I make it a personal mission to gift books to everyone for every occasion, even if the giftee doesn’t read on a regular basis. If you’re a bookish type of person like myself, chances are good that you like giving books as gifts too. Instead of listening to your friend’s pretend excitement — “Oh, this is perfect! Thank you so much!” — take the following five tips to heart.
Make a personalized decision. It’s easy to make a list of book recommendations when you read 50+ books a year. Just remember that everyone has a different opinion of what makes a book great. Choose an interest of the giftee and run with it. Does she like comic books? Try The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It’s easier to hook someone with a shared interest. When in doubt, go for nonfiction. It’s a lot easier to pick out a nonfiction book than fiction when you don’t know the type of writing the giftee likes.
Look on unusual shelves. Book sales soar during holiday seasons — and for good reason. You know all those books that are faced out or on special shelves in the store? Well, those ones sell the most. Your best bet for a memorable gift is to check out the hidden, sometimes forgotten, shelves at your local bookstore.
You’ll be able to find something unique (that the giftee hasn’t seen thousands of times already) and, hopefully, avoid giving the same gift as someone else. If it’s a well-known fact that the giftee loves memoirs, everyone looking for a gift is going to go for the newest release. Don’t be that person. Find a hidden gem.
Write a message. The most important part of giving a great gift is including a personalized message. Write something at the front of the book. Keep it short and sweet, but tell the giftee why you chose that book for them. This is really important if the book has a special meaning for you. If you don’t feel right ruining the pages of a book with ink, then tuck a card with your message right before the title page.
Pay attention to the format. Format is important when choosing a book to gift. A lot of people like to gift hardcover books, probably because they look more expensive. Remember: expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. Hardcover books are great if they’re sitting on a coffee table. Most people don’t want to bring a hardcover book to the beach. If your giftee likes to read on-the-go, paperback is a much better choice. If your giftee collects certain types of books, then a hardcover will look great on the shelf.
Two gifts are better than one. One of my favorite things to do when giving a book as a gift is to pair that book with another small something. Try to relate it to the book’s idea or plot to make your present extra special. This is easy to do with adapted books (finding Harry Potter or Hunger Games merchandise is pretty simple), but think outside the box to put together a truly memorable gift.
Maria Vicente is an associate literary agent at P.S. Literary Agency. She likes books, coffee, design, & magic. You can find her on Twitter (@MsMariaVicente) or her blog, ibelieveinstory.com.