Last-Minute Bookish Gift Ideas

In the best of years, holiday shopping has a way of sneaking up on gift list procrastinators like me. In years past, I’d spend a leisurely afternoon in my local bookstore, sipping hot cocoa and checking off the Christmas list for the readers in my life—my favorite kind of one-stop shopping. This pandemic year, it’s all about online shopping, and the mind-boggling logistics of trying to get a package somewhere in time. (In 2020, anyone who can keep up with a countdown of holiday shipping deadlines deserves a beautifully gift-wrapped medal.) Unfortunately for me and my fellow procrastinators, with all the shipping delays and drama this year, the safest time to ship something was probably a few days before Thanksgiving. But don’t worry if you’ve waited too long to get a parcel to your favorite bookish person by the holidays. There are plenty of exceptional last-minute gifts that can arrive at the speed of email. From ebooks to digital prints to subscriptions, there are plenty of gifts that are both thoughtful and almost-instant. Here’s a list of bookish last-minute bookish gift ideas that will delight readers of all ages. 

Ebooks and Audiobooks

With the millions of titles out there, you can pick something perfectly suited to your friend’s or family’s taste. Feeling overwhelmed? Book Riot has plenty of suggestions if you want to narrow it down to “Best-of 2020” picks. If you want to go indie with your digital copies, check out Kobo or My Must Reads, two platforms that direct a portion of sales to local bookshops.

These days, audiobooks are almost always digital and for audiophiles like me, always appreciated. You can buy single audiobooks or gift a subscription from platforms like Audible, which has millions of audiobooks to choose from. Libro.FM offers an indie option, with portion of sales supporting local independent bookstores. 

Book Box Subscriptions

Book boxes are a perfect way to give a last-minute gift that allows you to send a physical gift without it technically arriving late. Tuck the subscription into a card or virtual greeting, and your lucky recipient can get excited for future deliveries. There are so many book boxes out there, there’s guaranteed to be one tailored  to your reader’s taste, including:

  • Call Number: This subscription service delivers curated picks by Black authors. You can get a subscription for quarterly boxes with just books (Fiction, Nonfiction, YA) or the books and themed goodies. Each box comes with a “library packet” that includes a catalog card, spine label, label protector, and logo sticker to help you build your own personal lending library.
  • Ourshelves: This subscription box is perfect for the littlest readers in your life. Specializing in promoting diverse voices, Ourshelves only features books that center characters and families who are racially diverse, LGBTQ+, disabled, or have other traditionally marginalized identities.
  • TBR: Our very own TBR (Tailored Book Recommendations) is a great way to gift family and friends hand-selected books. You can gift them three personally-tailored book recommendations a quarter, picked out by our resident bibliologists with a letter describing why they’re a perfect fit for the lucky reader. You can gift a subscription that includes the selected books or just the recommendations.  

Literary Magazines

If you know any fans of short stories and creative nonfiction, a literary magazine subscription makes a great gift that they can look forward to monthly or quarterly. Available in digital and paper formats, there are literary magazines capturing stories from every genre and for every age range. Just a few of the great ones: The Paris Review (literary fiction and poetry); Clarkesworld (speculative fiction); One Teen Story (teen writers); Cricket (Middle Grade).

Bookshop Gift Card

If you’re looking to support local bookstores, many are offering digital gift cards direct from their website. Or you can get a digital gift card from Bookshop, which donates the profit to the recipient’s local bookstore of choice, or, if they don’t have a bookstore in mind, to the earning pool that supports independent bookstores nationwide. 


In times like this, many of us turn to books for emotional support. Bibliotherapy is a technique that uses books to help the reader explore emotional issues. If you have a reader in mind who would appreciate a one-on-one virtual bibliotherapy session, check out the gift vouchers available from London-based company The School of Life. 

For more bookish gift ideas, check out Book Riot’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide.