Gift Guide: What to Buy the Highbrow Literature Lover Who’s Read Everything


So you have a literature-loving friend who has read it all. Classics? Try reading them in Greek. Shakespeare? Try acting those plays. Dead Russians? This friend has insights into Anna Karenina that you’ve never considered, and frankly, they sound a little like bullshit.

But alas, this friend thinks George Saunders could write shorter stories and Zadie Smith is just OK, and knew about Roberto Bolaño before anybody else in America. So really, what the hell can you get this person for the holidays? Don’t make the mistake of buying an actual book — this insufferable snob (who may also be one of your best pals) will just look at whatever tome you picked out and sigh. Obviously they’ve already read it twice. Obviously!

So, since you can’t just go to your local indie bookstore and pick up something off the shelf to celebrate the holidays and your friendship, we recommend any of the following gifts.

Kings County Distillery bourbon $22.99, Astor Wines & Spirits

Liquor always works. And since Rosie Schaap has established herself as the literary guru on all things bookish and booze-ish, we say go with her New York Times Magazine column on old-fashioneds, and get your friend a good bottle of whiskey to use in said cocktails. Kings County Distillery, which we enjoyed visiting earlier this year, makes a bourbon that tastes great — plus, the price is right and the bottles look cool.

Jane Austen library candle $25, Paddywax

Your sophisticated reader friend is stuck sitting around dusty old books all day long, so freshen their air with a literature-inspired candle from Paddywax. Named after some of history’s greatest authors, like Austen above, the candles are meant to conjure up scents you might encounter as a character in their books.

“The Kit” $49.95, Field Notes

You’re still dropping tons of coin on Moleskines when, for the price of two of them, you can get this arsenal of pens, pencils, notebooks, and even rubber bands.

A great journal $19.95, Shinola

Maybe you think this person isn’t deserving of an entire kit of supplies. In that case, Shinola’s journal, with a hard linen cover, will totally do the trick.

A real tote bag $120, Filson

Your friend keeps using and abusing those cheap tote bags they give out at publishing events, so it’s time that they finally graduated to an adult tote. This one, from Filson, will probably last them a hundred years.

Classy bookends $59, Restoration Hardware

Isn’t it the worst when you go into a book lover’s home and they have all sorts of first editions and nice hardcovers just scattered about? Buy your friend some bookends and help them get their act together.

A paperweight $530, Hermès

Here’s the thing: you can go outside and find a really nice-looking rock, polish it up, and use it as a paperweight. This is the season of giving, though, and you can’t really wrap one up and put it under the tree. Sure, “it’s the thought that counts,” but let’s be honest: the only kind of paperweight that’s going to impress this snob — who you love! who you may be sleeping with! — is one that cost you five Benjamin Franklins.