Books that suit a specific age bracket.There are certain books, like Charlotte's Web, and series, like Frog and Toad and Harry Potter, that I want my kids to read at the exact right ages. I don't know yet what those exact ages will be, because I suspect it will be different for each child, but I want to give those books to my girls at that special time and have the reading of the book become a memorable experience. Therefore, even though we own those books right now, they are on shelves or in boxes, and will remain there until the appropriate window of time opens, at which point they will be presented as special gifts.
Books the child will be particularly excited about.Right now, Miss Muffet loves Poppleton and Stanley. If we buy books in either of those series, we automatically set them aside for the next gift-giving occasion because we know how excited she will be to receive them. The characters are already special to her, so receiving books about them helps make her birthday or Christmas that much more special too. I would take the same approach to books with the child's name in the title, or with some other special significance to the child's life.
Religious books.This is not always the case, but I tend to want to save religious books for religious occasions. I have a Christmas prayers board book that I was hanging onto until Advent, so that I could give it to the girls at the start of the season and we could say the sole Advent prayer in it when we add ornaments to our Jesse Tree each day. We also have a child's rosary book, Mary Holds My Hand, which I suspect may turn up in an Easter basket in a year or two. I imagine First Holy Communion will be another occasion on which the girls will receive special books of a religious nature.
Seasonal/holiday books.We probably don't need many more seasonal and holiday books, as our boxes are overflowing, but if we did buy any new ones, I would probably tend toward packing them away and giving them as gifts during the appropriate season. It seems strange not to give a Christmas book as a Christmas gift, an Easter book as an Easter gift, etc.
Board books.Now that my second child is a toddler, this has slowed down some, but it seems like I have given a disproportionately large number of board books to my children as gifts. This is partly because we don't borrow as many board books from the library (because of their condition and germs), so it feels like we need to own some of our own, but it's also because there isn't much else you can really give to a tiny baby, and both my girls were less than 3 months old on their first Christmases. I also think it's nice for every child, even the littlest ones, to have at least one book that is his or her very own. I'm actually not sure we're giving either of them a board book this year, but that would be a first for us. Bo Peep alone received at least four board books for her birthday.
New books.We rarely buy brand-new books, so if we do, they are usually gifts. (Sometimes, they are also purchased with gift cards we have received for our own birthdays, holidays, baby gifts, etc.) I have also been known to wrap review copies from publishers and give them as birthday gifts. Bo Peep received two Stanley board books this year, as well as my review copy of You Are One, while Miss Muffet was given my review copy of The Importance of Being Three.
Hard-to-find books.My kids are not old enough yet that they have books they are specifically seeking in the bookstore. Recently, however, my mom was looking for a copy of Fourteen Bears in Summer and Winter. When we stumbled upon a copy at a used book sale, I snatched it up and saved it until she came to visit. Then we surprised her with the book during her stay. If there is a ever a time where one of my girls is looking long and hard for a specific book and I finally find it, I don't think I'll be able to resist saving it to give as a surprise for a special occasion.
Activity books.If I buy books of paper dolls, sticker books, coloring books, or other activity books, I always set them aside for a special occasion, or at least for a rainy day. This is partly to avoid having them completely consumed within 24 hours of their purchase, but also to make sure the books are given when an adult is available to help with cutting, peeling off stickers, etc. I also tend to ask other relatives for books of this type instead of toys, since I know Miss Muffet loves them, but we wouldn't necessarily think to buy them ourselves, and they take up a lot less space than a new toy.
Do you give books for birthdays and holidays? How do you decide which books are special enough to be gifts?