Living by Fiction

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The Millions 2021 Gift Guide for Readers and Writers


It’s time again for The Millions annual gift guide for the readers and writers in your life. If “social-distancing” was last year’s suddenly ubiquitous turn-of-phrase, this year it’s “supply-chain issues.” So, shop early, shop used, shop local, and if your favorite author has a book coming out soon, preorder it!

A Dream LibraryWhat reader hasn’t dreamed of a private library with floor-to-ceiling books? This miniature version will keep the fantasy alive while saving on construction costs. It’s also a fun craft project for writers who need a break from revising. 

A Little Free Library Little Free Libraries were a lifesaver during the pandemic, and are a serendipitous way to find and share books. They’re a great DIY gift for anyone who likes used bookstores, because it’s like having a tiny one right outside your door.  

Magic 8-BallThe writer’s life is one of uncertainty. Let the Magic 8-Ball answer writers burning questions, e.g. Will The New York Times review my book? Will I get a call from Terry Gross? A nod from Reese or Oprah? Does my cat like me? Is it time to water my cactus? Should I have another cup of coffee?

Jekyll & Hyde OrnamentIf the past few months of articles about literary ethics have taught us anything, it’s that writers have a dark side to complement the light. Remind your writer friend (or yourself) of their two faces with this Jekyll and Hyde ornament.

Socks Inspired by a Poem These beautiful, long-lasting socks are inspired by a poem by Shikishi Naishinnō: Still in snow, the mountains are silent, yet the pine trees sing of spring

My Favorite NotebooksI love these slim, college-ruled notebooks from Muji. They are versatile, lightweight, and at $2.99 for five, a bargain. Pair them with a set of freshly sharpened pencils for a budget-friendly gift.

How To Write An Autobiographical Novel I like to recommend a craft book every year, and I recently caught up with Alexander Chee’s 2018 essay collection How To Write an Autobiographical Novel. This isn’t a prescriptive “how-to” guide with writing prompts and time management tips, but is instead a much more personal collection of essays about the writing life. It’s unusually frank about money, publishing, and the unpredictability of the creative process. It also includes a wonderful portrait of Annie Dillard—whose book Living by Fiction is also worth gifting.  

Luxury BathrobeEveryone’s robes have taken a beating from two years of pandemic life. Maybe it’s time for a bold print, cashmere, or zig-zag stripes.

Postcard from a Famous AuthorEvery year, The Common hosts a postcard auction, giving readers the chance to bid on handwritten, personalized postcards from their favorite writers. This year’s authors include Joy Williams, George Saunders, David Sedaris, Alexander Chee, Phoebe Robinson, Jeff Tweedy, and The Millions own Emily St. John Mandel. Bidding ends Dec. 1, so don’t procrastinate on this gift.  

Book Lover’s Advent CalendarThis is another gift to order right now, so you can count down to Christmas with an advent calendar for bookworms. Behind every window is a quote about the literary life. There’s a version for kids, too.

A Bard-inspired PuzzleA friend recently told me that jigsaw puzzles are the perfect companion to audiobooks. For me, they are a welcome distraction when I need a break from the screen. This 1,000-piece puzzle of Shakespeare’s world provides inspiration and productive rest to writers and readers alike.

An Alternative E-ReaderIf you want to give someone an e-reader but don’t want to support a certain online shopping site that rhymes with shamazon, then try the Kobo Clara HD E-Reader. It’s also great for borrowing e-books from the library.

A Forthcoming BookAre you friends with an author who has a book coming out? Do you feel friendly toward an author? Preorder their forthcoming book! This could also be a good holiday gift for someone if a favorite author has a book coming out in the spring. Let them know you preordered the book, and a few months later, when they’ve completely forgotten the holidays, a book will magically arrive in the mail.  

A Little Bit of Good LuckThis paperweight, which contains a real four-leaf clover, might just be the little bit of luck a writer needs to take their project over the finish line.

Surprise Me!