Anyone who knows a book lover is familiar with the “bibliophile’s dilemma” — book lovers should be easy to shop for since they love books, but the dilemma is what do you buy them if they already own all their favorite books? Or you are not sure what recently published books they have read? Sure, you can always purchase a gift card to Amazon or a local bookstore — but that’s like reading the Cliff Notes to a novel rather than actually reading the novel. It’s not the same thing. As an antidote to the dreaded bibliophile’s dilemma, Bookshelf presents great gift ideas for the book lover in your life.
Unique Book-Related Gifts
BAS BLEU: Founded in 1994 in Hudson, Ohio, Bas Bleu (from the French, literally translated blue stocking, means a literary person) not only sells unique books, but hundreds of book-related gifts like: mugs (“literary mugs,” “the greatest first lines of literature,” “Shakespearean insults”), pivoting book lamp, floor lamp, ornaments (stack of books, Jane Austen books), tea and books tea towels, sleep shirts (“book nut,” “my shelves runneth over,” “library card stamp”), soft reader’s wrap (a comfortable, oversized sweater), unique bookends, classic books rug, music for book lovers CD set, and a book-a-month package.
LEVENGER: Based in Delray Beach, Florida, Levenger was founded in 1987 by Steve Leveen and Lori Granger Leveen (the name is a portmanteau derived from their surnames: “Leve” + “nger”). Levenger is well-known for its extensive line of leather cases and bags (for just about every electronic device), fine pens, lap desks, reading pillows (Bedlounger) and reading tools (like book weights, book ends, and book lights). Most people don’t know that Levenger publishes unique literary works, under the Levenger Press brand, that are only sold on its website and stores.
Unique Fine-Quality Books
EASTON PRESS: Based in Norwalk, Connecticut and founded in 1984, Easton Press publishes beautiful collector’s edition leather-bound books. Books are sold individually and certain collections are purchased via subscription, such as signed first editions, the greatest books ever written, books that changed the world, and the works of shakespeare. Their deluxe limited editions are sought-after by bibliophiles for their beauty and enduring value — they generally appreciate steadily in the secondary book marketplace.
FOLIO SOCIETY: Founded in 1947 by Charles Ede, Christopher Sandford, and Aan Bott in London, England, the Folio Society publishes high quality illustrated slip-cased editions of famous literary and non-fiction books. The company publishes up to 100 titles a year. Folio Society editions are known for their beautiful cover designs, illustrated by well-known illustrators like Quentin Blake, Charles Keeping, and Edward Ardizzone. For eight years, beginning in 2006, the Folio Society published the landmark 39-volume Letterpress Shakespeare, employing the finest European designers, typesetters, papermakers, printers, and binders. Each of the hand-crafted large-format books (10 x 13.75 inches) is half-bound in Nigerian goatskin, protected by a buckram-bound solander box. Only 1,000 copies were printed (some volumes had larger runs); once the printing was completed, the metal type was melted down. Although membership of the society is encouraged, membership is not required to purchase individual books or sets.
TASCHEN: Based in Cologne, Germany, Taschen was founded in 1980 by Benedikt Taschen. The publisher began as an art book publisher that focused on art, historical erotica, and comics, but through the decades expanded to film, architecture, religion, advertising, design, fashion, photography, music and painting. Taschen’s books, typically large format, are beautifully designed, printed and bound. Taschen is best known for its definitive books on the art of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Taschen is also well-known for publishing the most expensive books in history: Greatest of All Time (a tribute to Muhammad Ali) and Sumo (a Helmut Newton retrospective), each of which sold originally for $15,000. Taschen has an extensive catalog of many affordable books and unique facsimiles of famous bibles and prayer books (like the Luther Bible of 1534).
LIBRARY OF AMERICA: Founded in New York in 1979, the Library of America (LOA) has published more than 200 volumes by the greatest American writers (e.g., Twain, Melville, Poe, Faulkner, Steinbeck, etc.) to preserve the literary heritage of America. LOA editions are recognized for their scholarship and authoritative text. All the books in the series have matching dust jackets (black with red, white, and blue stripes featuring photo of the author), are printed on premium acid-free paper and feature Smyth-sewn binding (to allow book to lay flat). The books can be purchased individually or by subscription.
BUSTS OF FAMOUS WRITERS
Sculptured tabletop or shelf-size busts of famous writers like Shakespeare or Dickens can be found at websites like Design Toscano and Statue.com.
Alynn, which has been producing unique neckwear since 1979, makes three classic reading ties: an Ex-Libris necktie, a Required Reading necktie, and a Shakespeare Necktie.
Based in Santa Barbara, California, Mighty Bright is the most popular producer of LED lights, especially their line of reading lights, the LED Book Light series: Miniflex, HammerHead, XtraFLex2, TravelFlex, UltraThin, Triple LED, and Pocketflex.
A number of retailers carry a good selection of reading comfortably in bed, including Bed Bath & Beyond, BedLounge, Brookstone, Levenger, and PB Teen. The BedLounge Reading Pillow, designed by a back and neck medical expert, is at the high-end of the cost spectrum, has been designed for full comfort and customization: the head rest extends and rotates, the arms pivot, and the entire seat reclines; the slip cover comes in five colors.
Every book collector needs bookends. Barnes and Noble sells a number of classic and modern bookends: Rodin’s Thinker, Homer and Aristorle, large ampersands, metal hands, stylized animals, and leaning men, to name a few.
Barnes and Noble sells a wide range of attractive literary-themed book totes, as well as floral designs, solids, and simple patterns. Some feature quotations like “My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read” or “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
THE GREAT COURSES
Founded as initially as The Teaching Company in 1990 by Tom Rollins, The Great Courses presents college-level courses taught by the top 1% of college professors around the world. The courses, in DVD, CD, or digital formats, cover a wide range of topics in the fields of literature, fine arts, science, history, religion, philosophy, mathematics, and economics. In short, The Great Courses provides the best college-level courses, taught by the best teachers according to your schedule — without any homework, papers, or tests.
AN EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION TO BOOKSHELF
Introduce book lovers to the blog you are currently reading: Bookshelf — a blog about books for book lovers written by a lifelong bibliophile. As Cousin Eddie, in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, aptly declares: “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”