Salon's 2014 gift guide: What to buy for your favorite fictional characters

A heart tote for Jane the Virgin? A charming hotel key chain for Zero from "Grand Budapest"? So many choices

By Erin Keane

Editor in Chief

Published December 7, 2014 2:00PM (EST)

Every fall, you think this is it. This is the year you’re finally going to get it together and start your holiday shopping early. Sure you will — right after you finish binge-watching Season 2 of “House of Cards.” How are you supposed to go shopping on Thursday night when the Shonda-verse is on, anyway? And have you even finished any of the National Book Award finalists? Don’t worry. From the boy-crazy tween in your life to your sorta-still-hip dad, the Salon Gift Guide rounds up the best presents for your friends and family — real and imaginary, human and humanoid, heroes and villains alike.

He’s been carrying those treasured old mix tapes around for years. Upgrade all of his favorite mixes onto one Cassette Tape 8 GB USB Stick ($25).

What overgrown kid doesn’t like a good widget? The Orbotix Ollie ($99.99), a remote app-controlled cylinder on wheels, might not get him out of showdowns with scavengers, but it can do tricks at speeds up to 14 mph.

He’ll find a kindred spirit in eternal poptimist Rob Sheffield, whose sequel to his heartbreaking memoir “Love Is a Mix Tape” embraces the life-changing virtues of barroom belting in “Turn Around Bright Eyes: A Karaoke Journey of Starting Over, Falling in Love, and Finding Your Voice” ($10 paperback).

Even heroes have to have someone to look up to. These Stark Expo replica prints ($59, set of three) — full-scale replicas printed from original Marvel “Iron Man 2” film files — are a retro-chic nod to his favorite fellow superhero.

From advice she needs to hear to encouragement we can all use, Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” ($17, hardcover) is a simple gift for a complicated girl.

The canvas heart tote ($20) is the next best thing to wearing her heart on her sleeve.

When she’s brave, she admits she wants to be a writer. Help her figure out what kind of writing family she wants to create with Lori A. May’s “The Write Crowd: Literary Citizenship and the Writing Life” ($17, paperback), a collection of best practices for connecting with the writing community.

Those A-line retro-chic sundresses she likes never go out of style. The Out on the Veranda teal dress from Modcloth ($54) works for daytime doctor visits or navigating awkward love-triangle moment and increasingly-complex family gatherings.

The skulls and crown gothic microprint on this Diesel Zava button-down shirt ($148) works for long days at the office, relaxing at home, and taking off before tough conversations with his son.

The new paperback edition of the compelling Richard Pryor biography “Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him” ($13) makes a great stocking stuffer and a handy teaching tool.

Because he loves taking credit for doing basic chores. The Picnic at Ascot BBQ Master Grill Tool Set ($83) includes 20 stainless steel grill tools inside a spy-worthy briefcase.

He has to have all the new toys — we mean tools — to stay current at work. The new Apple iPad Air2 (from $499) is thinner and lighter than his old model with better resolution. Touch ID security technology means the kids can’t take it over.

She’s going to need a drink at the end of a winter finale like that one. The Sparq Home Vodka Shooter set ($34) includes four freezable soapstone 2-ounce glasses so her drink never gets warm.

Does it sometimes seem like she must have eyes in the back of her head? Google Glass Explorer Edition ($1,500) will let her add to her encyclopedic knowledge without even opening a file.

In the courtroom or the classroom, her style is always on point. Don’t let a plastic fitness bracelet ruin her look. The Tory Burch rose metal bracelet ($195) hides a discreet Fitbit Flex tracker ($99) inside.

These Vince Camuto stiletto ankle boots ($139) were made for walking right out of this old fight and into the arms of another man.

If you need her, she’ll be down here on the floor dying. Or losing herself in the latest sexy dance-fighting videos and e-book romances on the new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 ($379).

It’s not exactly erotic friend fan fiction, but she’ll love Mallory Ortberg’s irreverent literary satire “Texts From Jane Eyre” ($14, hardcover) just the same.

Time for the charm bomb to explode — she’ll be ready with the Lush Bubble Gum Lip Scrub ($22) and Honey Trap Lip Balm ($16), and Jimmy Jr. won’t know what hit him.

One day, she’ll look back at all of this angst, and groan at the memories. Until then, let her record her biggest humiliations in this Letters to My Future Self ($12) set, which functions as diary, keepsake and blackmail material for her little siblings.

Nothing will top his own "Trace Italian," but the 4-D Cityscape puzzle of Westeros ($37), the imaginary lands of George R.R. Martin’s (and HBO’s) “Game of Thrones” will let him literally build a world out of scattered pieces.

The Rubik’s Futuro Cube ($79) takes the enigmatic puzzle game of his youth and updates it with multi-axis accelerometers, vibration feedback, wireless connectivity, multicolor LED lights and four-channel audio. The cube comes with 12 built-in games, and a customizable software package is coming soon.

The complete set of all 40 of the original Choose Your Own Adventure books ($200) by R.A. Montgomery, where we first learn that you either go forward or you die (and sometimes, if you choose the wrong way out of the shark tank, you still die).

Before there was metal, there was Zeppelin. Like all of Led Zeppelin’s newly remastered Super Deluxe Edition box sets, Led Zeppelin IV ($104) includes the original on CD, digital download and 180-gram vinyl with replicated original packaging, plus bonus tracks like alternate takes, instrumentals and live recordings.

He loves long drives around Detroit and can’t bear to touch too much of the world. Dents of London has made leather gloves since 1777. If anyone can appreciate the long life and high style of a pair of Dent leather driving gloves ($75), he can.

Let him pack a meal of the good Type O-negative for the road in the Woodchuck flask ($39), made of stainless steel with a 100 percent real wood exterior.

He’s been wearing those old aviator shades since the last time you two left London. Carrera Eyewear’s Hots 64mm Aviators ($120) will bring him into the new century.

Exclusively from Jack White’s Third Man Records, “The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records, Volume Two” ($400) is this year’s music fan must-have gift. In six LPs, 800 digital tracks and two large-format books, Paramount’s pioneering Delta blues recordings (1928-32) will scratch his history itch and teach him some new old songs.

He’s going to protect the boss or die trying. And he’s going to need a fresh tie if he’s going to go straight into tomorrow’s meeting. Emma Willis’ refined Leaf-Print Silk Tie ($185) is elegant enough to see him through whatever the next day brings.

You’ve noticed that he’s really into audiobooks these days. Replace his worn-out earbuds with a set of featherweight Polk Audio Nue Era headphones ($79) in stylish tortoiseshell.

Sometimes, for his job, he has to put fear into other people. Make sure he stays hydrated on those cross-country flights with the Define Bottle ($24). The fruit infusions should help him lay off that bad meeting coffee.

You know he doesn’t do gifts, but he sure goes through a lot of phones on this job. Upgrade him to the iPhone 6 Plus (from $299), but don’t be surprised if he throws it off a bridge to destroy the evidence.

If the baby gets hurt, he won’t be caught empty-handed with this Pinch Provisions State of Emergency kit ($16, Georgia is available), a handy little tin with all the essentials needed for laying a zombie trap or bandaging up a small, non-fatal wound.

A man who spends that much time outdoors needs to keep his beard conditioned. Elucx Le Gentleman Beard Serum ($20) is the grooming tool he didn’t even know he needed.

The Bar10der Ten-in-One Ultimate Bartending Tool ($29) includes a muddler, a reamer, a zester, a strainer, a corkscrew and five other improvised weapons that will make him a valuable member of any survivalist crew.

He’s learned more than he ever thought he would about sawing off limbs and sewing up wounds. He’ll still be fascinated by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s “Dr. Mütter’s Marvels:  A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine” ($17, hardcover).

He always needs a new flannel shirt. The plush L.L.Bean plaid chamois cloth shirt ($54) can stand up to all-night stakeouts and gaming binges, and it just gets softer and more comfortable with age.

It’s a shame the new "Assassin’s Creed: Unity" ($59) doesn’t include the cat-petting feature, because he could use a little pet therapy these days. But he’ll feel right at home in the French Revolution, customizing his weapons of choice and figuring out how to sabotage an execution without satellites or cell service.

If he’s going to stay up all night killing the bad guys, he’s going to need headphones. ASTRO Gaming’s A50 wireless headset ($299) for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One has a unidirectional microphone and adjusts comfortably around any lingering head trauma or scars.

Super spy work is way easier with your own drone. The DJI Phantom Aerial Drone Quadcopter ($584) hooks up to his GoPro Camera ($129) to capture enough dirt from the air to bring down an administration — or save one.

Timeless stories of the human condition never lose their power. The photographs and stories in the new collected “Humans of New York” ($16, hardcover) celebrate individuals in this particular time and place, offering invaluable insights and maybe even material for a new kind of history play.

In this must-read for any Shakespeare buff, historian Dan Jones goes deep into the old English monarchies with his new narrative, “The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors” ($22, hardcover).

The life of a touring artist isn’t always glamorous, and it’s hard to eat well on the road. These keychain-size Sriracha to Go ($7) containers will add some rooster sauce spice to foraged fare.

That flashlight app is going to end up archived in the Museum of Civilization. The compact LED Fenix PD32 Flashlight ($53) is waterproof and bright, and light enough at 0.32 lbs to holster at all times. Don’t forget extra batteries — who knows if the electricity’s ever coming back?

She knows fairy tales are for kids, so she can handle the dark and unembellished world of the Grimm Brothers’ folk tales. For the first time, the German folk tale collectors’ original 156 stories are available in English in "The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Complete First Edition" ($25, hardcover).

Help her share the books she loves through her very own Little Free Library Kit ($250). Includes registration materials so she can register her outpost to the Little Free Library Map of the World. What she tucks inside the books is her own business.

She understands what it’s like to go through the looking glass or down a rabbit hole. This modal blend infinity scarf features text from “Alice in Wonderland” ($36) in khaki-matching neutral works for mad parties and sham trials.

That toilet tank hooch she makes needs some help. With the Homemade Gin Kit ($49), she can turn any ordinary bottle of vodka into her own proprietary flavor of gin. Pair it with Jennifer Fielder’s new “Essential Bar Book: An A-Z Guide to Spirits, Cocktails, and Wine” ($15, hardcover) to broaden her drinking horizons.

A lobby boy is completely invisible, yet always in sight. The Garmin Forerunner GPS Watch ($127) will help him stay on time and track his speed and performance, on the job and off.

It’s no L’Air du Panache, but what is? Tom Ford Tobacco Oud ($209) exudes an old world elegance that reminds us all of more gracious times.

Modern keycards have no romance. He’ll be reminded of that enchanting old ruin every time he pulls out this brass hotel key chain ($15).

He might not ever need to speed through the snowy Alps in the line of lobby boy duty, but he will appreciate the iOttie One-Touch Bike Mount Smartphone Holder ($19) for his hectic morning commute.

She never shows up for school visits without looking her best. The BeautyBlender makeup sponge ($21, set of 2) is an indispensable tool in her arsenal. Reusable, recyclable and allergen-free, so the other power moms can’t say a word.

She’s settled down now, but inside she’ll always be a bit of a calamity. Diane Von Furstenberg’s gold-tone metallic snakeskin clutch ($268) might be a little much for the post-carpool coffeeshop stop, but if anyone can pull it off, she can.

She’s always getting teased about being buried in her phone, but she can also laugh at herself with this Blah Blah Blah iPhone 5/5s cover ($25) designed by quirky hand-lettering designer Hugh Guinness.

Nobody messes with her friends. Kate Spade’s gold-plated and navy enamel True Blue Idiom Bracelet ($32) lets her know that you appreciate it when she goes too far to have your back.

She can set up an impromptu video screening anywhere with the Luckies of London Smartphone Projector ($29), a lo-fi cardboard and glass projector that magnifies your phone’s screen up to eight times and amplifies sound, while folding up small enough to fit in a book bag.

Urgent reading for urgent times: Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric” ($12), a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award, is a powerful, provocative and necessary meditation on racial aggression in the 21st century.

She needs a smart bag to haul her cameras and gear around. ONA’s Chelsea Saffiano bowler bag in black leather ($369) has a detachable cross-body strap and padded compartments for a DSLR and up to three lenses, and best of all, it’s both chic and stealthy.

When she graduates, she might just take her show on the road with her. The Samson Recording/Podcasting Pack ($129) comes with a condenser microphone and all the accessories she needs to broadcast from anywhere in the world.

By Erin Keane

Erin Keane is Salon's Chief Content Officer. She is also on faculty at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University and her memoir in essays, "Runaway: Notes on the Myths That Made Me," was named one of NPR's Books We Loved In 2022.

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