Book-loving friends seem easy to shop for — just buy them a book, right? But if you stop to think about it, do you have any idea exactly which book? Do you know what they’ve already read? Do you know the celebrated authors they secretly hate and the unheard of ones they love? Luckily, you can avoid that mess by giving a book-adjacent gift instead. We spoke to writers, editors, publishing people, and other avid readers to track down the best gifts for bookworms — that aren’t books.
Gifts for keeping books tidy
Even book lovers who prefer minimalist home décor can easily enter Hoarders territory when it comes to their shelves. Rachel Krupitsky, who works in social media and audience development at Penguin Random House, said an unexpected gift helped her remedy this problem: “My husband installed floating bookshelves around our apartment as a surprise — so that I didn’t have to stop buying and bringing home books.” In small apartments without much floor space, floating bookshelves are an ideal solution to literary overcrowding. They’re also on the wishlist of Heather Ellis, a Ph.D student and creator of the popular Instagram account The Literature Archive, who says they’d “make my walls pretty.”
Like many bookworms, Mollie Esposito, co-host of the podcast Black Chick Lit would appreciate a new bookshelf to house her collection. “My books are stacked three deep on a particle-board shelf I got back in college,” she says. “I’d go for something airy and minimalist like this unit from Article.”
For storing a lot of books in a small amount of space, Jeff Adams and Will Knauss, co-hosts of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, recommend a narrow, vertical bookshelf like this one that can fit into a tiny corner. They agree it’s “a great, different way to store and display books.”
One of the best gifts that Jen Bergstrom, the senior vice-president and publisher of the Gallery Books Group, ever received was a pair of elephant bookends “from one of my favorite authors, who knows that I have way too many books in my office and my apartment and that the elephant is my spirit animal.” While Bergstrom’s elephant bookends are sold out, these white stoneware whale bookends would be a treat for a reader whose style is more nautical.
Or if their spirit animal is Richard Serra, these brutalist black marble bookends will probably match their home décor.
Gifts for not losing your place
For a bookmark that feels more substantial than a piece of card stock, Anne Bogel, the creator of the book blog Modern Mrs. Darcy and the host of the What Should I Read Next? podcast, likes this handsome, functional page anchor. “It holds your book open flat, hands free,” she says. “So if you were trying to eat lunch while you’re reading, or maybe tend to whatever’s cooking on the stove while reading, you can do it.”
Bogel’s daughter gifted her one of these bookmarks with a hand you can adjust to point to your exact place. She loves how it stretches to fit any book and makes it convenient to hop right back into what you’re reading.
Katharine Scrivener, of the Instagram account Read With Kat recommends these minimal book darts “for the readers who love to mark quotes but don’t want to actually write in their books.” Much nicer looking than dog-eared pages, the little metal markers stay put inside a book and help readers easily find their favorite passages.
Instead of a bookmark, Nicole Lamy, the New York Times “Match Book” columnist, likes to use one of these vintage-book-cover postcards to keep her place. Lamy loves the imagery and meaning behind them; she’ll also hang them on a wall for inspiration or mail one to another book-loving friend.
Winchester, Ellis, and Dani Lacey, Esposito’s co-host on Black Chick Lit, all love the literary goods from Obvious State. Along with totes and prints with lines from famous novels, there’s also this collection of postcards (that Lacey owns) with the brand’s book-inspired illustrations, which would also make nice bookmarks.
If you’re looking for a bookmark that’s a little sleeker, try this understated metal one engraved with “To Be Continued.”
Gifts for keeping track of books
“I find that so many readers are also stationery junkies,” says Bogel, so she often gifts a pen and notebook for logging books or general writing. She calls the Lamy Safari pen “a nice introductory fountain pen,” and she personally uses dotted notebooks from Leuchtturm 1917. Lacey also uses Leuchtturm notebooks and says an especially thoughtful gift would be to get one embossed with a friend’s favorite literary quote. In her reading journal, Bogel lists the titles, authors, and formats of the books she has read, along with details of where she got each one. “I always track what I’m reading because if I don’t document, I can forget that I’ve actually read the book,” she says. Scrivener loves how blank notebooks offer endless possibilities for readers to personalize their reading journals: “You can track the books you’ve read, the books you want to read, your thoughts on books, quotes you love, reading challenges you’ve completed or are working on, or favorite books you’ve read each year.”
Book lovers enjoy lending their favorite books to friends — as long as they get them back. Abbe Wright, senior editor of Read It Forward, would love to be gifted with bookplates. “Perhaps if my friends kept seeing that in the front of all the books they’ve borrowed from me,” she says, “the guilt would help the books get returned.” Get a set for the friend whose books you’re always borrowing.
Like Wright, one of Bergstrom’s best friends is “a voracious reader who always loans out her books to people and then complains when she never gets them back.” She gifted her this elegant personalized embosser so her friend can “mark her territory, so to speak.” The rubber stamp will emboss your friend’s name on the page — no ink required. Kate Gavino, author of Last Night’s Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors, was given a similar stamp and says “as a possessive book owner, this thrills me.”
You can order this book stamp with your giftee’s name and initials so they can leave a scholarly mark on their book collection.
Gifts for reading more comfortably
Technically any socks could be “reading socks,” but Canadian bookseller Indigo designs its own line of especially soft and thick socks designed to be worn when you’re curled up with a book, that have become a bit of a sensation among readers. Ellis bought a pair for a friend who “loves to be cozy,” and says it’s one of the best gifts she’s given.
Krupitsky said her dream gift would be “a vacation to a quiet island where I could read in peace,” but she’d gladly settle for nice noise-canceling headphones to simulate an oasis even on the subway. If you’re interested in giving the gift of perfect silence, tech writer David Pogue says these noise-canceling Sony headphones are the best of the best. They’re also Esposito’s favorite pair: She says, “I use them to record episodes of Black Chick Lit and also to marathon audiobooks when I don’t exactly want others to know what I’m listening to — like Blue Alien romance books.”
For a more affordable noise-canceling pair, these are the best-rated wireless Bluetooth headphones among Amazon reviewers. They’re “very good at masking ambient noise while preserving the integrity of the audio you’re listening to,” according to one satisfied shopper.
Because her daily chronic headaches make reading on paper difficult, Kendra Winchester, co-host of the Reading Women podcast, mostly listens to audiobooks — and she’s found that AirPods are the best headphones for a smooth reading experience. “I love that if you take out an AirPod, it will stop the audio” she says. “That’s great with audiobooks because you can stop the story if your kid comes up to you asking a question or the UPS man comes to the door.”
Lacey gifted herself a Kindle after earning her MBA and she says, “it’s the best device I’ve ever used for reading: no eye strain, super long battery life, and access to library and Kindle Unlimited books.” Even die-hard fans of physical books will likely see the benefit of being able to download and read new titles from anywhere. As Lacey says, “I can throw my Kindle in my bag and always have 500-plus books on me.”