The Millions 2019 Gift Guide for Writers

November 29, 2019 | 3 books mentioned 3 min read

Here at The Millions we understand that writers are some of the hardest people to shop for. All they really want is more time, glowing reviews, and a cabin for brooding. But: Time is relative, comparisons are odious, and cabins are often chilly. Here are some gift ideas that are more realistic, and might even make life easier for the writers on your holiday list. 

A Jigsaw Puzzle

Jigsaw puzzles are a writer’s best friend. They’re perfect for those moments when you need a break from writing, but you’re not ready to shut down your brain. Fifteen minutes of a jigsaw will take your mind off whatever problem you’re encountering in your writing and you can return to your work feeling mentally refreshed. (New York Puzzle Company has a New Yorker Collection, if you want to be especially literary.) 

An Imported Notebook

The first time I wrote this gift guide, I admonished gift givers not to give writers blank books for writing. But that was before I knew about this notebook that I would never buy for myself but would use immediately if someone gave it to me (hint, hint). It has numbered pages, a table of contents, and something called gusseted pockets. There’s a slim version and a classic version, and also a special metallic edition, which seems festive, no?

An Expressive Hat

When you need to write from the heart, don’t put on your thinking cap: Put on your feelings hat.

A Really Big Eraser

This giant eraser will remind writers that even if they handwrite 350 pages of feelings in their fancy new notebook, they can erase them all and no one will be the wiser.

Chaga Tea

Chaga tea is made from chaga, a fungus that has a parasitical relationship with trees, particularly birches. People have been making tea from it for centuries, and there are many claims for its health benefits. I recommend it for writers because it’s a good coffee substitute when you need a pick-me-up but you don’t want to be up all night. Like coffee, it has a bitter, earthy taste, and it gives you energy, but there’s no caffeine, so you don’t feel overly wired.

Daily Calendar Pad

With this daily planner, you’re not tied to a particular month or year, so you can start and stop at will. It’s a good motivational tool for the writer who needs to be reminded that a big project can be finished by taking it one day at a time.  

Bibliostyle: How We Live at Home With Books

This coffee table book allows you to peer into the home libraries of your dreams. It’s the perfect gift for the writer who relaxes by reorganizing her bookshelf.

Cozy Rug

Speaking of How We Live at Home With Books . . . I was trying to figure out how to put “cozy reading nook” on this list, so naturally I googled “cozy reading nook.” The common thread in all of the rooms on display was a fur rug, usually draped over an ottoman. So, if you can’t gift your friend extra space in their home, you can at least give them a rug to tie the room together. I’ve chosen this faux fur rug from IKEA, not only because it’s affordable, but also because it is made from recycled plastic bottles, instead of animal pelts. 

Pen Garden

I love this pen garden, not only because it’s pretty, but also because I think it would help me to keep better track of my pens.

Cube Timer

Some days, writing is all about time management. This timer will help you resist procrastination, multi-tasking, dilly-dallying, online browsing, and it might even help you to tame your children. Just tell yourself that you only have to work on a particular project for just 30 minutes and then turn the cube over and sit tight and write. (If you have kids, you can set the timer for them to play quietly while you finish up whatever you need to do.) Sure, you have a timer on your phone, but we all know what happens when we pick up our phones to just do one quick thing . . .  

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

I’m surprised I’ve never recommended these before. I like to work at home in silence, and there have been some days of construction noise when some decent headphones would have come in handy. I imagine that many people working in coffee shops and shared workspaces often feel the same way.

How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

This is the book you need to help you get through another election year. With new polls being released every 30 seconds and memes lobbed like rotten tomatoes, you’re going to want some heavy-duty Zen. Jenny Odell’s wonderfully grounding book will remind you that you’re part of a local ecology, and that the more you tune into the physical reality around you, the happier you’ll be. Her approach is not prescriptive or scolding; instead, she shares her research into a variety of interconnected subjects, from Bartleby the Scrivener to Thoreau’s retreat from society to the intelligence of crows, as she slowly builds an argument for the importance of carving a space for yourself outside of an economy that seeks to monetize your attention and behaviors.

is a staff writer for The Millions and the author of Home Field. Her short stories have appeared in The Southern Review, The Carolina Quarterly, and The Chattahoochee Review, among others. Read more at hannahgersen.com or sign up for her newsletter here.

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