In thinking about what sort of holiday gift guide (I know, I know) to do, I settled upon doing what I usually do here: highlight other people’s guides and sprinkle in a bit of my own perspective here and there. Here goes.
Somewhat awkwardly, I’m gonna lead with my friend Jake’s advice: don’t buy anything for anyone for the holidays. Instead, give something to charity in their name/stead/honor/whatever. Check out Charity Navigator or GiveWell for good donation options or make a microloan. Any family or friends who think you’re a jerk for doing this are annoying and you should make new friends and find a different family. (To be fair, Jake also recommends these two powered skateboards, Boosted Board ($1300) and Z-Board ($649+) so he’s not entirely a Scrooge McBlog.)
When I do feel the need to buy things (which I rarely do), The Wirecutter is my spirit guide. This year, they have a proper gift guide and a list of the best holiday deals available on the Internet; both are great. Too much on these lists to pick just a few items but here goes: WD My Passport Ultra 2TB Portable External Hard Drive ($115), Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share ($10), The Wes Anderson Collection ($24) is a no-brainer, and the Blade Nano QX RTF quadracopter ($90).
Star Wars fans, you can buy the actual blaster used by Han Solo in Empire and Jedi ($200,000+). Hey, it’s cheaper than the Death Star.
Tinybop’s Things We Love highlights many great things for the younger set. Two items that popped out at me from this list are James Mollison’s Where Children Sleep ($22), a collection of large-format photographs of children’s bedrooms from around the world, and Who Needs Donuts? ($14), a reissue from the year of my birth.
Two things I love recommending as gifts for food & drink folks: Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray ($9) for making those big cocktail ice cubes at home and the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer ($400). This year, I’ll add two more: Hella Bitter Salt & Pepper pack of aromatic and citrus bitters ($19) and the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator ($205), which The Sweethome recommends as the best budget sous vide thinger out there.
Boing Boing Gift Guide 2013 is full of the expected quirky gifts. Among them are Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils ($23 for 12)…I have some of these and they are great, LifeSpan Fitness TR1200-DT5 Treadmill desk ($2350+), and a 55-gallon drum of Passion Natural Water-Based Lubricant ($1250) previously highlighted here on kottke.org.
If I read more books, I’d definitely pick up a Kindle Paperwhite ($119+). Is there any way to buy more time to read books? Can someone get me that for the holidays?
For your sportsball friends and family, rely on the 2013 SB Nation Holiday Gift Guide. Some items of note include a motorized Cooler Scooter ($400+) for tailgating and Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure ($19).
You’ve likely seen the (probably staged) letter to Santa that’s mostly a long Amazon URL written out in crayon. Here’s what the kid wanted: Kid Galaxy Morphibians Killer Whale ($21), a remote-controlled car.
For the booze hound in your life, get a bottle of W.L. Weller 12 Year Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon Whiskey ($29). According to these guys, it’s the same stuff as the highly coveted Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year ($890) but aged three fewer years and a whole lot cheaper.
By a wide margin, the thing that has provided me with the most joy in 2013 is Rdio ($5+/mo). This musical buffet has big-time rekindled my interest in music of all shapes and sizes. My musical diet, a bloated spreadsheet of old favorites, had grown stale over the past few years. Now I love playing stuff on Rdio for the kids in the morning while they have breakfast and I make their lunch…we sing along to Burl Ives, Mary Poppins, and Lorde. I listen all day at work to writing/coding music. Dinners are accompanied by music tuned to the food (I found a corny Italian dinner playlist to go along with some homemade gnocchi; it was perfect). I’m filling in the gaps in my musical listening, including post-Chronic rap & hip-hop. I’d happily pay $50/mo for Rdio…it’s that valuable to me.
I don’t have a lot of time for many magazines anymore, but Lucky Peach ($28 for 4 issues) continues to knock it out of the park. Runners up: subscriptions for National Geographic ($15/yr) and Wired ($5 for 6 mo of print/digital) at Amazon are super reasonable.