A Somewhat Self-Serving but Useful List of Last-Minute Gift Ideas
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One of my books (surprise!)
The Fabric of Civilization: For the textile lover, of course, but for anyone interested in history, technology, or why our world is the way it is. More than one reader has told me it reminds them of James Burke’s Connections series, and it should appeal to fans of Matt Ridley (who gave it a nice endorsement blurb) and Steven Johnson.
The Power of Glamour: It’s a beautiful artifact, so you can buy it for non-readers who want something for the coffee table. The images serve as a visual soundtrack to a work of intellectual theory, including two chapters limning the history of glamour in its pre-modern and modern forms. This book decodes glamour as a form of communication and visual persuasion. Better for René Girard or Martin Gurri fans than for the typical fashionista.
The Substance of Style: An oldie but a goodie. What’s the value of making things look good? Status isn’t the only reason people care about how things look and feel. The trend that inspired the book is a background phenomenon now, but the analysis still holds—all the more so as we enter an era of AI images on demand. More accessible than The Power of Glamour, this is the book for anyone interested in design, branding, or why they buy cool-looking things they don’t need. Features a famous paragraph on toilet brush holders.
The Future and Its Enemies: The classic is enjoying a resurgence of interest, some of which I discussed in this early Substack post. It puts both the rise of illiberalism and the burgeoning “progress studies” movement in a useful framework—the conflict between ideals of bottom-up dynamism and top-imposed stasis—that crosses traditional political and cultural lines. (Just substitute “Donald Trump” where it says “Pat Buchanan,” keeping in mind that Buchanan was a more serious thinker.) For your loved ones who like arguing on the internet or listening to political podcasts.
An Audible gift subscription: Pick one, three, six, or 12 months at $15 a month. Members get one book a month plus access to a catalog of freebies.
Harry Potter books on Audible, starting with The Sorcerer’s Stone. I just finished listening to the series, which I’d never read. (I have an Audible subscription, but I got them from the public library, which did require a degree of patience.) The narrator Jim Dale, who does all the voices, is amazing and the books deserve their success.
A coffee gift subscription: See this CNET guide for advice.
More ideas from my friend and Works in Progress editor Sam Bowman here, including his “desert island” cookbooks and a microwave rice steamer I bought for myself. A microplane is a must!
You can also find Megan McArdle’s famous (but not updated) Kitchen Gift Guide on her Substack Cookery Monster.
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