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Holigay Gift Guide: What To Buy for Book Lovers (Other Than Books)

It should be easy to buy gifts for book lovers, right? Wrong!!!!! Every time I try to buy my girlfriend a book, it turns into an arduous process of 1. Trying to figure out if she already has read said book 2. Trying to figure out if she already owns said book (though this has gotten easier ever since we pared down and organized our bookshelves) and 3. Trying to figure out if she would even like said book. In theory, that last one should be easy! I have tons of data to work with. I know what books she has read recently and loved. I know her all-time favorites. We are both writers, so we talk about books…almost every day? And yet, because she has read so many books, I try to branch out to writers she has never read before, and that is sometimes a risk! I know it’s not my fault if I get her a book that ends up just being okay or not totally her thing, and yet I DON’T WANT THAT TO HAPPEN! Simply love to put unnecessary pressure on myself during the holiday season.

All that aside, the holidays are an incredibly stressful year for independent bookstores and booksellers. This year, that stress is magnified by the looming supply chain issues. Frankly, if you’re planning on buying books for your holiday shopping, you should have gotten that done months ago! There’s still time, of course, to visit your local indie bookstore in person. And please (I hope this goes without saying?) don’t throw a fit if they don’t have the exact book you want in stock! There is a very serious book shortage impacting all sides of the book industry right now. Take that into consideration when buying bookish gifts this year — especially now that we’re in December.

Also, consider this: You don’t have to buy a book for the reader in your life. You can celebrate their passion in other ways, like with some of the products below! You can also support indie bookstores by buying gift cards! It makes for a great stocking stuffer, and it lets the receiver pick out their own books, taking off some of the pressure on you to figure out what they haven’t read yet. Check out this list of Black owned bookstores by state, this list of Indigenous owned bookstores, and this list of queer indie merchants (command+F “book” to find the bookstores). Also check to see if your local bookstore sells merch like mugs, totes, and shirts.

Here are some gifts for book lovers (most are $35 and under!) other than books.

Shelf Control

Listen, you don’t want to go messing around with another person’s book organization system, but here are some noninvasive shelf-related gift ideas. Etsy is full of fancy display shelves, like this hanging one that also serves as a bookmarker for the titles on display. It would look great in a bedroom for someone who reads multiple books at once! Shelf dividers give any space a libraryesque feel, and bookends can be multifunctional, like this vase one or this hybrid pencil cup/book end set. And chances are, if they love to read, they’ve got a to-be-read pile through the roof. Maybe instead of just leaving a stack of books haphazardly on their nightstand or coffee table (guilty!), they could use a wooden tabletop book display to add a little style and panache to the chaos. Make them feel special with a vintage version like this one or this one.

Bookworm Decor

Every bookworm’s home could use some lit decor, whether it’s something in-your-face like this literary insults poster or something a little more personal and subtle, like this little planter you can customize with someone’s favorite book titles. For a gift exchange or stocking stuffer, consider a bookish ornament, like this one made from vintage books or these actually vintage options. For a lover of some lesbian pulp: this multi-cover mug or this Lesbian Hell print. And every reading nook could use some plush pillows. There are fancy options, like these velvet ones, but I also love a good old-fashioned reading pillow with arms.

Having Fun Isn’t Hard When You Have A Library Card

Is one of my personality traits “dates a librarian”? MAYBE SO. In addition to the above, you can’t go wrong with a Buffy-inspired Kiss the Librarian mug or enamel pin.

Reading Power Tools

I have been obsessed with pressed flowers lately, and Etsy is chock-full of pressed flower shit, including bookmarks! An underrated piece of technology: clip-on book lights! My parents got me a book light for Christmas when I was in middle school, and it was a perfect gift, because it meant I could secretly stay up past bedtime reading. If you’ve got an academic reader or a writer to buy for, highlighters are always useful. On that note, I don’t think I’ve ever met a reader (or writer!) who doesn’t appreciate post-its/sticky tabs! They make a fun stocking stuffer, especially some of the ~aesthetic~ ones sold on Etsy. The idea of a “book journal” always seemed kind of corny to me, but this year I started tracking every book I read on Instagram, and I loved it? It might be nice to have a more physical record.

Word Games

I know I already said what I want for Christmas in our Ultimate Team Gift Guide, but I take it back! All I want for Christmas is fancy Scrabble or fancy Boggle or plain ol’ Bananagrams! Also, Ex Libris is one of the most underrated games of all time, and if there are any writers/bookworms in your life, you should absolutely get it for them.

Get Lit

You know, gifts for book lovers that double as bar cart decor! Perfect for the book club that’s more about the wine than about the books.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 837 articles for us.


  1. I came into this post very skeptical about someone trying to mess with my book organization and calling it a gift. But then I saw that wooden book rack with built in bookmarks. I want it so badly.

  2. bookish games: bethumped! it’s like trivial pursuit but everything is about literature, etymology, obscure vocabulary, etc

    also i don’t have a handy link but those pillows that have a band that holds your book in place? (preferably transparent so the words aren’t obscured) godsend for disabled readers whose wrists can’t hold up a heavy book for hours on end

  3. Oooh, I love the fancy sticky notes!

    My favorite book tool is these magnetic page markers https://bookshop.org/books/llamas-i-clips-magnetic-page-markers/9781441332103

    I love them for academic reading because they have arrows so you can point at a specific line and having one in the main text and another in the footnotes has significantly improved my quality of life. Plus I’m less likely to lose them like I do with paper bookmarks.

  4. Love these! As a book person who i think most people wouldn’t feel comfortable picking out a book for, I would also love if someone noticed what my favorite book was that year, (whatever book i happened to not shut up about–there is usually one or two) and found me a nice used copy at a local independent bookstore. 90 percent of what I read is from the library, but usually there is a title or two after reading that i want to own so i can write in it and/or loan it out to friends!

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