Why a book gift exchange is the best gift exchange

book stack
CC BY-NC 2.0 LollyKnit

It's that time of year when you gather with family, friends, and co-workers to celebrate the holiday season, to eat, drink and be merry and, often, to exchange gifts. Whether they're assigned in a Secret Santa arrangement or have to stick to a certain monetary value in a white elephant party, it can feel daunting to find a gift that will make everyone happy, especially when you want to make the most sustainable choice. Homemade gifts are always a wonderful option, but I offer another one that I feel is just as great, if not better: books.

The gift that keeps giving. No, really.

My large family often goes the route of not swapping gifts at all, but occasionally we do a white elephant-style swap to add some fun to our get together. A few years ago, a friend told me about a gift exchange she has every year where they each bring a book from the New York Times 100 Notable Books list (usually published in early December). She told me how it was a great way to to find a new book to read that you may have never picked yourself.

I immediately brought this idea back to my family and we gave it a try. Not only did we each end up with books that were interesting and different than what we might have picked, but something wonderful happened after the exchange. Once we were all done with the books we had received, we began swapping them again. Throughout the year, the books were passed on to each other and friends and all of the sudden, buying one book had given us, and those around us, a year of great reading.

It's inexpensive, but valuable.

We've talked before about the importance of making time to read. A book can bring meditation, education or an escape to a faraway place. When you give the gift of a book, not only does it fit a $30 price limit, but it also opens a new world and point of view to the recipient. They'll meet people and go to places that will stay with them forever.

Books tend to be my go-to gift year round, especially for children, but this time of year, when gift giving can get so out of hand, it's a great way to bring it all back down to something as lovely and simple as a book.

The recipient now has a great way spend a few cold winter hours, book and hot cocoa in hand, and when they're done, it can be passed on and read again.

If you're organizing a gift swap with your friends or family, consider making it a book exchange or just show up with a great read yourself and don't forget to shop at your local bookstore. If you need some ideas, here are great titles published this year that should especially appeal to TreeHuggers.

1. "H is for Hawk," by Helen MacDonald
A memoir about the author's raising and training of a goshawk, a famously difficult raptor, as she grieves her father's death. A book that is beautifully written and also gives amazing detail about hawks. You'll never bird watch in the same way again.

2. "The Invention of Nature," by Andrea Wulf
A fascinating history of the scientist Alexander von Humboldt, who Darwin called the “greatest scientific traveler who ever lived," and his exploration in the Americas that included many brushes with death as well as incredible discoveries.

3. "The Weather Experiment: The Pioneers Who Sought to See the Future," by Peter Moore
A telling of the rise of meteorology in the 19th century and how being able to predict the weather in many ways changed the world. It describes the first scientists who began studying the atmosphere and began tracking patterns in measurements and observations that would allow weather predictions and how shipping disasters lead to smart policy changes based in science.

Why a book gift exchange is the best gift exchange
Plus a few book ideas to bring to yours this holiday season.

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