For the past few years, I’ve featured the season’s best gift guides from other sites and pulled out a few things from each that I think you might be interested in. Let’s get right to it.
As usual, my #1 gift guide suggestion is: make like Zuck and give to charity this holiday season. Volunteer in your area, find a worthy charity via GiveWell or Charity Navigator, or help people around the world help themselves with Kiva micro-lending. (You don’t have to worry about structuring your giving as an LLC though because you’re not rich. Just pony up regular-like.) Nicholas Kristof also shared some Gifts With Meaning recently.
Whenever I need something for my home, my first stops are always The Wirecutter and The Sweethome. The Wirecutter’s holiday guides are the best place to find the best technology buys. This food smoker, a 2Tb wireless backup drive, and a Weber grill are among this year’s picks. I am also trying to justify spending $400 on headphones because these Oppo PM-3s sound amazing.
Every household will be getting at least one of the following this year: a hoverboard self-balancing scooter, a drone, a selfie stick, an adult coloring book, or Ta-Nehesi Coates’ Between the World and Me.
My favorite gift guide this year is from Quartz. They asked a number of notable people, including Junot Diaz and Melinda Gates: what’s the best gift you’ve ever received? The result is not so much a list of products for purchase as it is a way of thinking about how to give people you love what they need and want. Unexpectedly moving. [Runner-up: Motherboard’s Best Black Friday Deals accompanied by the full text of the Communist Manifesto. Which BTW is available for purchase… ;) ]
If you’ve got kids, The Kid Should See This Gift Guide should be your gifting spirit animal. I leaned heavily on this guide in the past year for Xmas and two birthdays. Choice picks this year include LittleBits’ Gizmos & Gadgets Kit, The Roald Dahl Audio Collection, the Sprout Pencil (a pencil that grows real plants when it’s spent), and this Maps book.
I’m so sorry. You’ve missed out on the season’s best holiday gift: Edmund Halley’s personal copy of Isaac Newton’s Opticks, given to him by Newton himself. It was recently sold at auction for $1.33 million. Instead, perhaps a copy of Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe?
Cookbooks are always good gifts: Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine, Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest Nopi: The Cookbook (he’s the author of the outstanding Plenty), Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, and Kenji Lopez-Alt’s magnum opus The Food Lab. Cooking is the main thing I feel like I should be doing more of in 2016.
Some old favorites that I recommend almost every year: the Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray, Tattly temporary tattoos, the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer, Palomino Blackwing pencils, the Kindle Paperwhite, and a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant. (If you’re getting that last one for that special someone, you’d best get a massive bow for it.)
If you have too much stuff already or if you’re shopping for the person who has everything, perhaps Marie Kondo’s bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing would be appropriate?
From Eater’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guide, Maker’s Mark X Woodzee Sunglasses (made from old whiskey barrels), Pleasant Ridge Reserve Extra Aged (award winning cheese from Wisconsin!!), and a young readers edition of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Speaking of whiskey barrels, I did not find these “white oak tools that turn drinking whiskey into top-shelf occasion whiskey” on Eater’s list but am intrigued. Do they work? Or would a small barrel for aging work better?
From the gang at Boing Boing comes their 2015 gift guide. On it, I spotted Mark Frauenfelder’s own Trick Decks: How to Hack Playing Cards for Extraordinary Magic, Haflinger wool moccasins, the Sphero BB-8 Droid from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things.
And a few miscellaneous things I’ve noted recently: a 200-year-old bonsai tree (for $28,000…how do they ship this thing?), the 1M Hauly Heist (for the “discreet, comfortable carry of up to US$1 Million in used bank notes while minimising the risk of radio frequency tracking”), the Google Cardboard VR viewer (for the DIYers, you can even make your own), the complete set of Minecraft handbooks (my 8-year-old has read the whole set from cover-to-cover about 12 times), and Ken Burns’ restored 25th anniversary version of The Civil War on Blu-ray.
Moar liszts und zhoppin sourzus!! (Sorry, I’m getting a little punchy…) Slate Picks, Canopy, Digg Store, The Colossal Shop, Tools & Toys 2015 Christmas Catalog, Kit, Tinybop’s Loves, The Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide, and the Food52 Holiday Gift Guide. You can also look back at past guides from this site: 2012, 2013, 2014.
Update: As a public service, here are some things you shouldn’t buy your loved ones for the holidays. Deadspin presents The 2015 Hater’s Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog, which includes a $1000 bar cart. But the worst holiday gift idea I’ve seen,1 hilariously demonstrated by Alton Brown at the end of this video of Amazon’s dumbest kitchen gadgets, is the Rollie Hands-Free Automatic Electric Vertical Nonstick Easy Quick Egg Cooker. You crack some eggs into the device’s hole and many minutes later, a phallic cooked egg tube comes rising out of it. I mean…
Update: A couple of additional sources of bad gifts for the holidays. Megan Amram imagined a Goop gift guide from Gwyneth Paltrow including a $4000 pair of floor-length jean shorts, a $100 bill (price: $1000), and a yoga mat made out of a Picasso painting ($106M). There’s also The Worst Things for Sale blog which features things like fart-filtering underwear, the hot dog bucket hat, and George Takei’s Eau My cologne.
Update: Phil Plait of Bad Astronomer wrote up A Holiday Telescope Buying Guide. For the casual beginner, he recommends the OneSky scope from Astronomers Without Borders. For the more advanced star hustler, Plait himself uses the Celestron C8 S-GT Advanced Computerized Telescope.
What began as an inside joke over email for bloop, a version of “Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop were written exclusively by and for black women”, is now available for all. Aminatou Sow and Jenna Wortham present the 2015 Bloop Holiday Gift Guide. Among the picks are Lenny Kravitz’s ridiculously huge scarf and the Carry-On Cocktail Kit.
This is not the worst gift ever though. A former co-worker of mine and her husband received a turtle as a wedding present. Like as a pet. Like, here’s a bunch of responsibility for a living thing you didn’t ask for. They cared for it for several months before deciding they didn’t really want a turtle (TOTALLY understandable) and released it in Central Park, which was also probably not a great decision. ↩