Watching television this holiday season has been mildly frightening. Maybe I’ve never noticed it before — maybe you’ll tell me this isn’t new — but the message I saw pushed in my face over the holidays this year and the one that has been picking up in tempo as the key gift days approach is this: if you want to make someone happy, you need to buy the right present. More: to make them really happy, you’ll need to spend quite a lot. In fact, these messages seem to say, the more you spend, the happier your loved ones will be. Case closed and end of story.
If this is the message that’s being conveyed, it’s really time to stop and take stock of the whole holiday gift giving thing. Now, I like gifts. I like to get them and I really love to give them. I approve of the whole gift exchange idea. Having a designated gift exchange day seems sensible to me, but only if the gifts are carefully chosen and reflect a need or desire or a hole in the life of the receiver that they maybe weren’t even aware of. Over the years, the gifts I’ve given that have given me the greatest joy were the ones I knew filled an unexpected void. The perfect candle for the niche in the corner. The perfect pepper mill, because I know the one you have isn’t great. The perfect dish in which to serve your famous paté. The perfect book. The perfect book. The perfect book.
The book gets three mentions above because, in my own gift shopping, the answer that seems to come up most often is “book.” Everything is right about books as gifts. There are no drawbacks of which I am aware. Books (as I seem to mention every year so it is apparently important to me) are easy to wrap. They’re easy to ship to loved ones who don’t live close by. They are relatively inexpensive (and sales at this time of year are easy to find). Even the most expensive books are comparatively reasonable. Most importantly: books are for everyone. For Everyone. And though beautiful books in a largish format can be splendid gifts (and are available on many, many topics), other books make for the perfect gift, as well.
Over the next few days, we’ll be offering up suggestions for gift giving. Stay tuned and — most of all — enjoy the season!