That Perfect Gift?

bookgift I’ve seen various tweets and blog comments about giving books as gifts for Christmas or Hanukkah. On the one hand, it’s a brilliant idea. I keep a downright scary number of books around the house, but I don’t buy enough to support the publishing world or my favorite authors singlehandedly. Still, books are so subject to personal taste that I find it a little agonizing to figure out which ones would be the perfect gift for someone.

A few people on my list are easy. My husband reads only nonfiction, but I know which historians and legal writers he likes, so I can usually come up with a book or two for him. Since he reads AAR sometimes, I’m not going to say what those might be this year, though. My mother is also a fairly easy one for me since we’ve been sharing books since I was in middle school. She also has a number of authors whom she quite openly adores and most who know her know this. Since two of them happen to be Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer and her old copies from the 1960s are either falling to bits or have gone missing over the years, I have access to beautiful reprints of their books for her.

One of my close friends has similar tastes in paranormal romance and urban fantasy to mine, so I’ve been having fun introducing her to authors. Last year it was the Gardella Vampire Chronicles. This year I’m thinking of either Vicki Pettersson’s Signs of the Zodiac books or perhaps some Riley Jenson or Lori Handeland’s Phoenix Chronicles.

After that, I have to confess I’m fresh out of ideas. I usually get a cookbook for the office white elephant party, but of my friends offline, I really can’t think of too many people whose reading tastes I know well enough to select books that I know they would like. And there’s just something about a bad book choice that seems to reflect on the giver more so than with other gifts. Perhaps the recipient just can’t help feeling a little slighted and wondering how well a giver truly knows her if that giver thought she would squee with delight and stay up nights reading Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers.

I used to feel like I was being lazy if I gave people gift cards to Amazon or brick and mortar bookstores. However, I know that I LOVE getting bookstore gift cards because I have fun just sitting down and deciding what books are “cardworthy”. I figure I can’t possibly be the only one who gets blissed out over books, so this year I’m not going to obsess. And maybe if I find out what my friends get with their gift cards this year, I’ll learn a little something about them that I didn’t already know.

So, how about you? Do you like to pick out books for people as gifts? What’s out there that would be “cardworthy” for you?

-Lynn Spencer

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14 Responses to “That Perfect Gift?”

  1. RobinB says:

    I love getting gift cards to book stores, online or bricks-and-mortar! And I will give gift cards if I’m stymied as to what get someone for a birthday or the holidays. I do give books as gifts, if I think the person will like the book. This year, I got both cards and gift books for my birthday and for Hanukkah/Christmas (I celebrate Hanukkah, so I’ve already opened my gifts from my Christmas-celebrating friends!). I like what you said about finding out what people get with their gift cards–it IS helpful when the following year rolls around and one is trying to think of a great gift for someone!

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  3. Katie Mack says:

    This year my sister requested that I surprise her, and that she wouldn’t be giving me a list of possible gifts to choose from. So I’m trying to do just that, but it’s really hard. She’s a big paranormal YA fan, but I have no idea which books she already has, and I’m not familiar with YA at all, so it feels like I’m flying blind. I finally settled on “Shiver” by Maggie Stiefvater, only to discover — an hour after I bought it — that she just finished reading it. Argh! So I finally broke down and told her that I’m getting her a YA book, and made her list all the ones she’s already read. So I’m only managing a partial surprise. Sigh.

    For me? I love, love, love bookstore gift cards. Just the thought of being able to shop for books without having to worry about whether I’m blowing my book budget is so very nice.

  4. Lynda X says:

    I much prefer receiving gift cards, mainly because my friends who do occasionally buy me books, never get my tastes right. They all look down on romance, so they try to get me something they consider more “worthy” of me. It feels like receiving a membership in a gym, really. They always get me expensive hard covers, but I never read them. What a waste.

  5. Ellen AAR says:

    I love gift cards. The trouble is that I read so much and so eclectically that if I get a book for a gift, chances are I have already read it.

  6. MaryK says:

    I love book gift cards! But I rarely get them. :(

    My Amazon wishlist is full of books I plan to buy, am mildly interested in, might read someday, or wish I could justify buying. Gift cards are great for books I want but can’t buy for myself – usually hardbacks and trade size. Cardworthy books: Heart’s Blood, Chalice of Roses, The Demon’s Lexicon, The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, A Touch of Dead, Mercy Thompson: Homecoming, Rampant, The Course of Honour.

    Okay, got a little carried away there, but you get the idea. :D

    I’m giving quite a few books as gifts this year. My elementary school nephews are getting books about things I know they like: cats, sharks, jokes. My brother and SiL are getting WWMacGyverD and a photo-crafting book; Mom, a Norman Rockwell book, and my sisters a gardening book and a kids book about dogs.

    Fiction books are hard to pick for other people so I don’t usually buy them unless they’re kids books with universal appeal. I stick with non-fiction on a topic they’re interested in.

  7. Cindy says:

    I give big, broad, rainbow-colored hints that there is absolutely nothing I love more than giftcards to on-line or traditional bookstores. But, I think you’re right, Lynn. People think giftcards are “lazy” or impersonal in some way. Bummer.

  8. MaryK says:

    Generic “visa” gift cards are impersonal (not that I’d turn one down – bookstores take those), but I think giftcards to specific stores show a decent amount of thoughtfulness. If someone knows you well enough to pick the right store/product.

  9. SarahT says:

    I absolutely love getting book vouchers as a gift. I also give them as gifts, especially to people whose tastes differ from mine.

  10. Fay says:

    I love gift cards to book stores! It gives me the “go ahead” to indulge my addiction without the guilt. And I can order up a “Tall Vanilla Nonfat Latte” to go with it! (1 card, 2 addictions – YAY!)

  11. LeeB. says:

    If a close friend or co-worker is going on a vacation to some place new to them, I will buy a travel guide for them. But other than that scenario, I give gift cards because I have received too many books as gifts and had to give Oscar-worthy performances when opening the gifts in front of the givers.

  12. Tina S. says:

    I prefer getting gift cards to bookstores rather than the actual books because I have such a huge collection of books, both fiction and non-fiction (over 600 of varying genres, though mostly romance), that more than likely I already have the book someone tried to give me!

  13. Nicole Dehart says:

    Can I just say that I love to hear that other people also have book budgets. I love gift cards because it does not just buy me a book but it buys me some time to myself to shop for the book, to read the book, to look for the book I want and not have to worry if i am going over my monthly spending for books. lol. My favorite thing is to wander around a book store. My family however hates to give gift cards. It is not impersonal if I am asking for it.

  14. Julie P. says:

    I love getting gift cards, particularly to bookstores. I received a gift voucher for Amazon this year, and am looking forward to deciding how to spend it. I did use Amazon for buying used textbooks, but the gift I received just isn’t enough to cover one semester’s worth of books!

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