How to Make a Book Gift Still Special

That is, if the books ever make it into the hands of the recipient...

We love books, but receiving one as a gift is an entirely different matter. Often it can seem like an impersonal gift, making the recipient believe that his/her friend, family member, or significant other expended no more effort than walking into a bookstore and snatching up the closest title on the New and Popular table. It takes a very special set of circumstances to make a book a truly exceptional present, superseding all other gift options. Here’s how:

Figure out his/her tastes. You wouldn’t buy an unathletic friend workout gear, or flashy jewelry or clothes for a significant other whose tastes run more minimal. Similarly, you have to consider what your recipient would actually like to read, not just what you want him/her to read. Is he your horror-movie buddy? Recreate that experience with a page-turning thriller. Does she work a drudging office job? That’s an entire subgenre!

Do your research! Did she love Gone Girl or Station Eleven? You’ve got resources like Read It Forward and GoodReads to find the new and classic books that will hit those same emotional and thematic beats. There are readers everywhere eager to share what they loved (and didn’t), so consider them a litmus test.

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Make it personal. The exception to the rule about taste is if there’s a book you truly believe your recipient—especially if it’s your significant other—would appreciate. If it is outside of his/her comfort zone, include a note—as a card or written into the book itself—explaining your choice. If that’s intimidating, peruse a bookstore’s Staff Picks table instead.

Make it special. You’ve found a book that seems like a perfect fit for your friend, beloved, or sibling, but you’re unsure if she or he has read it before. But if you hit the jackpot and locate a first-edition or a signed copy, that special status outweighs any potential repetition.

How do you keep book gifts special?


Image credits: Elena Schweitzer/, lizabarbiza/

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About Natalie Zutter

NATALIE ZUTTER has always been a voracious reader, from reading Agatha Christie and Entertainment Weekly above her age level as a kid to squeezing 52 books into the year whenever podcasts aren’t taking over her commute. A 2016 Amtrak Residency writer, Natalie also writes plays about superheroes and sex robots, and Tumblr rants about fandom. You can find her giggling over pop culture memes on Twitter @nataliezutter.

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