It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You know, that time when we’re all stuck right in the middle of the gift-buying trenches together, each of us clutching a list of our loved ones’ names riddled with question marks as we stare in horror at the vast department stores looming in front of us. Okay, so maybe this time of the year is as panic-inducing as it is wonderful, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead of trolling dozens of stores for the perfect gift, just hit up one: your local bookstore. Whether the people on your list are bookworms or book novices, there is no better gift than the gift of the written word. Below you’ll find five categories with helpful hints and recommendations to help you turn all of those question marks into check marks before you can say War and Peace.

(Note: While I linked to for example purposes throughout this article, I recommend hitting up local bookstores whenever possible. This hasn’t been a great year for independent bookstores, so let’s make this holiday a merry one for our friends, family, and our local proprietors.)

The Non-Reader

Yes, it’s sad, but some people just don’t have the time (or inclination) to read on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still give them a gift of the literary persuasion. You just have to be a little sneaky about it. For instance, for the frazzled, time-strapped parents on your list why not purchase a magazine subscription? Most magazines are running great deals right now and there are publications that cater to myriad hobbies and interests. Even the busiest folks like to unwind with a magazine, and not only will you get them reading, you’ll be helping a vital but struggling industry keep their lights on. If you want to go a more traditional route, apply the same logic we used for magazine purchases to books: hone in on your recipient’s hobbies. Do they enjoy cooking? Give them a cookbook written by their favorite chef or an insidery non-fiction book like Heat.

The Avid Reader

On the flipside of the non-reader, we have the avid reader. How do you buy a book for someone who reads voraciously? You don’t. Give them a gift card to their favorite bookstore instead and let them pick up the latest obscurity they’re dying to add to their to-read pile. If your favorite reader is passionate about literacy, you can always make a donation in their name to a book-related charity. Here is a great place to start your search for a charity that’s right for you and your recipient. Also fun? Book accessories, like unique book ends or tablet covers. For even more ideas, check out Bookish Gifts for the Holidays, written by my fellow Wit&Fancy contributor, Edna Lyn.

The Pop Culture Junkie

Television fans, film buffs, music enthusiasts, and geeks of all persuasions fall into this category and they might just be the easiest folks to shop for. Pop culture junkies are a passionate and enthusiastic bunch, and as long as you give them something relevant to their expansive interests, they’ll love it (and you). For Harry Potter fans, Harry Potter: Page to Screen is sure to elicit squeals of delight. Likewise, if you’re looking for a great way to please the TV lovers on your list, find out if they’ve read the source material for their favorite shows. The A Song of Ice and Fire and Sookie Stackhouse boxsets are both affordable options. Meanwhile, budding cinephiles will love delving into film history with books like Pictures at a Revolution, and for the musically-inclined, try Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History of Grunge.

If the fans on your list have a more general interest in pop culture, don’t fret: pick up a memoir by their favorite celebrity or try something list-based like Inventory.

The Smarty-Pants and Curiosity-Seekers

These are the people who do the crossword puzzle on Sunday mornings (and finish it), or the ones who love to sprinkle obscure anecdotes and facts into every conversation. The task of buying gifts for the brainiacs on your list can seem daunting at first, but it’s really as simple as buying for everyone else: just cater to their interests. Authors like Mary Roach and Sarah Vowell bring their subjects to life with smart but accessible prose. If your recipient spends hours watching the Discovery channel, there’s always the Planet Earth visual companion book, or you could go with a snazzy annotated or leather-bound classic for the English majors. For artsy types and fashionistas, try to find an affordable coffee-table book, preferably one that combines factoids with glossy visuals.

The Kids

Kids today are constantly plugged into technology, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to encourage them to pick up a good old-fashioned book. Introduce the rugrats in your life to your favorite childhood classic (my pick: The 50th Anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth), or get them hooked on a new series with a boxset. The How To Train Your Dragon collection will be a hit with kids who fell in love with the film and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy provides a nice bridge between Rowling and Tolkien. Don’t be afraid to give kids something educational either, as long as you make sure it’s fun. Just between you and me, my niece is getting The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science Experiments this year.

Remember, the key is to pay attention to what the people in your life love. Once you’ve got that down, gift-giving is a breeze. Now go forth and shop! (And don’t forget: bookmarks make great stocking stuffers.)


Images copyright of emiline220, Harper Design and Riverhead Books.