Skip to Content

How Do You Choose A Book As A Gift?

For someone who likes to read, receiving a book as a gift is a thoughtful and intelligent gesture. Even if you can’t get together because of busy lives, the connection with a friend or family member can be strengthened through shared interests in a book. 

Selecting a book as a gift depends on knowing enough about the recipient to make a thoughtful choice. Choosing reading material for another means looking for shared interests, growth opportunities, and life events or experiences.

Whether the recipient is a reader or prefers other types of sensory input, items in the broad category of books are a well-suited way of showing them that you cared enough to personalize a gift for them. Here are some ideas to help narrow down the many options available in books as a gift.

Are they an avid reader?

If you know the person well, you won’t have a problem deciding if they will enjoy a book as a gift.If their idea of a shopping trip is to visit a bookstore, that’s a clue. They might wear clothing that identifies their interests–think a Harry Potter t-shirt. The reader will mention book characters or authors frequently in conversation. They will get excited about receiving books as gifts, and they probably own an e-reader. They are likely to be holding a book at every opportunity. 

A person who loves to read will likely consider the best ways to install more bookshelves into any decorating or decor idea. A book wall, a headboard with built-in bookcases, and an area in their home set up to enjoy a new book (or re-reading an old one) are all indications that the person makes reading a high priority in his or her life.

Sneak a peek at their bookshelf

Check out their bookshelf, if you visit. This practice will tell you a lot about the person, as well as plenty of information about the kind of reading material they prefer. You can enjoy a conversation with someone whose bookshelves show a preference for a particular author or genre. Ask about missing titles from a favorite author or genre. Look for something that is missing in their collection and choose that as a gift.When all else fails, ask what book they last read that they truly enjoyed, and find something similar.

Wish Lists

For individuals who truly love to read, chances are that they will have a wishlist. Some subscription services such as Goodreads or LibraryThing provide a wishlist option. So do common online shopping venues such as Amazon.  If you know they own certain books, sometimes there are algorithm-suggested ‘similar to this’ items at the bottom of a product page.  

Social media accounts on apps such as Instagram might let you know what authors or titles they have found interesting and are posting about. This could let you know a list of books they have on their radar.

Do you have shared interests?

Find an area where your interests overlap, or where there is a special memory you share.  A book will feel more meaningful if it resonates with both of you in some way. The recipient will think of you personally every time they pick up the gift. This is better than just grabbing something random off the ‘new titles’ shelf. 

Just as most people don’t enjoy receiving random articles of clothing that don’t fit them, are in unflattering styles or colors, or don’t suit their lifestyle, most people will be more appreciative of a book gift that shows some thought put into how it suits them.

Life Events

Sometimes the book lover has a major life event going on that you know of. They may be getting married, divorced, or moving across the country.Maybe they are starting grad school or embarking on a new career. A person who is struggling with depression, or who is experiencing major health events such as surgery, cancer, or traumatic injuries may appreciate a helpful book that addresses their personal situation.

Inspirational and self-discovery titles

Books from this genre are constantly being added to the world of literature. Many people have stories to share and these authors often have developed a path forward that might interest your reading friend. It helps if this type of book is something that you personally have found helpful.

Where to do book shopping

There are dozens of ways to acquire books to give as gifts. Because of the many options, price doesn’t have to be a factor. A title picked up at a yard sale that fills out a hole in the reader’s collection can be prized just as much as the valuable historical volume purchased at a major auction.


Subscription services are constantly expanding in their scope, genre, and cost. There are monthly plans from many local and online booksellers. Book of the Month is the oldest of this type of service and probably the most recognized. Others include The Owl Crate for young adult readers, ‘Once Upon A Book Club’, and ‘Coffee and A Classic’–which pairs a beverage and one of the most loved titles from the past.

Used bookstores

Bookstores which focus on used titles, both in mass market paperbacks and hardcovers, are found in most communities. They vary in the size of their inventory and the scope of the titles offered. The typical used bookseller has an inventory that is constantly changing. Their focus may be on a particular genre, or a shallower selection of almost everything. 

Online booksellers

The online book marketplace is huge and continues to expand. Local booksellers may have seen the opportunities by sharing part or all of their inventory directly, or by selling through larger entities. Some of the best known bookstores online include Amazon, Books A Million, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and Alibris. Some of these also have bricks-and-mortar outlets. 

Local independent booksellers

Local independent booksellers who are in the business because they love books can be a good resource to learn of recommended gift titles. They may have suggestions you haven’t thought of, or be able to give an informed opinion on the quality of potential choices.


For a person who loves to read and has complaints about finding enough time to enjoy a good book, an audiobook might be an excellent choice as a gift. You can look for an audio version of a favorite title or author, as evidenced by examples found in their home, or choose a new title in a similar genre.


For a person who is comfortable with using a tablet, smartphone, or e-reader, and is constantly on the go, a gift of an e-book title may be just the thing to give.

Book ideas for non-readers

If they are not a reader, you could ask them about a favorite movie, instead. Find a book in a similar genre, or something that ties in.  What hobbies or particular interests do they have? There are many books on every topic imaginable, whether it’s war history, weaving, or water skiing, and even a non-reader can often appreciate a beautiful coffee-table book of high-quality photographs.  

Depending on the age and interests, there are also many graphic novels (comic books) which may be enjoyed even by those whose reading level is limited. 

Follow up mode

Because of the power of books and reading to bring people together, it helps to be sure that the gift is something that you both can enjoy. Maybe it is the start of a deeper understanding of the recipient. For that reason, a book that is relevant to the giftee and to your relationship with them could be the best choice.