15 White Elephant Gift Ideas For Readers That Aren't A Book They Already Own

by Charlotte Ahlin

Yankee Swap. Nasty Christmas. And of course, white elephant. Whatever you like to call it, it's a cut-throat gift exchange that involves stealing, deception and (usually) slightly silly gifts. Or at least, unique gifts that everyone in your group is prepared to fight over. If you have a book club, a bookish friend group, or you come from a family of bookworms, then you should check out these White Elephant gift ideas for readers, to torture the people in your life with your literary generosity.

If you're unfamiliar with White Elephant, allow me to bring you up to speed: everyone buys and wraps one gift, then tosses it into the general pile. The first lucky soul gets to pick and unwrap any gift they like. The next person may unwrap one of the remaining gifts—or just steal the first person's gift like a nefarious thief. As the game goes on, people can steal any of the unwrapped gift or choose to risk it with a wrapped gift, until every single gift is unwrapped. So the name of the game is to find a fun, unique present that everyone will want to steal (without breaking the bank). Here are a few of the best party-pleasers for every kind of reader:

Lady Macbeth's Guest Soap

Wash your hands free of regicide with Lady Macbeth's guest soap! For bookish gift exchanges on the cheaper end, this is a fun, functional soap if you're into obsessive hand washing.

Lady Macbeth's Guest Soap, $4, The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild

Banned Books Socks

Celebrate literary freedom and keep your feet warm with a pair of stylish banned book socks. Any true book nerd is sure to steal this gift at least once.

Banned Books Socks, $10, Out of Print

First Lines of Literature Mug

A mug is an elegant choice for a White Elephant gift because everybody uses mugs, especially readers who enjoy tea with their books. This mug displays all the first lines in literature (well, all the famous ones, at least).

First Lines of Literature Mug, $14, The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild

The Tequila Mockingbird Kit

If you know some book lovers who like both puns and fancy cocktails, this mini-cocktail set will be the hit of the night. The Tequila Mockingbird boxed kit contains everything you need to make some excellent, punny literary cocktails.

The Tequila Mockingbird Kit, $10, Barnes & Noble

Edgar Allan Poe Tote

Treat your Poe-loving friends and family to a beautiful, sassy Poe tote bag. It features a stack of spooky Poe stories, plus Poe's infamous black cat saying, "Cool story, Poe." What more could you want out of a tote bag?

Edgar Allan Poe Tote, $24, Obvious State

Punk Rock Authors Coaster Set

Don't settle for plain old regular authors when you could have Thoreau, Austen, Dickinson and Kafka, re-imagined as punks. These coasters will protect your friends' coffee tables in style.

Punk Rock Authors Coaster Set, $18, Out of Print

"Go Away I'm Reading" Doormat

If you're swapping gifts with a bunch of introverts, this "Go Away I'm Reading" door mat gets straight to the point. Stick it in your doorway, or go the extra mile and put it in front of your bedroom when you really want privacy.

Go Away I'm Reading Doormat, $22, The Literary Gift Company

Literary Paper Dolls

Dress up your favorite authors with these fashionable, literary paper dolls. And yes, that is a Cask of Amontillado reference on the cover.

Literary Paper Dolls, $13, Chronicle Books

Sisyphus Watch

For a gift that's really going to start a fight, try this Sisyphus watch. Little Sisyphus is forced to continually push his rock up a hill as the minutes tick by. It's a clever reference to Greek mythology, and also a supremely stylish timepiece.

Sisyphus Watch, $40, The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild

'There Is No Place Like Home' Literary Tattoo Set

Even if you're not ready for permanent ink, you can rock quotes from your favorite children's books with these adorable literary tattoos. Be nice to the person who wins this gift, and they might even let you have one for free.

There Is No Place Like Home, $13, Chronicle Books

Great Drinkers Shot Glasses

Transition your White Elephant gift exchange into a night of wild debauchery with this set of great drinkers short glasses. Each glass carries the visage of a literary great, along with a quote celebrating or condemning alcohol.

Great Drinkers Shot Glasses, $17, The Unemployed Philosopher's Guild

'The End' Bookend

This bookend is the perfect White Elephant gift: fun, literary, and slightly impractical. Sure, it'll make your entire bookshelf crooked... but it's cute, right?

The End Bookend, $18, Fred & Friends

Scrabble Tea Towel

Word nerd readers will love drying their dishes with this Scrabble tea towel. You can even use it as a regular Scrabble board in a pinch.

Scrabble Tea Towel, $10, The Literary Gift Company

Banned Books Matchbox Set

Part of the fun of White Elephant is picking out odd-sized gifts to wrap. This set of matchboxes might be small, but it is also a supremely adorable mini-bookshelf (and it's useful, if you're into candles).

Banned Books Matchbox Set, $8, Out of Print

Typewriter Paper

A real vintage typewriter is cool and all, but it's also expensive. And heavy. For now, stick with this typewriter paper, dispensed out of a box that looks an awful lot like the real thing.

Typewriter Paper, $13, Chronicle Books