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5 Cheap (or Free) Last Minute Homemade Bookish Gifts

Sarah S. Davis

Staff Writer

Sarah S. Davis holds a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master's of Library Science from Clarion University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sarah has also written for Electric Literature, Kirkus Reviews, Audible, Psych Central, and more. Sarah is the founder of Broke By Books blog and runs a tarot reading business, Divination Vibration. Twitter: @missbookgoddess Instagram: @Sarahbookgoddess

With the hours winding down until Christmas day, navigating the roads to get to shop can be stressful, especially with duking it out for a parking spot an unsavory thought. Likewise, getting books shipped in time for the holiday can be pricey, if not impossible. Buying books can quickly add up, and if you’re on a budget the holiday season can be a landmine of anxiety.

Fortunately, if you’re shopping for a bookish person there gifts you can make from within your home using things you likely already own or can get at the dollar store or grocery market for next to nothing. Here are my favorite inexpensive but sincerely felt homemade gifts for bookish people.


  • Annotate a favorite book

Gift Idea: Annotate a Beloved Book

I definitely find myself browsing my bookshelves, picking up a book loved and thinking, “This would be perfect for my best friend, but I couldn’t bare to part with it…”. Yet sometimes parting with your favorite copy would mean so much more than buying someone a brand new copy. Your friend would see how much it meant to you to pass along a beloved book. One more way to amplify this personal experience would be with homemade annotations. Rather than write in the margins, you could take sticky notes and highlight your favorite passages, prep the reader for major plot points (without spoilers), leave instructions for contacting you when they get to a certain page, and give them a running commentary of your own reactions to characters, quotes, and events. Tuck a self-addressed, stamped envelope with a card into the final page of the book. Ask the reader to send you their thoughts in the mail once they’ve read them.


  • DIY card catalog and reading journal
Gift Idea: Create a Card Catalog Reading Journal

Gift Idea: Create a Card Catalog Reading Journal

Wouldn’t it be super rad to bring back the card catalog but on a more personal scale? Making a DIY reading journal into a card catalog is a great gift for the reader in your life. It’s pretty simple. All you need is a pack of 3 x 5 index cards, a box to house them, and 3.5 x 5 shipping labels, all of which you can get at your local office supply store, Target, or Amazon. Create labels in Word with space for a book’s Title, Author, Genre, Rating (Out of 5 Stars), Mini-Review, and Notes (or whatever categories you want to include. Stick the labels on the index cards, wrapping the longer edge over the top. Create dividers in the box by cutting a card slightly more than half way so it sticks out over the cards. Write “A,” “B,” “C,” etc (the reader can decide if she wants to file by title or by author) in the top corner so it’s visible, and file among the cards. Voila! A homemade card catalog for the reader in your life with space for personal reading notes.


  • Shelf organization labels
Gift Idea: Bookshelf Labels

Gift Idea: Bookshelf Labels

Along those lines with the personal library…many readers love the organized feel of a library and want to bring it into their own home library. A quick gift for them would be writing different genres or categories of books on address labels (I recommend the 2 x 4 size or thereabouts) in Word, printing them out, and sticking them on special cardstock, patterned, or pretty paper, trimming the edges to a desirable size. For example, genres could include “Mystery,” “Romance,” “Young Adult,” “Biographies,” etc. My personal favorites are the “To Be Read” shelf label and the “Currently Reading” shelf label. That way you have literally created a manifestation of the TBR shelf! Including some double-sided tape will help the reader put the labels on herself. And including a few cards with blank labels will help the reader work out a way to organize that is more personal to their style.


  • Personalized cookbook
Gift Idea: Personalized Cookbook

Gift Idea: Personalized Cookbook

If you love to cook or bake and so does your reader, why not create a personalized cookbook? Some of my favorite, go-to recipes that I make over and over again come from cookbooks. If you have an all in one printer at home, you could photocopy the pages of your favorite recipes, though that can be kind of cumbersome with bulky, heavy hardcover cookbooks. In that case, typing up your favorite recipes, adding your personal notes, and perhaps even including pictures of your own efforts at making the delicious food would be an eclectic homemade cookbook to give to the foodie reader in your life, all the better because it includes the best of the best recipes you vetted yourself. Slipping the printed out recipes in laminated, three hole punched sheets and separating them out in a binder with labeled tabbed dividers (all available at an office store or Target) gives them a durable cookbook ready for the kitchen.


  • Read an audiobook
Gift Idea: Record an Audiobook

Gift Idea: Record an Audiobook

Are you or is the reader in your life obsessed with audiobooks? I burn through Audible credits listening to my favorite narrators, and you or the reader in your life might have the same problem. One way to share your love for audiobooks would be to record your own narration of a short story or two or novella you love. A quiet room, a microphone (such as one on your laptop or smartphone), and your voice is all you need to create a totally unique audiobook for the reader in your life. I suggest recording a personalized introduction to whatever you’re going to read. You can burn the finished recording onto a CD or send the digital file in an email.