*twitter user @bookdragonism encouraged me to replace "bookworms" with "bookdragons" because... well, because it's cooler.
Look, if this person is on goodreads with a cult following and churns through 300 books a year, you probably don't want to pick something from the front table. Chances are, they've already read it. You want something released quite recently, but not just that, you want something that wasn't so popular and well-marketed that they read it the day it came out. They've probably got a wishlist somewhere that you could ask for, if you don't mind it not being a surprise. Otherwise, this is where the staff come in handy - start in their preferred section (if they have one) and ask a staff member to point you towards 2018 releases. I recommend finding something that is spine-out not front-facing, i.e. the bookshop only has a couple of copies. Contrary to what you might think, this doesn't mean they've nearly sold out, it means they only got a few in. Not because they're mediocre books, but because they're likely from debut authors, or small publishers, and/or without a big marketing budget.
If the person only reads a couple of books a year, you have less of a problem with the "have they already read it?" but it's more important to find something that fits their exact interests. Infrequent readers generally don't make the time for books that tick a few, but not all, boxes and they're less willing to take a chance on something different.
2. How widely do they read?
Some people will read literally anything, in which case, you can pretty much walk into the shop and randomly pluck something from a shelf (again, I recommend spine-out). Most of us are a bit more restrictive than that. If you're buying for me, don't buy science fiction. Or high fantasy. Or Victorian romance novels. Or non-fiction history books. DO buy YA contemporary, books written by Australian women, crime, thrillers, or light-hearted fact books about science, language or philosophy. I do not care if the next Game of Thrones novel is the biggest release ever with a thousand copies on a big display in the store. That's not my thing, and (I cannot stress this enough) THAT IS OKAY. People have different tastes! So if they're consistently a lover of crime, stick to that and don't feel like Christmas is your opportunity to make them read outside their box. There are PLENTY of books to keep you occupied for the rest of your life even if the only thing you read is American westerns. Find out how widely they read and stick within that width.
3. Who is their favourite author?
For some people, this is an impossibly hard question, and you'll get four answers, which is actually more helpful than just one. For others, they might read Matthew Reilly but nothing else. Now, unless their favourite author has released a book in December, the next step is not to go and buy any book with that author's name on it, because chances are they've already read it. No, the next step is to go to the section where that author is shelved, find a staff member and say "what other authors might someone who loves Jane Smith enjoy?"
4. Where should you shop?
You may have noticed I've referred to staff members, shelves and front tables, but obviously a lot of people shop online. I would encourage you to go to a local independent bookstore, not because I'm a sadist who wants you to face Christmas traffic, but because the couple of extra dollars you might spend is going to local employees, small business owners and the Aussie economy. Also, because bookstores are filled with staff members who know books and you will get much better advice from them than from an algorithm. Another alternative is to op-shop in second hand bookstores. As an author I'm torn between wanting people to go buy new books and give starving artists the royalties, and my general personal concern about waste in the planet and over-consumption. It's up to you, and obviously also depends on whether the person you're buying for would be offended by a second-hand gift (I wouldn't!). Regardless, shopping in person rather than online removes the risk that it won't arrive until after Christmas, and you get to talk to other book dragons.
5. What else should you buy?
My anti-consumerism side wants to say "nothing" but I know that won't fly with everyone, so here's some gifts that go well with books, most of which are conveniently sold in many bookstores:
* comfy socks
* book-themed bags, t-shirts, posters etc
* vouchers offering to clean their house or babysit their kids so they get more reading time...
If all else fails...
Get them a voucher and a copy of The Things We Can't Undo (come on, I had to throw that in!)