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In search of the perfect gift? Read more of Slate’s holiday gift guides here.
2020 has been brutal. If this holiday season you’re feeling spent and devoid of inspiration, let us help! We’ve combed our archives to curate a list of our bestselling gift items that are sure to please your loved ones.
For the Person Who Has Everything
A Scout bag is one of the most dependable gifts you can give. “You simply cannot go wrong gifting a Scout bag,” wrote Katie Holbrook. “They’re durable, lightweight, easy to clean, and compact, and they come in festive and fun patterns and colors. … Trust me that the all-purpose weekender tote bag will suit everyone from your sister-in-law to your grandmother.”
“Someone gave me this baguette miter as a wedding gift over a decade ago, and I thought it was pretty but assumed I’d never use it,” wrote Lili Loofbourow about the unusual serving piece. “I’m surprised by how much I actually have … it’s a nice, easy way to serve the bread at dinner. I usually cut the baguette lengthwise after warming it and drizzle whatever—garlic, butter, or whatever else—on it and then slice for guests. Not a drop spills, no crumbs on the table, and no tearing it with hands.”
Bring a little sunshine to your loved one’s life with this fun rainbow maker. As Cleo Levin wrote, “I can say with complete sincerity that nothing has made me happier in my quarantine home life than this spinning crystal.”
For the Person Who Wants to Unplug
“The unfortunate truth about ‘family games’ is that many of them are sheer tedium for the adults in the family,” wrote Ruth Graham. “That’s what makes the family party game Codenames so amazing. Board-game snobs and newbies love it; 8-year-olds and grandparents love it; word-puzzle people and strategy buffs love it. I really, really love it. You will, too.”
The crafter in your life might enjoy sashiko, a form of embroidery, which Slate CEO Dan Check took up when he was looking for something “that would fit neatly into the space in my life that was then occupied by absentmindedly checking social media on my phone.” Sashiko, he discovered, offered many benefits. He loved infusing new life into old items, and wrote: “The fact that it is beautiful and a way to express one’s style is a bonus. An even greater bonus, I discovered, is how economical it is to pursue.” Gift some needles, thread, and Jessica Marquez’s book Make and Mend to get started. (For a more comprehensive guide to the hobby, read Check’s entire piece.)
A beautiful jigsaw puzzle is another wonderful screen-free way to while away the winter hours. Charlotte Arneson wrote: “For the recreational puzzler, 500- to 1,000-piece puzzles are typically challenging enough to be engaging, and doable enough that you don’t want to flip the table in frustration. I’ve had a great time with these, watching their fanciful and imaginative pictures take form.” When gift-giving, consider pairing a puzzle with a puzzle mat. As Arneson noted, “If you’re in the middle of a puzzle but need to quickly clear up some space, a puzzle mat is a huge help.”
For the Person Vowing to Be More Productive Next Year
It was great fun to watch what book on our list of “50 Best Nonfiction Books of the Past 25 Years,” would emerge as the “most bought” when we published it one year ago. Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson blew away the competition. Laura Miller and Dan Kois wrote, “Beautifully written and nearly deranged in its comprehensiveness, Home Comforts holds what seems an entire culture’s collected wisdom on fabric selection, lighting design, clothes folding, waste disposal, dishwashing, food storage, table setting, closet organization, and piano tuning. … Every one of its 884 pages is an absolute joy to read, and no book is more deeply comforting to neat freaks—or inspirational to slobs.”
If your loved one is looking to get more fit in 2021, consider some at-home exercise equipment. You could even put together a trio of our bestselling items, for a neat themed gift. “If you’re looking for a new way to work out right now, you could do worse than trying jump-rope,” wrote Shannon Palus. “It doesn’t require you to go anywhere near other people. … and for people who love it, it’s the right combination of exhausting and joyful.” Read her primer on how to get started here.
Cleo Levin spoke with personal trainer Larysa Didio about home exercise, and wrote that Didio “says that if you’re doing it right, at-home exercise can actually yield a better workout than one at the gym. … If you’re looking for some variety in your workout, and you want options beyond exercises like pushups that rely on your own body weight, Didio suggests resistance bands, which offer ‘a great workout.’ ”
A luxurious pair of socks can round out your gift. Palus wrote about how to take up running for Slate and sang the praises of Balega socks: “You do not need special socks … but thick squishy socks sure are nice. Especially if they are neon yellow or pink. My mom often gives me a pair or two of these Balega socks for Christmas, and I wear them when my feet need some extra motivation for getting out the door.”
For the Reader in Your Life
A new or updated Kindle can bring joy and escape. “Amazon’s new Paperwhite is a significant improvement” from its predecessors, wrote Katie Holbrook. “It’s even waterproof! If your [loved one] is still Kindle-less and stuck on paper books, or sporting an older model (like me), now is a particularly great time to get her on the e-book train or give her an upgrade.”
When Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer appeared on the bestseller list last year, Slate Culture Gabfester Dana Stevens admitted she was surprised: “It’s somewhat crazy to me … that a grammar and style guide is immediately shooting to the top of a bestseller list … but it’s very worthy of it,” she said on the Gabfest. Stevens called the Strunk and White–type style guide “very, very witty and funny” and added that “even if you know most of these rules … it’s going to bring something new to your understanding.” (Check out the complementary game too!)
For Your Pet
Finally, if you’re one of thousands who’ve welcomed a pandemic pet into your home this year, we’ve got the perfect gift: the Fluff and Tuff Beach Ball. “Dogs love plushy toys so much that it can be a problem,” wrote Nick Greene. “While all toys are advertised as durable, this one can tango with a large, overenthusiastic dog and come away unscathed. Few plush toys have lasted more than a few hours with my own pup, but this beach ball is a welcome exception.”