To Buy (Or Not to Buy): Holiday Gift Ideas from WNYC and WQXR Radio Hosts

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Socks Socks (grevillea/flickr)

Can't decide what to give a loved one this year? Never fear. WNYC and WQXR hosts are here to help.

Warm woolen socks, locally distilled rye whiskey and a t-shirt inspired by the '70s cult classic film "The Warriors" are among their recommendations this year. Here's the full list:

Brian Lehrer, host of The Brian Lehrer Show, recommends: I am giving two books published this year: 'The 50 Funniest American Writers: An Anthology of Humor from Mark Twain to The Onion' by Andy Borowitz and 'Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African-American History' by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

I would not give: pepper spray.

Sara Fishko, host of Fishko Files, recommends: Socks, I’m going to give people happy, colorful, warm, woolly socks.

I’m loving Jonathan Lethem’s 'The Ecstasy of Influence' right now, and I’ll want to spread that around to a few people this season, I’m sure.

Also the new Keith Jarrett CD, Rio.

What wouldn’t I give? I have no rules. When it comes to gift-giving, anything goes. The right gift to the right recipient, no matter how improbable — that’s my motto.

Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey (Photo by flickr user kasha ttene)John Schaefer, host of Soundcheck, recommends: 'Pulphead,' the collection of essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan. For music lovers, there are essays about everything from a Christian rock festival to the enigmatic Jamaican legend Bunny Wailer to Michael Jackson — and for people who aren’t music lovers, there are exactly the same essays — hilarious, intimate, knowing and beautifully crafted. Plus, more tales about people, places and things that you never thought you’d want to read about (reality TV survivors, anyone?) but can’t put down.

And to drink while you’re in your comfy chair with JJ’s book, a bottle of Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey. I did not think I was a rye fan — I’m strictly a single-malt Scotch/small-batch bourbon guy — but this stuff, made in a small upstate NY distillery, is great. (Their bourbon is really good too.) Drink it straight. (Photo: kasha ttene/flickr)

I would not give white chocolate. I quote God himself, 'It is an abomination before me.' Not sure what book of the Bible that’s from, but I’m sure He said that somewhere.

Naomi Lewin, WQXR Music Host, recommends: I will, as I do every year, be giving everyone homemade cookies. I call them Christmas cookies, but they're completely non-denominational (unless you are an atheist when it comes to butter).

Soterios Johnson, host of Morning Edition, recommends: For anyone interested in Science: 'The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos,' by Brian Greene. Greene is arguably one of this century's Carl Sagans, bringing the latest discoveries and theories about the universe (or multiverses) to the masses in a clear, understandable way. A fun read about some mind-blowing concepts.

For the fellow child of the '70s: The Rolling Stones' Some Girls: Deluxe Edition. A digitally remastered 2-CD edition of the Stones' 1978 masterpiece. The bonus disc includes previously unreleased recordings from the Some Girls sessions. This album reminds me of good times down at the Jersey Shore, way before Snookie and her lot were even born.

The Warriors-Wonder-Wheel Tee designed by GreedoNeverFor a friend who would appreciate a vintage slice of NYC: "The Warriors - Wonder-Wheel Tee (hi)" available from My Soti. This cool t-shirt is based on the opening sequence of the '70s cult classic film "The Warriors," and is designed by a Lower East Side artist who goes by the name GreedoNever. Can you dig it?!

The perfect gift for the youngster in your life (or the inner-child of an outer-grownup): The Muppets Soundtrack. While I have not seen the new movie yet, by all accounts it is quite good. And the soundtrack includes classics like "Rainbow Connection" and "Mah Na Mah Na" plus new songs like a Muppet version of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Cee Lo Green's "Forget You." What's not to like?

And, for that special bibliovore: the Kindle Keyboard 3G. Who wouldn't want to be able to carry around a library in a tablet weighing less than 9 ounces? The crisp e-ink display is easy on the eyes and the battery lasts for two months. With both Wi-Fi and free 3G, downloading books, magazines and newspapers is a breeze as is cruising the web!

Midge Woolsey, WQXR Music Host, recommends: I just returned from an early Christmas celebration with my family in Texas. My niece and her husband surprised me completely with a pair of Isotoner SmarTouch gloves. You can text, dial, and search with your gloves on. What a great idea for those of us who live in the chilly Northeast!

For books, 'Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues' and 'Catherine The Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie.'

I don't give perfume or artwork unless I am absolutely sure of the person's taste.

Any gifts that you recommend giving this year? Let us know in the comments section below.


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Comments [5]


The best gifts are truly personalized so if you are looking for something more specific then check out, a gift recommendation website that works by importing your friends' Facebook profile data to provide customized gift ideas. You can hone in on exactly what their interests are to find really unique gifts.

Nov. 25 2012 08:00 PM
Richard Barr from Michigan


I'm trying to locate a cousin Tal from Israel. If this is you, please write me at

Richard Barr

Jan. 23 2012 08:48 PM
Tal Klausner

Last year Sara Fishko recommended a set of CD's by composer.. I would love to find that reference and order it. The story and sound on the radio were alluring.


Dec. 19 2011 12:50 PM
Edith Shanker

I like to give children what I call A Gift-Gift.
I send a card and a check for $10 to seven children in our family and ask them to write in the name of a charity they want to give their holiday gift to. My card always says, "It's better to give than to receive." I note the name of the child to whom the Gift-Gift was sent on the bottom of the check so when it is cancelled I know which organization each child has given a holiday gift.

The children take this gift-giving seriously in discussions with their parents and by listing possible choices before they decide which organization's name to write on the check and to mail it during the holidays.

I like to do this each year because it is a way for the children to be active givers rather than just receivers of holiday gifts. And I hope that their habit of giving to charitable organizations during the holidays continues when they are adults.

Dec. 14 2011 01:03 PM

Here is Naomi Lewin's recipe for her "Christmas" cookies, which are actually called Dattelkonfekt (Date confections). The recipe comes from her grandmother.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Makes 4 dozen cookies

3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 pound almonds, ground fine
1/2 pound pitted dates, chopped
Vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp. vanilla)
Small (50 mm) Backoblaten* (German baking wafers)

Beat the egg whites while adding the sugar. (My grandmother's recipe says to beat for 1/2 an hour, but I think that means by hand. I beat for about 10 minutes with an electric mixer, and add the vanilla sugar during this beating.) Then mix in the nuts and dates, and heap onto the Backoblaten. Let stand for 1/2 hour before baking. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

*Backoblaten are what a friend of mine refers to as "cookie coasters." They are available at Schaller & Weber, but I don't think they're essential.

Dec. 14 2011 11:31 AM

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