Gifts that surprise often also delight
October 31, 2022 2:33 PM EDT

Finding a gift that feels thoughtful and personal is rarely easy, especially when shopping for the friend or loved one who seems to already have everything they might want or need. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible—the key to selecting a gift for someone who’s hard to shop for often lies in embracing the unexpected.

We’ve rounded up unique gift ideas that range from the whimsical (holographic roller skates) to the luxurious (a silk weighted sleeping mask) to the cerebral (a personal library kit). To find these gifts, we looked at products across all categories, from food and wellness to technology and fashion, and selected items based on price (as of the time of publication, everything here ranges from $22 to $250), practicality, and pizazz. Here are 20 unique gifts to buy this holiday season.

Personal library kit

Price: $22

Any book lover knows the agony of lending out a favorite book and never getting it back. With this personal library kit, the bookworm in your life will be able personalize their collection with circulation cards so they can share books without worry. Each kit comes equipped with nostalgic, analog library cataloguing tools like library card pockets, catalog checkout cards and bookplates, and a date stamp and ink pad—everything one needs to start a lending library.

Buy now: $22 on Knock Knock, $23.98 on Amazon

Carabiner canteen

Price: $28.95

For the person who’s always on the move, here’s a gift to help with hydration on the go—a sturdy metal canteen with a handy carabiner handle from Alltimers. With a secure, waterproof screw top, the insulated canteen can carry hot or cold drinks, while the carabiner easily clips onto bags or pant loops for easy access while out and about. Another benefit of the built-in carabiner handle: it makes the bottle impossible to lose or leave behind.

Buy now: $28.95 on Tactics

Portable campfire

Price: $30

When your favorite camping enthusiast is unable to trek to the great outdoors, they can still experience the fun of sitting around a campfire wherever they may be. Uncommon Goods’ portable mini fire pit, made of recycled soy wax and paper pulp and measuring just 8″ x 3″, offers all the joys of a campfire—it’s even s’mores friendly—without the smoke, embers, or cumbersome cleanup.

Buy now: $30 on Uncommon Goods

‘7 Days of Flavour’ toothpaste sampler

Price: $36

Toothpaste isn’t generally what most people think of when they think of luxury, but the beautiful packaging and distinctive, unexpected flavors of Italian toothpaste brand Marvis can make even a daily activity like brushing your teeth feel indulgent. Give a pal the opportunity to try something new every day with this “7 Days of Flavour” sampler package, which features seven 25 ml tubes of toothpaste in flavors ranging from Amarelli licorice to ginger mint.

Buy now: $36 at Dermstore, $36 on Amazon

Read more: The Best Last-Minute Holiday Gift Ideas

Packable sun hat

Price: $36

Sun protection is vitally important, which is why this cute yet practical, packable Baggu sun hat will be a welcome gift. With its foldable wide brim and a variety of colors and patterns to choose from (we’re partial to the fruit and vegetable festooned “Farmer’s Market” style), it’s the perfect choice for anyone who loves to travel or spend time in the sun.

Buy now: $36 at Baggu, $38 at Daytrip Society

Fixed focus 4-Lens 35 mm camera

Price: $39.90

For the shutterbug in your life, consider this fun point-and-shoot 35 mm camera from Lomography. While the kit boasts a clear body with pastel accents that’s both sturdy and stylish, it’s the camera’s four lenses and action sampler, which dissect a one-second timeframe into four parts, that make it a true standout.

Buy now: $39.90 at B&H

Double-cup espresso maker

Price: $48

While your most caffeine-addicted friend no doubt has a coffee maker already on hand, they probably don’t have one like this. Based on a classic Italian espresso maker, the Gemini Express is designed with a dual spout to brew two cups of espresso at the same time. Simply add coffee grounds and water to the bottom chamber and brew on the stovetop, with the cups already on the upper tray—a feature that ensures no heat or flavor is lost in the process.

Buy now: $48 at MoMA Design Store

Pizzeria-scented candle

Price: $48

Everyone loves a fancy candle, but can everyone say that they have a candle that smells like Beyoncé’s favorite New York pizzeria? With the collaboration between fragrance and design studio Joya and buzzy, celeb-favorite pizza joint Lucali, your favorite candle and/or pizza enthusiast can now burn a scent that evokes Italian herbs, caffé corretto, or our personal fave, the garlic-scented “aglio.”

Buy now: $48 at Joya, $49 at Food 52

Ice cream delivery

Price: $48 minimum order, plus shipping

For anyone with a sweet tooth, there may be no more delectable gift than a delivery from cult ice cream purveyor Jeni’s. Select a minimum of four pints—from classics like buttercream birthday cake to limited edition flavors like cranberry crumble—to be delivered to the lucky recipient’s door.

Buy now: $48 at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Read More: How Ice Cream Became My Own Personal Act of Resistance

Holographic quad roller skates

Price: $59.95

For an active friend with a sense of levity, consider these Impala quad roller skates. The classic style gets a fresh update with a holographic PVC body and icy blue laces, wheels, and brake stopper, ensuring that whoever wears them will be sporting the freshest skates in the rink.

Buy now: $59.95 at Impala, $64.97 at Amazon

Mini lucite 4 in a Row

Price: $77

You’ll be gifting hours of entertainment and friendly competition along with this delightful Connect Four-style game. Though the classic game is great for all ages, Sunnylife has given its iteration a decidedly sophisticated, design-forward update by crafting the board and game pieces in playful neon and clear lucite. Its mini size also makes it portable and perfect for the person who’s all about fun and games, all the time.

Buy now: $77 at Sunnylife, $77 at Saks Fifth Avenue

Name a constellation

Price: $79.90

Shopping for someone who isn’t into material goods can feel like reaching for the stars. Luckily, with Star Registration, it’s easy to give them a gift that’s actually out of this world: a constellation bearing their name. Once you select a constellation, the site will help you register the name of your choice and send you a certificate to commemorate the process.

Buy now: $79.90 at Star Registration

Mushroom disco ball

Price: $80

Your grooviest friend certainly has no problem bringing the vibes everywhere they go, so why not give them a little source of shine for their home with this mushroom disco ball? The sparkling piece from Sofiest Designs strikes exactly the right balance between fun and funky, making it a fitting gift for anyone who appreciates a little joy and whimsy.

Buy now: $80 at Sofiest Designs

Silk weighted sleep mask

Price: $88

There’s nothing more valuable than a good night’s sleep, so give the gift of securing some serious shut-eye with this luxurious sleep mask from Lunya. Made of sumptuous washable silk, the mask not only blocks out light for a calming pre-bed ritual but also features built-in glass beads for a weighted effect—think of it as a weighted blanket for your eyes.

Buy now: $88 at Lunya

Read more: The Science of Sleep

Grateful Dead candle sculpture

Price: $88

If you’re looking for an alternative to tie-dye memorabilia for your favorite Dead Head, consider a cheeky candle sculpture that pays homage to one of the most beloved rock bands of all time. Fragrance and design studio Joya created dancing bear candles inspired by the Grateful Dead’s famous iconography; each one is hand crafted out of paraffin and sunflower wax, and they come in three colors and scents. We’re partial to the blue bear, which is scented like cotton candy with top notes of cherry, pineapple, rum, and raspberry.

Buy now: $88 at Joya Studio, $90 at Ssense

Custom bobblehead

Price: $99.95

For a gift that’s truly one of a kind (and best given to someone with a sense of humor), consider ordering a custom bobblehead. Simply submit a photo of the recipient and the text you’d like engraved on the figure’s base, then choose from clothing options like sports jerseys or job-specific gear like a white coat and stethoscope.

Buy now: $99.95 at My Face Bobbleheads

Hot Ones Season 19 hot sauce 10-pack

Price: $120

From mild spice fans to major enthusiasts, everyone can get a kick out of this hot sauce collection that definitely brings the heat. A selection of the 10 specific hot sauces featured on the most recent season of the cult favorite talk show Hot Ones—in which host Sean Evans grills his guests while feeding them increasingly spicy chicken wingsthis pack features ingredients that run the gamut from the seemingly gentle (bananas and turmeric) to Scoville scale high-scorers (Scotch bonnets and chocolate ghost peppers) for a gift that will pack a punch.

Buy now: $120 at Heatonist, $129.95 at Amazon

Merry dog leash

Price: $155

For your loved one with a furry friend, consider a dog leash that will help their style stand heads and tails above the rest at the dog park. This Susan Alexandra leash is as fun as it is practical, with a sturdy strap and hand loop made with a rainbow of transparent beads.

Buy now: $155 at Susan Alexandra, $155 at Pet-à-Porter

Vertical record player

Price: $209.99

Give the audiophile in your life the gift of a truly distinctive audio system with the Fuse Vert Standard record player. Literally flipping a traditional record player on its head, and with hardwood speakers, the Fuse Vert is both visually and audibly stunning. In additional to playing vinyl, the system is also equipped with FM radio, Bluetooth, an alarm clock, and more.

Buy now: $209.99 at Fuse, $229.95 at Amazon

New York strip and filet mignon prime steak gift box

Price: $249.95

Nothing feels quite as celebratory as a steak dinner, and with this gift box from Goldbelly, you can order a feast to be delivered directly to your loved one’s doorstep. Shipped nationwide from Spokane, Wash.’s famous Churchill’s Steakhouse, the kit comes with four prime cuts: two New York strip steaks and two filets mignons. It’s perfect for anyone who loves a decadent meal.

Buy now: $249.95 at Goldbelly

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com.

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