Collage of gifts. (Image: SBG Book Club, Bring Your Own Book, and Stephen Foster.)

10+ Unique Bookish Gifts to Treat Yourself & the Readers in Your Life—That AREN’T Books

Not audiobooks, physical books, book subscriptions—nada.

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While this gift list is coming out during the holiday season, and some are geared towards colder months, the ideas mostly work year-round. No shade towards book subscription boxes, but this list is not including books in any form. If you must get a book, then check out our books section for plenty of ideas, as well as the entries in The Mary Sue Book Club.

Here are the recommendations listed in order of (generally) least to most expensive:

Illustrated bookmark ($4+)

This is pretty straightforward: a bookmark depicting a favorite book or author. Because this relies on a bigger canvas space, the traditional rectangular bookmark works best. I bought a few from Stephen Foster Design recently, and they’re stunning, but if none of these authors work for you or this is not your style, there are so many other custom options on Etsy. Another shop that caught our eye is KLigg.

If you have experience in illustration or graphic design, this can cost a few dollars if you go the extra mile to laminate and add a cute dangly bit to hang outside the book. On the more expensive end, if a character takes the form of a mouse or woodland creature, these woolen, whimsical 3D bookmarks might do the trick.

Book tabs ($5+)

Do you have a friend that loves to read books multiple times and cite certain sections? This is a great gift for someone that likes the idea of annotations but refuses to allow a spec of pencil lead or drop of ink near their precious books. (Or God-forbid a highlighter!) Gift them sticky tabs. These are great economical gifts that you want to really shop around for and pick the perfect one(s). Also, tabs work if you are looking to fill a bookish stocking, mug, or basket. Book Riot made this excellent guide on the different types and ways to use them creatively.

Book Name Stamp/Embossing ($10 – 25+)

This unique gift will keep giving as long as books come in and out of their (or your) personal library. These can be generic and read something like “This Book Belongs to ____” (where the owner writes their name) or customized with a specific message, design, crest, or name. The more eco-friendly and pricier route is embossing, but both are pretty low impact.

While I haven’t tried these shops yet, EmyCraftSupplies and StampiShop look to have simple, yet elegant custom embossers. For stamps, check out PaperPeachShop and PixumDesigns.

Bring Your Own Book ($16)

The card game Bring Your Own Book takes the general idea of Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples but has a special bookish twist. Instead of turning in cards for the card czar to choose the best response, each person picks a word, sentence, or short passage from the novel they have in hand. Certain books are a goldmine for good and/or hilarious answers (like Shakespeare and contemporary romances). Still, after a certain number of points, the books are passed around the table, shaking things up.

Genre candles ($16+)

A set of genre candles can be a great way to set up the mood for a snuggle fest with a cozy book. Some genre candles are explicitly made for readers, such as the plethora of ones sold on Etsy. However, if they also simp for A24 movies and want to support sustainable palm oil farming (not all candles use this ingredient, but it is in a lot of stuff), then the studio has a collab with Joya with Smell-O-Vision genre candles in bundles of three.

Literary Puzzles ($20+)

I got super into puzzling during the second year of the pandemic, and instead of music, I would listen to audiobooks from my library with my partner. So, I totally recommend gifting a 1000-piece literary puzzle from Lawerence King to a reader in your life. Honestly, this works whether or not they listen to audiobooks or not. Pictured below (featuring the Brontës, Mary Shelley, and 1920s Harlem Art) are my favorites, but really you want to angle it towards the gift receivers’ interest.

Bronte, Harlem Renaissance, and Frankenstien jigsaw puzzles. Image: Laurence King

(Laurence King)

Lawerence King (of Hachette U.K.) provided a sample puzzle to The Mary Sue.

Jesse’s TBR cards ($30)

Bowties & Books booktuber Jesse’s TBR Cards “game” is a sort-of playing card game to help diversify your reading. Each month, you draw several cards and find books (in your library, book store, etc.) that match the card to read.

The prompts are not just inventive but prevent readers from falling into common tropes. Some examples include reading a book with a(n) “Jewish protagonist, not set during wartime,” “Elder protagonist Age 60+,” and  “where fashion is crucial to the story.”

Literary Giants T-shirts ($35+)

The Smart Brown Girl Book Club has t-shirts of Black women literary must-reads like Toni Morrison, Ida B. Wells, Audre Lorde, and a collage shirt featuring artist/writers Nina Simone, Audre Lorde, and Octavia Bulter.

Not only that, but they feature inclusive sizing from S to 5XL! The designs are a throwback to Houston-based ’90s hip-hop album designers Pen & Pixel. Money raised from SBG goes to expanding access to reading and political education.

Nice charger ($40)

This is pretty straightforward. Chargers are something we all need (not just readers) but rarely spend money on because it feels like a splurge. I read ebooks (specifically graphic novels) mostly via Libby on an iPad, so having a fast charger that I can charge my phone and iPad is essential to me and, I’m sure, other readers.

A nice charger to some may mean a funny design or sleek dock, however, I’m talking about those the base of the charger that charges up bigger devices, faster. For example, for Apple products, this would mean (something like a) 30 Watt USB-C Adapter. This will take some research to find the best one for their device. Some general rules include looking at wattage, avoiding wire-free chargers, and not buying it from a gas station.

Framed map from a fantastical (or not) world ($50+)

It takes a special kind of nerd to love looking at maps and an even geekier one to get giddy over tracing over a map of a fictional place. (It me.) One could go with a more straightforward fantasy like a map of Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings), Alagaësia (Eragon), or Hans Lollik (Queen of the Conquered), or look at maps like a Game of Thrones map overlaid with an imagined public transit system.

Don’t have a SFF map in mind? If the story is set on Earth (contemporary, romance, historical fiction, etc.), then there are custom sky and Moon maps tied to dates. So if a significant event happened, the map (like these, for example) could be a subtle nod to that story. The map can even be real if they are especially in love with a particular time period or place. Get creative with this one!

This is on the higher end because the frame matters. Anyone who buys a lot of art knows it takes a while and a lot of money to frame something. (Even if you’re purchasing the most affordable frame.)

Scrabble™ Vintage Bookshelf Edition ($55)

If you like to read, there’s a good chance you also like Scrabble. This small vintage edition is about the size of a larger dictionary and can sit inconspicuously on a bookshelf. This edition is not just smaller in size, but also in who it can accommodate because only two people can play this game.

A warm blanket to wrap up with a good book ($80+)

You could buy a good $20 blanket from some major retailer, OR you could support the Indigenous artists over at Eighth Generation as they sell beautiful wool blankets perfect for your reading nook. The throw blankets start at $80 ish and only go up from there for the fuller blankets. The tag line of this Seattle-based company owned by the Snoqualmie Tribe is “Inspired Natives™, not ‘Native-inspired.'”

Warning: This one can be so comfy that you won’t want to cuddle up and read while sleepy or after a big meal.

Gift card for glasses ($100+)

How old were you when you realized that it takes three insurances to fully insure everything in your skull (health, dental, and vision)? We’re not saying buy someone insurance (unless you want to, then go ahead), but if you know someone in need, a gift card to purchase glasses, upgrade their next pair or pay for an exam would be a great gift. Many readers read through non-visual means such as audiobooks and braille, but this is for those who use vision for this hobby.

(Image: Stephen Foster, Bring Your Own Book, and SBG Book Club)

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Author
Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.