My wife has a brilliant strategy for buying gifts for boys who are at or near age ten. If they don’t have The Dangerous Book for Boys, which is an old-fashioned outdoor activities book, not only does she buy that for them, but she adds a cigar box stocked with what the book calls “Essential Gear” for boys. That includes a Swiss Army Knife (or a pocket knife at least), a compass (find them in Walmart’s camping section), a handkerchief, a box of matches (with a candle so they can dip the matches in melted wax to make them waterproof), the coolest possible “shooter” marble, a needle and thread, pencil and paper, a small flashlight, a magnifying glass, band-aids, and fishhooks. My son’s box even included the whole Bible printed such that it can only be read by a microscope — so that if the world ends and he is left alone surviving with the contents of his box, he will be able to reconstruct Western Civilization from its most significant book.
Speaking of reconstructing Western Civilization, the coolest gift for a family is a complete set of the Great Books of Western Civilization. Such a gift would once have been extravagant not long ago, but with the tendency of libraries to downsize printed volumes and with the availability of used books sellers online, you can easily find a set for under $200. If the gift is given to a family with whom you are close, rather than an individual, $200 isn’t steep.
Last, the gift of choice this year at Benedictine College is Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism in DVD box set. This extremely impressive documentary isn’t just a crash course on the religion of its title, it’s a celebration of the enduring grace and power of goodness, truth and beauty.
[For more gift suggestions for those who still have a list, click here.]