Columns > Published on December 4th, 2015

10 Holiday Gifts Every Book Lover Needs This Year

We’ve reached the part of the year when just stepping outside your house means being assailed with Mariah Carey renditions of songs about trees and sleigh bells and desperation. Add to that an army of psychotic bargain hunters and cardboard Santas holding “X days ’til Christmas!” countdown signs at every retailer’s door and it’s enough to make you want to hole up in your house with several cases of boozy nog until spring. Go ahead! Although it’s almost gift o’clock, it is also 2015, which means you can buy thoughtful, appropriate gifts for every book lover on your list without ever leaving the sanctuary of your Mariah Carey-free home (or eggnog). Here are 10 picks that are sure to make everything else your loved one receives look totally lame by comparison… and isn’t that what the season is truly about?

1. Knock Knock Personal Library Kit

This one’s a perfect gift for so many people: librarians, wanna-be librarians, obsessively organized people, forgetful book lovers who lend stuff out and then forget about it, luddites, youngsters who need to a-teachin’ about how things were before fancy digital receipts, stamp enthusiasts… the list goes on and on. Even better, the little pocket that you affix to the book says, “Overdue penalties may apply,” which lets the borrower know you’re serious about getting your book back in a timely manner. If you’ve ever loaned out a book only to get it back three years later, you know how important this is.

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2. Old Books Candle

What bibliophile in good standing does not want their abode to reek of old books? This can be easily accomplished by filling the home with actual old books, but for those who enjoy modern literature or — god forbid — eBooks, the struggle can be real. Enter Anthology Candles Old Book scent. The manufacturer says, “We’ve captured that aged, musty, dusty, deliciously old scent and bottled it!” They then added a touch of grass and vanilla to “balance out the ancient scent of the paper.” So presumably, it will smell a bit like a combination library and ice creamery in a park. All of those things are good. The same manufacturer also makes a Law Library candle for those with more specific reading tastes as well as a newspaper scented candle and a “Gatsby’s Party” candle. It’s an olfactory celebration!

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3. Ernest Hemingway Box Set

With a hefty price point of $315, this striking set of nine hardcover Hemingway books is designed for the special literature fan or elephant enthusiast in your life. The Scribner Classics books include Across the River and Into the Trees, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Green Hills of Africa, Islands in the Stream, The Sun Also Rises, Death in the Afternoon, Selected Letters 1917-1961, and The Short Stories. The product description explains that the design combines “several elements of his life and work… from African grasscloth and the colors of the Spanish flag, to Hem's iconic signature and a larger than life elephant (like Hemingway himself).” You know they get the essence of the author because they can call him “Hem.”

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4. Jane Austen Complete Works Box Set

Buying books for bookworms is tricky because you never know what’s already on their shelf, but you will rarely go wrong with a well-designed, newly published box set of classics. Published this year as part of Penguin’s Hardcover Classics series, this $100 Jane Austen set with covers by award-winning designer Coralie Bickford-Smith is just plain gorgeous and considerably more affordable than the aforementioned Hemingway set. The seven books included are Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, and Love and Friendship (early writings).  The foil-stamped, cloth-bound volumes are a must-have for Austen fans.

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5. Wireless, Folding Book Lamp

It’s 2015. We’ve got those hoverboard thingies, refrigerators that communicate with the internet, and drones that deliver packages, so a portable, battery-powered lamp that looks and acts like a book should not be mind-blowing… but it kind of is. When closed, it looks like a hardcover book bound in laser-cut wood, but crack it open and a warm 500 lumen light pours out from the pages. It lasts for about eight hours before needing a recharge from the USB cord. The original Lumio version sold by MoMA is a tad spendy ($225) but that’s a small price to pay for magical future technology, no? There are cheaper (around $50) knockoffs available, but reviews on those are mixed and one of them has the questionable phrase “Finger Love” emblazoned on the front. This thing is the very definition of snazzy.

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6. Bamboo Bathtub Caddy

That moment when you become so engrossed in a story that you inadvertently let the bottom of your book dip into the bubbly waters of your bath has ruined many a precious tome. But no more! You really can’t go wrong gifting this handy adjustable bath caddy for $60. It not only has a sturdy book perch, front and center, but also a nifty spill-proof wine glass holder and a little divot to hold a phone while it plays relaxing reading music. All it’s lacking is a built-in fan that periodically blows rose petals around the room. Bonus: the bamboo is naturally resistant to mold and mildew.

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7. Literary Paper Dolls

The imaginative bibliophile could spend hours — hours! — telling stories with this set of 16 literary paper dolls. Taunt Poe with the pendulum, throw a wig and some makeup on Shakespeare and make him play the female roles, take Kafka through his metamorphosis into a bug, reenact a Fitzgerald family argument… the options are only limited by the recipient’s imagination.

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8. The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos From Bookworms Worldwide

Reviews for this book call it “heaven sent” and liken it to a “pirate’s chest filled with treasure,” and while that seems a touch hyperbolic, it certainly is a cool book and thoughtful gift for your favorite lit or tattoo fan. Combining photos of book-inspired tattoos with the personal stories that inspired them, The Word Made Flesh has a candid, confessional feel that makes it tough to put down.

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9. Novel Teas

This is a package of 25 individually tagged teabags with quotes from novels on them. Novel Teas. See what they did there? Even better, the blurb says, “Read ’em and steep.” Somebody give the marketing genius behind this product a raise! These packets of English breakfast tea make for a fun and unique gift for a book club buddy, favorite lit teacher, or avid reader who has everything.

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10. Book Lover’s Memory Game

Who knew the ole Memory game we all used to play as kids came in a literary edition? Match author photos, quotations, and book covers while having fun with the fam and fending off mental decline*. To take the excitement up a notch, players can also take on the role of author, publisher, illustrator, or editor to rack up bonuses. For a fun and entirely unsanctioned-by-the-manufacturer twist, make illustrators communicate only via drawings for the rest of the game, tell editors to justify their position on the Oxford comma prior to their turn, and force writers to pen a paragraph explaining the source of their inner demons after each match.
*Claim completely unsubstantiated by science.

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What will you be buying for the bibliophiles in your life this year? Share your brilliant ideas in the comments. Have a merry whatever you celebrate and a happy New Year! 

Need some additional ideas? Check out the Holiday Gift Lists of Christmas Past.

About the author

Kimberly Turner is an internet entrepreneur, DJ, editor, beekeeper, linguist, traveler, and writer. This either makes her exceptionally well-rounded or slightly crazy; it’s hard to say which. She spent a decade as a journalist and magazine editor in Australia and the U.S. and is now working (very, very slowly) on her first novel. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and an M.A. in Applied Linguistics and lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two cats, ten fish, and roughly 60,000 bees.

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