Gift Guide: What to Buy Your Impossible to Shop For Valentine


Last week, we urged you to think outside the Valentine’s Day box and forsake expected gifts like candy, flowers, and stuffed animals for 25 stylish alternatives. But we worry that some of you are still approaching V-Day with no present plan whatsoever. And we can totally sympathize — some people are just impossible to shop for. So, we’re doing our part to help you out with this guide to thoughtful presents for eight kinds of picky Valentines, from design geeks and bookworms to music junkies and jetsetters.

The Design Geek

Does your significant other scoff at your bargain-basement dinnerware and lecture you on the relative merits of obscure fonts? Then you may have a design geek on your hands — and he’s not going to settle for some crap-ass IKEA vase. To avoid a faux pas, try:

Wayfarer pillowcase set , $30 at BKNY

Classic sunglasses meet practical bedding — the perfect combination of form and function.

we are inside your ampersand signed 8×10 print, $20 by Marc Johns

Typography buffs tend to be big fans of the elegant ampersand. Why not make yours smile with this new, cute/slightly creepy, print by Marc Johns?

Carnival Light Arrow,$229 at A&G Merch

We admit that it would take a pretty strong design sensibility to work this showstopper into your decor. But every design freak loves a challenge, and this one — which reminds us in the best possible way of David Lynch films and ’50s Vegas — seems well worth the head-scratching.

The Do Gooder

If your Valentine writes Amnesty International letters and donates to non-profit projects on Kickstarter, there’s a good chance she’s a do gooder. And while these types are wonderful, they can also be hard to shop for because they don’t require much in the way of material possessions. Here are a few gifts they’ll surely appreciate:

Altruette Sophia necklace, $75 at Ahalife

This pretty, delicate necklace is more than meets the eye: One of many cause-supporting designs by socially conscious jewelry maker Altruette, it supports the volunteer non-profit Architecture for Humanity, which “offers design and building services for underserved communities around the world, and their work impacts about 50.000 people every year.”

Timeline of Fragrances, $50 for a sample of 10 1-ml. vials at Echo Park Time Travel Mart

By now you’ve surely heard of the zany stores in cities across the country that benefit Dave Eggers’s wonderful 826 writing programs for kids. But did you know that the Time Travel Mart location in LA sells an exclusive line of fragrances designed by perfumer Yosh Han? They’re a dizzying journey from the ancient past to the far future, including such scents as Caveman, Aztec, Studio 54, and Dystopia.

Diptyque (PRODUCT) RED candle, $68 at Diptyque

Yes, 70 bucks is a lot for a candle. No one will make your house smell better than Diptyque, though, and your Valentine will love that 10% of the proceeds from this rooibos-and-vanilla-scented candle go to the Global Fund, which fights AIDS in Africa.

The Nerd

It’s not news to anyone that, in 2011, nerds are cool. So a glow-in-the-dark pocket protector or a snazzy mouse pad just isn’t going to cut it. (And come on: they all already own the Lord of the Rings box set.) This year, introduce some style into your geek’s life.

Google pillow 2010, $69 at Etsy

What better way to commemorate the year that was than with this attractive, typographical pillow bearing Google’s ten most popular search terms of 2010?

Space LEGO Smiley Helmet cufflinks, $19 at Etsy

For nerds who have to wear a suit to work, there’s no better gift than cufflinks that will remind them of their childhood (or, hey, current — we don’t judge) LEGO obsession.

8-bit flower bouquet, $15 at Think Geek

Roses last a few days, but 8-bit bouquets are forever. If your nerd is also a hopeless romantic, this gift should set her Nintendo-loving heart aflame.

The Bookworm

Does your Valentine always have her head stuck in some thick tome or another? Has he already read every book you casually mention? Is she on Goodreads more than Facebook? Sounds like you’ve got yourself a bookworm — and that means only the most erudite of literary gifts will do.

Wisdom of the Heart T-shirt, $28 from Out of Print Clothing

We love all the vintage book cover tees Out of Print sells, but we imagine that this Henry Miller number is the most likely to get your bookworm in the mood for canoodling.

Mid-century Eames-style bookcase, $170 at Etsy

If there’s one thing book stockpilers will always need, it’s new bookshelves. Instead of going the IKEA route, add a bit of romance to your gift by hunting down a unique vintage piece. The example above comes from Etsy, but you might be even better off perusing your local junk shops for a steal.

The Penguin Classics Library Complete Collection, $13,414 at Amazon

If you’re not in the market for an engagement ring but are still ready to throw down a good chunk of your yearly salary on your bookworm beloved, then there’s no more impressive choice than this collection of all 1082 — count ’em! — Penguin Classics. Sure, you’ve got your Flauberts and your Shakespeares, but the massive library also includes modern masters (Saul Bellow, Graham Greene). You can browse the whole list here. And hey, you may be throwing down the cost of a small car, but is there any greater cause than singlehandedly keeping print publishing in business?

The Music Junkie

The music junkie is among the most difficult creatures to shop for. Violate their precious taste and you’ll have one seriously insulted lady or gent to contend with. But don’t worry — if you follow our suggestions, we know the two of you will be making beautiful music together in no time.

Religious to Damn — Glass Prayer, $9 (MP3s) at Amazon

If your Valentine is into dark romance (and who isn’t?), then may we suggest you slip him a copy of the gorgeous debut album by Religious to Damn. Afghan-American frontwoman Zohra Atash will take you right back to the goth ’80s — and remind you just how goddamn sexy that music can be.

Control Earring Set, $75 at Etsy

Music-themed accessories can get tacky fast (see: just about every item that’s ever included a cassette tape). But we find these bronze earrings, which subtly shout out the controls on your stereo or iPod, rather elegant.

Red Debut III Turntable with Ortofon OM-5E Cartridge, $399 at Insound

Your music lover can throw away that shitty turntable he bought at a yard sale back in college when you show up with this sleek model. Its red-hot color makes it especially V-Day appropriate.

The Foodie

Please do not insult your foodie with some overrated wine or spendy olive oil. Because nothing says “I had no clue what to get you” like those most generic of the culinarily inclined gifts. Why not try, instead, any one of these more exciting items?

Molecular Cuisine Starter Kit, $70 at ThinkGeek

Does your one true love idolize Wylie Dufresne? Does she wax poetic about foam? Then get thee to ThinkGeek, where you can buy her this lovely combination cooking kit/chemistry set.

The Sriracha Cookbook, $10 at Amazon

Everyone knows that Sriracha is the king of the hot sauces. Allow your Valentine to pay proper tribute with a cookbook devoted solely to rooster sauce recipes. Because spicy food sure does get the blood flowing…

Vintage Punch Bowl Set in Ruby Red, $60 on Etsy

Now that cocktail culture has been fully revived, punch is finally getting another moment in the sun. Last fall, beverage scholar David Wondrich published an entire book on the subject. So your Valentine will be pleased as, yup, punch to receive an old-school bowl-and-cup set to wow friends with at his next party.

The Jetsetter

Whether for business or pleasure, your Valentine is a world traveler. He’s seen and done it all, so your Valentine’s Day present better be something for him to remember you by, halfway around the world.

Knomo Kobe Laptop Bag, $295 at Flight 001

Sure, you can take your battered laptop bag with you to do work at your local coffee shop. But when your lover has to haul her computer along on a vacation or business trip, she’d better find an attractive way to carry it. This all-leather bag should do the trick.

Necker Neck Pillow Speakers, $20 at Insound

The only thing more relaxing than a neck pillow on a long plane ride is a neck pillow that will also play your Valentine soothing music from his own collection. He might well earn dirty looks from elderly seat mates, but we’re sure it will be well worth the trouble.

Clams Money Clip, $65 at Jack Spade

Forget wallets: a true jetsetter will always appreciate the old-fashioned glamor and newfangled with of this well-heeled money clip.