This is the first year I'm spending Christmas (and my birthday—Boxing Day baby!) in America, away from Mom, my family, and Yorkshire pudding. Which means the presents I send and receive this year need to be light enough to ship across the Atlantic without breaking the bank. Many of us have friends and family far away from where we live, but we still want our gifts to be thoughtful, personal, and come in lovely little packages. With that in mind, I've collected a number of gift ideas that are light on shipping but heavy on holiday cheer (as with last year's gift guide, I've tried to keep reasonable budgets in mind).
for the grandparents who don't want any more knick-knacks and value community service and philanthropy above all else
Donations to Book and Literacy Charities
What: Once you get past the age of 60, do you really need physical presents year after year (watch me yell a resounding "yes!" when I reach 60)? My beloved grandparents and great-aunt and -uncle are rarely interested in adding to their fully-stocked homes, but they spent decades volunteering in their communities and love when they see their values reflected in their grandchildren. There are many incredible, worthy charities that focus on literacy amongst adults and children and getting books into the hands of those who have trouble accessing them.
Buy: With so many nonprofits to choose from, I compiled a guide to some of the top-rated literacy and book-focused organizations that work in the US, the UK, and around the world. Featuring charities such as Reach Out and Read, Women's Prison Book Project, 826 National, and more, you'll be sure to find a wonderful charity to donate to in a loved one's name.
for the newly-married artist couple who are fans of home decor, unusual pieces, and beautiful books
What: One of my best friends got married the day after Thanksgiving, and if there's one thing I've been incredibly thankful for this year, it's her friendship. She has a great appreciation for books, from both a literature perspective as well as a design perspective. The Lumio Lamp looks like a hardcover book when closed and turns into a glowing marvel when opened. A perfect housewarming/winter/holiday present!
Buy: This is certainly not on the cheap end at $190, though the Mini Lumio is a little cheaper at $125. But the regular lamp comes with a USB charger, wooden mounting pegs, and a leather strap for hanging, and the mini lamp doubles as a battery pack for your cell phone. Shipping is $12 within the US (around $35 international), so you can send far and wide!
for the mom who passed on her love of bookmarks (and leaving them all around the house) onto you
What: Mom often has a couple books on the nightstand and another in the living room, and I remember there being a lot of bookmarks around the house growing up. Moms and Dads loved customized presents, so why not put a lovely photo of the two of you on the front or include quotes from their favorite books. Depending on your design, you could create a bookmark for the whole family!
Buy: You can customize bookmarks yourself using a company such as Harmony Designs or SmartPress, or you can have a professional on Etsy make something a little more complex (here, here, or here).
for the new parents who live in a remote area without access to a bookstore but want to raise their daughter on a diet of words
The Picture Book Club
What: The Picture Book Club is a book subscription service whereby you choose your package (suitable for children between 0-7 years) and, each month, a parcel that includes a specially chosen book, gift wrapping, book plate, and a handwritten note is delivered to the recipient's door. Packages can be for 3, 6, or 12 months, so this is truly a gift that would keep on giving.
Buy: Prices are very reasonable considering how much personalization goes into each package, and you'll never have to worry about shipping books each month!
for that favorite professor/child's teacher/english major
Shakespeare Insult Tea Towel
What: It's easy to forget just how many truly brilliant insults Shakespeare came up with in his time, but with this tea towel hanging in your kitchen you'll be able to recall them at will. The Globe shop in London has a myriad of Shakespeare-themed items for sale including a Cymbeline leather journal, a Macbeth eraser, and a Globe theatre model kit.
Buy: If you live in London, you can pop into The Globe and enjoy an Afternoon Tea while you're at it. Otherwise, you can order online from anywhere in the world with shipping dependent on how much you order (the tea towel costs £3.50 to ship within England or £4.95 to ship to the US).
for the writer friend who is stuck in an office job and would love nothing more than to do an mfa
Journal of the Month Club
What: The recipient will receive a literary magazine every month, every other month, or every three months—never the same journal twice and, if your recipient already subscribes to a particular magazine, they will be sure not to include that one in the mailings.
Buy: Subscriptions start at $40 and shipping is included!
for the cousins who love harry potter, writing poems, and dressing up as magical characters
Harry Potter Pencils
What: The owner of this fantastic Etsy account has created a number of pencils inspired by Hogwarts including those with spells, curses, and charms on them.
Buy: Three pencils are £3.75 + shipping and 6 pencils are £8.45 + shipping (shipping is very reasonable within the UK, though a little pricey otherwise).
for the tech-loving uncle who also likes to keep it old-school
BookBook iPhone Case
What: A leather case that looks like an antique book to protect and disguise your phone. It includes pockets for cards and cash, and has two color options.
Buy: The BookBook series starts at $50 for the iPhone case and goes up to $120 for an iPad cover. Shipping is free within the US!
for the sisters who inspire you with their feminism, share your love of reading and education, and have the kindest hearts
Send a Girl to School for One Year
What: The International Rescue Committee, a highly rated nonprofit, knows that in developing countries, or countries in crisis, it is often the girls who have to sacrifice their education thereby being denied the opportunity to improve their lives. The IRC is able to send girls to school in such countries, helping them become smart young women who can provide leadership in their communities.
Buy: For $58, the IRC can supply the tuition, books, and other school supplies to one girl for one year of schooling. An e-card or physical card will be sent to the person in whose name you made the donation.
for the book club that has introduced you to new authors, discussed books you've loved and hated, and shared copious amounts of tea together
A Mix CD
What: Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity, has many passions: football (soccer to Americans), reading eclectically, writing Oscar-nominated screenplays, and music. He loves music so much, in fact, that he wrote a book of essays about his favorite songs called Songbook (or 31 Songs if you're buying it in the UK) and McSweeney's sells the CD to go along with the book. Wouldn't it be wonderful if every book came with a soundtrack? Why not create one for your book club, looking back on all the books you've read in the past year (Vivaldi's Four Seasons for Autumn by Ali Smith; anything by Dmitri Shostakovich for The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes; Johnny Cash's "We'll Meet Again" for When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi; Madonna's "This Used to be My Playground" for Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson..)?
Buy: Your local Target, Best Buy, Staples etc. sells 30 blank CDs for about $12-15 and you can decorate the CDs or sleeves with colored pens. Or you can simply share a playlist through your Spotify account.
for the bookworm friend who loves to read but you've no idea which book to buy them
Anagram Recommends: Personalized Book Recommendations
What: This is a cheeky plug for Anagram's newest service, Anagram Recommends. It's an in-depth, personalized book recommendation service for avid and reluctant readers alike. Clients fill out a detailed questionnaire, have the option of an additional phone consultation, and receive a number of carefully curated book recommendations that perfectly match their reading lifestyle and goals. The service is like having a personal trainer for the mind, and don't New Year's resolutions always involve personal trainers?
Buy: Anagram Recommends has three different packages available, for varying needs and price points. If buying as a gift, a personal note can be included and a physical gift card can be sent to the recipient.