I don’t know about you, but I am a terrible gift-giver. I can be friends with someone for years (read: multiple birthdays) and be at a total loss for what my friend would want for her birthday—or even what my friend likes. I also never know what I want. When someone asks me what I want for my birthday, I usually have no idea what I want (and then I panic and can’t remember what I even like).
At this point in the year (i.e., after mid-October), it seems like a joke to announce that the holiday season is upon us. It might be more appropriate to reassure readers there is still time to find gifts for the writer in your life. In fact, if you act fast you might not miss Hanukkah completely. And this year, I'm coming prepared.
So relax: you’ve got time and we’ve got ideas. This is just part 1 of our holiday gift guide, the low tech version - keep an eye out because on Thursday Julie's going to tell you about her favorite apps and electronics for writers!
An obvious suggestion, since writers read a lot. But which books to get? We know it's best for writers to just read everything, but it’s a good idea to know the taste of the person you’re buying for. You probably wouldn’t want to give someone who loves Ernest Hemingway the Twilight Saga—or vice versa (but never say never!). If the writer in your life has a favorite work that’s considered a classic, look for nice edition, maybe one with annotations, or an early edition, or one with a beautiful cover.
If you’re not sure what to get someone who probably has a ton of books, this is the time of year where a lot of media outlets release the best and/or most notable books of the year. Here are three such lists to start you off: the New York Times, National Public Radio, and Book Riot. Powell’s also has a page of award winning titles. And if you’re going browsing in a brick-and-mortar anyway, don’t forget most bookstores have staff picks by employees.
Also, don’t rule out books about writing, like maybe a biography of your writer’s favorite author or the latest edition of Writer’s Market.
2. Writing Materials
Writers read a lot, but they also do that “writing” thing, so journals and writing utensils are pretty safe bets.
First, almost any bookstore will have a whole section devoted to blank books. You can get one with a beautiful cover or one that looks writerly. Moleskines are popular and widely available at many bookstores. Exaclair products are made from high quality French-milled stationary—plus you can get local business cred trying to find a retailer in your area. If you’re really ambitious and are craftily inclined, you could also make your own journal for that special writer in your life.
In the same vein, you can also get your writer some sort of writing implement. Again, this can be a matter of taste, but graphite and ballpoint ink tend to smear. You could go all out and get someone a specialty pen to make them the envy of other writers. Or, if those are out of your price range, don’t despair. Plenty of inexpensive, quality ink pens (such as Pilot and Uniball pens) are widely available at almost any store that sells office supplies.
Maybe it’s a bit of a cliché, but I always picture my fellow writers with mugs of something: tea, coffee, cocoa, what have you. (Cards on the table: I used to spend so much time in my local café that my roommate could smell the coffee on me from a few feet away.)
I can’t be the only one who associates writers with mugs because there are scads of literary-minded mugs. For one, there’s a whole line of Penguin Classics mugs. For another, you can buy Literary Transport mugs that name all the locations in a novel. Or maybe Shakespeare is the way to go. Or why stop with a mug when you could get a whole teapot?
There is a whole world of mugs out there. Check local stores and especially thrift stores until something jumps out at you as the ideal beverage container. You could even buy some tea, coffee, cocoa, or what have you to go with your mug gift.
4. Tote bags
Reusable bags have come back in a big way lately, but if it’s books, journals, and/or a laptop you’re carting around, you need something durable.
Writers can use totes as functional forms of expression. For example, you can use a tote to say “I’m a nerd” or “I'm a fantasy nerd." As with mugs, there are a ton of totes out there and you can get them with almost anything on them: famous book covers, your favorite publisher’s insignia, or something unique from Etsy.
5. Lit Nerd Swag
Okay, you’re shopping for someone who loves the written word. But maybe that someone has a full library and a ton of tote bags that are all full of mugs, journals, and pens. What then?
So much of being a writer is about inspiration, and one way to spur inspiration is to help create an inspiring atmosphere. Luckily, there are ubiquitous gifts for lit nerds and/or writers that can help foster that inspiration.
If Jane Austen is their scene, to use one example, I strongly suggest digging through Etsy for Austen-specific swag or maybe gift a membership to one of the Jane Austen societies that exist around the world.
Of course, not everyone is a Janeite, in which case you can select from other literary clothing from a place like Out of Print, or maybe even recreate a smell that evokes a certain author. Many independent bookstores sell their own products for loyal patrons to show their support (my favorite is Denver’s Tattered Cover). For the lit nerd at-large, something like Kate Beaton’s literary calendar will bring inspiration through a year’s worth of humor.
Still need more ideas for the lit nerd and/or writer in your life? Book Riot has a regular feature called “Book Fetish” that rounds up the hottest literary commodities.
What great literary gifts have caught your eye lately? Show them off in the comments below!