Shop Less, Give More: 4 Ways to Give Bookish Experiences as Gifts This Holiday Season

This content contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Isabelle Popp

Senior Contributor

Isabelle Popp has written all sorts of things, ranging from astrophysics research articles and math tests to crossword puzzles and poetry. These days she's writing romance. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably knitting or scouring used book stores for vintage gothic romance paperbacks. Originally from New York, she's as surprised as anyone that she lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

There are plenty of reasons to give gifts that are experiences instead of material objects. Don’t get me wrong: books make great gifts! That will always be true. If, however, you’re looking to change up your gifting strategy and still delight the book lover in your life, consider giving an experience. Maybe you have a loved one who has expressed a feeling of being overwhelmed with their belongings. Or their tastes are a little inscrutable to you. Perhaps you and your giftee value quality time over physical gifts. If you’re trying to save money or travel light during the holiday season, those are great reasons as well. Experience gifts are a fantastic way to go, whatever your budget. Plus, if you know your giftee well and get creative, indelible memories are sure to be made. Here are some ways to think about experiential gifts as points for brainstorming.

The Gift of Adventure

Anne of Green Gables coverWhether you’re looking to go abroad for a couple of weeks or enjoy a local day trip, one gift option is a trip to a bookish destination. Book Riot’s own Literary Tourism has plenty of ideas. Check your area for historic house museums lived in by authors, rare books and special collections libraries with interesting exhibitions, or locations where favorite books were set (someone who also loves Anne of Green Gables, please take me to Prince Edward Island!). Look into book festivals or author signings that are on the horizon near you. If you’re a little morbid, visit a cemetery where a departed writer is spending eternity and pay your respects. Plus, wherever you go, you can hit up the local book shops.

If you’re in the mood to pay things forward, taking someone on a Little Free Library adventure would make an incredibly fun day. The first stops on this odyssey would be your local used book stores, friends of the library book sales, or thrift shops. Set yourself a budget and buy as many of your favorite—or simply interesting-looking—books as you can find. All the fun of shopping and none of the stuff piling up in your house! Plus, what great conversation fodder used book shopping always is. Then you can locate your closest Little Free Libraries and seed them with your finds. If they are looking overstuffed, please don’t feel bad about weeding out the old church cookbooks or Windows 95 manuals. If you have fun with this, there are more ideas for how to keep your Little Free Library stocked. While this would be a great day out with a friend, it also makes a fun solo expedition if you want to do something nice for yourself this holiday season.

The Gift of Coziness

If nature has given you the gift of a dulcet voice, consider giving a read-aloud as a gift. This gift might work best with a romantic partner or someone you live with, but it could also make a great gift for a relative—maybe someone older, or maybe someone very young!— whom you want to commit to visiting on a regular basis. And while you’re making a commitment, pledge your acting skills, because when reading aloud, you’ve got to do the voices. This gift would work especially well for someone who likes to occupy their hands while listening to books. Offer to read aloud while they solve a jigsaw puzzle, knit, or doodle. You might even get a nice new scarf out of it.

Penguin Classics Crossword PuzzlesIf your giftees prefer the printed word, or perhaps you’re feeling a little hoarse, a similar cozy gift would be the scheduling of a game night along with the gift of a new literary game or puzzle book. I personally love crosswords and vintage paperbacks, so the Penguin Classics Crosswords would be a delight to solve with a buddy. If you’re more into board games, try Marrying Mr. Darcy, Bring Your Own Book, or even Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger! If a new game or puzzle isn’t in the budget, fear not. There are plenty of literary party games you can play with nothing more than the books you already have and some paper.

The Gift of Curiosity

If you love books, why not learn more about the physical objects? You can give someone a class related to the bookmaking arts as a gift. If timing and budget allows, you could take the class alongside them. You could try paper making, letterpress printing, or bookbinding. Combine all of them and make a whole book! Even with just one skill, your loved one could make beautiful stationery, a decorative broadside printed with a favorite quote, or a blank journal. You may be able to find classes through local printing shops, colleges or art school, or even your public library.

90 Day Novel coverIf you’re less attached to books as objects and more to the text itself, you could consider a creative writing class. This can give you more flexibility to find classes online or find classes tailored to writing skills you and your giftee might like to hone. For a real DIY approach, gift a process book like The 90-Day Novel and do a crash course together.

The Gift of Eternity

If you and a pal love books and tattoos, why not take the leap and get bookish tattoos? We have plenty of ideas for you. You can pick favorite quotes or illustrations from books, or an author portrait if you’re especially daring. They certainly don’t have to be matching tattoos, but going together would be a fantastic way to commemorate a friendship and a love for the written word. Forget diamonds; nothing says forever like fresh ink.