Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

Gifts For Book Lovers 2019: Our Bookish Wishlist This Holiday Season

Look, buying gifts for book lovers is tricky: “books” seems like the obvious choice, but which ones? What if they already have them? What are the other options? Luckily, pretty much every book blogger under the sun pulls together a “best gifts for book lovers” guide each year, and I’m no exception! I put a call out to my Keeper Upperers to see what was on their bookish wish-lists this year, and threw in a few of my own requests for Santa. So, here’s your 100% verified book-lover-approved bookish gift guide for the 2019 holiday season. You’re welcome!

Gift Guide For Book Lovers 2019 - Text Overlaid on Image of Wrapped Gift and Box with Scissors and Decorative Holiday Trinkets - Keeping Up. With The Penguins
If you buy anything through a link on this page, I’ll earn a small commission, which means you’re getting TWO booklovers gifts, for the price of one!

Gifts For Book Lovers: Books

Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? I’m generally of the mind that, when it comes to buying books for book lovers as gifts, the more recent the better – chances are, they haven’t had a chance to get their hands on a copy for themselves yet. When I polled some of my Keeper Upperers, all of the books on their wish-lists this year were really recent releases. Check these out…

Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Fleishman Is In Trouble - Taffy BBrodesser-Akner - Book Cover - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The buzz for Fleishman Is In Trouble just keeps growing, even after it peaked on the New York Times Best Seller List earlier this year. It’s the story of a man in his mid-forties going through a bitter divorce, suddenly responsible for his children when his soon-to-be-ex wife disappears with nary more than a casual text-message… and yet, it’s so much more than that! The Guardian called it “a remarkable work of ventriloquism”. This is one to buy for your sharp, funny friend who’s not easily surprised. Read my full review of Fleishman Is In Trouble here.

She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

She Said - Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey - Book Cover - Keeping Up With The Penguins

This is my personal pick for non-fiction book of the year: She Said, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s account of how they broke the Harvey Weinstein story. Y’know, the one that changed the world? It is every bit as gripping as a crime thriller, every bit as chilling as a detective mystery, and every bit as invigorating as a feminist call-to-arms. This is the book to buy your sister or colleague who has followed the #metoo movement with great interest, and loves an inside scoop and seeing justice done. Read my full review of She Said here.

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The Chain - Adrian McKinty - Book Cover - Keeping Up With The Penguins

This is a crime thriller for people who “don’t like” crime thrillers, so The Chain has become one of the sleeper hits of the year. Its premise is terrifying: a woman receives a phone call saying that her child has been kidnapped, and she must kidnap another child in order to secure her safe return. She’s swept up in the scheme, the chain, and she’ll have to go to unimaginable lengths to escape it. Put this one under the tree for anyone you think is in need of a great, gripping page turner! Read my full review of The Chain here.

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

Dark Emu - Bruce Pascoe - Book Cover - Magabala Books

Dark Emu is a few years old now, and yet it’s still making headlines. There is a push in the Australian literary community to get it to its (deserved) place in the best-seller list this holiday season, and I reckon we can do it! Bruce Pascoe reconsiders and refutes our understandings of pre-colonial Indigenous populations as “hunter gatherers”, and instead presents a meticulously researched history of agriculture and management that were conveniently forgotten by early dispossessers of the land. It is a must-read for every Australian, and even international readers will learn some important truths.

And, if there’s a young person in your life that you think would love to learn more about our Indigenous past, you could give them Pascoe’s new edition Young Dark Emu.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other - Bernadine Evaristo - Book Cover - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Girl, Woman, Other was being lauded in literary circles, but didn’t achieve major circulation and recognition until it jointly won the 2019 Booker Prize. Setting aside that controversy, it has since been re-printed and re-published around the world, finally getting the widespread cut-through it deserves. In it, Evaristo depicts the lives and journeys of twelve characters over the course of a century in Great Britain. Pick this one up for anyone who read and enjoyed The Testaments already – make sure Girl, Woman, Other gets equal recognition for the Booker gong! Read my full review of Girl, Woman, Other here.

Pain And Prejudice by Gabrielle Jackson

Pain And Prejudice - Gabrielle Jackson - Book Cover - Keeping Up With The Penguins

I read Pain And Prejudice earlier this year, and something strange happened: every time I mentioned it to someone, whatever their age or gender, they would nod enthusiastically and start sharing a story, their own or their loved one’s. Braiding together memoir and science, Jackson explores the ways in which social structures—particularly the medical system—have under-served and oppressed women, keeping them sick and in pain, for far too long. I worry, though, that given the subject matter, this one will be written off as a “women’s” book. Fight the power: buy this book for a MAN in your life! Read my full review of Pain And Prejudice here.

Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko

Too Much Lip - Melissa Lucashenko - Book Cover - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you’d told me this time last year that the winner of the 2019 Miles Franklin Literary Award would be an incredible dark-comic novel by one of our most brilliant Indigenous women writers, I probably wouldn’t have believed it… and yet, here we are. Too Much Lip defied all expectations. It brought deeply Australian experiences of class and race to the fore, in a way that was beguiling and touching in equal measure. Get this book for your aunt or godmother who just loves a wise-cracking female lead who’s not going to take anyone’s shit. Read my full review of Too Much Lip here.

Gifts For Book Lovers That Aren’t Books

Look, I get it: buying a book for a casual or recreational reader is fine, but buying a book for a truly obsessed book lover can be terrifying. They already own SO MANY BOOKS! And you might be reluctant to just slip a gift voucher in their card (while it is always appreciated, it is kind of the easy-way-out). Luckily, a huge cottage industry has been built around bookish swag and merchandise, so here are a few ideas for gifts for book lovers that aren’t books…

Literary Mugs

Mug With Literary Cat Quotes - Keeping Up With The Penguins

You’d be hard-pressed to find a book lover who doesn’t believe that a book always reads best with a mug of tea or coffee in-hand. That’s why literary-themed mugs are always a great gift (particularly if you’re on a tight budget!). They never go to waste! I love this one in particular, because – let’s face it – the middle of the Venn diagram between book lovers and cat lovers is HUGE.

Get them here.

Bookish Calendars

1000 Books To Read Before You Die 2020 Calendar - Keeping Up With The Penguins

I know, I know, everyone has a calendar in their phone nowadays – but the sun has not quite set on fun desk calendars, particularly for folks that work in offices or have some other neutral daily workspace in need of a bit of spruceing! This one is particularly fun: based on the 1,000 Xs To Do/See/Hear/Read Before You Die series, this is a calendar of 1,000 Books To Read Before You Die with quotes, quizzes, recommendations, and more. It’s like a dose of daily bookish inspiration with just a hint of existential dread!

Get them here.

Reading Journal

Read Harder Reading Log - Book Riot - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you have a bit of a scroll through #bookstagram, you’ll see that paper-and-pen reading journals have made a HUGE comeback. A lot of book lovers find it deeply satisfying to have a record of what they’ve read, what’s coming up, what they’ve loved and what they haven’t… And this particular reading journal comes from the experts over at Book Riot, as part of their ethos to READ HARDER every year.

Get one here.

Bookish Apparel

Out Of Print T-Shirt - A Word After A Word After A Word is Power - Keeping Up With The Penguins

I’m a sucker for a good literary-themed tee, and I’m not the only one! Really, any kind of bookish fashion is going to be a winner as a gift. Scarves and socks are the safest bet if you’re not sure on sizing, but I’m particularly partial to the shirts from the fine folks at Out Of Print (not a sponsored name-drop, I just dig what they do). My favourite this year is their unisex Margaret Atwood quote tee: “A word after a word after a word is power.”

Get them here.


Gothic Dragon Book Ends - Keeping Up With The Penguins

I don’t know a single book lover that hasn’t found themselves in need of a book end at some point or another: whether you’ve just bought new shelves and need something to fill in the gaps (until your next trip to the bookstore), or you’re using them for gorgeous props in your #bookstagram feed, they’ll always come in handy! These ones pictured would be PERFECT for the fantasy reader or Game Of Thrones fan in your Kris Kringle pool!

Get them here.

Bookish Home Decor

A Compendium Of Flowers Vase - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Even when book lovers aren’t reading, they’re still all about that aesthetic of bookness! You can get bookish-looking anything nowadays: phone cases, wall hangings, curtains, quilts… I’m particularly partial to this Bibliophile’s Vase, a “compendium of flowers”. No one ever has a vase right when they need one, so for the book lover in your life, this gift will be a win-win!

Get it here.


Metal Feather Book Marks - Keeping Up With The Penguins

This is another thing book lovers never have enough of: BOOKMARKS! Even though we get them for free sometimes from bookstores and publishers, they’re usually flimsy cardboard and disintegrate with our regular use. Why not treat the book lover in your life to a gorgeous set of metal bookmarks? They’re a lot more durable, and still really affordable (another great budget option if things are a bit tight this silly season!).

Get some here.

Well, I think that should cover something for just about everyone, don’t you? What do YOU want to find under your tree or in your stocking or wrapped in the hands of a loved one this year? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll see if I can get a word to the elves…


  1. I like the look of those bookmarks…

  2. I’ve put in a request for a book related scarf! Most of my family know not to buy me books unless I’ve requested a particular title. That way they don’t waste money on titles I’d never read…

  3. I love this list and, of course, I want them all for myself.

  4. My amazon wishlist for family is mostly books, ha! But I recently added a 1,000pc puzzle of book spines with interesting titles that looks fun to me.

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