Gift Ideas for Friends Who Don’t Read (Spoiler: They’re All Books)


We all have friends who don’t read, even though a) they absolutely should, and b) we absolutely want them to.

Whether it be for an upcoming birthday or you are partaking in the spirit of giving (for any occasion!), I hope to help alleviate the stress of buying gifts by suggesting some awesome books that your friends or family are sure to love.

The kicker: as an avid reader and an avid recommend-er, the books below are ones that I have recommended to friends (who are not avid readers) and they have enjoyed it! I hope these proven recommendations will now serve you well. ❤


When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

What it’s about: Before he could finish his decade long training to become a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. This memoir, written by him before his passing in early 2015, is a reflection of his incredible life, and a profound meditation on what it means to live.

Who I recommended it to: My two work colleagues, who are in the medical profession; both who really enjoyed it.

Why they should read this: The ‘irony’ presented and highlighted in this book is engaging, but readers will find that this book is more than a tragedy, but a deeply meaningful and introspective novel about why we live.

Great for: Anyone who loves profound and thought-provoking memoirs. (And who aren’t adverse to a little tears.)

Find this book: Book Depository, Goodreads


Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What it’s about: Hannah is going on 30 but she hasn’t decided what she wants to do with her life. She returns to her hometown and meets with an old flame, and he invites her back home. The narrative then diverges – one in which she says yes, the other in which she says no. 

Who I recommended it to: A few of my good friends who were willing to listen to my recommendations! Both ended up loving it. ❤

Why they should read this: This book will fill anyone with hope and optimism, as it did for me. Maybe in Another Life is ‘everything will be okay, everything will fall in place’ in book form.

Great for: Anyone who feels ‘lost’ or at a crossroads of their life (hello mid 20’s existential crisis!), and aren’t sure of what direction to take.

Find this book: Book Depository, Goodreads


Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

What it’s about: Everyone in Jess’s family has superpowers — except her. Resigned to a superpower-less life, she applies for an internship to boost her college application. The thing is: she’ll be working for the town’s supervillains. (But at least she’ll also be working with her crush, Abby.)

Who I recommended it to: Let’s be real – I recommended this to everyone.

Why they should read this: It’s fluffy, sweet, totally feel-good, and has amazing and diverse representation!

Great for: Anyone who loves superhero movies/TV series, but are feeling a little tired of unoriginal and repetitive tropes. Also great for anyone who wants positive representation. ❤

Find this book: Book Depository, Goodreads


Red Rising by Pierce Brown

What it’s about: An amazing sci-fi dystopian about Darrow, a lowly Red miner, and his ascent into Gold society following revelations that his existence was predicated on a lie.

Who I recommended it to: My partner who enjoys a good ol’ science-fiction!

Why they should read this: An addictive and very entertaining read that will have you at the edge of your seat; also has an exciting story and fantastic world-building. Also, this book is being made into a movie!

Great for: People who like epic things, melodrama, and narratives of revolution and war. (Be advised, this book is amazing but it is not subtle!)

Find this book: Book Depository, Goodreads


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

What it’s about: Follows four teenagers in the midst of World War II, all from different homelands, with secrets, burdens, and stories of their own. Their stories converge at the Wilhelm Gustloff – one of the biggest and deadliest maritime disasters in history.

Who I recommended it to: A colleague from work who asked me if I knew any books about World War II.

Why they should read this: The author wrote this novel with a young adult perspective to highlight how war affected youth from different nations. It is a very thought-provoking and eye-opening story with amazing characters and prose.

Great for: Anyone interested in history, especially World War II, and things-we-don’t-know-but-should!

Find this book: Book Depository, Goodreads


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

What it’s about: A powerful and essential message about feminism, one that details Adichie’s personal journey with feminism and her incredible, profound discourse.

Who I recommended it to: I recommended this to a friend who wanted to learn more about feminism but didn’t know where to start.

Why they should read this: It’s a short read, its language highly accessible, and it will give thoughts you may have about feminism voice and coherence. As this is a short read, consider pairing this with another feminist book, such as Feminism Is For Everybody by bell hooks, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, or Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.

Great for: Everyone, especially feminists old and new!

Find this book: Book Depository, Goodreads


A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

What it’s about: About a boy who is visited by a monster from his nightmares who wants one thing: the truth.

Who I recommended it to: A friend who had heard about the upcoming movie remake, and wanted to know whether it was good. (The answer: yes!)

Why they should read this: Though the premise may sound something akin to a horror, A Monster Calls is actually a moving and profound story that explores grief and mortality.

Great for: Though it reads like a middle grade, this book is for everyone. (Essential companion gift: a box of tissues.)

Find this book: Book Depository, Goodreads


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

What it’s about: Harry Potter, the Chosen One, discovers that he is a wizard, and is swept on a magical adventure to Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Who I recommended it to: I’ve recommended this book to all my young friends, or parents who want their kids to get into reading. This book was recommended to me when I was seven years old, and it was this book that started my love for reading.

Why they should read this: It has its flaws, but it’s a start of an amazing series that teaches its readers so many lessons about friendship, being brave, and fighting adversary.

Great for: Everyone of all ages! If they have already read Harry Potter, what about buying them the illustrated edition?

Find this book: Book Depository (or, the whole series), Goodreads


And there you have it! I would love to add more books to this list, but the above are ‘successful’ recommendations. I hope to continue recommending more and more books in 2017, especially diverse books, and will have an even better list for all of you next year.

But friends, before you leave, tell me:

  • What are some books that you have recommended to others? Did they like your recommendations? Share with me!
  • Do you recommend books to people who don’t read? How do you pitch books to your friends or family?
  • What is a book that you always recommend to people, no matter who it is?

43 thoughts on “Gift Ideas for Friends Who Don’t Read (Spoiler: They’re All Books)

  1. Great list! I just added Maybe In Another Life and We Should All Be Feminists to my reading list 😁

    I always recommend The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and it never disappoints the people who decide to give it a go! It does a good job of sharing another perspective on WW2 that I think everyone should hear.

    • Hi Belle!

      Ahh you absolutely should! Maybe in Another Life and We Should All Be Feminists are amazing reads – you won’t regret it!

      Thank you for the recommendation! I don’t think I’ve heard of it before, but I would love to try out more historical fiction. Thank you for sharing that book with me! ❤

  2. Great topic! <3 I hardly ever give books to people because I'm worried they won't like it? Hahaha I usually just give my friends something else like makeup products or clothes because it's safer 😂😂 buuuut I do give a lot of recommendation to others. Almost all my close friends love to read but not as much as I do, so it's not that hard for me to give recommendation. Especially because they read mostly the same genre than I do (that is fantasy and contemporary) so I just tell them my favorites and it usually works :P alsooo I found out that people (or at least my friends) like inspirational books, or something related to happiness :)

  3. I adore this post- particularly the title: Spoilers? 😂😂😂
    I also recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It is a beautiful story set during WWII, but it’s really about what it means to hold something precious, to love, to act your beliefs, and to appreciate what you have. A gorgeous novel.

    Also, Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus! It’s my favorite magical realism book, but I have found only people who are really into reading connect to it.

    • Hi Marie!

      Aww yay! I’m glad you like it!
      Maybe in Another Life is SO good. I think I kinda know your tastes now, hehehe ❤ so… I think it’d be very meaningful to you, and that you’ll enjoy it, Marie! 😊

  4. I find that people who don’t read a lot tend to like a) nonfiction b) graphic novels or c) fast paced books or d) realistic books so these are really good options esp. A Monster Calls! =)

    • Hi Lauren!

      Right?! A Monster Calls broke me in half, but it was so good. I can’t wait until the movie!

      EEEE YAY I can’t wait til you finish NYS! 😊

      Salt to the Sea is amazing. I don’t usually like historical fiction, but that book has made me really interested to try some others now!

  5. I really want to read Maybe in Another Life and it’s the kind of book that I see myself recommending to a couple of friends. I recommended Salt to the Sea to my boyfriend because he loves learning about World War II, he hasn’t read it yet but he is really excited about it. Also, Harry Potter and We Should All Be Feminist are books that I recommend to everyone.

    Great post!

    • Hi Sofia!

      Maybe in Another Life is wonderful, and I cannot recommend it enough! If you like that book, you may like Reid’s other books too – they’re all fantastic.

      Ooh that sounds perfect for him! The perspectives in the book are amazing too. Be sure to borrow it from him when he finishes! I think you may enjoy it too. 😊

      Thank you so much!

  6. Great recommendations! A few of these are on my own TBR (Red Rising, We Should All Be Feminists, and Salt to the Sea). I’ve been seeing When Breath Becomes Air around lately, but I must admit, I’ve really only read memoirs by comedians. I’d be willing to give it a go though since it seems to be very well received.

    • Hi Amanda!

      Thank you so much! Ahhh those three are my absolute faves. I hope you get an opportunity to read them!

      I get what you mean by memoirs being written by comedians… that’s so true and I never realized! When Breath Becomes Air is wonderful – popular with good reason, imo!

  7. These are such lovely gift recommendations, Chooi! The funny thing is… I actually bought a lot of my friends When Breath Becomes Air and a few Ruta Sepetys books this year, so you were pretty spot on with this list. I also purchased a few illustrated editions of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them coloring books for my HP superfan friends. XD Happy sigh. One of my favorite parts of this time of year is the Christmas shopping. I like shopping in general but buying stuff for others, wrapping the presents, and seeing your loved ones open them just makes me incredibly happy. :D

    • Hi Summer!

      Hehehe, amazing! Great minds must think alike! Oh gosh, your friends are lucky ducks! I was going to get my friend the illustrated HP book, but it costs $53-ish dollars. So I bought her the short stories (The Beetle and the Bard?) instead. 😊

      ME TOO! I like giving gifts more than I like receiving them (though I like that too)! Especially when (I *hope*) I’m spot-on!

      • Oh my goodness! That’s so expensive. :o T_T I only got it because they had a special sale at my local bookstore. Both the first and second book were $46 together. What a steal considering Chamber of Secrets just came out. XD

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