Jessica Day George

Monday, December 1, 2014

HO. HO. HO. (Or: How to Shop for a Booklover)

Over the years, I've done a number of posts on my favorite Christmas books and movies and music. I'll let you peruse the blog to find those lists, because this year it's time to do something a little bit different.

It's time to do some holiday shopping.

I do, in fact, enjoy shopping. I particularly enjoy shopping for presents for other people. It gives me a thrill to find something I know that someone else will love for Christmas. Notable exceptions include my husband, Webmaster Mikey, who is a) picky and b) buys himself whatever he wants the second he wants it, and my brother Jason, who is . . . pretty much exactly the same. "I got you a panini maker!" "Ugh, I have like, five of those!" "Here's a shirt!" "Meh, I probably wouldn't wear that."


But other people are great to shop for! Particularly my kids! My kids love everything they receive! They even like getting clothes! It's fantastic!

So that made my holiday shopping pretty easy this year, which means I have ample time to help you, dear reader, with your shopping lists! Especially since I have been up in arms about Gifts for Book Lovers, or what passes as a Gift for a Book Lover According to Entertainment Weekly. Now, I've been a subscriber to EW for almost twenty years now. I like movie gossip, mm hmm yes I do. It's true that I occasionally I think, "Wow, they are either super out of touch with the average human being, or am weirder than I thought," but mostly it's been a good relationship. EW is where I learned about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, one of my favorite books of all time, and Penelope, one of my favorite movies of all time, and where I go for all things Hobbit movie related.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, they published their Holiday Gift Guides, as they do every November. These are broken into categories like, For the Music Lover, For the Film Lover, etc. And the very first one? For the Book Lover. Huzzah! What excitement!

But I looked at the products on that page, and I squinted, and I checked the heading to make sure I was reading the right list, and I blinked a few times . . . and it didn't change. There still wasn't a book on that list. There were, in fact, things on that list that no self-respecting book lover would even purchase for someone else.

There were subscriptions to electronic reading services that deliver books to your e-reader, which seems okay, except that you can't choose the book or even the genre, it's a total crapshoot. You might get the latest Dave Eggers, you might get a cookbook, you might get . . . I honestly don't know. There was a baby onesie that had the EW logo on it. Which is cute . . . and has diddly poop to do with being a book lover. There was tea. Because all book lovers drink tea, amirite? And then, my personal favorite, a bookmark. Sounds like a good idea, right? I can always use a new bookmark! I love bookmarks! But this one was made out of filigreed brass, which is heavy and slick, two things that aren't that desirable in a bookmark, and it ended in a sharp point on one end, and that point was a pen. That couldn't be capped. That's right, it was A HEAVY, SHARP, SLICK, INK-FILLED BOOKMARK.

What is the WHAT, EW?!

I mean, seriously! It was honestly like they couldn't find someone who actually read actual paper books to ask, so they grabbed some random freebies they'd been given in the past year and slapped them on the page.

I just . . . I can't even. I'll stop now, and instead present you with a list of REAL gifts for the book lover in your life!


1. A book.

Can't go wrong there, right?

Don't know what title to get? Ask them! Say: "What book are you really excited to get your hands on?" I can guarantee that they'll tell you!

Or, here's an idea: Say that your friend raves on and on about The Hobbit, or Jane Eyre, or A Little Princess. Is there a new anniversary edition of that book? An illustrated edition? I just found darling little "pocket-sized" versions of Tolkien's books, with his original art on the covers! And I just helped someone at the King's English (I was a bookseller for a day, it was fabulous, btw) find an anniversary edition with new color illustrations of The Secret Garden for her grandchildren.

You can also purchase gift cards for their favorite bookshop, and let them have the joy of picking out a book themselves! Or do they like authors who are still alive? Check that author's website: It may be possible to get signed and personalized copies of the author's books! (Ahem. You can order my books, all signed and stamped and personalized, via the King's English Bookshop.)

2. A bookcase.

This could be pricy, but a number of people on Twitter brought it up. So, if you're a parent or a spouse of a book lover, how about it? How about a bookcase, maybe with a new book to go on it? Bookcases are kinda important, if you're a chronic biblioholic.


Yep, bookmarks. Even after my rant. But they are still useful. My favorites are the kind that have a tassel, or maybe some beads dangling from them, and there are infinite varieties that don't weigh five pounds and leak ink. There are book tabs that you can use to mark favorite pages. There are bookmarks with quotes on them, and bookmarks with jokes on them, cartoon and movie and book characters and even Justin Bieber! You must know a little bit about your book lover's habits or likes and dislikes! Get them a fun bookmark! Or, do they lose bookmarks a lot and complain about it? Do you see them marking books with scraps of paper or even a square of toilet paper? (We've all done it, don't judge.) How about getting them a whole bundle of bookmarks? I once got a whole packet of cheap little bookmarks with dragons on them for Christmas, and they were my favorite thing. I was a teenager, and lost bookmarks on a daily basis. They seemed to be in endless supply (though eventually I lost them all), but because of the cute dragon picture I really did make an effort not to leave them in library books.

4. Jewelry/clothing/book bags.

Check out for starters. They feature a vast array of t-shirts, sweatshirts, baby onesies, socks, tote bags, wallets, notebooks, you-name-it, all featuring the original covers of classic books, portraits of authors, or favorite characters. They also have "library wear" that features library cards or banned books. Get your book lover a Pride & Prejudice t-shirt. A book bag that looks like an old-fashioned library card. Socks that feature banned books with the titles blacked out. A "doubleplusgood" necklace inspired by Orwell's 1984. So many fun things! Also, for every product sold they donate a book to a school in Africa.

Another good place for bookwear is Etsy. Do a search for "book jewelry" or "Jane Eyre" or whatever it is you're looking for. I have a bracelet that I love that has a favorite quote from Little Women on it: "She is too fond of books and it has turned her brain." Awesome, right? There are scarves with the entire text of Hamlet printed on them, or the map of Middle-Earth. Lockets with romantic quotes from Jane Austen. Beautiful prints of book covers, or book quotes, or even quotes about books. Embroidery. T-shirts. SKIRTS. No lie: there is a person who makes women's skirts with typewriters on them, or books, or the covers of classic books. The fabric must be custom made, and they are awesome (and under $50!). Etsy is chockfull of fun things for book lovers!

5. Notebooks/diaries.

Is your book lover also a writer? How about a list maker? I love to get notebooks! I use them to jot down ideas for books, or names that I might want to use in a story. I also like to carry one around in case I need to write down the name of a book or an author I might want to read. There are also a lot of fun journals and diaries geared toward book lovers, too, where you can make lists of favorite books and what they meant to you, or keep track of what you want to read or have read in a more organized fashion. These are usually found in the diary section of bookstores.

All right! Did that help?


Now, go do some shopping!

And remember: 'Tis always better to seek out the local bookstore than to click that button on Amazon!

(And if you're wondering about the picture at the top of this post: It's a Christmas book camouflaged against my Christmas sheets.)