During the busy Christmas shopping season, desperate gift-givers often forage for the perfect present, only to settle for the easy pleaser of electronics. This holiday, why not instead choose a book to anchor the Christmas list.
After all, books last a lifetime—even if the bindings and pages don’t, the characters, drama, emotions, and imagination spurred by a timeless story endure forever. Here are six quick tips to make tucking a book under the tree this year an easy choice.
Make It an Heirloom, and a Tradition
Beautifully bound classics present the easiest way to incorporate books into the gift exchange. Along with the dolls, Legos, and other fun playthings, each year add a new title to grow a collection that a young child will love and cherish for the rest of his life.
Easton Press offers the top shelf of collectors’ editions, with gold-inscribed, leather-bound works spanning the spectrum from the Little House on the Prairie collection to “Animal Farm.” For a less pricey option, consider Dover Publications’ Calla Editions, Sterling Unabridged Classics, or Barnes and Noble’s Collectible Editions. For families who take joy in finding second-hand treasures, Ebay and Amazon offer hundreds of like-new leather and pleather handsome editions from the International Collectors Library.
Children will also enjoy this lovely tradition a dear friend shared: Each year in anticipation of St. Nicholas Day, their children leave their shoes out, then awaken the next morning to a special Christmas-themed book. As the little ones grow, so does the collection of special stories and memories. A good starter piece? Tomie dePaola’s “The Legend of the Poinsettia.”
To complete the lifetime collection theme, add a custom stamp or embosser “From the Library of,” with the recipient’s name engraved. Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival offers a couple of options, along with many other thoughtful ideas for accoutrements for the bibliophile in your life.
Cater to a Hobby
For those on your list with a well-established hobby or interest, consider a newer release, such as “Scalia Speaks” for the lawyer or constitutionalist, edited by Christopher Scalia and Ed Whelan. (Hint. Hint.) For the museum-lover in your family, wrap-up a photo-rich book from a far-flung place he may never visit.
A good choice for the home improvement guy or gal in your life: “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Everything in Hardware and Garden Centers.” The lover of historic homes will enjoy flipping through a Dover Publications architecture book, such as “100 Classic Homes of the Twenties,” while the friend more at home in the kitchen might prefer the best cookbook ever: “The Southern Living Cookbook.”
For the younger hobbyist? Well, if a fan of Legos, Star Wars, or both, here’s your go-to present: “Ultimate LEGO Star Wars.”
Also, if you are blessed with a talent dying out in the age of 3D printers and the like, such as knitting, crocheting, needle-pointing, or sewing, find an easy how-to book, add some basic equipment, and a handwritten “coupon” for five free lessons. This idea works well for tennis, golf, and other lifelong sports as well. For the budding artist, consider a gift of “Drawing With Children” or “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” and the accompanying sketchbook, some basic supplies, and an IOU for lessons, although the books alone would suffice.
Help a Current or Potential Homeschooler
If your Christmas list includes a mom or dad homeschooling the little (or not-so-little) ones, a few books for the home library are always appreciated. Consider a beautifully bound reference book, such as an atlas or dictionary, completing the gift with a book stand. Or wrap up a book from the Eyewitness Series, including the visually appealing and informative Eyewitness Art collections. One of Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire’s books or Rosemary Sutcliff’s lavishly illustrated “Iliad” and “Odyssey” also make great options.
On the other hand, parents still researching the homeschool option will appreciate the go-to how-to homeschool books: “The Well-Trained Mind,” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise; “102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum,” by Cathy Duffy; or “Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum,” by Laura Berquist. Add on a book on books, such as one of the Honey for the Heart series or “Books That Build Character,” and you’ll have a sure hit.
Create a Family Memory with a Book, Dinner, and Movie
Another option: Make “Dinner and a Movie” a gift of “A Book, Dinner and a Movie” by joining a classic book with an authentic (or enjoyable) film adaptation, and toss in a gift card for a local restaurant. My all-time favorite? E. Nesbit’s “The Railway Children” and the 2002 Masterpiece Theatre adaptation, with “Swiss Family Robinson” a close second.
But there are many great options, such as “Tom Sawyer” paired with its musical match, or “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” brought to life on the screen by Bing Crosby. More modern films—relatively speaking—work well too, such as “Emma” and “Sense and Sensibility.”
Rejoice With New or Expecting Parents
Those celebrating with new parents have many options, too, from the practical to the poetic. Dr. Sears’ “The Baby Book” provides a veritable bible for the uninitiated, and “Baby Bargains” highlights the secrets expecting parents should know in shopping for their little bundles of joy.
A collection of board books or read-aloud family favorites will be equally welcome. For the lovely cadence and beautiful illustrations, you can’t beat Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” Other sure-to-please selections include “The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit,” “Goodnight Moon,” “Guess How Much I Love You,” “I Love You Because You’re You,” “Good Night, Little Bear,” “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See,” “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” and “Time for Bed.”
Tips for Bargain Hunting
A few final thoughts on buying some great books without breaking the bank. Dover Publications provides many bargain books and unique in-house offerings, and regularly runs “20 percent off everything” or $10 off $50 purchases, so don’t pay full price there. For a wider selection and the overall lowest prices available, turn to Rainbowresource.com, the homeschool headquarters for many.
Amazon.com, though, sometimes has select offerings at a lower price. Also, don’t neglect Barnes and Noble, which has lowered prices in recent years to compete. Barnes and Noble also often stocks up on great coffee table books of famous artists, a great treat that you might not find other times of the year.
If you discover a great deal on a multi-piece collection, splurge now and pack away the matching volumes for presents for several years to come—and memories for much longer.