and cold.

4. Used book of the month club
I recommend this idea with caution. It's probably best bestowed on someone you know extremely well, someone who loves used books, someone who knows you're being different and not cheap, and someone who can appreciate this gift for the cool, quirky idea that it is. What is it? It's the Lorem Ipsum Used Book Club. In the site's own words, here's how it works:
The concept is simple: we select a book for you (based on your suggestions) and send it to the address you choose once every month. Give us an idea the kinds of books you're interested in, and our staff will pick out a book that we think you'll like. The books are yours to keep or better yet to give to your friends when you're done with them.
[via Metafilter]

5. Give a book to someone who might not otherwise get one
At this time of year, there are a gazillion opportunities to donate to children and other communities in need of books. If you're looking for some place to focus your generosity, might I suggest
Chasity at I Feel Pithy and her ongoing book drive for the Oasis Youth Shelter? The drive has been going on for a few months now, and I recently asked Chasity for an update.

Chasity has personally shipped over 300 books she's collected, with more to go as soon as she can wrangle the shipping costs. Several dozen books have been sent directly to the shelter from their Amazon wishlist, which is probably the best course of action to take if you're able to send new books. If you want to pass along used books that you're ready to say good-bye to, you can, of course, mail them to the shelter. All the info you'll need is here in my original post on the subject. The shelter isn't even close to running out of room to house books, so let's keep 'em coming into the new year, too.

6. Smartass t-shirts
I like to use fashion to warn people that yes, in fact, I am a total dork. In my respectably sized collection of hipster tees, I have everything from an awesome "Reading is sexy" shirt to an almost equally awesome tee whose graphic makes a joke about Scrabble that would take me too long to describe here. The noble and venerable internet establishment of Glarkware has always kept me well supplied with a steady stream of ironic tees that do my shrivelled Gen X soul good. My Obey the Rules, Dude shirt is possibly one of my all-time favourites, and now it can be yours for the low, low sale price of ten smackeroos. The Good Grammar Costs Nothing tee is, quite obviously, another must-have.

I would be remiss if I did not also mention that the good people at Threadless are on the very last day of their holiday sale. All shirts in stock are going for a mere ten bucks each. Some of my favourite designs are Para Poppins and They're, Their, There (which especially cracks my shit up; if it makes you laugh, too, you probably need to get it).

ETA: This Books Rule tee is also awesome, especially if you love hamsters. [Thanks for the tip, Melbell237!]

7. Snazzy notebooks
If you like to read, it stands to reason that you probably like to write, even if only to compulsively make lists. Why not write your lists in the very best notebooks the world has to offer? I'm talking about Moleskines, of course, which has been supplying high-quality journals to pretentious people like you and me for more than two centuries. I reckon they're pretty good at it by now.

8. Library prints
Printed on heavy-grade paper, these 16x12 prints of famous Renaissance libraries are gorgeous AND affordable. You can buy all six as a set, or purchase them individually for a mere USD$8.99 each. Nicely matted and framed, one of these would make a lovely piece of book porn for someone's wall.

9. Pretty baubles
I dig the I Read Banned Books bracelet. It features the covers of six banned books, from
To Kill a Mockingbird to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. More arty and less political is the What Lies Within Us bracelet, a brushed silver bangle with an engraved quote from Emerson.

[Ups to Jagosaurus the wonder lizard for the link!]

10. Useless tchotchkes
Okay, maybe there's room for a tchotchke or five on this list after all. But come on, how many opportunities does life afford you to enact scenes in which Charles Dickens makes out with Leo Tolstoy while Virginia Woolf watches? Thanks to the Great Writers Finger Puppets, your dirty literary fantasies can finally come true. (Added bonus: This site also lets you search for a novelty gift by author, with choices ranging from
Dorothy Parker to Socrates.)

Perhaps you know a book lover so hardcore that they took the time and trouble to become one of those underpaid, underappreciated stewards of books whom we commonly refer to as "librarians." Or perhaps you just need to find out exactly how "amazing push-button shushing action" works. Either way, you win with the librarian action figure.

That's all from me. Do you know of any must-have gifts for fellow bookies? Fire off a note in the comments section.


restlessly said...

"Moleskines, of course, which has been supplying high-quality journals to pretentious people like you and me for more than two centuries. I reckon they're pretty good at it by now."

HAHAHAHAHAHA. So true, but I don't care. I'm a pretentiously proud owner of these notebooks.

Doppelsis said...

I love the "They're, There, Their" t-shirt. Avery (my 7 yr old) is doing those in her English spelling right now and she's having a hard time getting it. I mean "What the hell?" Do they have it in kid sizes?

I dig the pom-pom rug too.

Anonymous said...

apropos of nothing, you live not too far from portland oregon. have you been down here to check out powell's city of books? it's a bookstore the size of a city block and its, like, four stories high or something. they have a great website too, and they sell tons of used books, even online. if you shop, it's worth checking out powell's. less big-money and more small-businessy.

Anonymous said...

having reread my comment, i realize i sound like a shill for powell's. i'm totally not. i just love the place. that's all.

Anonymous said...

Long-time reader delurking to say brava to this post. It covered my faves (moleskines, glarkware--I recommend "America is Scary" which I wear when I work the polls every election day) and introduced me to some great new ways to spend my not-so-disposable income. Practical, whimsical, socially responsible--all good! The librarian with shushing action alone was worth the price of admission. Howzabout a Doppleganger action figure?

Anonymous said...

Great list! I just gave my husband a few ideas (a couple are even on here). Of course, he has access to my voluminous Amazon wishlist, but wanted some non-printed matter ideas.

Here are a couple more ideas, from my list: (I love the various posters and whatnot on this site - this one is my favorite) (because sometimes the folks behind you in traffic need a reminder) (sure you could just use a regular post-it, but these are much cuter) (literary Balderdash)

Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

Man...if you ever see a "Reading is Sexy" shirt that's not in green and yellow, let me know. Because I love that shirt but don't look good in those colors :(.

Anonymous said...

Delurking to say thanks for this post. I have a book-loving friend who always sends me creative gifts, so these are perfect ideas for her. I'm also thinking I need a calendar of the library pictures myself...

Anonymous said...

What about a lifetime membership at LibaryThing ( I'd love that, personally.

A membership to the local Friend's of the Library group.

Or journals made out of books from Ex Libris?

Anonymous said...

Lovin' the t-shirt idea, but would be much better to let them design their own tshirt - you don't have to pick anything out and you know they're gonna like it.

GoodStorm has this holiday ecard you can buy a loved one - giving them access to a tshirt designer even I can use - then they send the tshirt out for you. easy as christmas pie.


Anonymous said...

I, too, am delurking because of the awesomeness of this I have the greedies.

Number one on MY Christmas list this year is one (or all) of these chic-ass tote bags for book lovers:

Because I like for people to know how literary I am.