We at BeastsLive spend most of the year figuring out how to improve our readers lives with useful and thoughtful buying recommendations. But when it comes to gift-giving during the holidays, “the best” isn’t necessarily served by purely pragmatic suggestions. We believe the holidays offer an opportunity to set aside the simply utilitarian and to seek out truly special artifacts of profound sentiment—gifts that convey our deepest feelings about the people we love the most. When we give, we don’t just hand over an object—we communicate something beyond just purpose: the mutual joy, memories, and laughter on which our most treasured relationships are built. Everyone will choose a different thing to carry these feelings, and we hope you can find something that inspires you and your loved ones among this eclectic mix of tools, adornments, whimsical pairings, and daydream fuel.
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders
“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore.” So wrote French writer André Gide in his 1925 novel The Counterfeiters—more a metaphysical statement than a statement of intent to add another stamp to the passport. Armchair explorers with Indiana Jones or Lara Croft aspirations will find many of the faraway destinations documented in Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton’s encyclopedic Atlas Obscura—a collection of weird and wonderful destinations from their website of the same name—most worthy of adding to their bucket lists. Where else would you find directions to the last standing tree of Ténéré in Africa, or the Meguro Parasitological Museum in Tokyo, other than within the pages of this unique travel book committed to the offbeat, curious, and downright weird? Before you give this tome, consider an ideal pairing: Hide an open-date/-destination plane ticket within the pages, along with a note promising (or challenging), “Let’s get lost.”
Handcrafted Modern, by Leslie Williamson
A thorough biography tells you all the facts there are to know about a person’s life, but the format struggles to convey how they actually lived. Handcrafted Modern, by Leslie Williamson is my favorite photo book because it gives readers an intimate glimpse into the daily routines, work habits, and hospitality of some of America’s most prominent mid-century designers like George Nakashima, Ray &; Charles Eames, and Russel Wright. Rather than focusing her camera on the subjects themselves, Williamson turns her lens toward their homes and possessions, presented as closely to their originally lived-in arrangement as possible—it has a mix of homes of people still living and house museums memorializing the deceased. Williamson’s exclusive use of natural lighting and medium format film lends a nostalgic glow to each photo that beautifully complements the subject matter.
Trixie Cat Activity Fun Board
Hear that? That’s the sigh of relief you’ll hear when your cat-loving friend or family member’s eyes take in the promise of this cat puzzle-toy, not just because it’s equipped to keep the feline intellect challenged with an array of “pawsome” stimulating activities tapping into a kitty’s inquisitive tendencies, but also because it doesn’t look like the usual carpet-draped, crazy-cat-lady accessories prone to litter households in tatters. The feline 5-in-1 Activity Center is like a Mensa test—with snacks—for a cat. Gift one to anyone you know riddled with guilt about not spending enough time with their favorite feline because of work or travel. As ridiculous as it may seem to the non-feline inclined, giving the “purrfect” gift for my cat is analogous to gifting me something. Moshow knows what I’m talking about.
Beans72 Organic Buckwheat Pillow
The best pillow I’ve ever used weighs 10 pounds and is full of polished buckwheat hulls. It’s far more comfortable than it sounds. Buy it for the side sleepers on your list, and you’ll change their lives. The buckwheat hulls are easy to form into the right shape and height to support your head, without trapping heat like foam does. And as Xeni Jardin points out in the Boing Boing gift guide (where I learned about it), it’s a heck of a thing to bring to a pillow fight.
5,000 years ago, somewhere in what is now southeast Turkey, a group of players surround a collection of roughly hewn pieces made from stone, wood, and shell, each fashioned into the recognizable shapes of board game pieces. These Bronze Age participants huddle close, thoughtfully stroking their beards in eager anticipation, waiting to see chance smiles or smirks upon player one as he throws a die accompanied by a collection of wooden sticks (their meaning since lost to time). The assortment of stone and wood lands in staccato. Arms are raised, shouts echo—one in glee, three in groans. Winner takes all.
Fast-forward to today and you’ll note that board games have made a heroic return in the form of Jamey Stegmaier’s board game opus, Scythe. Set in an alternate 1920s dominated by the towering threat of robotic authorities, this epic hybrid card/board game is for the geekiest of friends with whom you hope to spend more time—a lot more time—in the name of friendly competition.
Scythe isn’t for one-hour social nights (when it might be better to look to Uno or Cards Against Humanity), but for participants willing to navigate a dizzying array of strategic options, organize a plethora of detailed game pieces across an expansive board, and likely to appreciate the most fully realized imaginary realm this side of Westworld. Throw in a bottle of Anatolian wine to toast those early Bronze Age players and you’ve got the makings of history repeating itself 5,000 years later.
Electric Objects EO2
The first iteration of this digital art display hangs on our living room wall, and ever since switching it on, I’ve discovered an unexpected and quiet pleasure observing friends’ eyes wander to glimpse at the mishmash of personal photographs and Internet artwork chosen from Electric Object’s community-generated library of more than 25,000 pieces of art. Just as some people fret over musical choices while hosting a party, I’ve carefully curated the visual equivalents of Spotify playlists to match many a mood, occasion, or guest list (next step: coordinating audio and the visual). This newer version offers more of the same—a 23″ 1080p HD LCD screen designed to display both static and animated digital art (or reproductions of museum scans)—in a markedly thinner package, with more responsive software, and (now) four frame finishes. I’m imagining this as a great gift for a graphic designer or digital artist, the one who always sends you the funniest or strangest animated gifs, who has long kept your favorite Tumblr feed, and whose own work is deserving of its very own gallery space.