The Atlantic

2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Everyone has someone on their holiday shopping list who’s impossible to buy for. For the second year in a row, we asked Atlantic readers to describe their someone, and brainstormed a few perfect gift ideas for them.

Source: eBoy

There should be a word for it—the agony of loving someone, or feeling familially obligated to them, and having no idea what to buy them as the next gift-giving occasion draws near. Liebengeschenkenschmerz? We’ll workshop it.

Even if you’re a winter-holiday fanatic, that anxiety can put a damper on seasonal festivity. So, for the second year in a row, we set out to help, with a different take on the traditional gift guide. Last month, we put out a call to Atlantic readers to describe the person on their shopping list who’s the most difficult to buy for. We picked 15 across the spectra of relationship, age, gender, and location, and a collection of Atlantic staffers buckled down to brainstorm some fitting gift ideas. (Note: The descriptions from readers, in italics below, have been edited lightly for style and clarity.) Maybe one of our suggestions will suit the impossible someone on your list, or otherwise inspire some gift-giving greatness.


The Social-Butterfly Daughters

Age: 11, 15, 18

Location: Monterey, California

Budget: Up to $20

About them: We enjoy sitting with friends around our festive bonfire out back, overlooking the rolling hills of Monterey, enjoying ribs and coleslaw (Mom’s homemade recipe), roasting marshmallows, and sharing stories. The girls love sports (varsity volleyball, hip hop, and ballet) and being social.

Gift(s) they’ve loved: A sparkly, circular, thin makeup case with mirror, which was secretly an iPhone battery. They also liked LED string lights that came with a remote to control dimming and pulsing, and was most importantly USB-powered, for serendipitous, expeditionary illumination of the net, court, and sand during nighttime volleyball at Carmel beach, and for the “Trunk-or-Treat” Halloween celebration at school, where senior girls line up their cars outside the school boarders' dormitories, open up their trunks (outlined with glowing LEDs) from which to dispense candy, play their latest from Spotify, and socialize, socialize, socialize.

Our suggestion(s): To facilitate your daughters’ passion for fraternizing, why not get them a portable speaker they can share? Or, one for each if you don’t mind going over budget? This one’s on sale for $28, has wireless bluetooth capability for optimal use on the beach, and can easily recharge through its micro USB cable. Or, you could look into getting them a Birchbox subscription to split ($10 a month, or $110 for the year). The service sends a monthly box of makeup samples for them to explore new looks. Also, don’t underestimate the appeal to them of getting something nice and small that just came from you, Dad. Something like this sweet clutch ($24), this monogram keychain ($11+) or leather knot keychain ($15), or this druzy necklace ($20). Take a look at those and see if any fit your daughters’ personalities.

The Thespian Boyfriend

Age: 20

Location: Dublin, Ireland

Budget: Up to $100

About them: Hugely interested in and passionate about theatre, but already has a large extensive collection of plays, films, and books. Talented actor and aspiring playwright. Very culturally engaged and musically talented—plays synth and omnichord, loves unusual instruments. Hero is David Bowie. Incredibly charming and fully at home with his eccentricities. Loves engaging with the interesting, curious, and alternative things in life—fascinated by everything but places culture at the centre of his world. Has encyclopaedic knowledge of theatre, film, and music. An incredibly warm and funny person who is grateful for most gifts, but has so much already that he's hard to buy something really special for! Birthday is in December too, so pressure always on to get a good present.

Gift(s) they’ve loved: Anything personalised, anything evidently “from the heart.” Favourite present in recent years was

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