First Drafts, Conversations, Stories in Progress

Helping You Find the Perfect Gift
Zak Bickel / The Atlantic
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Who’s the hardest person on your holiday gift list to shop for? Readers sent us descriptions of their tricky recipients, and our staffers brainstormed some custom ideas. Read on for some last-minute inspiration. Got another suggestion for what to give these folks? Send us a note—

Show 11 Newer Notes

Age: 19

Place: Saskatoon, Canada

Relationship: step-nephew

From the gift-giver:

My brother’s stepson seems to be a typical 19-year-old in many ways. He likes video games, hanging out with friends and drinking with them. But the problem is that I don't really know him all that well—which is why it is so tricky for me to buy for him. I need to find him something relatively inexpensive (looking for under the $25 mark), but something that a kid his age would like.

Any gift they’ve loved?

Not really... I mean, I know that my brother and his wife once set up an entertainment center in his room (TV, speakers, video game console, etc.) as a gift for one of his birthdays. He loved that, but who wouldn't love something so extravagant?  I don't know about any inexpensive, small gift that he loved. My mom once gave him a pan of S'mores cookie bars that she made that he really liked. But, ever since then, many people have given him versions of S'mores and I think he's a little sick of it.​

We recommend: the Pickpocket ($25)

Ahh, a typical 19-year-old boy—in other words, one of the most opaque kinds of humans there is. Since you mentioned he likes to drink with friends, I thought a cool bottle opener might be cheery—every beer lover could use one on his keychain, and they can be kind of fun to play with. The Pickpocket is versatile and only costs $20—it's got cool jagged edges and could possibly be used to pull apart a melting S'more, if he wants to double up on how he puts it to work. It's also a gift that will grow with him—sturdy enough to last, subtle enough to not seem immature, fly enough to inspire envy at bonfires, or whatever it is that 19-year-olds do for fun.

Other ideas:

Got another suggestion for this recipient? Send your ideas to

Age: 36

Place: Los Angeles

Relationship: younger sister

From the gift-giver:

Beautiful home, not a lot of storage space, often Airbnb's it—no room for tchotchkes or housewares others have picked out. No kids. One dog and one husband (who is easy to shop for!). Great shopper for clothes and would not like anything I picked out. (Have tried.) Don't think she uses cookbooks. Latest novels are great but blah from me every year! Excellent taste. Tight budget (mine). Would like to make or get her something fabulous that won't bust my budget, and something she would actually like. That is the tough part.

Any gift they’ve loved?

Not sure I have every succeeded with a gift for her, come to think of it. Now I feel terrible.

We recommend: gift certificate to a Korean day spa ($15-$130)

Well, it wouldn’t be the holidays if we didn’t feel inadequate. Don’t fret! Chic younger sisters are tough (trust me—I am one). All the savvy Angelenos I know rave about this Korean day spa, located in L.A.’s Koreatown neighborhood. You might not be able to channel her style perfectly, but you can certainly get ahead of any stressful days she’s got down the line. The spa rituals, though on the pricier end of the spectrum, sound heavenly, but she’s also bound to appreciate a free mani, pedi, facial, or massage from her thoughtful sis.

Other ideas:

Got another suggestion for this recipient? Send your ideas to