Daily Nous Holiday Gift Guide 2019

Grading done? If so, you can now turn your full attention to the other major task for this time of year: holiday gift shopping. If not, then you can take a break and engage in productive procrastination through, you guessed it: holiday gift shopping. 

This gift guide is oriented towards philosophers and other academics, and while we are different from other people in a few some perhaps many respects, there may nonetheless be stuff on here that normal people might want, too. But if you want something mentioned below, I recommend keeping this page up on your computer, waiting until a family member or friend is nearby, loudly declaring, “Oh! Would you look at that! Daily Nous published a gift guide! Lots of good ideas here!” and then walking away from your computer, leaving it on and open. Good luck.

Okay, so what do you get people who sit in front of screens and books all day for a living? The gift of making it easier for them to get away from all that! Consider giving them a membership to your local independent arthouse cinema or movie theater gift cards. They eat, right? So how about a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in their area, or to a special dinner or tasting event? Are they in need of a new set of wheels for a recreational ride? A gym membership might be a good idea, too, if it is something they’ve expressed an interest in. If they like to travel, an AirBnB for a weekend in a city they want to visit (or a gift card for that) could be nice. Liberate them from their housework with the gift of a professional home cleaning (though be careful to moderate the message that might send). Surely the best gift in this category, for those with small kids, will be babysitting, which you could offer to do yourself, or you could actually get a gift card for that, too.

Of course one needn’t go out to take a break from work. There are always games, including philosophy-related ones: I found a deck of Ancient Greek Philosophy playing cardsThe Thinker Game: Great Minds & Big Ideas, and even a board game inspired by Hobbes. I can’t speak to the playability of those latter two, but I can say that Codenames is a lot of fun. Any home should have a chess set—here’s a folding one that can fit like book on a bookshelf. Do you know someone who likes Scrabble but who is also particular about fonts? Get them the Scrabble Typography Edition. Do you know someone who likes Scrabble but wants to combine it with gymnastics? Then perhaps Twister Scrabble is for them. To be honest I am still trying to figure out who they made that game for.

Academics travel a lot and there are various good travel-related gifts to get people. Some of them may even be mentioned in this paragraph. For example, here’s an innovative neck “pillow” for naps on flights. If someone find themselves at a bar or restaurant without somewhere nearby to hang their bag or jacket, this little hook can come in handy. A portable charger is a useful gift. There are lots of options out there but this one seems to be a good combination of high capacity and slim size. Traveling abroad? Here’s an adaptor for all of the unusual sockets one might encounter, plus it has built in USB ports. Of course, having a decent rolling suitcase that can be carried onto flights is crucial. Here’s a reasonably-priced one from a brand I like. Another thing that frequent fliers might find valuable: a “gift certificate” for TSA Pre-Check. If one’s travel is more modest, say, from the desk to the sofa, then a lap desk could be the perfect gift. (This was a surprisingly popular recommendation a couple of years ago.)

I’m refraining from recommending a lot of high-tech gifts because, apart from saying things like “amazing deal on a big television!” I don’t feel all that qualified. (Note: amazing deal on a big television!) That said, I have found that having a USB C to HDMI adaptor among my stash of wires and the like is quite useful, as is a presentation remote & laser pointer. I have a small bag in my bag to keep all of my wires, thumbdrives, adaptors, plugs, etc.; again there are lots of possibilities but here’s one option. You could also check out the smaller bags handmade by my friend Sally Peek. If you know someone who loses stuff, this will come in handy (and this will come in handy for littler losable things). For handling phones and tablets in the winter, here are a pair of touchscreen-friendly gloves.

I don’t think I’m unusual for an academic in that I like to walk and read. I also don’t think I’m unusual in that I like not walking into things. Like trees. Or traffic. So how to combine the pleasures of reading and movement? I haven’t tried this (yet), but perhaps it would be better to have a wobble balance board in the office. Read and wobble! And when you put your book down and want to keep it open at that spot, how about a weighted book mark? If one doesn’t control the thermostat in their own office, something I’ve suggested in the past as a gift is a space heater, but reportedly this bracelet works pretty well as a personal warming and cooling device. (If you’ve tried it let us know in the comments.) Also good to have at the office (or in the car): an umbrella. And a travel mug.

I also recommend for the office (or home) art in various forms by philosophers—in this case the philosophers who create the Daily Nous Philosophy Comics. (Other philosophers who have art or craft to sell are welcome to post links in the comments.)

Do your giftees cook? Last year’s guide had more food-related stuff. While I have recommended cook books in the past I know many of us find recipes online and read them off screens. In that case, this phone and tablet holder whose stem can be wrapped around anything (such as a cabinet handle) might come in handy, putting recipes at eye level and saving valuable counter space. I’ll put in a word for some of the best hot chocolate you can buy. If you wanted to go all in with a chocolate-themed gift set I think it should include this, among other things, such as an Amedei bar. What else? A good tool have around the kitchen is a wine opener; here is a well-made version of the kind I find myself using the most. Okay, I’m leaving the kitchen now.

It wouldn’t be a Daily Nous gift guide, it seems, if I didn’t include a good pencil (these are nice but not too expensive), a good sharpener (recommended before, but it really is the best of its kind), and my favorite everyday pen (I get the orange ones).

We started by talking about getting people away from the screens and books but who are we kidding? I will leave aside screen recommendations but will suggest that a gift certificate to a local bookstore might at least get its recipient away from their desk for a while, even if it is only for the purposes of returning to it soon with something new to read.

While you’re spending money, check out the 2019 Top Charities by GiveWell and don’t forget about the Academic Charity Fundraising Contest.

Happy Holidays, Philosofriends!

(Some of the links in this post are affiliate links; purchases made through them support Daily Nous. Thanks!)

Related: “Philosophically Interesting Books for Young Kids“; “Daily Nous Holiday Gift Guide 2018“; “Made by Philosophers for Philosophers — and Anyone Else Interested In Philosophy

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4 years ago

I was excited about the ancient Greek playing cards… until I saw that “Man is the measure of all things” is credited to Plato on the king of hearts.

Reply to  Bert
4 years ago

Well, to be fair, it is quoted in the Theaetetus and Cratylus

4 years ago

This pencil sharpener, also made by KUM (sic), is even better:


But the best (the absolute best) produces a slightly concave, elongated tip: