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The 2016 kottke.org Holiday Gift Guide

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2016

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. 2016 has been a rough year for some of us, so getting in a festive mood might be asking too much. But my determination to give is off the charts this year, and if you’re feeling similarly, maybe this will help you. Let’s dig in.

Charity is going to be a big part of people’s giving this year. If you have the means, please find a worthy place to spread the wealth at GiveWell or Charity Navigator. A kottke.org reader recently pointed me toward GiveDirectly as well. Find volunteer opportunities in your area, give to your local food shelf, and look for holiday toy drives. On the way to lunch today, the kids and I noticed a Toys for Tots donation box outside a store. I gave each of them some money to spend on toys to put in the box…we’re working hard to make giving back part of our family routine.

The Kid Should See This is a true gem of the web and their gift guide is always top-notch. This year, I sat down with my kids and they each picked out two things from the list. Ollie chose The LEGO Architect book and this wind-powered Strandbeest. (As a fan of Strandbeests and their inventor Theo Jansen from way back, I was tickled by that choice.) Minna picked out these colorful playing cards (which we have and use often) and the littleBits Gizmos & Gadget kit. She got one of the littleBits kits from Santa1 last year and really liked it — it’s seen a resurgence in use over the past couple weeks as well. Perhaps another installment from St. Nick is in order.

Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads has compiled a list of Great, Affordable Gifts for Travelers, including portable chopsticks, Appetites (a new cookbook from Anthony Bourdain), and Speakeasy Travel Scarves that have hidden pockets big enough to carry a phone, passport, and some cash. Sneaky! And the Altas Obscura book, duh.

Last year, Quartz did my favorite holiday gift guide: they asked a bunch of notable folks about the best gift they’d ever received. Unexpectedly poignant. This year, they’re publishing a story every day until Dec 25th (Advent-style) on different aspects of holiday gift-giving.

If you haven’t bought your partner an Instant Pot pressure cooker yet, now’s your chance. Goes from zero to risotto in just a few minutes.

Every year, The Wirecutter and The Sweethome bring it with the holiday recommendations…my entire house is basically a Wirecutter/Sweethome showroom. Among their extensive recs are littleBits Rule Your Room Kit, the Electric Objects EO2 Digital Art Display, Regarding Cocktails by Sasha Petraske, and this Bosch cordless drill (yo, Santa, I need one of these). Also, you can buy bulk movie tickets? Huh.

Stop reading, this is the best gift: Die Hard: The Authorized Coloring and Activity Book. Yippie ki-yay, motherfestivusers!

Boing Boing has three separate gift lists this year — for gadgets, books, and toys. Among the picks are the NES Classic Edition (hahaha good luck finding one of these before next year), a disposable hand-crank lantern, the Womanizer sex toy, blank playing cards, and What’s It Like in Space?: Stories from Astronauts Who’ve Been There by Ariel Waldman.

The Kindle Paperwhite remains my favorite gadget recommendation. I love mine…my entire library slips into a pocket now.

Did you know that Muji and Uniqlo both have online stores now? From Muji I recommend the ultrasonic aroma diffuser (and some essential oils to use with it) and these amazing sock/slipper things I bought there last year but now they don’t have them anymore, sorry! And point Grandma toward Uniqlo so she can get you some socks and underwear you’ll actually wear.

Find the readers in your life some books on the best books of 2016 lists.

Food52 and Serious Eats have your food picks covered. Fancy cheese knives! Olive oil fresh from a small Italian grove! The Food Lab Cookbook! Eco Planter Herb Kit! Tacos: Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman! The Uuni wood-fired oven (“cooks a pizza in 60 seconds”)!

Speaking of food, did you know you can order Katz’s famous pastrami and they’ll ship it anywhere in the country? Get a loaf of rye bread and some mustard while you’re at it.

Friends of kottke.org who make cool products include Tattly, Tinybop, Stowaway Cosmetics, Kingston Stockade FC merch, Hoefler & Co, Wait But Why merch, Hella Cocktail Co, Storq maternity wear, Electric Objects, 20x200, Dead Bookstore, and Field Notes.

For years, I recommended this Tovolo King Cube tray for making big ice cubes for cocktails…until mine got the freezer stank on it and my old fashioneds started tasting like freezer stank. Yuck. No one seems to make non-silicon big cube trays though. Business opportunity? (See update below…)

I helped 20x200 out with their gift guide this year, editing the Geek Chic section. Selections across all their sections include the AWB OneSky Telescope, Craig Kanarick’s Animals prints, and Steve Lambert’s Drawings for 3 Rooms in Your Home: #1.

For the serious nerds in your life, check out the 2016 Engineering Gift Guide from the engineering department at Purdue University. Their picks include Thames & Kosmos Electronics Learning Circuits and Simple Machines from Learning Resources.

More gift guides and curated shops: Canopy, The Colossal Shop, The Cup of Jo Holiday Gift Guide, Photojojo’s holiday gift guide, The Digg Holiday Gift Shop, The Tools & Toys 2016 Christmas Catalog, Slate Picks, #holiday on Kit, the NY Times 2016 Holiday Gift Guide, and the Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide.

You can also check out past kottke.org gift guides: 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Update: Several people recommended dealing with freezer stank by putting the silicon cube tray into a 350° oven for an hour. Bibulous recommends highjacking these OXO frozen baby food containers for the production of stank-free cocktail cubes.

Update: One Perfect Shot offers their list of 41 Perfect Gifts for the Movie Lover in Your Life. The Gannet’s gift guide offers guidance on objects, food & drink, and books. StoryWorth is offering a unique gift: a bound book of stories from a loved one. New site The Outline published A Gift Guide for Picky Nerds (including this Czech non-smartphone). Wink has a listing of good book gifts. Cool Tools has a selection of good gift ideas. The Stripe has a gift guide for the person who hated 2016. And from The Fox is Black, a gift guide featuring only products that are black.

  1. Both kids still believe in Santa, although the 7-year-old is more skeptical than the 9-year-old. Is that normal? A 9-year-old (almost 9 and a half!) still believing in Santa? And he is ALL IN. He explained his reasoning to me the other day. Since Santa has to build all kinds of toys in his workshop, LEGO, Nintendo, and Disney must license their products and trademarks for Santa to use. And since these big companies are all in on it, Santa must be real. It was all I could do not to laugh. Santa is definitely a manifestation of the machinations of large multinational corporations, but not in that way, kid!