As the author of the year's most critically acclaimed novel, "Freedom," a guy like Jonathan Franzen comes from a place of extreme empathy, with an understanding of both intimate familial relations and progressive politics. The right gift allows the bookish type -- slightly neurotic, a little pretentious and always worried about the environment (with a passion for bird-watching) -- to indulge in his many interests.
- The work of legendary documentarian Ken Burns fits the Franzen type well, both in terms of style and subject matter. "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" is available in a six-disc DVD set ($65.99) and with a companion hardcover volume ($31.50), both packed with nature facts and footage; "Baseball," updated this year with "The Tenth Inning" ($50.99), takes the same historical approach to America's pastime, for the heady sports fan who's either past his prime or never had one.
- To actually get him out of the house (and out of his own head), someone like Franzen needs a pair of Bushnell PowerView wide-angle binoculars ($48.33) for bird-watching or other outdoor examinations. They're not tough to use -- the Insta-Focus feature does most of the work -- and fresh air comes free; for the family, it'll provide some welcome silence, because as he'll learn soon enough, talking about the latest global warming news will scare away the birds.
- Like a sports car for a guilty liberal, the Optibike USV Commuter electric bike ($5,995) comes in electric red and can really fly. It has a range of 20 miles on just the battery, with an option for a more extended charge, and costs only $.07 to fill up. Kevlar tires handle rough terrain and a 500 watt motor is just right for keeping things both earth-conscious and not too prissy. An electric bike makes a hybrid look like a Hummer, smug smile not included.