gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts for Bookworms (That Aren’t Books)

Best non-book gifts for people who to love to read — The Strategist gift guide.
Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

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? It’s also likely that everyone knows they like books, so you’ll be joining a long list of people who attempt to gift them a novel or two. Personally, I send out a list of titles I’m thinking of purchasing for myself to my circle of friends, but that can be time-consuming (there has to be a Google doc where people can anonymously cross things off because, well, the element of surprise) and is more didactic than thoughtful or spontaneous. Luckily, you can avoid that mess by giving a book-adjacent gift instead, be it shelves for keeping their tomes in order or an especially nice-looking bookplate.

To figure out the best gifts, we spoke to book lovers — writers, editors, publishing people, a professor, and other avid readers — to track down the best gifts for bookworms that aren’t books.

Gifts for nocturnal readers

Hooga Book Light

“I’m a slightly old-fashioned reader, which means that I prefer to do all my reading in bed,” says writer Molly McGhee. “There’s something about being horizontal that makes a book that much better.” For late-night readers like herself, McGhee recommends this “true game changer” of a reading light. “The amber hue keeps the blue-light blues at bay,” she says. “Plus, I don’t wake my partner up while I’m reading, and I can wind down without feeling like I’m staring at a screen.”

Evan Dent, manager of 192 Books in Chelsea, has another suggestion for nighttime readers, especially those who stay up later than their partners: “I often like to read a little later into the night than my girlfriend wants to stay up, so she got me this lamp for my bedside table,” he says. “It’s got a dimmer on it, and the shade shapes the light pretty well so that you can keep reading without disturbing someone trying to sleep next to you.” Dent uses the open base of the lamp for storing books, notebooks, and any other bedside items on his nightstand.

We also like this sculptural accordion lamp from Lumio designed by Max Gunawan, which reminds us of origami. It’s also incredibly space saving because it looks just like a normal hardcover book when closed. It’s ideal for an already-book-covered nightstand and comes in lots of shades so you can pick one that suits them best.

Gifts for reading more comfortably

Rachel Krupitsky, who works in social media and audience development at Penguin Random House, 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, Traci Thomas, who hosts books podcast The Stacks, likes these headphones from Beats, which come in a variety of colors and are a bit more affordable than the Sony ones. “They’re perfect for audiobooks or just reading in peace,” she says.


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.”


Paris Close, founding editor of book community blog Paperback Paris, took it to another level and purchased a pair of AirPods Pro, which are beloved for their noise-canceling abilities. “If you’re among the rare multitasking bibliophiles who read better listening to music (with actual lyrics) — then these are must-haves,” he says. “They are the best noise-canceling earbuds I’ve used in years.”

Dani Lacey, co-host of Black Chick Lit, 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.”

Editor’s Note: The particular model Lacey mentioned has been discontinued, but the updated Paperwhite — which has a bigger screen and adjustable lighting — is.

Photo: retailer

McGhee also suggests gifting a blanket — especially one that has a little heft to it. This weighted blanket from West Elm is ideal for “those whose anxiety is too high to read without a bit of assistance,” McGhee says. The blanket comes in a variety of colors and three different weights (15, 20, and 25 pounds), ensuring that there is one for giftees of various anxiety levels and living-room décor schemes.

If you’d like to gift something a little more lightweight, but still cozy, Traci Thomas of The Stacks podcast likes this ultracozy faux-fur throw from West Elm, which has a snow-leopard print.

Editor’s note: This is final sale, so if you buy it, it’s yours to keep.

From $99

If the book fiend in your life needs a new chair for their reading nook, Lacey says this Ikea armchair is “the most comfortable I’ve read in,” because it’s “not too overstuffed, too soft, or too stiff. It’s supportive enough that you can sit back and relax with a good book, but not so lounge-y that you’re struggling to keep your book at the appropriate eye level.” There’s also a (slightly pricier, but still under-$200) rocking chair version if you think your pal would be into that.

As for decorating their reading nook, Katharine Scrivener, of the Instagram account Read With Kat, says, “I would love someone to gift me a custom print from Ideal Bookshelf with my all-time favorite reads.” These book spine illustrations from artist Jane Mount are also at the top of Winchester’s wishlist. If you’re not sure of your recipient’s favorite titles, Mount sells dozens of predesigned prints with books grouped around topics from feminism and anti-racism to sci-fi and coming-of-age novels.

For picky coffee and tea drinkers, this high-tech mug can keep your beverage at an exact temperature (between 120°F and 145°F). “Anyone who hates drinking lukewarm coffee would appreciate this,” says Mitchell Kass, the founder and creative director of trend-forecasting agency Trend Council. The mug stays warm up to an hour if unplugged, or all day if docked in its charging saucer. Thomas is also a fan. ”I love this mug because it keeps my tea warm while I read and doesn’t get between me and a good book,” she says.

For the bath reader, consider gifting them some bath bombs to enhance their soak. Thomas likes these from Ouai. “I like to throw them in with me to set the mood,” she says. “They smell great and aren’t too oily.”

And to further elevate the experience, Lou Diamond Phillips swears by this bath oil, which he says is relaxing after a long day of directing. It’s made by a priest who’s also a holistic doctor and will turn the bath into a spalike oasis.

If you prefer to do your reading in bed or on the couch, McGhee suggests this adjustable laptop desk: “For those who want to remain in bed while reading a 700-page masterpiece, I really recommend a foldable desk with a tilt,” she says. “All the romance of lazy-Sunday reading with none of the wrist strain.”

If you know their favorite book, consider a candle from Noble Objects, which makes candles inspired by classic novels. This one is inspired by Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and is named 124 Bluestone Road, after the house in the novel. The scent is based on the biscuits and blueberries Morrison writes about and has notes of cinnamon, blueberry, cream, dough, and vanilla.

If you’re seeking a more status-y candle, Buchanan says Byredo’s bookstore-inspired scent sets the olfactory stage for her reading ritual. “I know it’s a little bit of a cliché, the smell of books being something book lovers enjoy, but I do think the Byredo candle nails it,” she says. “It’s really got that very soft, mellow sweetness, and slight mustiness, but they’ve made the mustiness beautiful.”

From $99 for 12

And if they want the cozy, low-light vibes candles provide but without the room-altering scent, consider these tapers from the Floral Society, which came recommended to us by EyeSwoon’s Athena Calderone. “These are my favorite tapers for their elongated elegance,” she says.

For longer reading stints, Thomas likes to cozy up with a book and snacks. She likes to get hers from Mouth, which sells small-batch foods. According to Thomas, it’s the “best snack delivery box.” You can gift your book lover a subscription — options range from pickles to indie snacks to cheese — or build a custom box filled with their favorite things. The best part, says Thomas, is that the gift is edible, so once it’s gone, it won’t take up precious bookshelf space.

Gifts for keeping books tidy

Umbra Conceal Wall Shelf
$32 for 3
$32 for 3

Even book lovers who prefer minimalist home décor can easily enter Hoarders territory when it comes to their shelves. Krupitsky 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, Lacey’s 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.”

Editor’s Note: Esposito’s recommendation is discontinued, but a thinner version of the Fantol is available.


For something a little less pricey (but just as nice looking), there’s the Ikea Hemnes bookcase, which comes in a range of colors and is made from solid pine. It comes recommended by The Little Book of Living Small author Laura Fenton, who likes the narrow width and modern silhouette.

For holding whatever they’re currently reading, book lover Joy Woods recommends this nightstand-size book holder. She first came across it on Bookstagram and soon after headed to Etsy to find one of her own. “It’s a great gift for the person who has a bad habit of losing bookmarks, like myself,” she says. “The book stand itself also looks great as a decorative piece, even if it’s in your office.”

For a simple way to organize books, Lisa Zaslow, a New York–based professional organizer and founder of Gotham Organizers, likes these metal bookends with an industrial vibe.

Strategist writer Erin Schwartz is a fan of these sculptural acrylic bookends, which they describe as an “elegant solution” to the “zine problem” — which occurs when you own an assortment of small, staple-bound books that tend to get lost in between your standard-size tomes. “I currently have a separate zine and small-format bookshelf section to handle that, but with this bookshelf, they could hang out with my other books,” they say.

And if your recipient tends toward the colorful, Schwartze recommends these, which come in a kindercore color scheme and fit together in various combinations to make interesting-looking shapes. This would be, says Schwartz, “a good gift for a bookish kid who’s always reorganizing their bookshelf,” or perhaps an adult whose young at heart.

Gifts for not losing your place

Photo: retailer

The Strategist’s resident bookworm, writer Tembe Denton-Hurst, says she received this Poketo bookmark as a Christmas gift last year and loved it. “I’ve recently become somewhat obsessed with keeping my books looking brand new, and bookmarks stop me from bending my pages to hold my spot,” says Denton-Hurst. “I like the slightly design-y look of this one, and its nice and heavy, so it won’t wear out over time.”

Or consider this cheeky bookmark from Etsy shop Lustcraft, which features an image of Jesus peering at you while asking a crucial question: “Is that smut?”

Scrivener 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 TimesMatch 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 Lacey 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.

Gifts for marking up books

Close likes to annotate his books. His instrument of choice: the ubiquitous Muji 0.35-mm ballpoint pen. “I really love these ballpoint pens for underlining paragraphs and penning notes along the margins,” he says. “They’re super-affordable (and come in more colors than just black), super-sleek, and don’t bleed through the pages at all.”

Denton-Hurst likes these for annotating, which she came across on bookstagram. “They’re perfect for keeping track of the lines and passages I like,” she says. And to make things a bit more aesthetic, she recommends coordinating your flag colors with the cover of your book.

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.”

If you want a dedicated reading journal that’s already designed to track your books, then consider this option from Papier. The stationery brand, which makes some our favorite planners, always has fresh, exciting designs. There are lots of styles to choose from with this layout, but if you want to continue with the bookish theme, this library-card-themed one is particularly cute.

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 bookworms who love puzzles and games

If you know the recipient’s favorite book, you could check out Litographs, a company that makes puzzles, blankets, T-shirts, and other items with designs made up of text from books like Sherlock Holmes, The Great Gatsby, and Alice in Wonderland. This puzzle, which comes recommended by Dent, is comprised of thousands of words from Moby Dick. “Putting together the puzzle requires you to put together words and sentences from the book,” says Dent.

Photo: retailer

For the bookworm who likes their puzzle with a dash of Where’s Waldo?–esque character spotting: a Sherlock Holmes puzzle that’s a favorite of Greenlight Bookstore co-owner Rebecca Fitting. “It’s a 1,000-piece puzzle featuring iconic Sherlock Holmes characters, and it comes with a fold-out poster,” says Fitting.

And if they like something design-y, we’re fans of Le Puzz’s nice-looking puzzles. There’s lots to choose from, and the brand collaborates with artists and brands often, so it’s likely you’ll find something that’s suited to their taste. This one, for example, was created with L.A.-based artist Joonbug and is my go-to gift for friends this year.

Photo: retailer

If they’re more into playing Hearts (or Go Fish) than puzzling, gift them a pack of these Genius Writers playing cards, which, instead of kings and queens and the like, feature the faces of 54 writers from the past 100 years. “I wonder which two authors ended up as the jokers,” says Fitting, who recommended the set.

And for the friend who always sends perfectly punctuated text messages and emails: a card game that includes 100 sentences waiting to be corrected (the first person who corrects the error or calls out “Stet!” gets a point). “This one is a good gift for the copy editor in your life,” says Dent.

Experiential gifts

“Readers in the know hunt down certain publishers like people do with record labels,” says Dent. “I don’t think you can go wrong with the NYRB Classics club or the New Directions New Classics club — both put out consistently good books, so if you know your friend has a bunch from either publisher, it’s a pretty safe bet.” Both the NYRB Classics and New Directions book clubs send a recently published book each month. (And for the particularly design-minded bookworm, Dent suggests gifting a subscription to U.K. publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions: “They’re a British publisher, so you have to do a bit of extra finagling to get them sent here, but it’s worth it — they put out some really good books with distinctive minimal designs that look really nice grouped together, and are consistently better [designed] than the U.S. editions of the books.”)

Another book gift without the pressure of picking a book: A subscription to the First Editions Club from Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore, which comes with a signed copy of a newly published book each month. Luis Jaramillo, the author of The Doctor’s Wife and the director of the writing program at the New School, says the selection, “like the bookstore itself, is extremely well-curated.” Kate Gavino, author of Last Night’s Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors, agrees the subscription “makes for a perfect birthday gift.”

New York bookstore McNally Jackson also has a publication arm called McNally Editions, which republishes out-of-print books as paperbacks. In time for the holidays, the publishing house recently launched a subscription service, which selects books based upon three profiles: the Realist, the Escape Artist, and the Decadent. For $30, the store will send two books every season based on the chosen profile. Books are selected from past and current reading seasons, and because the books themselves are a bit under the radar, it’s unlikely they’ve read them already.

As Esposito explains, Call Number is “a subscription service with a mission to provide exposure to black authors from across the diaspora,” and it’s one of the best gifts she’s ever given to a book-loving friend. Curated by a librarian, each quarterly box includes a new book plus add-ons like bookmarks or artwork.

If you’re shopping for an audiobook fan like Winchester, she recommends a monthly membership to, an audiobook service that lets customers select a local bookstore to support with each purchase. Thomas also recommends it as a gift. “They are a great company that cares deeply about supporting bookstores and local communities,” she says.

Photo: retailer

And for the bookworm who could use a break from it all: The Coloring Book of Mindfulness, which comes recommended by Fitting. “We all need some distraction and escape,” she says. Bonus points if you gift it with some colored pencils.

Gifts they can wear

One of my friends recently posted a photo of her wearing a fabulously long patterned cardigan while reading a book. It was so unbelievably chic that it made me want my own, and I realized then that it would make a very good gift. This Etsy seller Bydna makes floor-length dusters in an array of shades, including this striking neon-rainbow number.

If you want something a bit heavier, the Homecoat is the blanket-robe hybrid you could be looking for. It’s a favorite of former Strategist writer Karen Iorio Adelson, who said wearing it feels like “stuffing your coziest comforter into your favorite, lazy day sweatshirt.”

If your recipient is a bit cheeky, consider A Hundred Other Girls merch. There are a few different phrases to choose from, including “book whore,” and “smut slut,” which will surely elicit comments from passersby.

During suggests gifting a T-shirt from a recipient’s favorite bookstore — or one, like this Bookstore at the End of the World shirt, that supports booksellers out of work because of COVID. If you know their preferred indie bookstore — whether it’s McNally Jackson, Terrace Books, or Skylight Books — you can find plenty of literary merch here, where all proceeds go to the bookstores.

“I can’t overstate how much I love a nice, roomy tote to drag my books from place to place,” says Denton-Hurst. “Only book people know the struggle of trying to lug five different titles from one place to another and being unable to pick just one to bring along.” The Strategist favorite L.L. Bean Boat and Tote is her bag of choice. “The size is ideal, and it’s so sturdy that I never feel like I’m in danger of overstuffing it or weighing it down,” she says.

If they’d prefer to rep a cool bookstore, there’s this tote from the Black-owned Reparations Club, which comes in a classic black and the brand’s signature neon-green hue.

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The Best Gifts for Bookworms (That Aren’t Books)