Everyone has that one picky person on their holiday gift list who is nearly impossible to buy for. But no matter what sort of niche hobby, arcane interest, or expensive obsession makes deciding on a present for this person nearly impossible, the solution is often the same. Just get them a book.
There's no interest or enthusiasm so weird that someone hasn't written something interesting on the topic. Plus, giving a book means you're giving not just a physical object but also ideas that can profit (or entertain) your loved one for years to come. (Maybe that's why the likes of Charlie Munger and Bill Gates give away so many books.)
Which books specifically should you give? Farnam Street blogger Shane Parrish recently reached out to entrepreneurs, investors, CEOs, and authors to ask what books they've gifted again and again to give you some ideas. Here are some of the most intriguing.
1. Blogger Tim Urban
You might know Urban for his in-depth blog posts (including an incredible detailed interview with Elon Musk), but those closest to him know him for his wild enthusiasm for books.
"The way I give books away is basically I read a book I get excited about and then get it for like nine people over the next couple weeks and then move onto some other book I'm excited about and start pushing that on everyone," he tells Parrish. "At the moment, I've been giving Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant's Option B to a lot of people. Reading it helped me understand what someone mourning a loss is going through better than I ever had before."
2. Collaborative Fund Partner Morgan Housel
VC Housel's go-to gift book is Frederick Lewis Allen's The Big Change. "It explains technology and social change better than any book I've come across. There are so many small lessons about how America works - culturally and economically - that I've never seen articulated elsewhere," he enthuses.
3. Bellroy CEO Andy Fallshaw
Fallshaw loves giving away a book on an extremely unlikely topic - toilets. It's called The Specialist and "it's about a fictional carpenter called Lem Putt, who builds crappers," Fallshaw explains.
Why gift people a decades-old book about out-of-date sanitation solutions? "These outhouses are the most considered, the most empathetic constructions you can imagine. He'll suggest techniques like locating the outhouse past the wood pile, so when folks are going out to use the bathroom, they can come back with wood in their hands, rather than making it obvious they've just been doing their business," Fallshaw explains. "When you see how much thought and craft can go into building a bogger, you understand how much better we can all be at our chosen craft."
4. Author and entrepreneur Steve Kamb
Kamb's suggestion is particularly useful for thoughtful bosses looking for a gift that will inspire their people to accomplish great things in the coming year.
"I run a small team of about ten remote employees, and we have had to reinvent ourselves completely more than a few times in the decade Nerd Fitness has been in business. For that reason, I've given Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson to everybody on Team Nerd Fitness," he relates. "It's a fast, fun, thought-provoking parable that has helped us pivot faster, embrace change, and seek out challenges rather than shy away from them."
5. Stripe CEO Patrick Collison
The Stripe co-founder's pick is The Dream Machine by Mitchell Waldrop. While Collison doesn't offer Parrish any explanation for his choice, Amazon's description of the title suggests why it might be an inspirational pick for anyone working in tech. This "study of the evolution of the modern computer profiles the work of MIT psychologist J. C. R. Licklider, whose visionary dream of a 'human-computer symbiosis' transformed the course of modern science and led to the development of the personal computer," explains the site.
Check out the complete post for more than 20 other recommendations of highly giftable books.
Is there a book you find yourself giving again and again?