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6 gifts for people in your life that you barely know but still have to shop for

Relax—buying gifts for your in-laws is easier than you think

Credit: Harry & David

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So you managed to get your holiday shopping done early. Bully for you! There's only one problem—you forgot about Hank.

Who's Hank? Hank is your steely-eyed father-in-law. Hank is the neighbor whose only apparent personality trait is the "peeing Calvin" sticker on his Chrysler PT Cruiser. Hank is the quiet, well-read professional who works in the cubicle across from yours, whom you were lucky enough to get in your office-wide Secret Santa this year.

Hank is every man or woman who's ever received a gift from some poor soul who knows nothing about them. We might have an inkling about what hobbies and interests Hank calls his or her own, but when it comes to buying a gift for Hank, we're pretty much lost in the woods.

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There's no time to waste—the Hanks of the world need gifts, too. Here's a handful of gift ideas that, at the very least, might make it appear is if you sort of know what you're doing.

Poor Hank. We promise we'll get to know you next year.


Harry & David Royal Riviera pears - $36.99

This isn't your garden variety pear; Harry & David's world famous Royal Riviera pears, to put it bluntly, are life-changing pears. With one bite, it becomes abundantly clear that you've been living a lie every time you've chucked a couple grocery store pears into your shopping cart; they're big, juicy, and impossibly soft. In fact, you'll often hear them referred to as the pears that can be eaten with a spoon (and no, that's not an exaggeration).

These hand-picked, cream-of-the-crop Royal Riviera pears—which represent the best Harry & David has to offer—are my go-to gift for friends, relatives, and Secret Santa recipients. Let's face it—really expensive pears aren't something people are likely to buy for themselves, so why not treat someone to a luxurious experience?

Buy if you think your recipient is into: Food, wine, beer, high-class livin'


Stoner by John Williams (paperback) - $9.97

All right, listen up—I'm batting a thousand with this one. Every person I've gifted a copy of John Williams' novel Stoner has had nothing but glowing things to say about it.

Stoner —a simple novel about a college professor's life—is not only one of the best novels about academia, but one of the best and most celebrated books, period. The New York Times Book Review, for example, called it "a perfect novel." Williams's writing is evocative, economic, and often heart-wrenching. It was once considered one of the best books most people haven't heard of, but these days, it's enjoying a newfound popularity thanks to its sterling reputation among casual and hardcore readers alike.

Buy if you think your recipient is into: Literature, history, pondering mortality in an indifferent universe


Beginner's Bonsai set from 1-800-Flowers - $54.99



Did you know that there are a host of different styles and classifications of the renowned Bonsai tree, including "formal upright", "semi-cascade", and—perhaps the most enchanting-sounding of them all—the "windswept" bonsai?

Nerdy? You bet it is. But Bonsai trees are also, like, totally chill, man. Caring for one can be intimidating if you've never done it before, which is why this beginner's Bonsai set from 1-800-Flowers makes for a low-risk/high-reward gift idea. Included is a Green Mound Juniper Bonsai tree, pruning scissors, a ceramic tray with decorative rocks, and a book of tips for caring for your recipient's new, totally chill desk buddy.

Buy if you think your recipient is into: Gardening, delicately trimming the leaves of tiny plants, being zen


Scrabble deluxe edition with rotating wooden game board - $99.95

When it comes to sheer wholesomeness, it's hard to beat a rousing game of Scrabble with friends and family. And when it comes to the myriad versions of Scrabble out there, it's hard to beat this set from Winning Solutions, which features a rotating wooden game board.

Is a hundred bucks a steep price to pay for Scrabble? You bet it is. But that's solid wood with a mahogany finish, my friend, and you're nothing if not classy.

If the price is still giving you pause, consider the Scrabble Retro Series, which can be scooped up for $24.95. It's not as much of statement piece, but it's just as classy.

Buy if you think your recipient is into: Board games, competition, vocabulary, having good, clean fun


Ribeye steaks from Omaha Steaks
Credit: Omaha Steaks

A couple of ribeyes from Omaha Steaks (2x 8oz.) - $39.99

Cooking with specialty meats is amazing, but there's nothing quite scarier than dropping twenty bucks each on steaks and crossing your fingers that you don't overcook 'em. If the steaks in question happen are gifts, however, a lot of that anxiety melts away since you're playing with house money. That's where these ribeyes from Omaha Steaks come in.

Why ribeyes? It's simple, really—ribeyes are the best cut there is. Sure, filets are sumptuous, but in terms of flavor and versatility, ribeyes are pound-for-pound the best way to go. If you disagree, meet me in the comments section and be sure to have a solid argument sketched out in advance.

Buy if you think your recipient is into: Cooking, grilling, not being a vegetarian, saying things like, "wow, look at the marbling on that one."


Voluspa 3-wick, 45-hour candle (French Cade & Lavender) - $26.00

Deep down, everyone loves scented candles. What else sets a mood and covers up odors? Axe body spray, I guess, but that sets a mood that no one wants to experience and introduces a whole new unwanted odor.

There was a time during my retail years where I worked at a store that sold Voluspa candles, and after a while, these were the only things in the store that I'd use my employee discount on. In my experience, I've found Voluspa candles (somewhat paradoxically) to be both subtle and strong; their olfactory presence can envelop an entire room without overpowering it.

I'm not sure what "French cade" is, but boy howdy, it smells delightful when paired with lavender. For alternative scents, consider Voluspa's Santiago Huckleberry or Moso Bamboo.

Buy if you think your recipient is into: Decorating the home, masking pet odors, taking bubble baths

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