The worst thing about shopping for gifts is not the sense of obligation one feels, the idea of buying things for people as a ward against guilt trips; it’s not the cost, the knowledge that our holiday traditions have been packaged, marketed, and sold to us; it’s not the inconvenience, the rushing around in sub-zero weather, lugging shopping bags and tubes of wrapping paper all over the place. The worst thing about shopping for gifts is coming to the realization that the only thing you’re sure of when it comes to figuring out the things your parents and other loved ones might like for Christmas is that it’s almost certainly not what you yourself would like.

I mean, when I’m trawling the shelves at Magers and Quinn and see an old copy of Fowler’s Modern English Usage sitting on the shelf, I think to myself, “who wouldn’t want that for Christmas?!” And then I answer, without much difficulty: “Everyone but me.” And then I go back to racking my brains for ideas of things that normal humans might enjoy receiving. After I’ve bought the Fowler for myself, of course. It turns out the person I’m best at buying gifts for is me.