You can just ask people what they want for Christmas or Hannukah or Kwanzaa or their birthday.
Being pleasantly surprised by a gift is a nostalgic treat, but we were also probably much easier to please back when we were kids. Now that we’re the ones who have to mind the clutter and pay to store it, well-meaning but not-quite-wanted gifts lose their luster. Giving someone exactly what they want is a gift unto itself.
And besides, maybe they want something much more affordable and more personal than you expected. Maybe they already have too many books, but who can have too many home-made cookies? Buying isn’t nearly as fun as baking, especially when you’re baking little sugar cookie snowmen with chocolate chip noses.