The many reasons seem obvious to us, but we admit that books can be a risky gift, if wantonly chosen: you can't give a random best seller and be assured it's not going to end up in a garage sale come spring.
The right books make uncommonly good gifts for special people in your life chiefly because they can feel so personal. Through books, you can honor a passion for astronomy, growing food at home, or Game of Thrones. A book can become a medium for sharing what's important to you, sparking a new interest in their recipient, or expressing affection. The right book given at the right time can become a treasure that outlives the most buttery calfskin gloves.
If these reasons sound a little lofty, go with this: books are just plain practical--kind to your budget and easy to wrap.
Backed up by our Amazon Books Facebook fans' memories of the best books they've received as gifts, we present 10 ways to give books well:
- Find inspiration on our Editors' Gift Picks list, where we've collected our 50+ favorite gifty books from the past year--the ones we thought were the most fascinating, beautiful, funny, or cool.
- Give the Best Books of 2012. Our team spent many thousands of hours reading and discussing our favorite books this year, and along with our Top 100 list, we picked our 10 favorites in nearly two dozen categories. So even if you know only that your givee (is that a word?) likes Cookbooks or Science Fiction & Fantasy, you can be sure you're giving something excellent.
- Visit our Holiday Gifts in Books store, where you'll find fantastic ideas for everyone on your list--including glamour girls and entrepreneurs (or glamourous entrepreneurs).
- Take advantage of Holiday Deals, including recent best sellers at bargain prices.
- Give a book you've personally loved--especially if it's going to a close friend who's likely to share your taste. Susie Al-Hamed remembers Wicked as the best book she's received, saying that "My friend brought it to me while I was recovering from surgery, and what made it great was her sharing her favorite book with me." And even if it's not completely their taste, some people will love the book because it came from you. Maria Fernandez Yoos says that it's always "The giver, not the book, [that] made it special."
- Give books to the kids and teens in your life. So many of our Facebook fans remember a book they got as a kid that inspired a lasting love of reading or turned them on to a favorite genre. Cynthia Conciatu credits her aunt's gift of Heidi in 1951--her first "real" book--for making her an avid reader. Misti Chamberlain cites The Hobbit as inspiring her love of fantasy, and Jeremy Breneman says that being given the first Nancy Drew book as a kid "sparked my life-long love of mysteries." Arleen Dale Kirtland loved getting Little Women, noting that "My Mom made it great by reading it to me," and Franci Henderson shared that "My mother gave me Little Women, which was the book that really made me into a reader. It was the only book her mother gave her (she grew up during the depression). I have since given a copy to my daughter." I recommend Penguin's charming Deluxe Edition of Little Women, in faux-needlepoint paperback.
- Give a beautiful or rare book--an indulgence they wouldn't buy for themselves or a replacement for a beloved and battered copy. Loreen Ruault remembers that "Many years ago, my best friend introduced me to A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving and it became my all-time favourite book. This month it was our Book Club choice, and she bought me the hardcover version. Love it. Always." Valarie Katrina Hamlin loved getting Jane Eyre (now available in a beautiful Penguin Drop Caps edition) "from my BFF. She remembered my original copy fell apart from age and frequent reading and she gave me a new copy." Robert Plourde enjoyed getting "an art/coffee table book. They're expensive, might not have bought it for myself, but I like them." See our picks for the Best Books of 2012 in Arts & Photography, or find rare and collectible editions at AbeBooks.com.
- Make any book special with a personal inscription. When I was little, my aunt's note inside Make Way for Ducklings suggesting that we go to Boston someday and ride a swan boat together made the story magically real to me. I second Krista Greer Cinato's statement that "the best part of any book that's been gifted to me is the inscription in the inside cover from the gifter," and I think Debi Riordan Riley may have received one of the all-time greatest inscriptions in Why I Love You: 100 Reasons, "A cheesy $14 book turned into priceless gift by my husband when he wrote in the book another 50 reasons. Reminding me of why he is still the very best guy for me, even 34 years later!"
- Give a Kindle. Norma Newman says that “Without a doubt my Kindle was the best gift I ever received and it opened the door to a magical world.” Shelia Taylor enthused about "My Kindle Fire!!! All the books at your fingertips."
- When in doubt, let them choose their own books. Several of our Facebook fans cited a preference for buying their own books. Student Angela Elizabeth mused, "You know what would be a great gift? If somebody would buy my textbooks for next semester," but we bet she'd be just as happy with a gift card.
Share your stories of the best books you ever got as gifts with us here, or browse gift ideas for book lovers. --Mari Malcolm