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Over Coffee: Tips for Successful Book Gifting with Guest Blogger Mary Helen Sheriff

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The holidays have swept in unmercifully and pandemonium has ensued as far as gift buying goes. My feeds have been full of people posting about how they are behind in holiday shopping. And I, readers, have been mulling over and over what to get my friends.

Get them a gift card” someone shouts.

Yeah, you can but….I feel like gift cards are a little impersonal.

Thankfully, fellow blogger Mary Helen, has some tips for Successful Book Gifting!

As I write this, I have a confession to make—I haven’t bought a single Christmas gift yet. I’ve made lists, checked them twice, put shopping on my to-do list, but somehow days keep passing with empty shopping carts.  

My writing this post then isn’t without some irony. 

I’m a big fan of a concept I call a “literary care package”, in which you pair a book with two items that are related to the book. If you’re interested in this idea, head on over to my blog for some ideas along these lines (hint: if you sign-up for my free e-guide and newsletter, you’ll get loads more).  

Today’s post though focuses on how to make finding the perfect book for someone else EASY.

  1. Decide whether or not a book is actually a good gift for someone. If you are considering giving everyone on your list the same book, then might have your priorities mixed up with your love of the book taking precedent over the recipient. As much as you might love the book, I promise you that everyone on your list will not feel the same way about it.  Also, don’t buy a book for someone who doesn’t like to read. It can be so tempting to use the gift as an opportunity to convert someone into a reader. 99% of the time this will fail. Then all you’ve done is wasted your money and annoyed the recipient. Don’t do this. Changing people isn’t the point of gift giving.
  1. Assuming that you’ve decided to go ahead with book gifting, consider what you know about the person’s reading habits. Do they prefer e-books, print books, large print books, or audio books? Is there a certain genre they enjoy? A certain author?  Don’t know? Strike up a conversation asking them for a few book recommendations. See if they have a Goodreads account, and if so, check out what books they’ve read and enjoyed. They might even have a “want to read” shelf there. If you have the opportunity, peruse their real-life book shelves. Knowing their favorite shows and movies can be helpful too.
  1. Make a list of your recipient’s interests—cooking, fitness, sports, gaming…
  1. Armed with the knowledge you’ve gleaned from #2 and #3, head over to an actual, IRL bookstore with real people who know and love books. They will point you in the right direction.

That’s it. When you take your knowledge of the recipient and combine it with a book seller’s expertise, MAGIC happens.

A few more suggestions for after the purchase:

  1. Get a gift receipt. There is a chance that your recipient has already read (and loved) this perfect gift.  You’ll want to give them the option of returning it to pick out something else. This isn’t a failure on your part. Instead you’ve shown thoughtfulness. Now they’ll have what amounts to a gift card and an excuse to spend time in a book store (a gift in itself). 
  1. On a blank name tag sticker or mailing label, write a note explaining why you chose that particular book. Also include the date, occasion, and your name. The recipient can then stick it inside the cover if they choose to keep it. Don’t write the inscription directly on the book unless you are certain they aren’t going to return it.
  1. If you need to mail the book, consider Media Mail at the post office. It’s much less expensive, but it can take up to eight days.

With a little spying and a quick trip to the bookstore, you’ve got yourself the perfect gift. Happy shopping!

Please share your shopping successes in the comments below.

Mary Helen Sheriff spent fourteen years in classrooms teaching elementary school, middle school, college, and professionals. During that time, she also had the pleasure of dabbling in writing for children, teenagers, and adults in a variety of forms including fiction, poetry, blogs, and nonfiction. Currently, she lives and writes in Richmond, Virginia with her two kids, two cats, and husband.  Her women’s fiction debut novel Boop and Eve’s Road Trip will launch on October 6, 2020. For more information, check out her website

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  1. Ah that’s such nice tips !! The book care package is also a neat idea, Unfortunately.,. I’m the only reader among my friends :/ Only my mother (who pick into my own shelves) and my godmothers are fellow readers in my circle.

    1. Girl, I can understand that. None of my friends read….that’s why I’m so grateful to be part of the book community because I can obsess over books with you guys!

      Thanks for reading <3

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