It’s getting close to the winter holidays, time to start thinking about gifts. You can give someone a tiny robot from an electronics store or saddle yourself with new car payments, but the best gifts are usually the ones that are personal, and show that you put some thought into what your friend or family member truly loves and treasures. You didn’t just watch a television commercial. For the special, personal gift, here are some suggestions. 1. Books About Food.
Cookbooks are still strong sellers. Sure, you can find a recipe online, download it to your tablet and prop up the tablet on your kitchen counter. I’ve done that. I still pull out my battered, batter-spattered Joy of Cooking nine or ten times a year too, though. Comprehensive cookbooks like Joy of Cooking, The Betty Crocker Cookbook and Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking are classics and still going strong because they teach about food. You may have an already-brilliant home cook on your list who wants a book that will expand their expertise. Perhaps it’s a type of cooking (grilling, clay pot), or a particular ingredient (bacon, pears). Perhaps it’s an international cuisine. You may know someone who has just started living independently or wants to get off the fast-food hamster-wheel and eat in a healthier way, but can’t see how to fit the time into a frantic schedule. Simple-meal books like Rachel Ray’s 30-Minute Meals might fit the bill for them. Many home cooks are now cooking for households with food allergies or dietary restrictions; look for a cookbook on how to do that easily. Some suggestions would be vegetarian, non-dairy, low fat, low gluten books, and single ingredient cookbooks are good for this, too. My friend, whose son has dietary restrictions, is delighted with the “Spicy Chicken” cookbook she found at the Sebastopol store a year ago. On the opposite end of the continuum, fulfill your favorite adventurous cook’s fantasies with a book on baking, desserts, or chocolate. And don’t forget that books about beer, wine and cocktails are great fun and can be the perfect pairing with a food book.
There are also books about food that do not contain recipes. Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, is easy to read, informative and very entertaining. There are many books about aspects of cooking, eating and food in general that will surprise you. 2. Travel Books: For someone planning a trip to a new locale, or just dreaming about a trip, a travel book is a lovely gift. Guidebooks are useful and fun, but for my money the best travel books are the first-person adventures. There are also some great historical travel books. When you read about a woman slogging through the desert on the back of a camel, drinking warm water that tastes like goat out a leather water-bag, suddenly that hotel that didn’t have a hair dryer doesn’t seem so bad! Geographical writers like Bill Bryson are often hilarious, as well, and a perfect match for that friend with the quirky sense of humor. 3. Novels: You know which authors your friends read and what they like. It’s a special feeling to find an early work by someone’s favorite writer and give it to them. Maybe you find a book that is compared to their favorite, or maybe they’ve mentioned a topic in passing and you have found just the book for them. Fiction is a tried-and-true category whether it’s general fiction, (with writers like Isabelle Allende, Willa Cather, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ann Tyler or Tobias Wolff), or category or “genre” fiction. Do your friends love mysteries? Thrillers? Romances? Science Fiction? Western? Check these out. Maybe you find the next book in a series they read, or maybe you can introduce them to something new. Both stores have some large print books available. 4. Graphic Novels:
Graphic novels or comic collections aren’t just for children anymore. Actually, adult comic imprints like Dark Horse and Vertigo haven’t been for kids for quite a while. The superhero craze in movies has brought graphic novels back into consciousness, but don’t limit yourself to superhero or horror books. Comic art and words is not a genre, it is a style of storytelling. For every Spiderman, there is a Maus, a memoir of a German concentration camp survivor told with mice and cats, or March, about the US Civil Rights movement. There can be a lot of nudity, rough language and violence in a graphic novel, so check one out before you get it. Skimming a few pages will let you know if the book is right for your audience. 5. Comic Books:
Single issue comic books make great stocking stuffers!
Mockingbird bought the inventory of local comic book store whose owner retired. Both stores have a great selection of single issues, bound collections and graphic novels. Here’s a thought; get a handful of single issues for your parents, so they can speak knowledgably with your kids about the Marvel superhero shows they are all watching on Netflix. 6. Non-Fiction:
That “serious reader” on your list might like a book about African history, the evolution of the airplane, American architecture, or foreign policy post World War II. They might enjoy a biography of a president, an artist, an actor or a tastemaker. They might like a memoir, or they might like a “geographical biography” – the history of a place. You might have someone on your list who likes American history or military history; you might have a student of current events or psychology. You may be able to find a gem for your friend who is interested in world religions, astrology or metaphysics. 7. How-To, Art Books and Collectibles: From beading to wine-making, sometimes a how-to book is just the right drop of inspiration for someone. And nearly everyone loves a big, beautiful art book. Don’t be limited to the old masters or the moderns; you might the perfect book for the shoe-lover in your life, the coin-collector, the textile fanatic – or the knitter. 8. Adult Coloring Books: This fad hasn’t waned yet. Coloring books started being marketed to adults a few years ago as “stress reduction.” The not-so-dirty secret about coloring books is that they are fun! This is another good stocking stuffer. 9. Calendars and Journals: In spite of all the techo-gadgets we live with, there is still something restful and contemplative about writing in a journal, and a journal makes a beautiful gift. The same goes for calendars; your family may all sync your phones with all your appointments, but most homes still have a paper calendar hanging somewhere, as much for the pictures as the numbered squares of the day. Animals, flowers, portraits, architecture, art and whimsy are all available. A few high-tech people I know have quietly rebelled against the smartphone-calendar-in-the-cloud; they may keep it up for their work, but they also use a paper day planner as a way of grounding themselves. There are beautiful ones available. 10. Gift Cards: I mentioned the personalized gift at the top of this post. A gift card, however, can be a very personal gift. It lets the person gifted choose exactly what they want. Both stores are second-hand bookstores, and treasures come into the stores in random ways. The best moment can be when you find just the book you want and remember that you have a gift card! Shopping at either Mockingbird location can be a gift for yourself. The stores are bright and welcoming, you usually don’t have to battle lines or crowds, and they’re each located in small towns with other great shops and eateries to check out once you’re done. Get that perfect gift for others, and give yourself a well-deserved break.