It’s that time of year when we may find ourselves diligently looking for the best book accessory gifts for our friend who reads Proust, because, let’s face it, we pronounce it “Prowst” in our heads and not out loud at all, and therefore feel that giving an actual book will only lead to a quick and damning act of judgment on our "friend's" part. That’s where we come in, your literary gift heroes ready and willing to save you from bookish humiliation.
Hold on a second. Bookish? Bookish? Where did this word come from and why are we, purported word lovers, using it? I can’t help feeling it sounds like one of the words my five year old unwittingly clings to thinking it’s a real one. Cute for him, not for me.
In any case, whether you’re looking for bookish accessory gifts or would like to impress the sophisticates in your life who read "Proost", we believe we can offer some of the finest book accessory gifts for you this holiday season.
Book Accessories as Gifts, or Just Book Gifts?
I was convinced as a teenager this couldn’t happen. Somewhere between then and now I saw it coming out of the corner of my eye. Now when I look in the mirror it’s staring back at me. I’m no longer me. I’ve become my father. In lots of ways, actually, but particularly when it comes to being someone who’s hard to buy gifts for.
In my case it takes form because I’ve become very discerning in the things I find enjoyable in life. Put another way, I’m a bit of a snob. Not in a bad way, mind you, it’s just that I like particular things and things I don’t like I don’t particularly want in my life. I’m increasingly fatigued with the material clutter I’ve gathered around myself, and I increasingly pay attention to those material things I have that routinely add to the joy of my life rather than the disarray of it.
This is central to the memo (i.e. Christmas list) I send out to loved ones each year to ensure they understand what a gift from their heart should look like. As an avid reader, the most probable answer one might expect (or desperately hope for) would be a book list, but that isn’t the case for me. I tend not to know what I’d like to read next, and if I do it’s generally because it’s already on the shelf. So for me, in any case, books aren’t the best gift idea, even though they may be the most logical.
Perhaps you have someone in your life as snobbish as I am and you don’t want to inadvertently get them a Dickens when they really wanted a Dickenson. If so, maybe you best not traverse the landmine that is someone else’s literary interests and rather pursue book accessories as gifts this year. As a discerning reader who also happens to make reading accessories, let me introduce you to a few of my favorites.
The Bookfellow - The Hands-Free Reading Accessory
A few years back I had the joy of pillaging a former print shop just before it was going to be burned down. Yes, burned down. Here in small town South Dakota we occasionally use old buildings as opportunities for fire department training. I digress.
Other than an old IBM Selectric typewriter my treasured find was a lead print slug that I wrapped in brown paper and used for a book weight. Having my book hands free was and is important because I’m a “reater.” That, my friend, is a new word I just coined to describe the myriads of us that, like C.S. Lewis, by the way, enjoy reading while eating. In his words, “Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably.” In my words, “reating”. I'd like to think we're on the same intellectual plane...for this notion at least.
In an effort to maintain some level of civilization while I pursue this pastime I use my hands which in turn use silverware to traffic food from my plate to my mouth. This being the case, I needed a page holder, and the lead weight worked pretty well. Pretty well but not great. It not only was slippery but its shape made it tippy. When it tipped it slid, so it was a real and very literal balancing act. It seemed a couple of changes would vastly improve it–a curvature to span the natural shape of the opened pages and a bit of anti-skid material to keep it in place on those stubborn paperbacks that have a mind of their own. It also made sense to ditch the poisonous metal and brown paper wrapping in an effort to class things up a bit.
The Bookfellow you see is the completion of that effort, with a notable addition.
The weight rests in a block of wood that was actually a bit of a happy accident. I like to have my books elevated a bit to obtain a more natural reading angle (I blame it on aging eyes), and I had made a series of simple book stands in the past to use for this purpose. Considering the combination of the two, I very, very slowly came to the realization that with a book weight sized channel cut into a nice piece of walnut might just make for a nice little companion set. And that’s how the Bookfellow was born–the natural bedfellow of a book weight and a book rest.
P.S. l might mention that to make these book accessory gifts even better we personalize these with hand engraved monograms (see: Bookmarks section below for more on that).
The Nomadic Book Weight
Of all the products that I make, I use none more than my book weights. I very literally use them day and night, as I generally use them as I breakfast in the morning and as I breakfast in the evening to cap off my day–meaning a tasty bowl of cereal and a good book (there are few other routines I look more forward to than this).
Because of my dependance on a book weight I tend to travel with one, along with books (obviously) and if room remains in my bag, clothes. A few months back I was packing my bags in anticipation of doing just that and realized that I didn’t want to just toss my Bookfellow in where it would be at the mercy of the airport baggage handlers. “Hmm”, I thought to myself. “A book weight a bit friendlier to pack would be a novel idea…novel idea…book weight…” If the juvenile chaos around me wasn't proof enough that I was a dad I now had inner punalogues…I seriously can’t stop this, but in all liklihood wouldn't bother to if I could.
Ahem…as I was saying, the packable book weight really did seem like a neat idea, so I began my process of sketching a bit and building a bit. While the book weight you see is a very straightforward design, I worked very hard to complicate things before I came up with the current iteration. In the end I got to play with a new material that I hadn’t yet incorporated into any products–leather. And good leather to be precise. Leather from the Horween tannery in Chicago to be even more precise. Leather with fantastic pull up (the effect where the leather changes color when bent) was the cherry on top–although not all of the leathers exhibit this characteristic (my personal favorites do). Combine this with solid brass and solid copper weights and hardware and it’s a book weight that should last multiple generations. And for me, there are few personal possessions that I would rather pass down than those connected with my reading life.
And, the Bookmarks – A Book Accessory Gift Every Reader Needs
What do you do with a hundred year old stencil punching machine you buy at a flea market on a whim? This is the question I asked myself everytime I walked past the machine that when in action was a whirl of zings, clicks, clacks, kerchunks, and zwiiiiips! As it turned out, it worked great for stencils, but as it also turned out I had little to no need for stencils. What I did need was bookmarks, and bookmarks that I could have a little fun personalizing at the same time.
I’ve used receipts, napkins, Post-It Notes, torn pieces of paper, and all the rest for years to mark my page. I’d like to think I’ve turned a corner and become a bit of a sophisticate when it comes to choosing my bookmarks. Sure that sounds a bit high brow, but I’m not above it. I like nice tools, and bookmarks are no exception. My choice to read is not an afterthought, and in the same way that I enjoy a nice pen to write with, I enjoy a nice bookmark to track my reading.
While our Stencil Punched Bookmarks make fantastic book accessory gifts for readers (and work exceptionally well as stocking stuffers) our flame kissed brass and copper Ribbon Marks are the cream of the crop in the bookmark world. These were a natural progression from my love of working brass and copper appointments into our product line, and they also utilize an old machine with noises of its own to provide custom monogramming. Of the two bookmark machines, one makes enough noise that when it was located in my home office I didn’t dare to use it when little ones were asleep. This is not that, and really only makes a barely audible scratching sound. Even so, the monogram typography is beautiful, it is set and run completely by hand, and makes for one stunning custom bookmark.
Found the Right Book Accessory Gift Yet?
So there you have it, three great New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Earth Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and anniversary book accessory gift ideas for the insatiable readers in your life. They’d even be suitable for Christmas and birthdays if you’re inclined to give gifts then, as some are.
Not counting the Stencil Punched bookmarks which are designed to be robust but are still a paper based product, these tools are designed to be long lasting and incredibly functional without compromising anything in the way of beauty. Not only that, but we deliberately make products that will age well. This is a bit selfish on my part, but I do that because that’s what I want in the products that I buy. I like things that I use for years to look like they’ve been used for years–dings, color changes, coffee stains, and all. Granted, I do clean things up once in a while, and the best items can and frankly should be worthy to be refurbished, fixed, or restored.
In any case, that’s the philosophy I use when designing our products. I’d say more, but I’m in a bit of a time crunch and really need to go pick up a copy of Emily Dickenson’s magnum opus, Great Expectations for a special someone in my life.