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The best gifts for book lovers in 2023

Our gift ideas run the gamut from ereaders to book lights to some of the best titles we've read all year.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If there’s a book lover on your holiday list, consider yourself lucky. There’s a huge range of gifts you can give them — and you don’t even need to know what’s next up on their to-be-read list. I’m a former bookseller with an abiding fiction habit who now tests book-related (and other) tech. Andrew Tarantola is Engadget’s resident book expert who produces our Hitting the Books column. He’s compiled the ten books he recommends for 2023 and I’ve included ereaders, accessories and subscriptions that I think the reader in your life will appreciate. Here are the best gift ideas for book lovers this year.

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Kobo Clara 2E

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When you think of an ereader, a Kindle probably pops into your head first. But after testing a number of options, we ultimately landed on the Kobo Clara 2E as the best device for the job. The selection and pricing of Kobo’s library is on par with Amazon’s, though without Kindle Exclusives. The device itself is snappy and responsive, with an intuitive interface that offers the right amount of customization. It also has a waterproof build, a warm front light and no lock-screen ads — features you don’t get with the base-level Kindle. Pair up the Clara 2E with a sleep cover and your Kobo will automatically wake when you open it — plus the cover folds into a stand for hands-free reading. — Amy Skorheim, Commerce Writer

$140 at Amazon

Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition

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Of course, if the book reader on your list has already invested in Kindle titles, it might be best to stick with Amazon’s devices. Engadget’s Nathan Ingraham called the Kindle Paperwhite Signature “the best ereader. Period.” Like the Clara 2E, the Paperwhite Signature has a waterproof build and no lock-screen ads. But it also has a few premium features, including a larger 6.8-inch screen, auto-adjusting warm front lights and wireless charging, all of which make for a particularly nice reading experience — and an equally nice gift. — A.S.

$190 at Amazon
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$190 at Target$190 at Best Buy

Twelve South HoverBar Duo

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We recommend the HoverBar Duo in our guide to iPad accessories, but its sturdy clip will hold an ereader (in a vertical grip) just as well as a tablet. The Duo in the name applies to the HoverBar’s ability to act as either a tabletop stand with a weighted base, or as a fixed mount clamped to the edge of a table or desk. It raises the ereader up to eye level and leaves both hands free for important reading-related things like eating bread and drinking tea. — A.S.

$42 at Amazon

Sony WH-CH720N

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We’ve tested a slew of headphones over the years and many of our top recommendations land in the $300 to $400 range, which might be a bit spendy for a holiday gift, especially when the headphones are primarily intended for audiobook listening. Sony’s WH-CH720N are listed at $150, but are often on sale for $130. Engadget’s Billy Steele tested them when they came out earlier this year and liked both the comfortable fit and quality sound. The active noise cancelation works well with general background sound, but isn’t the best at masking loud, nearby conversations. Still, the WH-CH720N offers good sound quality and, as Billy concluded, you'd be hard pressed to find a better option at this price. — A.S.

$150 at Amazon

Nimble Champ portable charger

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Ereaders can go for weeks on a charge — but if your giftee is anything like me, their low battery warning will pop up just as they settle in for a good read. A power bank like this one from Nimble Champ will make sure their hammock/couch/front stoop reading plans can continue as scheduled. It’s compact enough to stick in a pocket but still packs a 10,000 mAh battery, which will get most ereaders back to full several times over. It was reasonably fast in our tests and we like that it's made by one of the rare electronics companies with an eco-friendly B-Corp certification. — A.S.

$50 at Nimble

Glocusent Tri-Head Book Light

Every modern ereader comes equipped with front lights to illuminate the page — but what if you’re buying for someone who prefers reading ink on paper? Glocusent’s clever tri-head light can either clip on to the back of a book or stand on its own. It has two lighted swing arms that cast a wide glow on both pages at once. The color temperature and brightness are adjustable and the USB-C rechargeable battery should last for up to 100 hours. — A.S.

$16 at Amazon

Audible subscription

Sometimes I (almost) envy people who drive or take public transit a lot. Audiobooks let them do two things at once, and one of those two things is plowing through their to-read list. If you know a commuter or a frequent traveler, perhaps they’d appreciate a subscription to Amazon’s Audible service. A six-month subscription goes for $90 and comes with one premium title for each of the six months, plus access to the Plus Catalog, which lets them listen as much as they want from a smaller selection of podcasts and audiobooks. They get to keep the six premium titles, but access to the Plus content expires when the subscription does. — A.S.

$90 at Amazon

Libro.fm subscription

For a more socially-conscious alternative to Audible, you can go for a gift from Libro.fm. A six-credit bundle costs $90, the credits don’t expire and they can be redeemed for just about any audiobook Libro.fm offers. When you buy books from here rather than elsewhere, you get to denote your favorite local bookstore and they get a cut from the sales. The app also gives you recommendations on what to listen to next with blurbs from actual living indie booksellers — not an algorithm. — A.S.

$90 at Libro.fm

Storygraph Plus

Storygraph

What I miss most after switching to ebooks from print is the lack of trophies. There’s no freshly slain paperback carcass to add to the bookshelf as proof of time spent. The Storygraph app helps people keep track of their accomplishments, letting them add reading dates, rating and thoughts on the book. Users can then see their stats broken down into different graphs, which, for me, provides satisfying evidence of a finished tome. The app asks a few questions about each book a reader logs, which in turn fuels a rather helpful recommendation system to find their next read. The app is free to use, but a membership adds perks like extra graphs and stats, more personalized recommendations, and a few more social elements. A year-long gift subscription goes for $50. — A.S.

$50 at Storygraph

Blood in the Machine

You didn't actually believe all those founder's myths about tech billionaires like Bezos, Jobs and Musk pulling themselves up by their bootstraps from some suburban American garage, did you? In reality, our corporate kings have been running the same playbook since the 18th century when Lancashire's own Richard Arkwright wrote it. Arkwright is credited with developing a means of forming cotton fully into thread — technically he didn't actually invent or design the machine, but developed the overarching system in which it could be run at scale — and spinning that success into financial fortune. Never mind the fact that his 24-hour production lines were operated by boys as young as seven pulling 13-hour shifts.

In Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech — one of the best books I've read this year — LA Times tech reporter Brian Merchant lays bare the inhumane cost of capitalism wrought by the industrial revolution and celebrates the workers who stood against those first tides of automation: the Luddites. Follow along as bands of renegade workers staged daring raids to destroy the symbols of their economic exploitation — the machines that men like Richard Arkwright sought to replace them with — won over the support of commoners and 19th-century English nobility alike, and even helped birth the science fiction genre. — Andrew Tarantola, Senior Reporter

$15 at Amazon

Elon Musk

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From his humble beginnings as the heir to a South African emerald mine to the pinnacle of his success as CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and X, Elon Musk’s history of erratic behavior has long made the billionaire a lightning rod for controversy. Is he the wunderkind genius that he, his PR machine and rabid adherents depict in social media, or is he yet another fast-talking Silicon Valley charlatan hellbent on stirring up controversy for attention? To answer that question, veteran technology reporter Walter Isaacson spent the better part of two years shadowing Musk, interviewing the CEO and delving into his tumultuous childhood to better understand what motivates the broken man that exists today. Whether the book lover on your holiday shopping lists loves Musk or loathes the man, Isaacson’s accounting is well worth the entire read. — A.T.

$17 at Amazon

Extremely Online

In a world where even your weird uncle has a podcast and “go touch grass” is both a sick burn and cry for help, it’s hard to believe that we have yet to reach peak internet — despite the best efforts of many online denizens. Whether it’s the kids of TikTok learning how to boost Kias or the boomers having moral panics about them while floating legless in the Metaverse, the modern internet has become both far more nuanced and widely more pervasive than we could have dreamed of back in the days of MySpace. In her new book, Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz delves into the fascinating rise of today’s social media, from the first monetized Mommy Bloggers to their newly minted influencer children, as well as the pitfalls of their online livelihoods. Fame is fleeting when it travels at the speed of data and, as many of the subjects in this book discover, audiences will turn at the slightest perceived misstep, often faster than a milkshake duck can quack. — A.T.

$15 at Amazon

The Teachers

Between the low pay, high stress, newly legislated legal pitfalls and ever-present threat of mass gun violence, it’s a wonder that people continue to pursue careers in education at all. In her riveting new essay collection, Alexandra Robbins explores the myriad challenges facing today’s educators by deftly weaving the stories of three American teachers facing radically different school environments. Penny must navigate the tight social cliques of her school’s staff alongside her middle school students; special ed teacher Miguel must act as both educator and advocate; and elementary school teacher Rebecca struggles to balance her work-life balance. Backed by interviews with hundreds of educators across the country, Robbins’ in-depth reporting examines everything from school violence and unrestrained parents to teacher burnout and unrealistic education standards. If you have an educator on your holiday shopping list and want to know more about the difficulties they face five days a week, raise your hand for The Teachers. — A.T.

$16 at Amazon

Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground

What do you get the Dungeons & Dragons fan on your shopping list who’s already got a copy of the movie signed by the Best Chris? The answers are Chris Pine and this hill giant-sized encyclopedia of all things tabletop RPG, obviously. In Monsters, Aliens, and Holes in the Ground, Stu Horvath explores how this niche hobby has grown to influence every corner of pop culture, from literature to cinema to music and gaming (BG3 is GOTY, fight me). The book does so through the systematic examination of, well, basically every tabletop RPG made since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson first pamphlet-length D&D guides published in 1974. More than 300 entries spanning more than half a century, along with extensive examples of their artwork, festoon its 456 pages. And it’s not just orks, elves and goblins – your D&D fan will be shocked to see the breadth and depth of today’s RPGs. — A.T.

$37 at Amazon

American Prometheus

Read the book that inspired the film that will probably win a bunch of Oscars — just like you did in ‘93 for Jurassic Park! This is the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the polarizing physicist who oversaw the design, development, construction and testing of the world’s first atom bomb in 1945, a mere month before the US unleashed the weapons on Hiroshima, Japan. A book reportedly 25 years in the making, authors Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin guide readers from Oppenheimer’s early childhood and scientific career to his work on the Manhattan Project and continued roles during the subsequent Cold War. Originally published in 2007, American Prometheus is back in print and makes the perfect gift for the history buff or Cillian Murphy fan on your holiday shopping list, or really anyone who you know that likes to jump into conversations with declarations that “actually the book was better!” — A.T.

$15 at Amazon

Starter Villain

It’s a tale as old as time: boy meets cat, cat recruits boy into criminal R&D enterprise bequeathed by boy’s deceased uncle where he becomes the world’s newest supervillain. Then come the foul-mouthed dolphin teamsters. From the expansive imagination of John Scalzi, author of Red Shirts, Old Man’s War, and The Kaiju Preservation Society, Starter Villain follows the exploits of listless and kicked-around substitute teacher, Charlie, as he is unceremoniously uprooted from his modest aspirations of small town pub ownership, and thrust into the deep waters of international evil-for-hire empires — not to mention, into competition with the new generation of venture capital-backed cutthroats who serve as their CEOs (the most villainous of jobs). Charlie’s in over his head with nary a moon-based laser cannon for protection! If you’re looking for a title that will have your adventurous reader twirling their mustache in anticipation, Starter Villain mixes snappy dialog with sharp humor, plenty of heart — and more gadgets than you can shake Dr. Claw’s cat at. — A.T.

$15 at Amazon

The Far Reaches Collection

I like surmounting Brandon Sanderson’s 1,200-page fantasy sagas as much as the next avid reader, but that brand of gargantuan tale demands a significant commitment of time and effort. Sometimes, it’s nice to just breeze through a short story, or six, over the course of a weekend. The Far Reaches Collection from Amazon Original Stories publishing assembles an all-star stable of today’s top sci-fi writing talent including James SA Corey, Rebecca Roanhorse, Veronica Roth, Ann Leckie, Nnedi Okorafor and John Scalzi to produce a series of future-facing “novelettes.” Those tales are longer than short stories, but shorter than novellas, and should take around an hour apiece to read. Each author’s contribution tackles a unique futuristic dilemma and explores existential questions about the nature of existence and our place in it. Available both as a six-part collection and as individual titles, The Far Reaches will make an ideal gift for the adult sci-fi fan on your holiday shopping list. — A.T.

$12 at Amazon

Optimal Illusions

Whether we’re expediting packages or scheduling cross-country flights, searching for true love or just somewhere to eat, algorithmic optimization touches every corner of the modern world. It’s not a new phenomenon, mind you, having served as a cornerstone of American capitalism from the earliest oil and coal barons to today’s Silicon Valley billionaires. But are we better off for it? This is the question that applied mathematician Dr. Coco Krumme sets out to answer in her new book. Optimal Illusions traces our society’s historical obsession with maximizing returns, examines its ubiquitous use in modern technology and charts the myriad ways that our efforts to further squeeze blood from stones leaves our infrastructure and institutions less resilient to disruption and more prone to failure. If the bookworm on your holiday shopping list is looking for a title that straddles the subjects of sociology and technology, Optimal Illusions is the real deal. — A.T.

$16 at Amazon

Mother Brain

No, your kids aren’t making you crazy – at least, not technically. The process of childbirth and child rearing drastically changes the structure of our gray matter, beginning with massive hormonal influxes in early pregnancy through postpartum. Our brains rearrange themselves to the degree that those who have had children are readily identified by their neurological changes on basic medical scans — and those changes often occur in ways that modern medicine has yet to fully understand. It’s not just mothers either; parents of all genders who are highly involved in the care of children have shown similar neurological changes — those dad reflexes gotta come from somewhere. In Mother Brain, Health and science journalist Chelsea Conaboy delves into the physiological and psychological underpinnings of the “maternal instinct,” addresses pernicious myths on the subject like “burnout doesn’t exist” and examines how these personal changes radiate out to our families, communities and society as whole. — A.T.

$10 at Amazon