As long as you don't give the cat book to the gadget guy or the dog paintings to the itty-bitty kiddy folks, here's a trio of little somethings that cannot fail.
Cats and Their Slaves: An Anthology of Worship by Michelle Lovric (Hardcover, 68 pages, $11.95)
Brimming with quotes from people you've never heard of (Oswald Barron? You know, the guy who wrote about heraldry, right?) and centuries of artwork you've likely never seen (lots of Victoriana), this compilation of cat love is for the hopelessly sentimental. Safe for neighbors and in-laws.
The Artful Dog: Canines from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Hardcover, 80 pages, $9.95)
Last year, it was artful felines, but this is the Year of the Dog. Paintings featuring canines by Renoir, Eakins and Fragonard are paired with love quotes from the likes of Browning and Shaw. A classy change from all the dog drool at the gift-shop checkout counter, this booklet is good enough for even a savvy beast-besotted friend.
A Field Guide to Roadside Technology by Ed Sobey (Paperback, 176 pages, $14.95)
Judging by its cover — which features a traffic-surveillance camera, a gas meter and a cell-phone tower — I thought for sure this so-called field guide would be a joke. Surprise! It's really a rather sweet and earnest homage to everyday urban marvels that you never look at but always see. This one's so quirky, it's likely to win you friends.