Professor Wu's Rulebook

The perfect literary gifts for book lovers this Christmas

In the run up to Christmas, we've scoured the inter-webs for some of the neatest literary gift ideas for the book lover(s) in your life.

Few things in life are certain, yet for book lovers celebrating Christmas , a reasonable bet is to find themselves unwrapping at least one copy of this year’s Booker Prize winning novel from a well-meaning relative (who, as Chris Zacharia suggests in this article, may just be happy “they never have to actually read the things themselves”).

So what else is out there that might make the perfect literary stocking filler for the book lover in your life, beyond the horizons of the Booker Prize or a recommendation from Oprah?

Well, from our COVID-secure towers here at Nothing in the Rulebook, we’ve been scouring the inter-webs for some of the neatest literary gift ideas this Christmas.

It’s by no-means exhaustive, so if you have some crackin’ ideas to share, let us know in the comments or by getting in touch!

We do lockdown

A sneak peek inside ‘We do lockdown’ – the 2020 offering from Dung Beetle Books.

From the brilliant minds behind parody books ‘We go to the gallery’, and ‘We do Christmas’ (the books that launched a thousand stocking filler knock-offs), Dung Beetle books are back with a Christmas gift offering that is *so* 2020. In ‘We do lockdown‘, Mummy, John and Susan go through an indefinite period of self-isolation during lockdown.

In this solitary time, the children will be forcibly adapted to the ‘new normal’, where a joyless existence is heroically embraced to save humanity. The children will come to have no real-life friends, no education, and conditioned to see their peers as portable germ vessels.

A literary face mask

Not all of our items on this list are Covid-related (we promise!) but in a year that has seen the face mask make a re-emergence on the fashion market for the first time since plague times, we think you’d be missing a trick not to make sure the book lovers in your life were able to sport their literary spirit while sticking to health and safety guidance. The folks over at Redbubble have a fine selection of literary masks to choose from, to boot. We quite like the above one featuring a quote from old Bill Shakespeare.

Penguin little black classics

127 little books to choose from (one more than last year, now they’ve added the United States Constitution to the list). Each around 60 pages long, these delightful paperbacks give you a wealth of options to explore. These extracts of wider classical literary works are sure to offer choices to meet all literary tastes. Authors include Karl Marx, Jane Austen, Jonathan Swift, Virginia Woolf, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, Caligula, Keats, Flaubert, Dostoevsky and Dickens. What’s not to love?

Stocking-good fiction from Will Eaves

It’s no secret that the NITRB gang are big fans of Eaves and his work. After his novel, ‘Murmur’ won the Wellcome Book Prize, he’s back in 2020 with his latest offering from brilliant independent publishers, C.B. Editions. Broken Consort is a chronicle of close attention (to books, films, plays, paintings, music, notebooks and car-boot sales) which will confound anyone who thinks rigour and generosity are contradictory. It includes an account of the evolution of the author’s prize-winning novel Murmur, an essay on Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year (rather fittingly, given all that 2020 has turned out to be), and practical reflections on the business of writing. It’s the perfect size to fit in a stocking, and will look great on any bookshelf besides Eaves’s other pocket-sized books like The Absent Therapist and The InevitablFoe Giftshop.

For the minimalist book collector: ‘invisible’ bookshelves

If your book lover friend/family member (or indeed, book lover lover) is like the majority of the NITRB gang, they’ll be scrimping for space in small inner city apartment, balancing the need to pay extortionate rents with a burning desire to read and own the best books. Help them out with a few of these nifty ‘invisible’ book shelves, letting them decorate their pad with the books they have.

Postcards from Penguin

A collection of 100 postcards, each featuring a different and iconic Penguin book jacket. From classics to crime, this is over 70 years of quintessentially British design in one box.

A literary mug with a librarian twist

There are plenty of literary-themed mugs out there in the world; but here at NITRB we’re always drawn to those things that celebrate the world of our public libraries (the places we owe so much to). There’s a good chance your literary acquaintance is, too. So whether they’re a tea or coffee drinker (or both), any local library devotee will enjoy sipping their beverages out of this mug. It features a vintage library card print filled out with stamped-in due dates and comes in two sizes (11 and 15 fluid ounces) and with a white or black handle. Who knows, it might even remind your giftee of their looming due dates.

“Go, ye giddy goose!” and other Shakespearean insults

Created by Charley Chartwell, and available for the very reasonable price of just over £20, you can purchase a copy of this Grand Taxonomy of Shakesperean Insults here.

The wonderful poster will come in handy in this modern age of Twittersphere rants, rages and online trolls: what better way to deal with someone telling you to impolitely go away, than by calling them a canker blossom or a viperous worm? We certainly can’t think of any. This is also bound to help out any book fiend you’re buying prezzies for this year when thet find themselves caught up in an inevitable family argument during Christmas dinner.

Follow any family row with a Christmas game, when you complement this poster with this offering we’ve seen on Barnes and Noble; ‘Bards dispense profanity’, loosely based on a similar sounding card game, Bards Dispense Profanity is 100 mock-serious questions for our time and 375 answers copied word-for-word from the works of William Shakespeare. You be the judge of which answers are best. All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely playas. Play on.

Something special from the Folio Society

Looking to hide a real genuine treat at the bottom of someone’s stocking? Then why not check out these extraordinarily beautiful books from The Folio Society’s Christmas selection, including a special edition of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park (what could be more Christmassy than dinosaurs, after all?).

A literary gift set (for when a book doesn’t cut it on its own)

Why just get someone a book, when you can also get them an entire Christmas gift set inspired by a classic literary novel? Why not check out the wonderful gifts from the Literary Emporium.

December Stories

Few books capture the myriad intertwined feelings of joy, anxiety and sometimes sweet melancholy or nostalgia than Ian Samson’s December Stories 1, the second book offering of Belfast-based independent publishers No Alibis Press.

Comprised of brilliant short stories, vignettes, axioms, the odd recipe (emphasis on ‘odd’), art criticism, meditations and literary curiosities relating to all things festive – there’s something for every day of the titular month.

The perfect antidote to the festive season.

A stocking filler from the London Review of Books

Looking for something short and sweet, which comes highly recommended from one of the finest literary magazines? Look no further than the London Review of Books Christmas selection, featuring lovely books like the 2021 Almanac, which is dedicated to celebrating the unfolding year in all its various facets.

Look to the future with a book from the Future Library project

The Future Library is a 100-year artwork. From 2014 until 2114, one writer every year will contribute a text, with the writings held in trust, unpublished for up to 100 years. Each writer has the same remit: to conceive and produce a work in the hopes of finding a receptive reader in an unknown future.

Margaret Atwood, David Mitchel, Elif Shafak and other world renown authors have already pledged manuscripts to the project. And, while your loved ones won’t be able to read them just yet, you can get a present that passes beyond the generations – a certificate that entitles the bearer to a copy of each of the books when they are finally published. It’s not cheap (at US$1000); but it’s certainly a stocking filler unlike any other – and one that won’t just be thrown away 30 seconds after opening.

A book club kit

Book clubs. Writing clubs. Clubs devoted to the written word. We love them, right? As author C.R. Berry has pointed out, they provide wonderful opportunities to bring literature lovers and litterateurs themselves together – sometimes creating new books and anthologies, themselves.

This prezzie is the absolute must have for any book club frequenter – as well as those looking to start their own. Each kit contains some conversation prompt cards, a timer, a die, a book chart and a small booklet of literary inspired cocktail recipes.

A subscription to a brilliant literary magazine

Opening presents on Christmas day itself is fine; but subscribing to a literary mag means you get regular ‘presents’ throughout the year, as each new issue arrives. Sign your loved one up for a classic – like the the Literary Review (hosts of the world famous ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ award) – or support newer (but also excellent) ventures like Litro or The Brixton Review of Books.

Learn how to rap and rhyme with the Advanced Rhyming Dictionary

Adam ‘Shuffle T’ Woollard has been a battle rapper for seven years, and is currently one half of UK Battle rap doubles champions, a title he has held since 2013. He is one of the most watched battle rappers in the UK and has performed in the US, Canada, Australia and all over Europe. 

The Advanced Rhyming Dictionary represents the culmination of more than seven years of work. It is the first of its kind and is a compendium of two and three syllable multisyllabic rhyme schemes aimed at rappers, poets, educators and academics.

Crowdfund a book, and give two gifts in one

Crowdfund a book, like ‘Philosophers’ Dogs’ (via Unbound), and pick up fabulous rewards, while also getting the name of someone you love in the back of every copy printed.

Pledging to crowdfund a book could be the perfect Christmas gift you get someone this year (and next). Award winning publishers like Unbound have been disrupting the publishing model, bringing new and unique books to market that readers love, while also splitting the profits more evenly with the authors they work with than traditional publishers.

Crowdfund a book – or pre-order one that is in pre-production – and pick up your friends and loved ones fabulous, limited edition rewards like art prints and tickets to dinners with famous authors. You can even pick up limited edition LEGO sets through projects like the Unbound/LEGO book, ‘The Secret Life of LEGO Bricks’ (the book even looks like a LEGO brick!)

Of course, when it comes to crowdfunding , you can also support authors by plumping for good old fashioned book for a favourite person’s stocking – by doing so, you can also get their name added to the back of every printed copy, which really is a gift for life (and not just for Christmas).

As an example of what to look out for, we’re quite big fans of ‘Philosophers’ Dogs‘, by Nothing in the Rulebook‘s own Samuel Dodson. A spoof ‘Philosophy 101’ textbook packed with beautiful illustrations by artist Rosie Benson, Philosophers’ Dogs reveals a truth long kept secret: that all philosophers stole their ideas from their dogs.


Please note: the items in the above list have been chosen independently by Nothing in the Rulebook and we do not earn any commission from sales. If you have some suggestions of your own favourite stocking fillers, let us know here in the comments below!

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