Last week, I bought myself a writerly present, which reminded me that the holidays are coming up fast and furious.
Therefore, I thought I’d list several great gift ideas for writers. I’ve chosen items that range in price from cheap to moderate (I’m not going to recommend a $30 candle or a $94 “vegetarian leather” journal – even though it comes with free shipping); and from super-writerly to auxiliary writerly.
I know you’ll find something that you can either purchase for yourself or give a subtle hint about (“Look what I found on Amazon; I’d love to have this!”)
Now to the gifts. I’ve tried to choose products that have the “Amazon’s Choice” banner, which indicates items highly recommended for quality. (Please note that I might receive a small fee from Amazon if you buy them with the link I’ve provided – at absolutely no extra cost to you.)
I’m featuring only Moleskine products in this category, as it’s hands down the best product on the market for writers and other creatives. There’s nothing like the feel of a brand new, empty Moleskine notebook or diary that you can fill with story ideas, random thoughts, sketches, and your daily schedule. Make sure you buy yourself a special pen to go with these.
Notebooks and journals
Moleskine Classic Notebook, large
Moleskine Classic Notebook, pocket
Moleskine Cahier Journal, large (Set of 3)
Moleskine Cahier Journal, pocket (set of 3)
For all 4 of these products, you can choose paper (dotted, plain, ruled, or square) and color (too numerous to name). They start at around $7.00 for the pocket and around $10.00 for the large, but each type of paper and each color are priced differently.
Moleskine diaries are my favorite. One side of the page is the calendar, and they’ve kept the facing page blank for jotting daily or weekly schedules, notes, ideas, etc. In 2016, I bought the large; for 2020, I’ve chosen the pocket. As with the notebooks and journals, prices depend on format and color.
Moleskine Classic 12-Month 2020 Planner, hard cover
Moleskine Classic 12-Month 2020 Planner, soft cover
With each link, you can tailor your choice to large or pocket size, daily or weekly format, and color.
If you’ve read my posts for any amount of time, you’ll know that I love my Kindle. It’s great for travel (bus, train, plane, etc.), and many times you can find digital books cheaper than the print edition. Here are some options.
Kindle: $64.99–104.99, with 25% discount for trade-in.
Kindle for Kids: For the budding reader or writer in your life. Comes in a variety of cute designs. $84.99.
Kindle Unlimited: This is a subscription service. You get access to over 1 million books. $10.00 per month; first month free. Deal for December 2019: $.99 for 3 months instead of first month free.
Books for writers
Although buying books for writers seems a bit obvious, we often neglect to give ourselves the tools that will make us better at our craft. I’ve divided the myriad options into books on writing and reference books.
Books on writing
The following 3 books are the ones I recommend most emphatically. All three deliver first-rate writing advice, are an interesting and fascinating read, and combine both humor and pathos. They are truly unforgettable.
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamont
On Writing, by Stephen King
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Nonfiction, by William Zinsser
Recommended by others
The following books are either known to be superb or had great reviews.
Writing about Your Life: A Journey into the Past, by William Zinsser
Another classic from Zinsser. He teaches you how to write a memoir by writing his own and annotating it with technical advice and tips on how to write yours. I’ve read parts of it and I love it.
Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein
For many, Sol Stein is the last word on editing. Of course, I’m partial to an editor rather than an author writing a book on writing, because 1) he’s seen it all and therefore knows what works, and 2) he’s more objective. The book got mostly 5-star reviews, but one very insightful 1-star review claimed that Stein gives warmed-over, hackneyed advice to writers, which contributes to a basic sameness in much of fiction today. This makes me want to read the book even more, to see if I agree with the reviewer.
The Writing of Fiction, by Edith Wharton
Short and succinct, Pulitzer Prize-winning Wharton’s advice is timeless.
Aspects of the Novel, by E. M. Forster
This book was originally a series of lectures Forster (of Passage to India fame) gave in 1927 at Trinity College, Cambridge. Comprises intelligent British wit. He cites numerous examples of classic literature to back up and reinforce his points. Some reviewers felt the language was outdated, but that doesn’t bother me. I like Forster’s writing, although I did not enjoy reading him in high school.
Dictionaries and Style Guides
I don’t care how attached you are to the Merriam-Webster online edition; every writer must have a physical dictionary at hand.
For all you lovers of British English, this is the one to get.
The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
I’ve been hounding my readers and clients to buy this for years. Total classic; the first word in writing well. Required reading for anyone who owns a computer or a pad and pen.
Another mandatory reference book. It costs $43, but a yearly subscription to The Chicago Manual of Style Online is $39 (you get a 30-day free trial), so the book is the better deal in the long run. The 17th edition will take you well into the next decade. I personally love using the physical edition. I’ve marked with Post-Its the most common questions I have and the chapters I refer to the most.
Garner’s Modern English Usage, 4th edition, by Bryan A. Garner
As the Amazon blurb says, “Garner explains the nuances of grammar and vocabulary with thoroughness, finesse, and wit. He discourages whatever is slovenly, pretentious, or pedantic.”
Garner is so well-respected in the field that he has his own, 80-page chapter in the most recent edition of The Chicago Manual of Style (see above for link to Chicago).
Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, by H. W. Fowler and R. W. Burchfield
Many of you are familiar with the esteem in which I hold my buddy Fowler. As the book jacket says, it is a “compilation of learning, wit, humour and good taste.” In other words, it’s a hoot. He’s got information in there that I have never found elsewhere, and I refer to him on a regular basis.
Pro tip: Get the print version. The Kindle version got terrible reviews. Readers said that it was unreadable, the file was corrupted, there were OCR errors, etc.
The following are great companion pieces for a writer (or reader).
Scrivener is a well-known software package that helps you not only write your books and articles, but keep everything organized. It’s got a lot of amazing features. It has a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t know how you lived (and wrote) without it. For those who self-publish, you can go from manuscript to ebook almost with a push of a button.
Scrivener costs between $45 and $49, depending on your operating system, and they offer educational licenses at a 15-percent discount. You can also try it free for 30 days.
I can attest that a reading pillow is a great aid to comfortable and enjoyable reading.
A nice tushy pillow for $16. Recommended for sciatica and back pain relief.
This product seems to do everything except do the dishes, and it’s less than $23. I want one, too.
What more can a writer want than to relax after a hard day at the computer with a favorite book, a reading pillow, and a plate of yummy treats?
Bulletproof Coffee: This really is a thing. I haven’t tasted it, but how could I leave it out, considering the name?
Last but not least…
Here are 2 more options for your gift-receiving pleasure.
Cop out with this perennial favorite. A great way to enable your spouse’s laziness (“But I didn’t know what to buy you!” “I ran out of time!”)
I offer author mentoring (as well as full editing and proofreading services). There are 3 packages to choose from, and I’m always willing to design a custom program for you. Check out all the options here.
There you have it – the 2020 Writers’ Gift-Giving Guide. I hope you will find things to buy for yourself or for others – but I most sincerely hope you will be able to send this list to your loved ones and finally get what you really want for Xmas, Hanukkah, your birthday, or any other special day.
Happy giving and receiving!