What do I give my advisor that’s nice but not too personal?

The end of my graduate school internship is approaching and I’d like to give my wonderful supervisor a token of appreciation for all she’s done and taught me. We’ve had a pretty strictly professional relationship (an excellent one, at that) and I have minimal knowledge of her personal interests. She’s in her mid-30s, and is a clinical social worker. I’d like to get her something thoughtful, something she can use. Chocolates, flowers, and gift certificates are not really what I’m looking for. At the same time, I wouldn’t want to give her something too personal. Oh, and I’d like to spend no more than $50. (I am a grad student, after all.) I know you guys will have some good ideas. Thanks in advance!

I’m sure your advisor would love to receive a thoughtfully selected volume; a book that’s been chosen with love and care means so much more, and gives more lasting joy, than flowers or the steak of the month club. (Although I hear there’s a bacon of the month club…that might be worth checking out.)  Here are a couple suggestions, available at your local box bookstore, that are a surefire hit in any situation.

The less you know a person, the more fun and exciting a book purchase like this can be. Especially if you make them open it in front of other people, who’ll be more likely to wonder why you decided this would be the perfect gift for that person than why you would be so insane as to buy any of these books.

My most favorite is  called Build This Bong: Instructions and Diagrams for 40 Bongs, Pipes, and Hookahs. It really makes people wonder so, so many things. It actually helps the gift recipient cultivate an air of mystery and danger, whether they want to or not. Another good choice is Creative Cursing: A Mix ‘n Match Profanity Generator. One time I gave up cursing for Lent, and the things I came up with on my own, without resorting to the usual suspects, were far worse and more vile than anything I normally say.

If you’re too chicken and boring to give something awesome like that, I suggest you get her something nice for her office or for teaching, like a Moleskine notebook or a cool little clock for her desk.

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