1. Subscribe someone to a literary magazine. Literary magazines offer hidden gems of short fiction, essays, and poetry you won't find elsewhere. I suggest The Missouri Review. A better kind of bathroom reading, for sure!
2. Buy a nonreading tween or teen a graphic novel. My favorites for teens: Maus: A Survivor's Tale and American Born Chinese. Tweens: Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. I also stumbled across Toon Books recently; check them and their high-quality comics for emerging readers.
3. Buy something from an indie press. You're going to find unique writing that ought to be on the best seller lists: Graywolf Press, Dzanc Books, Press 53. As Press 53 says, "Literate yourself!"
4. Buy something from an indie bookstore. If you're a Piedmont North Carolinian like me, check out Quail Ridge Books (Raleigh), Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill), or The Regulator (Durham). If you're somewhere else, check out your indie options at Indiebound.org. Shop local and keep your nearby citizens employed.
5. Join your local library or donate in the name of someone you love. Was there anything cooler when you were a kid than coming home from the library with 15 books spilling out of your arms? I felt rich as a king. If you've got kids and never had them borrow and return books, it's a great life lesson--and a gift of time well spent together that will keep on giving.
6. Ask a favorite teacher what books or curriculum s/he needs for teaching. Educators often have to pay out of their own pockets for the curricular guides that improve instruction and aid their professional development. Check out teachers' councils, those nonprofits that sell curriculum, such as NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics), NSTA (National Science Teachers Association), National Council for the Social Studies, and ACTFL (American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages). Send your favorite teacher that link and ask what book or journal would be ideal for teaching in the new year. Other great teacher haunts: ASCD, Chicago Review Press/Zephyr Press, and Free Spirit Press. My Teaching Romeo and Juliet (co-authored with Delia DeCourcy and Robin Follet) and Teaching Julius Caesar books are available at NCTE and The Compassionate Classroom: Lessons That Nurture Wisdom and Empathyco-authored with Jane Dalton is at Zephyr Press. The latter is a good gift for any teacher who values your child and community building. If you know of great sites for art teachers, theater teachers, dance teachers, band teachers, coaches/PE teachers, please comment.
7. Buy someone a Kindle, Nook, or another e-reader. Books have never been so easy to read this way...they're even great on an iTouch with an ereader app.
8. Buy a book of poetry. I suggest Mary Oliver. She'll put your mind on higher things and you won't feel the stretch.
9. Buy a writer you know a magazine or a book about writing or getting published. I suggest Hope Clark's ebooks for those who are trying to get published, get funded, and promote their work. Or check out a magazine such as Poets & Writers or the AWP's The Writer's Chronicle. Or, buy that friend who keeps saying, "I need to write my book," a copy of The Artist's Way. No more excuses.
10. Buy a lovelorn teen girl who has a thing for bad-boy characters a YA book with good-boy characters. YA author Jennifer Hubbard advises.
Got good ideas? Let me and your fellow gift-givers know.