What's a great retirement gift for the uncle who has everything?
August 26, 2006 12:00 AM   Subscribe

My uncle's retiring from his job at the end of the month. I want to give him something meaningful, considering the fact that I don't have much in the bank. What can I get him?

A little background - he works at the Asian Development Bank, he's married to my mom's younger sister, they have two kids, and they're my favorite relatives. After a long and successful career at the ADB, he's finally retiring effective August 31.

Here's what I know about him: he's a great dad to two teenagers (who both turned out really well), he's Dutch (but can cuss very well in Filipino when someone cuts him off on the road), he's an atheist (I think), and he absolutely loves books. First thing we talk about when we meet - the latest books we've read. We lend each other books, and we get into the most abstruse discussions about books and their authors. I think that's the direction the retirement gift will eventually take - books or something related - but I really haven't made my decision.

I don't make a lot of money, but I do want to give him something meaningful. Tickets to anywhere are out of the question, because a) I can't afford any, and b) he's probably been there, wherever it is. Wine would probably be a good idea, but I don't know what vintage is a good one to give.

He'd probably appreciate anything I give him (he's that cool), but I'd like to make this gift meaningful and unique. Any ideas?
posted by micketymoc to Human Relations (15 answers total)
Not terribly original but if he's a note jotter while reading he would love a leather moleskine (or similar) journal and a good (second hand, antique?) pen.
posted by ceri richard at 12:33 AM on August 26, 2006


What types of books does he like to read and/or discuss with you?
posted by invisible ink at 12:38 AM on August 26, 2006

Levenger.com bills its goods as "tools for serious readers." Their stuff is pricey, but a lot of it is unique and I've found the quality of things I've ordered from them to be high.
posted by chickletworks at 1:08 AM on August 26, 2006

Maybe a nice reading lamp? You can either get one that attaches to a book and have it engraved with his name (I have seen those at Levinger), or you could get him an upright reading lamp with a full-spectrum bulb. I have an awesome "touch" upright reading lamp that I got at Target for $25. Those full-spectrum light bulbs can be expensive, though - I think I paid $8 for the last one I bought about 2 years ago - but they last forever!

On the other hand, what about scouring used book stores for an early edition of one of his favorite books, and writing him a lovely message inside?

Also, you could always get him personalized bookplates. Places like Colorful Images carry them (generally, anywhere you can get personalized labels). My best friend and I frequently exchange books and she got me a set of personalized bookplates for my birthday two years ago - it remains one of my favorite gifts.
posted by MeetMegan at 1:13 AM on August 26, 2006

I was just about to suggest second-hand book stores, too. I'm a booklover and some of my favorite presents have been nice old editions of favorite works - not first editions or anything valuable, but books with striking covers, or copies that have been produced to a high quality.
posted by greycap at 3:23 AM on August 26, 2006

Response by poster: invisible ink: we're most comfortable discussing popular science books. He's lent me books by Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, and Bill Bryson; I've returned the favor by recommending books like Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel.

He's also a big history buff. BIG history buff. I'd appreciate any recommendations of good history books, if anybody has any ideas.

(p.s. you know what, I've never really heard anybody greet anyone "mabuhay" in these parts. A simple "kamusta?" does very nicely. Or if you're one of us, a big hearty "kabayan!") :-)
posted by micketymoc at 5:50 AM on August 26, 2006

Bind a book yourself -- basic tools and materials are inexpensive. A blank notebook would be cool -- and easy.

Or you could pull a public domain title off the web and bind that (although arranging pages into signatures for binding can get tricky with large books).

This book and its better together partner are good.

The bookbinding writeup on wikipedia is helpful, too.
posted by notyou at 8:14 AM on August 26, 2006

Best answer: Wine or a cool book will be nice, but the thing he'll really cherish is the heartfelt card or letter you give him with it.
Compose something thoughtful and genuine and well-written and he'll remember it forever.
posted by BillBishop at 9:54 AM on August 26, 2006

we're most comfortable discussing popular science books.
He's also a big history buff. BIG history buff.

The Discoverers by Daniel Boorsetin.
posted by donpardo at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2006

For someone who already knows a lot of history, as your uncle clearly does (boy, do I envy you those conversations!), I can't imagine anything more satisfying than the Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell. 4 volumes, several decades, and never a dull sentence to be found in the entire mass.
posted by jamjam at 10:57 AM on August 26, 2006

Hehe, when it comes to writing/speaking Tagalog, I am pretty much at the pre-school level:-/ On the other hand, I'm fantastic at eavesdropping on family gossip:-) My parents are from Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan, I was born and raised in the U.S., but have only been to the Philippines once - hence, the poor showing of the vernacular.

Is there a particular time period or country whose history he's interested in?
posted by invisible ink at 12:53 PM on August 26, 2006

Seconding the question about whether he's interested in the history of particular countries or periods. Other than that, I've been given general historical reference books for special events and have found them good presents - particularly if you can find interestingly bound or illustrated ones. Abebooks has some results if you put things like "history dictionary" into the title search.
posted by paduasoy at 1:46 PM on August 26, 2006

This is historical fiction, so I hope it's OK, but I absolutely loved Ironfire by David Ball (published in the UK as The Sword and the Scimitar). It takes place before and during the siege of Malta in the 1500s.

Bookplates might be nice if your uncle likes to keep his books. Does he have a favorite picture or image? Maybe you could commission a local artist to design and print some bookplates for you. Or have a look on Etsy, where you can use the "Alchemy" section to request a design if you don't find anything you like.
posted by Quietgal at 3:36 PM on August 26, 2006

Response by poster: donpardo: he already has that book. But in terms of gift ideas, you're getting warmer...

invisible ink: There you go! Kabayan! :-) I think he digs European history books, but lately he's shown an interest in contemporary Indonesian history.

Quietgal: I'm thinking about bookplates. I'm also thinking about gift certificates from a bookshop he frequents - considering I've given him this gift before (on his 50th birthday) - is there any way I can make this kind of gift more interesting?
posted by micketymoc at 4:47 AM on August 27, 2006

I would get him a personal seal for marking his book with somehting like: From the Library of $NAME That way he could permenantly mark his books and give them a nice history using the very first page of each book. It isnt that expensive, and a neat thing that no one really bothers to buy themselves.
posted by koolkat at 2:02 PM on September 3, 2006

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