How to Bring the Right Thing for Every Occasion

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Raise your hand if, despite your intention to show up with just the right token of love or appreciation, these scenarios feel familiar:

  • Your mama taught you never to arrive at a social function empty-handed, but you usually run out of time to choose a host gift and end up grabbing a questionable bottle of wine from your fridge at the last minute.
  • You want to make a thoughtful gesture when a friend experiences a loss, but you don’t have a clue what to say.
  • You realized (too late) you gave your nephew the same birthday present three years in a row. Oops.

Ready for some fresh ideas? Hit the bookstore to find go-to gifts for life’s common occasions:


For the Wedding of People You Like

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Beautiful + practical: pair a little something from the couple’s kitchen registry with a cookbook signed by a favorite chef. Our stock of autographed books changes as authors come to town. Signed books currently available include: How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman; Turnip Greens & Tortillas by Eddie Hernandez; The Pretty Dish by Jessica Merchant; Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee; and Secrets of the Southern Table by Virginia Willis — among many others!

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For the Wedding of People You LOVE

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The Lumio looks like a pretty book with a maple woodgrain cover, but open it up and it radiates soft, glowing light. The newlyweds can keep it on a shelf for occasional lighting, mount it on a wall with the included hardware, or even hang it as a light fixture with the beautiful leather strap. (Makes a showstopping centerpiece or guest-book table adornment, too.) Oohs and ahhs guaranteed.

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For Meeting a Friend’s New Dog

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Our most requested dog training book is a classic: The Art of Raising a Puppy by The Monks of New Skete. For your first visit with the new pup’s owner, bring a copy of this revolutionary guide to understanding the needs of dogs and assimilating canine family members into the pack. Add a literary dogs pouch and a stylish kerchief or bow-tie from Mutthead. We’ll throw in a free Sparky postcard.

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For Celebratory Drinks with a Person Who’s Going Places 

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Have a young friend who’s headed to grad school, starting her big new job, or moving into his first home? A leap into adulthood deserves congratulations! Offer practical advice for future success — without being bossy — by handing over a stack of books from our business and self-help sections. A few ideas: That’s What She Said: Wise Words from Influential Women by Kimothy Joy; Your Score: An Insider’s Secrets to Understanding, Controlling, and Protecting Your Credit Score by Anthony Davenport; or perhaps a big book of tips like Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. Add a Virginia Woolf candle to celebrate “a room of one’s own,” whether that’s an office or a studio apartment. (And pick up the tab for lunch.)

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For the Post-Breakup Friend Who Needs a Pep Talk / Housewarming for the Newly Divorced

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Endings are new beginnings, too. Drop off a care package and show you’re in her corner through the words of Cheryl Strayed, Michelle Obama, and You Are a Badass author Jen Sincero. Don’t forget a Dolly Parton card by GrayDayStudio: “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one.”

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For the Party Host or Hostess

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Don’t be an Ungrateful Mammal! Walk through the door with a cute kitchen towel, a funny art book, or some flowers that don’t need water.

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For Visiting the Bereaved: Because One Can Eat Only So Many Casseroles

Fortunately, when you don’t know what to say, there are books that do. When you drop off dinner, include a wrapped copy of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, On Living by hospice chaplain Kerry Egan, or the classic Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief by the late writer and teacher Martha W. Hickman.

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For Absolutely Any Day with Your Grandmother

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Don’t wait for a party or birthday. Show up to lunch on a Tuesday bearing gifts. Consider Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon, a bag for holding tissues and mints and other things grandmothers always have handy, and a sassy pair of Eye Bobs. (She spoiled you rotten. Now it’s your turn.)

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For the Occasion You Forgot Until Fifteen Minutes Before You Were Supposed to Be There

Don’t panic. Take a shower. Put on a clean shirt. And then take three minutes to click right here and sign your friend / loved one / host up for a prepaid membership to the Parnassus Books Signed First Editions Club. We’ll take care of sending them a signed first edition of the best new fiction or nonfiction once a month for three, six, or 12 months, whatever you choose. Now grab a sheet of paper and write, “From me, to you — the gift of literature.” BAM. You’re done. Go, go, go!

For a Baby Shower: The Basics

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If we could give this book out in hospitals to the parents of every newborn, we would: Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox. Pair it with Fox’s darling board book, illustrated by Judy Horacek, Where Is the Green Sheep?

More for the Baby Shower: Picture Book Starter Stack

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Nothing against Goodnight, Moon (it’s wonderful and every child needs a copy), but some of our favorite books for new parents to enjoy with their babies are the less obvious choices. These are all about family, babies and parents, and being loved: Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat; Everywhere Wonder, written by Matthew Swanson, illustrated by Robbi Behr; All the World, written by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee; The Runaway Bunny, written by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd; and Wish, by Matthew Cordell.

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For the First Birthday: Go All-In with a Favorite Character

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Every little growing creature knows how The Very Hungry Caterpillar feels. Load up a tote bag with a huggable caterpillar, onesie, book and/or box set. Or wrap up the Dragons Love Tacos book or box set with the matching plush toy and Dragons Love Books onesie.

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For a Classmate’s Birthday Party: Options!

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Three of our favorite crowd-pleasers for the independent-reader crowd are The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore, A Dog Like Daisy by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, and You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly. Or if the birthday girl or boy prefers to choose their own adventure, wrap up a gift card in any amount!

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For a Teen’s Birthday

Who knows what teenagers like these days . . . Well, the authors of young adult fiction do! Every month our YA experts choose the best new book, get first-edition copies autographed by the author, and send out the ParnassusNext subscription box to every lucky subscriber. Pre-pay for the teen or YA fan in your life to get deliveries for three, six, or 12 months. (Themes and content in these books vary, but in general this subscription is best for older, more mature teens.)

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Have an unusual occasion or extra-special recipient in mind? Call or stop by. We’ll figure it out together — and wrap it for FREE!