gifts they might actually want

Tuca & Bertie Creator Lisa Hanawalt Hates All Gift Guides. Except This One.

Photo: Courtesy of the vendors

Reading gift guides and ranting about them is one of my deepest pleasures. They’re full of junk nobody wants or needs! I feel ambivalent about the business model of affiliate links! Gift buying is hugely inefficient and wasteful! Experiences are worth more than objects! Okay, now that my tantrum is over, I’ll admit it’s nice to get a thoughtful, well-made thing from a person who cares about you. Here are some ideas for things that do not completely suck ass, in my very specific opinion.

Certain items tend to appear over and over on gift guides, causing me to wonder things like: What is the average lifespan of a bathrobe? I’ve never owned slippers, is that why my floor and feet are so dirty? Is there a certain age at which I’ll suddenly want to sleep in silk pajamas instead of old T-shirts? But one item I’ll never question is a throw blanket — you can’t have too many. These ones from Hillery Sproatt work perfectly for burritoing yourself up for a 12-minute stress nap, speaking from experience. And this wild leopard blankie by Kristina Micotti, available on Etsy’s U.K. site, is also stunning.

Buying art for people is always risky, but you can’t go wrong with a gorgeous, semi-abstract Hannah Waldron textile. “Hanging textiles and objects on the wall is a nice break from flat photos and prints” is a deeply boring thought I just had. [Ed.: We converted its price from pounds to dollars below, and international shipping appears to be included.]

Lorien Stern’s whimsical sculptures and apparel are so pleasing. I’m actually getting myself one of these duck hats right now, before you animals snatch all of them up. Lorien owns several ducks in real life, so that lends the hat an extra air of authenticity.

Socks are the workhorse of practical, fun gifting and I freaking love them. At the risk of recommending too many adorable animal items on here, check out these sweet n’ soft buddies from Socks for Animals. Their sales benefit wildlife conservation and research.

The best gift is giving someone free license to do a thing they’ve been timidly hankering to do. How about a pottery class, music lessons, a bread-baking course, a yarn-weaving kit, or a mushroom-foraging tour (followed by sexy Phantom Thread role play)? Or why not get someone a tarot session from Dream City tarot? It doesn’t matter if you believe in tarot or not, it’s worthwhile just to chat with Ariana Lenarsky: a very funny, mood-boosting woman. This is kind of like sending someone to therapy, but with the veneer of a fun gift.

One year my soon-to-be sister-in-law (a bona fide beautician) got me a butt mask for Christmas. I was thrilled. I had fun rubbing it on my butt. I’m pretty sure it did nothing. My personality prevents me from recommending such an impractical salve, so here’s my version of an unexpected luxury: an overpriced but excellent lip balm.

I love my job but if I could quit making art and just get paid to do puzzles all day, I would. I was gifted one of these Liberty wooden puzzles, and I’m smitten. They’re beautiful, they have crazy shapes, they look like they’d be a pain to do, but the pieces slide together so smoothly. I love these plants and bugs. Or this one by Kris Chau.

This Jenny Odell book is difficult to explain (I’ll try: It seems like self-help but it’s more of a delightfully meandering thought exercise about the world and the way we experience it), so it’s easiest to just hand someone a copy. It would be extra cute to pair it with some bird-watching binoculars.

I think I first became a fan of (and felt vindicated by) Emily Nussbaum when I read her review of True Detective, and her new book is full of sharp essays that make me hoot out loud and remind me why I love TV. Her writing is so good, I’d forgive her if she panned whatever thing I work on next. I recommend the audiobook, read by Nussbaum herself.

Comic books always feel like a lush gift to me, and Hot Comb is one of the best I read this year. Just charmingly illustrated, funny, touching, true-life stories about hair, women, culture, and everything in between.

Need a stocking stuffer? I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t appreciate this David Shrigley magnet. But if that seems too aggro, you could go with a gentler one.

Finally, if you are feeling gross about all the consumerism and waste this season, why not give people the joy of choosing their own worthy cause with a charity gift card? This is the rare gift that benefits everyone. It’s the opposite of whiskey stones.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Lisa Hanawalt Hates All Gift Guides. Except This One.