5 rules for gifting books this holiday season

5 rules for gifting books this holiday season

In Expert Tips, For the Love of Reading by Kevin Gray

5 rules for gifting books this holiday season

Gift-giving season is upon us. Between family, friends, and the possible workplace secret Santa exchange, there’s a good chance you’ll need to give someone a gift this year. When in doubt, try a book. 

Books are thoughtful gifts that say as much about the giver as the recipient. They can be thought-provoking, fun, and entertaining, with the potential to add value to someone’s life well beyond the time spent reading it. Best of all, they don’t require batteries.

These are the five unwritten (and now written) rules for gifting books this holiday season.

1. Remember who it’s for

This book isn’t for you. It can absolutely be a book you love, or a work that’s meaningful to you, but consider the recipient and aim to buy a book that reflects their tastes and interests. If your well-read friend’s shelves are already bursting with books, consider a subscription to Scribd, as unlimited access to millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and podcasts is the gift that keeps on giving. Or look to book-related merchandise, memorabilia, art, and other literary works that extend beyond the pages.

2. Perform some benevolent spying

Peruse the bookshelves at your recipient’s house (if you’re on home-visiting terms), or browse through their favorite books on social media. This helps you get an idea of what they like to read. Choose something from a genre or author they enjoy, and you’ll increase your chances they love the gift.

3. Consider the format

If you’re buying a gift for your bookhound grandparent, you might spring for a first-edition. If you’re buying for your niece who only consumes media via digital formats, then an ebook is the way to go. For your multitasking sibling, it’s all about audiobooks. Cookbooks, art, and photography books, and other works that rely on big visuals are good candidates for acquiring hardcopies. Even when not in use, they’ll look great on the coffee table.

4. Think twice before inscribing it

A thoughtful, handwritten note shows care and effort. But a thoughtful, handwritten note inside the book jacket defaces the item you’re gifting. Many people find it charming, while others don’t want ink scribbled in a book they may want to pass on down the road. When in doubt, only inscribe books to dear friends and family members (or if you’re the author). To avoid issues altogether, slip a handwritten note or card inside the book to convey your sentiments.

5. Maintain a thick skin

You tried your best. You thought long and hard and gave your friend a book you really thought they’d love. And yet… they haven’t turned a single page. That’s OK. Maybe they have a queue of books they want to get through first, or they just aren’t in the mood to start that 800-page biography you stuffed in their stocking. Poking your friend every week to see if they’ve started the book yet won’t help anything. Just give them time and understand that books are personal. If this one missed the mark, you can try again next year.

When a book isn't enough (as if), we put together a booklover's gift guide just in case.


About the Author: Kevin Gray

Kevin is a Dallas-based writer covering all things lifestyle, including food, drinks and travel, and his work has appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Forbes, Men's Health, and other outlets. The Cormac McCarthy canon sits at the top of his favorites, but he can't resist a good whodunnit.