Every Christmas season, I’m tasked with creating an Amazon wish list to make Santa’s shopping easier. Santa, it seems, is growing less omniscient by the year, and his elves issue an annual request that I compile a list of things I want (whether I need them or not) in one convenient, one-clickable location.
This year, I was struck by the realization that there isn’t much I need (aside from a half-cow’s worth of beef) and there’s nothing I really want (aside from world peace, as pageanty as that may sound). And so, hoping to find a little inspiration, I Googled “2015 Gift Guide for Men” and perused the results.
The unfortunate truth is this: the annual gift guides for men are stupid. I realize this is a sort of broad-stroke overstatement, and that “stupid” is a word we teach our children is the cuss of all cusses. But when list after list contains $450 man purses, $700 sneaker-boots, and longboards with Marilyn Monroe’s visage on the deck, you start to ask yourself, what kind of men are people shopping for? We’re not all Italian leather wearing, artisanal shave soap using, quasi-hipster yuppies from the OC, you know. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) There are a few of us out here who are normal.
I’m a fella who knows what I like, and I like what I know, and to top it all off, my normalcy is extraordinary. So for those of you out there who are looking for the perfect gift for that normal fella in your life, I’m here to help.
In the last few years, publishing (especially Christian publishing) has broken the string of Real-Men-Kill-Bears-And-Fell-Timbers-For-Building-Log-Cabins books. Normal fellas are not like Nick Offerman, do not have thick handlebar mustaches, and do not pan for gold in the backcountry of Alaska. Normal fellas have families, work their nine-to-fives, and have little margin for reliving the Lewis and Clark expedition.
That being the case, allow me to recommend three books for your normal fella. These have been my favorite man-books (whatever that means) over the last few years. Buy them.
Know When to Hold ‘Em, by John Blase – This fatherhood book by the cowboy of the internet will set the father’s heart aright.
Man Enough, by Nate Pyle – What does it mean to live authentic manhood? Ask Nate Pyle.
Heroic Path, by John Sowers – From Amazon: “Today’s man has no rites of passage. No initiation. No language for it. His only models are hyper-macho stereotypes and bravado men. He has rare few elders and may be fatherless. Even more, he faces a culture that is increasingly hostile to the idea of gender.”
Patagonia Vest – I realized that I was closer to 40 than I was to 30 the day this sweater vest caught my eye. I bought it because I needed an Autumnal outer layer for those weird in-between temps so prevalent in the Ozarks. It’s traveled from here to Montana, and has kept me warm everywhere I’ve gone. The quality is top notch, and the fabric is made from partially recycled materials. Sure, it’s not some schmancy alpaca blend cardigan with vintage buttons, but we ain’t all millionaires around here.
Marmot Precip Rain Jacket – There is nothing less normal-guyish than carrying an umbrella. Nothing, I say. Don’t let him be a diva. Get him this rain jacket.
Adidas Sneakers – Every normal guy needs a normal pair of sneakers. Sneakers are for the store, for church, for the office on casual Friday. Nothing screams “normal fella” like a pair of regular, no frills sneakers. These are my favorites. Buy a pair or three.
Spyderco Manbug Pocket Knife – A normal guy doesn’t need a knife for elk-skinning; a normal guy needs a knife for normal guy things (like cutting a box, or opening an envelope, or cutting a piece of chord to rig up that broken mini-van roof rack). I’ve used this knife (or a version of it) for three years, and I love it. It’s small; it’s sharp; it’s plain. That’s what normal guys like.
The Literary Stuff:
The Slaughterhouse Combo – I’ll concede: this one might be a stretch. Slaughterhouse V is one of my favorite books, and the Vonnegut classic is a must read for any and all men. Grab a copy of the book and a this Out of Print teeshirt (which is just plain cool).
A Shakespearean Insults Mug – Could there be a better way to start the day? This mug is funny, useful, and educational. As an added bonus, this mug will provide your normal guy with a little gussied up language for insulting the in-laws or co-workers.
What is a Normal Guy?
I’m not sure there’s such a thing, but if your husband, father, dad, cousin, friend, or boss doesn’t spend the bulk of his winters combing his beard, polishing his $700 sneakers after fopping his coif just so, or hunting rams in the Alaskan backcountry, there’s a good chance he qualifies. Consider these normal guy gifts. Buy them. Wrap them in newspaper. Toss them under the tree, and be done with it.
Coming Clean: A Story of Faith, is available. You can order online wherever good books are sold, or visit your local Barnes & Noble and pick up your copy!
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