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How To Pick Out Books for Acquaintances

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Maegan Donovan

Staff Writer

Maegan Donovan is a Southern-born, New England transplant raising a daughter with her husband in the Midwest. After earning her M.A. in History from the University of Rhode Island, she moved to Boston, followed by Kansas, Delaware, California and Kansas again. When she's not chasing her toddler (which is nearly always), she's reading, mentally planning European vacations, trying to learn Latin or feeling guilty about neglecting her blog, Lovely Leanings. The only two things guaranteed to be in her purse are a book and a bottle of hot sauce.

With the holiday season in full swing, your calendar is likely jam packed with family events, office parties, community functions, and friendly get-togethers. While a busy social schedule can be thrilling (or exhausting for us introverts), there is one type of event that can be altogether stressful, particularly for book lovers. The dreaded Secret Santa book swap. I’ve been attending these parties for years, and truth be told, they’re simply not fun. They’re stressful and involve spending time and money trying to determine which type of book a near stranger would enjoy. While I will never say a harsh word against gifting literature, I know first hand that book choices are very personal to the reader, which can make book swap Secret Santa parties made up of co-workers, acquaintances, and family members you see once a year miserable.


So if you find yourself obligated to attend one of these parties and you’re dreading the thought of picking out a gift, the below tips might be helpful.

Determine their hobbies and buy accordingly

If Debbie from marketing shows up at work everyday discussing her latest #instafood creation, you can assume a new cookbook is a safe bet. Even if you don’t know the party goers well, simply asking around to uncover a few of their hobbies or interests might be enough to steer you in the right direction.

 Enroll them in a book membership program

If you don’t want to chance accidentally gifting a hardcore mystery reader one of your favorite romance novels, it’s not impolite to enroll them in a book membership club. This way, they’ll have more autonomy over which books to request each month and you’ll look like you made an effort (sort of).

Purchase a pricier edition of a beloved classic

You can never go wrong with a good classic and most used book stores sell older editions at reasonable prices. Keep in mind, you can also discover affordable finds on eBay, Etsy and Amazon. Regardless of reading preference, everybody appreciates a good timeless novel from one of the many great authors. Bonus points if you can score a nice copy of A Christmas Carol.

When all else fails, go novelty

The holidays are a time for giving, love, and gratitude. So instead of stressing out, have fun and find a book that will bring laughter and joy to its recipient. Humor books, journals, and other novelty items are light-hearted options for all.