Writing isn’t a gear-heavy pursuit. So far on this list I’ve recommended special pens and notebooks, but none of that is really necessary to the writer the way a painter or musician needs certain equipment. Even if a writer uses a gold fountain pen in handmade French notebooks, and does her typing on Apple everything she won’t come close to the overhead of other arts. Therefore, writers should get a little leeway when it comes to gear shopping. 

When I brainstormed this list with some writer friends and their significant others, the one item that came up more than any other for a writer’s Christmas is the typewriter. 

If nothing else, a typewriter works as a decoration and symbol of the craft. It’s an epic gift even if it never comes off the shelf. 

That same bulk and robustness that makes a typewriter a great bookend also make it a reliable writing machine even after decades of use. You can still do all your writing on a typewriter, many writers do. This blog started as a series of interviews I drafted on an orange typewriter (above) with a French ‘AZERTY’ keyboard. There’s something about the commitment to punching each key, and the laborious retyping that brings out quality; those interviews wouldn’t have been the same on a computer screen. Typewriters are actually better for typing envelopes and filling out forms–as seen on the Wire

Give the writer in your life a typewriter and he he might type you the sole copy of a love letter or short story, complete with XXXXXX corrections and charming typos. 

Built to last, most typewriters from the last century are still around. If you don’t care about the condition of the machine, or you want one that shows its age, start your search in grandma’s attic, the local antique store, or Ebay. Typewriters tend to be undervalued, sellers rarely know what they have. I found a pre-WWII Underwood portable, with its original case and owner’s manual, for $75 at an antique store in San Diego. A new ribbon and a few squirts of WD40 had it working like new. 

For a typewriter you intend to use in lieu of a computer, or to find a specific model, check out mytpewriter.com. They do restored machines from every decade that cost about as much as a laptop but work like they’re fresh out of the box. Mytypewriter.com lets you shop by author, from Faulkner’s Remington to Joan Didion’s Royal KKM. Leonard Cohen wrote ‘so long Marianne’ on an Olivetti 22, FYI.  

Got any friends or family behind bars? Typewriters are ideal for the wordsmithing prison inmate on your list. New Jersey Based, Swintec makes electric typewriters with transparent bodies for just that purpose, check with your prison commissary for ordering details.