How to streamline your holiday shopping by purchasing the same gift for everyone on your list.

How to be the best consumer you can be.
Dec. 19 2009 7:56 AM

One Gift To Bind Them All

Streamline your holiday shopping by purchasing the same present for everyone on your list.

(Continued from Page 1)

Clothing is generally off-limits, of course, but there's potential in the realm of accessories—like a quality umbrella. The endemic lack of a truly rain-blocking, long-lasting umbrella seems a common problem. And if your recipients happen to live in, say, Southern California, they can think of it as an objet d'art. While there is an endless supply of fun umbrellas out there, in this case I'd go for function, since one woman's quirk is another woman's white elephant. Here's a good one. And then, of course, there's the classic stuffer for the cannibalistic stocking: socks. A bit bland, yes, but who doesn't need 'em? And whose day isn't markedly improved by the dull but steady pleasure of wearing a very nice pair? (Personally, I'd shell out for a pedicure just to make my feet worthy of these handsome creatures.) Still, there's a telltale whiff of the generic about all these options.

Books are a rich but difficult category. (I'd argue they still make better gifts than DVDs, even if the latter has replaced the former in our hearts, minds, and shelves.) I generally love giving books, since they allow for an endlessly nuanced expression of your interests, the recipient's interests, and the shared ground therein. But that bespoke potential goes against everything this quest stands for. So what to do? Purchase this year's barnburner by the dozen? Going Rogue might not be a bad idea. Red meat for Sarah Palin's base, and a different sort of red meat for everyone else. We all secretly want to read it. Still, the staying power of Sarah Palin's prose is doubtful, and, besides, at the rate it's selling, everyone on your list will have a copy before you can give it to them.

Advertisement

This brings me, at last, to the perfect universal holiday gift: Good Poems, a collection curated by Garrison Keillor. It's unabashedly middlebrow in the best sense of the word. Keillor isn't for everyone, but these poems are. It's populated by well-known classics and accessible modern stuff, arranged by broad topic—death, love, failure, family, complaint, etc. Maybe if you don't like Anne Sexton on "Courage," you'll turn to Louis MacNeice on "The British Museum Reading Room." For every Howard Nemerov or Thomas Lux, there's a W.B. Yeats or Langston Hughes. Even people who don't seek out poetry, or people with an overdeveloped poetic muscle who swear they only read late-period Ezra Pound, will find something in here to like. If, that is, they have a shred of humanity. And you should tell your ungrateful wretch of a best friend exactly that if she looks a little crestfallen when she unwraps it.

The book hits a crucial target—it's general, but feels personal. Each recipient will be under the impression you thought long and hard about how to warm his soul this cold winter, when, really, you're working with an industrial-grade furnace. (If you really want to go in for the kill, bookmark a couple of poems that seem particularly well-suited to your giftee's taste.) Don't feel bad about it: We might all be unique little snowflakes, but the fake snow that gets spread underneath the Christmas tree isn't. So mark that quantity box with 12 or 20 or whatever it might be, stock up on wrapping paper, and pour yourself a big glass of eggnog. The big-kid kind. Or maybe cut yourself a wedge of brie. You know exactly what you'd like—no guesswork here, no need to worry about anyone else's preferences a moment longer.

Become a fan of Slate on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.