The Sweetest Thing


My boyfriend is a lucky guy, or so I like to think. He always compliments me on my thoughtful gift-giving because I manage to find things he hasn’t even heard about before that still relate to his personal interests.

For today, I’ll recommend you do the following. Get a journal, or open a word document on your computer. Write down the names of the people you love the most, and typically buy gifts for (give each person their own page). Now write beneath their names everything you know they’re particularly passionate about or interested in.

These don’t have to be just your run of the mill hobbies – golf or camping – or those handily generic interests – wine and books. They can be anything and everything. For example, one of my best friends loves pin-up girls, antlers, pale pink and grey, Nancy Drew, Bryan Adams, and patent high heels. My boyfriend loves way too many things to list – hockey, golf, books on Africa, darts, drinking, BBQ, Cars (the Pixar movie), video games, and more.

Now, whenever you see something in your journeys that connects with an interest on your friend’s page, add it so you always have a stockpile of gift ideas to pick from. Alternatively, add things to the list when you hear your loved one harp on about it, and use it as a guide when browsing.

A perfect example of this strategy in action can be demonstrated by Christmas this past year. Entertainment Weekly featured one of the gifts I ended up getting for my boyfriend in their ‘Must List’, a couple of months before the big day (or ‘eve’). Reinhard Kleist created a striking graphic novel of Johnny Cash’s life, for the reasonable price of $17. To tick off why this made such a great gift? My boyfriend is a big Johnny Cash fan (as are many a dude ladies!) and this was something he’d never heard of before. He isn’t an avid reader, so the graphic novel format was perfect (he devoured it in under a few days). The book is a nice showpiece to keep out on the coffee table (although is currently in our bookshelf). And I didn’t have to bank everything on one gift – this was just one small component of many gifts to unwrap, which is always fun.


Because I love me some free shipping, I also topped up my Kleist order with two other books related to two of my best friend’s interests (however random). One of them received Peter Mansbridge’s book on his favourite interviews in his career (she’s a big fan, a big reader, and loved the book). I first heard about *this* book back in the fall as the publisher promoted it as a great holiday gift idea and was giving away autographed copies.


My other  friend got an insider’s guide to the first two seasons of Mad Men.  Again, this showed some insight into this person because the two of us talk about Mad Men constantly, often sending out our first work emails of the day to one another on Mondays about “WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE?” and watching the season finales together. I basically sort of stumbled onto this one, just searching for books that matched the list of interests I have in my head for my friends, and presto, another successful gift.


In this shipment, I also included a book my sister had mentioned quite randomly in passing the summer before Christmas (and her birthday) 2009. She’s a tourism and food journalist, and the book sounded interesting – wichcraft is a sandwich bistro in NYC, and they published a cookbook of really spectacular sandwiches. The book wasn’t readily available in the city so I ordered it online and she was totally thrilled that I had remembered it and surprised her, as it wasn’t on her ‘list’ of suggested gifts, but was still something she actually really wanted.

So today’s lesson isn’t necessarily about pointing you to a specific book – although all 4 of these definitely ‘work’ for the enthusiasts of Jonny Cash, Peter Mansbridge / Canadian journalism, Mad Men, and sandwiches – but about taking what you know about someone, searching out a niche item related to their interests (books are a great place to start), and surprising them. I know it sounds simple, but honestly I imagine people would be so much more adept at gift giving if they had this sort of running tally right from the get go. I can’t tell you how many times I repeated the words ‘wich craft’ in the back of my head before settling on that as part of my sister’s gift last year. Happy brainstorming!

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  1. […] when I told you to keep theme lists for each of your friends and family members? You can type in pretty much anything on the planet and […]



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