Literary-Inspired Gifts for the Most Avid Bookworms

Posted by Marie on November 12, 2018

This post is sponsored by Simon and Schuster.

There’s no denying that avid bookworms are passionate about reading (as their overflowing bookshelves can probably attest). To find a gift that goes beyond the page, we turned to these niche business owners who've made it their mission to celebrate that readerly zeal.

Their bookish goods include apparel from Out of Print, scented candles from Frostbeard and In the Wick of Time, and hand-illustrated wall prints from Obvious State. Being serious readers themselves, these business owners spoke to Goodreads about how their love of books inspired their companies.

As a bonus, we also included a few of the books and authors these business owners were inspired by. How many of these favorites are on your Want to Read shelf?

Out of Print

From tees to tote bags (and yes, even onesies), readers can find their favorite book cover, quote, or character depicted on Out of Print's clothing and accessories.

Todd Lawton cofounded Out of Print with his best friend and business partner, Jeff LeBlanc, in 2010. Lawton spoke to Goodreads by phone about turning their need to express their pride as readers into the go-to company for literary-inspired apparel.

Goodreads: How did Out of Print come to be?

Todd Lawton: A lot of the conversations [between me and Jeff] would revolve around questions like, "Why doesn't this exist in the world?" or "Wouldn’t it be cool if…?" With Out of Print, we asked, "Why can’t we show our passion for books the same way as someone who loves a great band or superhero?"

Around 2009, there was also a lot of conversation about what was going to happen to reading as things were going digital. People like us started to realize that there was this nostalgia piece to reading that was really important. We wanted to help readers continue experiencing that physical connection to a book and to the [cover] art that's the visual bridge between the author's words and a reader. We didn’t want that to be forgotten.

Looking back, a lot of people thought physical books would maybe go by the way of record stores or CDs and LPs. It was an interesting time. For us, it really helped get the brand off the ground. But we also just really loved the process of finding the [cover] art and figuring out the story behind it, and it's been a surprise for everyone involved—how much enjoyment we get from the research and detective work.

Goodreads: How do your designs go from idea to T-shirt?

TL: It's never the same! Early on, we'd just do a gut check on whether we could imagine something on a T-shirt and if it works together with our line. Later, it really turned over to the reading community. We get a lot of requests, keep track of every one, and definitely refer back to that a lot. Sometimes we would take a look at a book cover and how it was interpreted by another culture. That would inspire an interesting [design] that gets people excited about their favorite books in new ways.

Other times, we just stumble on it. We were geeking out about this one episode of Portlandia that [had the catchphrase] "Put a bird on it!" Then someone blurted out [in a meeting], "Put a Poe on it!" We turned it into something great for us. But everything [we design] is through the lens of "Can we actually do this?" and then we have to do all the business stuff. I wish I knew how we do it every time, but it always changes.

GR: What impact do you think Out of Print has on reading?

TL: Our mission is to bring more people into the discussion of books. We thought apparel was a big part of that: You make something that connects with readers that's also cool to wear. So when we try to bring a book title or a quote to life, we want it to make a connection between another reader seeing it or someone who might not be familiar with it, and it starts a conversation.

GR: Out of Print has many fans among readers and authors, including Joe Hill. Did you ever think it would get to this point?

TL: Not at all! Over time, we hear and see [stories] of people doing things like walking into a bookstore in Spain and seeing an Out of Print shirt, and we’re like, "Really? Wow!" The truth is, there's a great community of readers and people who really care about books, and seeing how we fit into their lives is a dream come true.

Books That Inspired Out of Print's Apparel:

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Hailing from Minnesota is candlemaking extraordinaire Roxie Lubanovic. Her soy candles are not only inspired by literary characters and settings, but also those particular things that only bibliophiles adore—including the smell of old books.

Through email, Lubanovic told us that while her company’s name may be a nod to the chilly weather of her home state, her bookish candles aim to keep readers feeling warm and cozy.

Goodreads: How did Frostbeard come to be?

Roxie Lubanovic: I started out as many crafters do: making goods in my home and selling at local art fairs and gift shops, then eventually opening an online store. My first bookish candle was created when I wanted my home to smell like a library (as any book nerd can relate), but I searched everywhere for a library-scented candle and couldn’t find one or anything like it.

Being a DIYer and having learned candlemaking as a teen, I decided to make my own custom fragrance: Oxford Library. Soon after followed Bookstore, and then all my candles turned book-themed and thus the first bookish candle company was born.

Goodreads: How do your candles bring reading to life?

RL: Sometimes I base a fragrance on a particular scent I really love—coffee, for example—so I have to brainstorm ideas that would make sense (pun intended) to include a coffee smell. One of my favorite pastimes happens to be perusing indie bookstores with a cup of coffee in hand.

I thought about what else a bookstore might smell like—the wooden shelves and leather bindings—which along with coffee are the three main scents in our Bookstore Candle. I also wanted a coffee-dominant scent, so I created Reading at the Cafe (another favorite activity), which is a blend of coffee and chocolate pastries.

Other times, I choose a setting or theme from a favorite book and try to re-create it. A Divination Classroom would likely be full of incense and tea leaves. Halfling Hills are clover-filled grassy knolls with hints of pipe tobacco wafting in the breeze. Winter Keep would be snowy and foresty, with bonfires burning on the castle grounds. These are my artistic interpretations and are the most fun to design.

GR: How do bookish candles complement someone’s reading experience?

RL: Candles and books simply go together. They set the mood in multiple ways, creating a calming atmosphere and setting the scene with their fragrance. The Danish concept of Hygge (and other nations’ similar notions) are so trendy right now because folks need to find ways to unplug and relax, which includes soft, warm candlelight and curling up with a good book.

In addition to being cozy, candles based on books can take it one step further. If you read an Arthur Conan Doyle mystery while burning Sherlock’s Study, it’s going to be like you’re right there with the detective.

Books That Inspired Frostbeard's Candles:

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In the Wick of Time

If you've ever scrolled through the #Bookstagram hashtag on Instagram, chances are you've seen Kaylan Keith’s bookish candles. Their scents help lead readers back to their beloved fandoms, whether it's Celeana's Apartment from the Throne of Glass series or Sookie's Kitchen from the Sookie Stackhouse novels.

Keith told us via email how she started her candlemaking journey and how bookish candles can help take readers far and away into their favorite fictional worlds.

Goodreads: How did In the Wick of Time come to be?

Kaylan Keith: I was both a candle and book addict to help me get through a particularly anxious time of my life and thought how cool would it be to combine the two together. I noticed scent descriptions in my favorite books and found myself needing to find out what it was like to actually experience them.

My candlemaking journey was born out of wanting to create bookish candles, but I started out with some regular nonthemed ones because I was nervous nobody would be interested in bookish candles!

Goodreads: How do your candles bring a book to life?

KK: I always look for inspiration from books first to give the most authentic experience that I can. Some scents are literal, some are more conceptual. I break out the relevant oils I have to make sure it smells good. If the description in the books doesn’t translate well to real life, that's when I get creative and figure out what will work.

GR: How do bookish candles complement someone's reading experience?

KK: Bookish candles are great because they bring another one of your senses into the story. The addition of scents while you read will not only help take you further into the story while you’re reading it, but bring you back to that story when you smell that scent after you're finished.

Books That Inspired In the Wick of Time's Candles:

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Obvious State

Once an English major, always an English major. This is especially true for Nichole Robertson, who cofounded the creative studio Obvious State with her husband, Evan Robertson—the artist behind their company's literary prints, collectible books, paper goods, and more.

Calling from their studio's home base in New York, Nichole spoke to Goodreads about how her husband's hand-drawn illustrations bring together their love of classic literature and the beauty of art.

Goodreads: How did Obvious State come to be?

Nichole Robertson: We had been living in Paris for a while, and when we moved back, we had these bare walls. My husband, Evan, made me three prints for a birthday gift, and I posted about them [on social media] and the crowd went insane. They asked, "Do you make these? Do you sell these?" and I told them that we didn’t. Then we asked ourselves, "Why don't we do that? Maybe we should."

Then we thought, "Who’s really going to buy this? Are there going to be enough people who are going to buy Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf [prints]?" And apparently, there were! It was inexplicable to us that people were so fervent about these classic literature authors, but that was the case.

So we just kept figuring out along the way and were just surprised by how popular these [prints] were and how much people wanted them. We have a lot of engaged fans on Instagram, and they've made such a huge difference.

Goodreads: What's the story behind the name "Obvious State"?

NR: It’s actually twofold. We’re both serial underliners with our texts, and we discovered that we both underlined a George Orwell quote that goes like this: "We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men." We made this discovery around the time of the financial crisis, when no one seemed to be saying the obvious of why things were the way they were.

So in addition to this wordplay about stating the obvious, we were also reminiscing about the luxury of being an English major in college and how some of the best times about that period was after class, when you're sitting at a coffee shop and pounding the table and going, "This book is amazing! Can you believe this person wrote this? Oh my God!" So in a sense, staying in that scholastic mode has been true for us. Those were the things that came together.

GR: How do your prints complement someone's reading experience?

NR: I think for some people it's a different way in. One of the reasons why we're doing illustrated books and a podcast is because the biggest feedback we get is, "I love your work. I love your art prints. I love everything you do. But I feel dumb because I don’t know the authors." And that breaks my heart.

[We] really try to give people a hook into something. There's a symbiotic relationship. We give people a beautiful piece of art to consider, and it instigates this search for that book and voracious reading of it. And I think that's super cool. I feel like we've won when someone tells me, "Your print spoke to me, your art spoke to me, and now it’s one of my favorite books."

Books That Inspired Obvious State's Prints:

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What kind of literary-inspired gifts would you recommend for avid readers? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Comments Showing 1-26 of 26 (26 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Liselotte (new)

Liselotte Shame all of these are America based! Us European folk would love some shop inspo too.
Please let me know of any European shop if you know any! :)

message 2: by Kristina (new)

Kristina The literary gift co is UK based and reasonably priced

message 3: by Angie (new)

Angie Frostbeard has amazing candles!! Love them so much

message 4: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine Now I know what I'm getting for my niece for Christmas! (In addition to books, that is.)

message 5: by Elke (last edited Nov 12, 2018 10:21PM) (new)

Elke Liselotte wrote: "Shame all of these are America based! Us European folk would love some shop inspo too.
Please let me know of any European shop if you know any! :)"

Hmm, the Moses Verlag has some literary gifts/stuff which can be found in book shops sometimes, but they also have their own online shop.

I just browsed the above shops and got some ideas for self-made gifts/items: - create a puzzle of your own bookshelf or a friend's (as a gift) - take a photo of the shelf and have a puzzle made from a print shop.

Inspired by the '100 Books Scratch Off Bucket List Poster' I want to create my own book-challenge poster with books I own and intend to read - crafted like an Advent calendar with two layers of paper - one showing the book covers, the other with the "Türchen" showing the titles which can be torn off after I read the book. Or better even: don't show the titles and make a suprise calendar, e.g. to read one book per month. (hmm, that would also work well as a normal self-crafted calendar which shows the cover of the book you intend to read during that month).

message 6: by Mayke ☕️ (new)

Mayke ☕️ Beautiful shops. A bit sad it's al US based. Wish to have some great inspiration for EU based shops.

Bookkitten (collector of nice things) Uhhhhm, hello, Goodreads?
Where are Stella Bookish Art, Reverie & ink, Ink & Wonder Designs and Bookish Boutique ???

Not to mention all the shops where you can get book inspired tea and coffee.....

They ship international, too.

message 8: by Elke (new)

Elke Bookkitten (collector of nice things) wrote: "Uhhhhm, hello, Goodreads?
Where are Stella Bookish Art, Reverie & ink, Ink & Wonder Designs and Bookish Boutique ???

Not to mention all the shops where you can get book inspired tea and coffee......."

Book inspired tea??? Now that sounds interesting... Can you please post a link for that, I'd like to check it out! (as well the links you already posted, thanks!)

message 10: by steen (new)

steen I would also add The Little Book Eater for some fantastic book/story-inspired perfume oils!

I've tried some of the scents from the shop and have enjoyed them all! Daisy Buchanan (champagne + honeysuckle) and In Omnia Paratus (ruby red grapefruit + mint + champagne + vanilla) are probably my favorites.

message 11: by Pam (new)

Pam Carmichael Bookkitten (collector of nice things) wrote: "Sure, no problem: Stella Bokish arts Ink & Wonder designs Reverie & Ink

Oh my gosh I went on the links you put out and signed up for many, gosh so beautiful and super great, thank you so much for sharing this!!

message 12: by Jakob (new)

Jakob Free Bookkitten (collector of nice things) wrote: "Sure, no problem: Stella Bokish arts Ink & Wonder designs Reverie & Ink

Every year I am blown away with all the amazing book themed gift ideas out there, but NovelTea is my new favorite. Thank you for posting the link.

message 13: by Jennie (new)

Jennie Both Frostbeard and The Wick of Time make splendid candles!

Prince Edward Island Preserve Company has gorgeous teas and sweets, including Anne of Green Gables chocolates. I love their Cavendish Sunset Tea--perfect for pairing with a cosy read:

message 14: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Literary Emporium is my favourite! It's UK based. There's also lots of Europe based pin sellers I love, but I'd have to look them up

message 15: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Yu Bookkitten (collector of nice things) wrote: "Sure, no problem: Stella Bokish arts Ink & Wonder designs Reverie & Ink

Too bad the second tea selection shop is out of service, the bookworm boutique is nice!

Thanks a lot!

message 16: by Maya (new)

Maya Any good Australian companies?

Bookkitten (collector of nice things) Carrie wrote: "Bookkitten (collector of nice things) wrote: "Sure, no problem: Stella Bokish arts Ink & Wonder designs"

Their new shop:

message 18: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Liselotte wrote: "Shame all of these are America based! Us European folk would love some shop inspo too.
Please let me know of any European shop if you know any! :)"

You could go to Etsy, search for a favourite author or quote & narrow by location. You'll find lots of interesting things that way.

Two Etsy shops I'd suggest off the top of my head:
'At It Again Dublin' for Irish Litereature things
'Amanda White Design' for cards & prints of favourite authors houses

message 19: by Andrea (new)

Andrea I just found this website called Padmore Culture ( and they have tons of literary gifts AND they ship internationally. My favorite is their Alice in Wonderland Collection. I bought the Queen of Hearts leggings and used them for my Halloween costume. I got A LOT of compliments!

message 20: by Pam (new)

Pam Carmichael Love it

message 22: by Chris (new)

Chris Check out . They have items such as; t-shirts with actual text from books printed on the entire shirt. They also carry scarves and items for your home. And yes, I have ordered from them. I ordered a Sarah J. Maas t-shirt. It is going to make a great gift!

message 23: by Jacquie ♡ (new)

Jacquie ♡ I love these candles! I want to get my hands and sense to it lol

message 24: by Audrey (new)

Audrey Storiarts is another wonderful one- I believe it’s UK based

message 25: by TSM (new)

TSM I was once gifted a set of the Frostbeard booklover candles and had to throw it out they were so stinky! I thought they would be subtly scented but they were very overpowering.

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