Gift Guidance

We can't do the shopping for you, but here's your list


Whether you like it or not, the holidays are here, and that means you’ve got to buy stuff. It’s the American way. You could be cynical and put it off until the last minute and buy things that will get tossed in the garbage or regifted, or you can do the adult thing, put some thought into it and buy some good stuff that your friends and family will actually like. There is a third option: check out our gift guide to make shopping easy and thoughtful. Need even more gift inspiration? Check out our local gifts guide next week. You’re welcome.—Stett Holbrook


‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,’ Thom Yorke

Radiohead’s frontman throws down a sophomore solo album that continues to toe the proverbial line between genius and insanity that he’s known for, delivering a layered and trippy yet approachable effort. There’s some hype around Yorke’s method of album release; his experiment in skipping the middleman of the record industry and making the whole bundle available online through BitTorrent at the affordable price of $6 has made it an accessible gift for the music lover in your life. For those who prefer to give a physical copy, a luxurious 180 gram white vinyl deluxe edition is also available for sale online for $50.

‘I Forget Where We Were,’ Ben Howard

Howard shows growth on his second album, a worthy follow-up to his wildly popular folksy first studio album Every Kingdom, complete with soulful ballads. Don’t expect a complete reincarnation, however; instead, look forward to a darker sound, with more electric guitar on longer songs, behind Howard’s familiar vocals. This, or a package of Howard’s two albums, is great gift for $10–$20.

‘Trampin’ On,’
Steep Ravine

An independent bluegrass gem from the Bay Area, Steep Ravine have been enjoying steady success as a fresh addition to the scene, embarking on national tours and playing the festival circuit. Recent graduates from UC Santa Cruz, their technically proficient music displays a mastery of the genre beyond their years and is, above all, an ultimate feel-good album, even for those who don’t necessarily consider themselves fans of the genre. Listen to their lyrics and compositions and immediately become a fan. Download for $10; CD for $15.

Father John Misty

J. Tillman, aka Father John Misty, is releasing a highly anticipated second album in the vein of his first. Anticipate more satire, more good-hearted disdain of his generation and more lyrical artistry. The album comes out
Feb. 10, but the promise of this album as a gift will be well worth it to listeners of all ages, and preorders are available now from $12 to $40. And perhaps even more of a treat than the album itself is seeing the charismatic showman Father John do his thing onstage. Tickets for his Sonoma show at the Vets Hall Ballroom on Jan. 17 are $25, and that’s more than worth it.


de Young / Legion of Honor Gift Membership

Give the gift of fine art appreciation with one-year membership good for two museums in San Francisco. The most basic level includes free access to special exhibitions, discounts at the museum store, and invitations to special member-only events—and, of course, unlimited admission with an accompanying guest to the permanent collections and most special exhibitions. (Maybe your giftee will take you as a thank-you!) Exhibiting his holiday season: “Keith Haring: The Political Line,” “Anthony Friedkin: The Gay Essay” and “Lines on the Horizon: Native American Art from Weisel Family Collection.” $99.

‘Yosemite in the Sixties’ by Glen Denny

Not your average coffee-table book. This time capsule of climbers in the ’60s reads like a love letter to the time, mentality and thrills of Denny’s youth. It doubles as the perfect gift to a climber or outdoorsy person, but also to the photography lover who can’t receive one more Diane Arbus print from a well-meaning friend. A throwback to the photos of Ansel Adams, but with a nostalgic personal touch, Yosemite in the Sixties is an aesthetically pleasing photo story about the golden years of climbing. $44 on Amazon.

Andy Goldsworthy’s ‘Rivers and Tides’

A documentary about artist Andy Goldsworthy, Rivers and Tides is a serene portrait of a man whose art is less about studio art and more about the impermanent nature of natural art. The film shows Goldworthy’s process of creating art pieces out of ice, leaves, rock and clay in their environment, and the process of their natural disintegration, with a focus on water. If you know an art lover who hasn’t seen this film, they need to, and it will be a gift in itself to watch this film together. Available on for purchase, or for free to view various places online.

Cranky Pressman Instant Business Card Stamp

A whimsical and simple way to promote your business, these self-inking, train-inspector-style stamps are only three-fourths of an inch in diameter, but they make a bold statement. That statement can be your name, number, website or logo—in fact, it can be anything you want, since you submit the design, then get the made-to-order stamp mailed back to you, all for $25. The stamp has an exterior metal casing and a key ring so you can take it everywhere and never have to pat all your pockets awkwardly before realizing you’ve run out of cards. It’s a perfect gift for those who travel light and enjoy a clean, simple design for their business’s image.



Tovolo Sphere
Ice Mold

A beautifully deigned ice mold that keeps your drink cold without watering it down, this gift will excite drink lovers of all kinds. It’s easy to use, compact and reasonably priced at $10.95 for a set of two. It can replace whiskey stones, and for those willing to experiment, the Tovolo mold can be filled with a cocktail meant to be served ice cold, such as a Negroni, and once half-frozen can be cracked for an artful flow of cold beverage, iced and ready to go.

Misto Box

Rejoice, you’ve found the perfect gift for coffee aficionados! This subscription includes four different bags of whole bean coffee delivered to your giftee’s home each month. Misto Box’s curated selections are chosen carefully from across the country and sent without shipping charges. Also included are discounts on full bags of the coffee you like, tips and advice from expert brewers, and information about each variety of coffee you receive. Gift a subscription for four 1.7 ounce bags or four 3.4 ounce bags for $19 or $30 per month.


A unique gift for a lover of fine beverages, shrubs are a little-known elixir that have been around for centuries. These sweetened vinegar-based syrups can be infused with fruit and herbs, and added to soda water or cocktails, and can be used as an alternative to bitters. Available for purchase online from a range of vendors, or more easily (and cheaply) made at home, a variety of flavors can be a thoughtful gift and a great addition to any bar cart. Find a recipe online and get started!

Bodum Travel Press

A nifty gadget for those who enjoy a warm beverage on a cold winter’s morning, this travel thermos doubles as a French press. Easy to use and compatible with both coffee and loose-leaf tea, its stainless steel, double-wall design replaces the traditional three-cup French press and features a silicone and mesh filter. A functional and appreciated gift for anyone from a favorite teacher to the mailman. From $30 on


‘Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition’

The great thing about Twin Peaks is that the whole thing is great, and now the original remastered David Lynch saga is available to purchase with all the extras, like deleted scenes, an exclusive feature-length documentary, the European pilot and a lot more. If you already know a fan, this is what they want. If you know a film buff who somehow hasn’t seen the cult TV classic, it’s the perfect occasion for them to enter the mystery. And it’s all in time for the new 2016 reboot that is set to take place 25 years after the original series ends. $55.

‘Party Down’

If you know someone who enjoys television shows like Parks and Recreation and The Office, it’s a safe bet that seasons one and two of Party Down will be right up their alley. This prematurely canceled comedy features a rag-tag catering crew trying to make some cash while hoping to be discovered in Los Angeles. The cast features comedic big-hitters like Adam Scott, Ken Marino, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Lynch and Kristen Bell. Seasons available at for $8.99 each.

‘Friday Night Dinner’

For lovers of that certain British brand of comedy, try Friday Night Dinner. Similar to the immensely popular British TV hit Inbetweeners (and also starring Simon Bird), this show is pure comedy, with gags, one-liners and tons of situational humor. Each episode takes place at one kooky family’s weekly Friday night dinner, and can be the perfect gift for a family to watch together. (Because the show is British, make sure to order the correct regional DVD to match U.S. formatting.) starting at $10

Criterion Collection New Releases

A surefire gift for a film fiend is anything from Criterion Collection. With new releases all the time, Criterion restores films, includes commentary, and often creates new beautiful artwork for the packaging, among other goodies. Just search for their favorite classic! Recent picks
from their new releases
include Pedro Almódovar’s
Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down (1990), a dark comedy about Stockholm syndrome starring Antonio Banderas. This BluRay/DVD dual version includes tons of extras and a bonus booklet about the film. In Spanish with subtitles, $32. Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mamá También received quite a lot of buzz for it’s portrayal of young sexuality, but more importantly it is critically acclaimed for its beauty, humor and emotional texture. This version of the film features deleted scenes, interviews with the director as well as Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, who became stars after the film premiered. In Spanish with subtitles, $24.


‘Yes Please’ by Amy Poehler

Comedian turned hero-to-women has finally written a book! Released just in time for the holidays, it’s sure to be a funny, heartfelt sneak peek into the life of this comedic powerhouse from her experiences with Upright Citizens Brigade to Saturday Night Live to Parks and Rec. (Dey Street Books; $28.99)

McSweeney’s Subscription

McSweeney’s has long been lauded as a cutting-edge literary force, publishing the best short stories, novels, humor, poetry and more. Founded by Dave Eggers, the publishers are still going strong in the print game, offering popular subscriptions to their lit journal McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (four issues for $60) and highbrow magazine The Believer (six issues for $45). For any lit lover, a subscription to either would make a great gift that comes year round.



‘180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless’

A documentary about outdoorsman Jeff Johnson, who retraces the 1968 journey of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia, with a few hiccups along the way. The film is an exciting and captivating story of surfing, climbing and sailing, and is a great film for those who enjoy the outdoors and adventuring either up-close or from afar. With great photography and interviews, it also touches on the importance of environmental activism. $30. or

Poler Napsack

A “sleeping bag-puffer jacket” hybrid, the Poler Napsack is seriously one-of-a-kind. The Oregon-based camp gear brand Poler has combined its love of outdoors with its hip style sense and created a bag with a drawstring at the foot to be pulled up around the waist while walking around camp, or even the house in winter. Zippers open and close arm holes, a cozy hood can cinch closed, and a variety of colors and sizes complete the package (which fits neatly into a stuff sack). Rated to 40 degrees, these “napsacks” are better for casual summer camping than anything extreme, and work in a pinch for an après-surf or snow warm-up, or for those times when Snuggies are just too embarrassing. $130.

JetBoil Coffee Press

So imagine you’re backpacking and you wake up to a fresh cup of pressed coffee each morning. Sounds like a dream, right? JetBoil has created a super lightweight, easy to use French Press accessory tool to work in conjunction with its already well-known cooking systems. For $15 on JetBoil’s website, this would be a great gift for someone who already has the base system, or could be an add-on to the JetBoil itself for an avid camper.


Lomo Sardina Camera

Lomography is known for it’s quirky retro cameras, and La Sardina is great for the analogue-photo-inclined individual. With uber-basic controls, this 35mm film camera is known for wide-angle shots and crazy double exposures. For extra fun, try some expired film and get unexpected and singular effects, but be warned: La Sardina is great for experimenting but don’t count on getting a perfect print from every shot. $59–$109.

Betabrand Cornucopia

If you were ever going to spend nearly $80 on a backpack, this should be the one. Betabrand introduces its Cornucopia bag with a sense of humor, saying “42-liter capacity, designed specifically to hold the answer to life, the universe, and everything.” The bag is made up of shelved compartments that can be opened and closed as the user sees fit, a laptop sleeve, reflective edging and a light loop attachment for biking, plus it boasts a reinforced bottom and water-resistance. Did I mention it’s 100 percent machine-washable? For the biker/walker/commuter/human in your life that could use a pack, this one will be yielding fervent thank-yous for years.

Flicker Phone Case

For those with an iPhone, it is probably attached to their hip. For increased organization, Flicker has created a protective phone case with a few unique features: it doubles as a phone stand and a card case for a driver’s license or credit card. Winner of the Red Dot design award, this case is made from trustworthy materials, and it looks great in black or white finishes. The bad news, it is only available for the 4 and 4s. $15.

Monkeys Always Look Rings

These customizable sterling silver or copper band rings can be stamped with a name, date, latitude and longitude of an important location, or anything else you can think of. They can be given as one ring or a stack of three and can also have a secret message stamped on the inside, and are very affordable at $28–$38. The website also has a selection of 14k gold rings for higher price points. Make sure to get a jump on ordering so it makes it to you by the holidays!

Code Necklace

These customizable Morse code necklaces use beads to create a secret message, whether that be a name or a phrase. Personalized and heartfelt, this can be a great gift for close friends, a spouse or family member. Customers choose from different materials such as silk and gold fill. Bracelets are also available.


Stance Socks

It is a truth universally acknowledged that at some point in life you will be given socks for the holidays. Don’t you wish they were comfortable, extremely cool socks? Stance offers a variety of socks for men, women and kids in a plethora of heights, weights and awesome designs, all with arch-support technology. Whether they’re a stocking stuffer, one of those eight Hanukkah gifts or even a gift to yourself, these socks will be appreciated. $10–$25.



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