How Do You Buy A Gift For A Reader?

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You have a reader (or three) on your gift list. You head to the bookstore and stand there wondering what on earth to get them. There are just so many choices, it's overwhelming. Well step right up and let me see if I can help you out.

Before we jump into the books I have to say something. You've heard me say it before (many times) that there is a golden rule to book giving - know your audience. You need to think of what your reader would like, not what you like. The books I buy for my friends aren't always ones I'd choose for myself. If I really don't know what book to get them I a) buy them a gift card and/or b) I buy them something that a book lover would love but that isn't a book.

The Books

These are a selection of books that caught my eye this past year and that continue to show up in my feed reader.

Wicked Plants: the weed that killed Lincoln's mother and other botanical atrocities by Amy Stewart and illustrated by Briony Morrow-Cribbs. I can't tell you how much I want to read this book. Want. Want. Want.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: the true story of a thief, a detective and a world of literary obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett. I think the title of this one pretty much explains why a book lover might enjoy it.

Under the Dome by Stephen King. King's return to supernatural horror is a must for his fans. Sure, some of them will have bought it immediately, but there is probably at least one person on your gift list who doesn't have it and would appreciate it.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. I cannot turn in any direction without someone telling me that I must read this book.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This one is a librarian favourite of 2009 and I think it will be widely picked up by book clubs when it hits paperback.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I'll be frank, I rarely recommend books that hit the Man Booker Prize list, let alone ones that win it. Wolf Hall keeps turning up in my feed reader with a hearty "recommend" attached to it. It's probably not for every reader, but for the more serious reader and lover of historical novels I'd say give it a shot. As it clocks in at close to 600 pages and is currently only available in hardcover it's probably not the best choice for the person that commutes.

Beyond Heaving Bosoms: the Smart Bitches' guide to romance novels by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan. This look at the romance genre is quickly becoming required reading for fans of the genre. It's smart and sassy, much like the Smart Bitches themselves.

Flow: the cultural history of menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim. I received a review copy of this book and it knocked my socks off. I want to buy one for every single woman in my life and a few men too. It's informative, fun and worth it for the vintage menstrual product advertisements alone.

Cake Wrecks: when professional cakes go hilariously wrong by Jen Yates. A must-have for lovers of the Cake Wrecks blog but it also makes a great coffee table book. Or perhaps for that friend who likes to poke fun at their own lack of culinary skills.

Crazy for the Storm: a memoir of survival by Norman Ollestad. One part survival memoir, one part a loving memory of his father, Ollestad's book got a lot of attention early in 2009. Probably especially poignant for fathers and sons.

Know someone who really loved The Last Lecture? Gift them The Notes Left Behind by Brooke and Keith Desserich. After their six-year-old daughter Elena was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer she started hiding love notes to her parents and her younger sister Grace. This the journal that her parents kept during the last months of Elena's life. (Do not go looking at the book trailers for this book unless you are ready to start crying at your desk. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

We all know someone that has a soft spot for both classics and for books that look good on their bookshelf. Look no further than Penguin's new hardcover classics. You can look at them in Penguin's Flickr set. There is really no other word for them than "pretty." I own the Cranford (they've been available in Canada for awhile) and it is taking a lot of self restraint not to buy every single last one of these editions. They maybe a bit hard to find in-store but I'm sure if you ask your local independent bookseller they'll order them for you. They are available online through Amazon and the Book Depository as well and the easiest way I found to find them online is to search by the book designer's name - Coralie Bickford-Smith.

The Supporting Cast

Reading isn't just about the books. It's also about the experience. There are plenty of products out there that can help make the experience of reading a book more pleasurable.

Does the reader you are buying for commute? When I used to commute I loved to look at the books that other people were reading, but I hated when people stared at mine and then tried to strike up a conversation based on what I was reading. (Could they not see I was reading?) That's where book covers, like these from Hide-a-book come in handy. You can also find many people selling them on Etsy. I also noticed on Etsy that people were selling covers for e-book readers, thus allowing them to avoid the "I could never read e-books" argument from random strangers.

I can't get away from my love of Levenger products. I just can't. This most certainly falls under the "extravagant gifts" category (ie. it's so not appearing under my tree) but I am in love with this Franklin Library book stand. I have some books that would lovely on it. I'd really be quite pleased to get anything in their "Reading Tools" section.

Gift cards are always appreciated. If the person you are buying for has an e-book reader just make sure to buy them a gift card from a compatible store, eg. Amazon for Kindles, Barnes and Noble for Nooks, etc.

This an excellent time of year to pick up luxurious throws at many stores. If I'm reading a book I'm underneath a cozy throw, I guarantee it. Pair with a book or give it just one its own. Ditto shawls or pashminas.

There are a couple of different versions out there, but vertical bookcases are pretty darned cool. The one cited most often is the Sapien bookcase. They look pretty neat when they are loaded with books. We don't have a whole lot of wall space left in our place but even I could find room for one of these.

Bookmarks. Bookmarks. Bookmarks. Say it with me. They are wonderful and come in every price range, shape and size imaginable. You can even make some yourself.

I've been having some trouble with my wrists lately and I've been using my book weight a lot more than usual. These lovely items hold the book open for me so all I have to do is hold the book up. It takes a bit of the stress off my wrist. I got mine from my university's campus bookstore after I graduated (unfortunately, it would have rocked for studying). Many bookstores that also stock gifts sell them, or you can buy them online. I saw a number of cute handmade ones on Etsy as well. If you are trying to make gifts this year this is one you can make yourself. There are a number of tutorials online that use everything from sand to lead shot for the weight.

I've been holding on to this link to the Literary Gift Company just for this post. It's a UK-based company so you'd have to check to make sure anything you order will arrive on time but they do ship world-wide. I love their book cover posters (I'm especially partial to the Dorothy Parker). And maybe their Louisa M. Alcott mug that says, "She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." I'm perhaps also a little bit obsessed with this uppercase scarf. Actually I can't see much of anything on that site that I wouldn't be positively thrilled to be gifted.

There you go. Some suggestions to get you through the 2009 book gifting season. Happy gifting!

 

Contributing Editor Sassymonkey also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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