Posted by: Lisa Hill | December 19, 2009

Christmas gifts for booklovers

This time last year I wrote a blog post suggesting Christmas gifts for booklovers but I’m not going to do that this year. I haven’t seen anything new or interesting that isn’t kitsch, and I really think that if you’re not going to give a booklover a book or a book voucher, the nicest thing to do is give the gift of literacy to someone in a developing country instead. For $40 AUD you can give the gift of adult literacy & numeracy classes  tailored to local needs, which is a much better way to spend your money, and you get a nice card to give to your booklover who will get a warm glow of satisfaction too.

About five years ago I stopped buying all those kitschy gifts and chocolates that we don’t need or want as Christmas gifts at school.  It was costing $300+ (about $10 per staff member) which is a scandalous amount of money to spend on fripperies when there is so much poverty in the world.  Instead I’ve bought Oxfam ducks and goats, school books and farming packs, and this year I bought two clean water  packs for schools in Cambodia, two  literacy classes for two adults in Cambodia and two breakfast packs for indigenous children so that they go to school and learn to read.  I do this in addition to my regular monthly donation of 1.5% of my income, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed.  Still, it’s better than buying silly scented candles and superfluous Christmas crockery.  (What on earth do people do with whole Christmas dinner sets and napery during the rest of the year?  No wonder they build McMansions, they have to have somewhere to store all this stuff!)

Why am I telling you about this philanthropic gesture?  Because Peter Singer, in The Life You Can Save, says it’s important to tell because it normalizes it, and so more people start to do it.  Although I’m quite sure that there are others at school who give generously to charities at Christmas, I’m still the only person at my school who does this instead of buying gifts for staff –  but I’m starting to meet other people elsewhere who do the same as I do.  I know people who have stopped buying socks, hankies and what Monica Dickens calls toe-covers (i.e. useless gifts) for the adults in their families, and spend the money instead on philanthropy for developing nations, buying presents just for the children.

 See Oxfam for details.

PS Julie from ANZ LitLovers tells me that

Mobile muster and Oxfam are doing a joint Mobile phone collection. for every phone sent in, a family in Laos will get an Oxfam Unwrapped chook. You must post this parcel by Dec. 31.  The postage is free, so it’s a way of helping others with no cost to ourselves, just a little effort…perfect for this time of year…


Thanks, Julie:)


  1. Thanks, Lisa! For the Americas the addie is:

    I gave several Christmas geese one year through Heifer International.

    And thanks for the Singer book recommendation, too. I’ll have to look into that.



  2. Way to go, Bekah!
    Best wishes for the festive season:)


  3. Nice timely post Lisa. I’ve been doing this too over the last few years but in a more erratic way ie at different times for different people. A couple of years ago I gave each member of my Hens group (I know, I know, a terrible name for a bunch of feminist oriented women but I didn’t choose it!) some chooks in Indonesia (or somewhere similar). My mum for her 80th birthday this year asked us all to make similar donations, and we had fun choosing things that reflected our relationship to her (reading, education, improving women’s lives, baby health and so on).

    BTW I will make a plea for socks and undies though. I always give my immediate family some of those in a stocking – they’re needed and then they can spend their own money on things they want (need!). I try mostly to put in the stocking things that they need (or can use) – thick felt pens for visually impaired ma-in-law; highlighters for Dad; you get the drift…


    • Your mum sounds like a lovely person, Sue – I’m hoping to meet her next time she’s in Melbourne:) And yes, I agree about giving what’s needed; my agenda here is about the *useless* stuff we buy because we feel we ought to. I avoid our local mega mall like poison but had to go there today to buy some curtain blackout (to protect our hydrangeas on scorching summer days) and was amazed all over again to see people buying the most ridiculous paraphernalia. Even The Body Shop has caved in since being sold and now is ‘selling’ packaging boxes to put purchases into. Lisa


  4. You’re right, the Body Shop is not what it used to be at all though I haven’t noticed that at our local store (but maybe that’s because I always have my own carry bag!!). Did you ever read Anita Roddick’s book, Business as unusual. It was one of the few non-fiction books my f2f group did.


    • I wouldn’t have noticed it either, except that the staff were parroting ‘and would you like a gift box with that’ in a painful parody of the McDonald’s mantra!


  5. Well of course, they expect we Canberrans, the salt of the earth, to be green so they wouldn’t dare say that! (Seriously though, they may…I don’t go often and tend to go in, get what I want (or drop off my corks – that’s the main reason I usually go), and leave….


    • *chuckle* whereas in sordid Southland they just assume that everyone there is keen on crass commercialism LOL. Just you wait, Sue, if the pollies get their way about population growth, Canberra will have to take its share, and then lo! You too will have mega malls destroying all the nice little shops. It’s quite strange how some types of shops, that used to be mixed in with everything else in a strip shopping centre, have either been swallowed into the monolith or else evacuated to the outer suburbs. Try, for example, to buy one of those baby gates (in our case, to keep our wilful little dogs out of the sitting room) and you have to drive way out to where the McMansions and the young parents are, and the baby shop is a massive warehouse where you need a cut lunch and a bicycle to get from one end of it to the other. And it’s surrounded by other massive warehouses selling plastic storer things, or stuff for pets, or discount underwear. All of them have no staff and loooong queues at the till. Oh, and a loyalty program, of course. Oh, don’t get me started….


  6. We do have malls here (but not quite mega malls yet) – and we now have a DFO and a – hmmm – forgotten what it’s called. Our closest mall had a wonderful independent arts and crafts store where I did pretty much all my gift shopping there (the owner Alan and I were “like this” if you know what I mean). I was devastated when he closed down – rents just too high. I still haven’t fully recovered. He was lovely and had ice crafted items.

    BTW We don’t think we have enough water to grow more here but you know what the pollies think…


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