I love traditions like Jolabokaflod, Iceland’s “Christmas Book Flood,” where books are given as gifts on Christmas Eve. But every time I consider giving books as gifts to my own friends and family, I shudder at what seems to be an impossible task. Everyone has such specific tastes!
Some only read eBooks, some prefer print, but others will happily read either. Also, it’s nearly impossible to find something they want to read that they haven’t already borrowed from the library or purchased themselves. You would think that a librarian would be up to the task of matching family and friends to books they’ll love, but it’s pretty daunting. They are picky.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to just giving “books” in this situation. After many years of creative gifting, I’ve assembled a list of no- and low-cost ideas for the pickiest of readers, including those who already have borrowed or purchased everything they might want to read (you know who you are).
If you have a picky reader in your life, perhaps one of these ideas will help you find the perfect gift.
• For kids/grandkids, give the gift of you, reading your favorite book aloud. It’s getting easier to create videos and send them to friends and family — sometimes straight from your smartphone. Find a childhood favorite and record yourself reading it. It’s an invaluable gift, and it can be shared and re-watched an infinite number of times. Cost: free.
• “From the library of … ” stamp. Know someone who is quick to lend books but worries about getting them back? A personalized stamp is a great gift to help encourage borrowed books to return home when borrowers have finished reading them. You can find basic versions in office supply stores, although fancier custom stamps are available through online merchants. Cost: less than $20.
• The Libby app. I cannot stress this one enough. If someone you love reads eBooks or listens to audiobooks using a mobile device, they need to download the Libby app. Entering their library card number gives them access to tens of thousands of eBooks and eAudiobooks — and since the books can automatically download and return themselves from your device, you never have to remember to check them out or in. New items are added all the time, including best-sellers. It’s like having another library you can carry with you everywhere. Cost: free.
• A books “bucket list” poster. You may have seen it in stores or online — it’s a large poster with scratch-off squares, one for each of the listed 100 “must read” novels. Posters also are available for children’s books, albums and movies. These make great gifts for readers who are goal-oriented and like to share what they’ve read. Cost: less than $20.
• A donation to your local public library. Consider giving a monetary gift in the name of a fellow bibliophile. In addition to showing your appreciation for a friend or family member’s favorite pastime, your donation is tax-deductible. Cost: Your choice.
The best gift for any reader, of course, is a library card. This holiday season, I’m making it a personal goal to see that all of our friends and family not only have library cards, I want them to know about library services and programs beyond checking out books.
For example, at the Jefferson County Library this month, we have Tech Tuesday drop-in technology assistance sessions and trivia nights at the Keg & I and Finnriver Cidery; at the Port Townsend Public Library, you’ll find a “Living Wilderness” program with photographer Keith Ebi, and a Shakespeare Reading Group. Best wishes for a season full of warmth, happiness and good books.