The 2016 Millions Gift Guide for Readers and Writers

November 28, 2016 | 2 books mentioned 4 min read


The shopping season, er, holiday season is upon us! The Millions is here for you, once again, with a gift guide catered to the readers, writers, and literary folks in your life. Enjoy!

Book Perfume

This “fresh, woodsy scent”, actually called “Book”, is for both men and women. According to its perfumer, Book is meant “to recapture the experience of yesterday; turning the pages and breathing in the smell of dry paper mingling in with the open fresh air.” (There are also perfumes inspired by Whiskey, Gin, and Tea, some other things popular with writers.) If perfume is too risky, another option is this “Book” candle, inspired by the “mellow, comforting fragrance of aged paper, ink and leather.”

A Literary Map of the United States

This clever map places authors in the regions they write from, and will undoubtedly inspire you to check out some new writers. Discerning readers may quibble with the placement of writers, but that’s part of the fun of it.

A Postcard From a Favorite Author

The literary magazine The Common is hosting their annual author postcard auction, where you can bid for a chance to win a postcard from a favorite author, handwritten to a person of your choice. This year’s authors include Millions favorites Samantha Hunt, Lauren Groff, Alexander Chee, Roxane Gay, Ann Patchett, and George Saunders, among many others. Please note, the auction closes Dec. 9, so you have to act fast for this one.

Writers Tears Whiskey

This is the booze to have on hand when you’re watching the inauguration, weeping over the cruel irony of having one of our country’s most literary presidents followed by a president who has, at best, “an unusually light appetite for reading.” Politics aside, this Irish whiskey, “gently spiced with a burst of ginger and butterscotch,” is perfect for those dark nights of the soul, when the words won’t come, or the rejection notes just won’t stop coming.

Laptop “Skin”

Decorative laptop covers and decals remind me of the beginning-of-the-school-year ritual of covering your textbooks. (Do the kids still do that?) Like bumper stickers or temporary tattoos, they are a low-risk decoration, and an easy way to rejuvenate an old laptop or personalize a new one.

Ear Muffs

Millions staffer Claire Cameron sent this gift idea to me with the wise observation, “I’ve come to believe that ear muffs are the greatest gift for writers and anyone who values sanity.” They’re also good gifts for friends who work from home and live in neighborhoods that are besieged by noisy construction projects, not that I’m speaking from personal experience.

Reading Glasses

When you get to a certain age, you need reading glasses. Around that same age, you start forgetting where you put everything. So really, you need three pairs of reading glasses: the pair you wear, the pair you keep on hand for when you can’t find the pair you wear, and the pair to keep on hand for when you can’t remember where you put the back-up pair.

Short Story Advent Calendar

We’re big fans of literary subscriptions here at The Millions, and in the past we’ve recommended e-book-of-the-month services like Emily Books, and the perennially useful Journal of the Month, which sends its subscribers a different literary magazine each month. Like those services, The Short Story Advent Calendar provides a curated reading experience: one short story every day until Christmas. Each day’s story is a surprise, and is printed in a sealed chapbook. This year’s contributors include Sheila Heti and Katie Coyle, to name just a few.

Christmas-Themed Books

covercoverFor those who like the idea of an advent calendar, but want stories that are explicitly about Christmas, look no further than A Very Russian Christmas, which collects the Christmas stories of classic Russian writers like Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, as well as lesser-known authors whose works are translated into English for the first time. There’s also Jeanette Winterson’s Christmas Tales: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days, a brand new collection of stories, inspired by Winterson’s annual tradition of writing a new story every Christmas for friends and family. This book includes her 12 favorites, as well as a personal essay about her own Christmas memories.


I’ve recommended this in past, but since affordable childcare remains a pie-in-the-sky feminist dream (at least in America), I’ll say once more that a few hours of childcare is a dream for working writers. You can’t read Marcel Proust with a four-year-old in the vicinity (unless you turn on Octonauts) and you definitely can’t write essays, even silly listicles like this one. So this year, instead of getting your writer/critic/bookish parent-friend a gift certificate for a massage, offer to pick up her kid after school, or take the kids to a park on a weekend afternoon. You can also purchase gift certificates from websites like and

A Home Printer

It’s hard to edit without printing a hard copy and yet many writers go without home printers, either making do with public printers or by simply not printing very often. A quality printer is a great, practical gift, especially for a student.

Subscription to an Audiobooks Service

Even the most devoted reader has trouble finding time to read. Audiobooks are a simple way to incorporate a little more reading into your life. You can listen while you commute to work, when you’re folding laundry, or when you’re just too tired to focus on a page. There are a variety of competing subscription services, among them,, Downpour, and Simply Audiobooks.

An Open-ended Plane Ticket

Take it from one of the greatest travelers of all time, Ibn Battuta: “Traveling — it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” If you have deep pockets, this would be an amazing gift. For those who fear flying, try an open-ended Amtrak ticket.


There’s nothing like reading the right book at the right time — it’s the drug that all devoted readers seek as they scan library and bookstore shelves, hoping to intuit what book will speak directly to their current state of mind. Bibliotherapy aims to provide readers with the most personalized of book lists, and to connect readers with the books that will speak to their particular situation. Most therapists specialize in fiction, but will also recommend poetry, philosophy, and creative nonfiction to inspire and enrich. You can buy gift vouchers for a session with a Bibliotherapist from The School of Life. (Need a little more info on Bibliotherapy? Check out our recent essay HERE.)

A Donation to a Public Library

Public libraries are under threat and needed more than ever before — more than 30 percent of percent of American households don’t have Internet access at home, and use library computers to apply for jobs and educational opportunities, print documents, and prepare taxes. Many libraries also provide free after-school programs, story hours, and research help. Make a donation in your friend’s name to their local library. Please also consider donating to prison libraries, which are always in need of fresh reading material. Try charities like Books Through Bars, NYC Books Through Bars, and the Prison Book Program.

Image Credit: Flickr/JD Hancock.

is a staff writer for The Millions and the author of Home Field. Her short stories have appeared in The Southern Review, The North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and Visions, among others. She writes about movies on her blog, Thelma and Alice and Read more at or sign up for her newsletter here.

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