Ah, the workplace Secret Santa exchange. When you are socially obligated to give a gift to someone for whom you would otherwise never in a million years intend to shop. Signing a birthday card “from us” is one thing, but a present that is small, clever, seasonally-appropriate, and under $20? Books. Books are the obvious answer (aren’t they always?). But before you browse, a few tips.
1) Keep it clean. Fifty Shades of Grey? Do you really want to know that Mary in HR knows that you know what a butt drawer is? (Unless you work with nurses; I hear they are known for their dirty senses of humor.) Plus, OSHA.
2) Keep it light. Chuck Palahniuk might be great for your brother-in-law who refurbishes antique torture devices on the side, but the intern can’t handle it. Plus, OSHA.
3) Keep it impersonal. Yes, everyone is reading Fates and Furies, but do you really know the state of your boss’s marriage? Plus, OSHA.
In other words, stick to the benign, the useful, the humorous, and the quirky, and you’ll be fine. May I recommend…
Why Not Me?, by Mindy Kaling
In the follow-up to her bestseller, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, comedienne, screenwriter, and star of The Mindy Project delivers the feel-goods once again with her likable brand of anxiety-laced you-go-girlness, with—it should be noted, because this is the point—increasingly less $h*t-giving. Fans of Kaling will delight in behind-the-scenes tales of her short-lived career as the only funny sister of Dartmouth’s Sigma Delt sorority, as well deets on her self-defined “weird as hell” relationship with ex-boyfriend and fellow funny person B.J. Novak. The other three people in the world will love it for the chapter on sex scenes.
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, by Allie Brosh
If your recipient is not familiar with Brosh’s highly addictive, off-beat, emotionally complex, and always funny webcomic, then you have just given him or her the gift of the year (or technically the gift of 2013, when the book was published, but better late than never—there’s also a 2016 wall calendar). Able to walk the thin line that connects dogs and cake to identity and depression, Brosh’s crudely drawn cartoons are not just about her life, little ‘l’, but big Life, capital ‘L’. The human condition is a lot more bearable with stick legs and frog eyes.
Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
The holidays can be a stressful time. Hence, the appeal of Christmas classics with overgrown elves, scandalous leg lamps, and flying squirrels. In other words, give us something to laugh about so we don’t cry. Sedaris, one of America’s most beloved raconteurs, wraps all that nostalgia, irreverence, and mayhem into one convenient 5″x7″ package of essays and stories, including a hauntingly familiar one about a barnyard Secret Santa swap.
The Kaufmann Mercantile Guide: How to Split Wood, Shuck an Oyster, and Master Other Simple Pleasures, by Sebastian Kaufmann
Whether your giftee is a hardcore DIYer or a relative newb to the world of adult self-sufficiency, this book offers delightfully practical tips for use around the office (how to brew coffee, how to knot and wear a tie), at home (how to care for wood, how to grow a tomato), and beyond (how to ford a stream). If you’re lucky, she’ll use the instructions on how to saber a champagne bottle at the office holiday party.
Hardcover $24.53 | $26.99
Thing Explainer, by Randall Munroe
Using simple diagrams and only 1,000 everyday words, blogger and former NASA roboticist Munroe explains how various complicated things, from the International Space Station to the United States Constitution, effectively work. Fun and actually informative. Perfect for the co-worker who likes to stand in front of your desk trying to remember the word for that doohickey that does that thing to the whatchamacallit (i.e., stapler).
The Secret Garden, by Johanna Basford
Finally, something to do during a conference call besides Instagram! Highly detailed adult coloring books have swept the market this year, bringing back the simple joy of coloring inside the lines. Pair with a pack of colored pencils, and you’ve got yourself the perfect Secret Santa stocking stuffer.
What’s your go-to Secret Santa gift?