Are Books Actually Good Gifts in 2021? Do People Like Them?


Books make exceptional gifts because gifting and receiving books is still considered to be a universal expression of respect and friendship.

Are you searching for the perfect gift to give your spouse, friend, or neighbor? Are you in a time crunch and need to pick up a meaningful gift?

Finding the perfect gift can often be a stressful task. You have to take into account a number of important factors, like the preferences of the gift receiver, your budget, and the amount of time you have to find a gift.

However, there is one gift that never loses its value and makes a positive impact: a book.

Continue reading to learn about why books make great gifts, how to choose the perfect book for that special someone in your life, and proper gift-giving etiquette.

Are books good gifts?

Books usually are good gifts. They directly impact and make a positive contribution to one’s life. However, if you don't know someone, or he doesn't like books, it's recommended to stay away from giving books.

Why Books are One of the Best Gifts

Books are a powerful vessel of information, and can send a message of respect, love, and friendship when gifted.

On the part of the giver, books are one of the best gifts to give because they make room for thoughtfulness and personalization.

On the part of the receiver, books can provide a lasting educational and entertainment benefit. Unlike monetary gifts or items that can expire, books directly impact and make a positive contribution to one’s life.

In addition, books are likely to be passed on from the receiver to his or her community (e.g. children, spouse, friends). This multiples the educational potential and emotional impact of a book for an entire community, rather than just one person.

How Do You Find the Right Book to Give as a Gift?

Picking the right book can be time-consuming, but enjoyable nonetheless. All it takes is some research and reflection on the kinds of books your friend, spouse, or partner would enjoy receiving and reading.

Penguin Random House, one of the leading publishing companies in the world, has created a comprehensive guide to picking the right book to get any person in your life.

What Books Do They Already Own?

Ask them about their personal book collection. Once you are aware of the type of content, genres, and authors they’re interested in, it’ll be much easier to make an educated guess about the type of book they’d like to receive from you and add to their collection.

What Would Be Relevant to Their Lives?

As a gift giver, it would be helpful to take inventory of where your friend, associate, or colleague is in life and where they want to go. In other words, identify books that they could draw lessons from and apply to their life.

Once again, err on the side of caution and avoid making assumptions. Always ask, and if you don’t want to spoil the surprise, pick up the latest self-improvement or self-empowerment book that can be applicable to almost anybody.

What Are Their Favorite TV Shows or Movies?

Oftentimes, movies and TV shows are adapted from books or short stories. Thus, if you know that someone in your life who you’re interested in giving a book to has a favorite movie or TV show, do some digging to see if you can find the book or story it originated from.

You could also gift them with a podcast or audiobook subscription for audio shows relating to the movie or TV show.

If All Else fails, Ask Them!

When all fails, simply ask them what they’d like to read or ask them any of the above questions. This way you’ll receive a clear answer and will therefore increase the chances of gifting them with a book they will actually enjoy reading.

Or, if you don't want to ask your friend or spouse about the kinds of books he/she would want to receive for fear of spoiling the surprise, ask around his/her social network to get useful feedback you can use to help you find the right book.

For future gift giving opportunities, you’ll already be set with the topics, genres, and authors that they noted as being one of their favorites.

There are some titles that are universally appreciated and revered for their general knowledge and life wisdom. Examples include The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, or any books in the Harry Potter series.

When Should You NOT Give Books as Gifts?

Even though giving books as gifts is appreciated and welcomed across many cultures, there may be some instances when giving a book as a gift is not appropriate. According to, these are the instances when you should think twice before giving a book as a gift:

1. You don’t know them well enough.

Because the act of giving books as a gift is understood to be a thoughtful expression, it may do you well to consider whether or not you share a close or personal relationship with the person you are thinking of gifting a book to.

If the answer to the above question is “no,” consider getting him/her a more neutral or universally accepted present, such as a gift card, a card, or a cake.

2. They just don’t like books.

The person you’re thinking of giving a book to may not actually like to read, and therefore might not appreciate the notion behind giving books as gifts.

3. Or, they just don’t like the books you like.

Perhaps your friend, associate, or supervisor may not share the same interests as you. As mentioned above, finding books for a close friend or spouse can be easier due to the likelihood of shared interests.

However, if you are gifting a book to a boss or supervisor, consider whether or not the book you are planning on gifting is something they would actually enjoy reading, or would be interested in reading.

4. They're a gadget person.

In our technologically-advanced world, where social and streamable media are often the desired way to spend one’s time, it may be hard to find people who enjoy reading books the old-fashioned way.

For the tech-obsessed person in your life, consider the idea of giving him/her an e-book or audiobook. This way, you’ll still be able to convey the thoughtfulness behind gifting a book, but just in a way that they would appreciate.

Is It Okay to Mark-Up a Book You Plan to Give as a Gift?

It’s absolutely acceptable to mark up, or write in, a book you plan to give as a gift. In fact, it can add another layer of personalization to the gift.

Often, you can include a personal message on the acknowledgments page of the book, such as a brief anecdote shared between you and the gift receiver, or the reason behind the choice of book (

It is highly likely the gift receiver themselves will write in the book as they read. This common practice allows the reader to focus on the storyline, the author’s message, or elements that could be applied to the reader’s life.

The author of the famous How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler, advocates marking up books

What if My Friend Has Too Many Books?

If your friend or associate has too many books, do not fret. While the chances of you gifting them a book they haven’t read is slim, the gesture will still be appreciated. recommends keeping the book’s purchase receipt -- this way, if your friend has already read the material, he/she can exchange it for a book they haven’t read.

If you simply think your literary friend has read all the books (which is highly unlikely), consider these other gifts instead:

  • A gift card to their favorite bookstore
  • Audiobook or e-book gift card
  • A magazine subscription
  • A rechargeable clip-on book light
  • Bookmarks
  • Paperweight
  • A reading pillow
  • A coffee mug with their favorite quote inscribed
  • Writing supplies

The next time you’re picking up a book for yourself, think about the people in your life who would benefit from or enjoy receiving books as gifts. “If readers employed a “one for me, one for you” strategy in their book-buying (purchasing one book for a friend every time they purchase one for themselves), friendships would be stronger and book sales would be more robust…” (Melville House).

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