Seasons greetings! It’s November, so we’re officially in the (new, extended) Holiday season that apparently begins right after Halloween (as opposed to after Thanksgiving). But that’s okay with me. The days are getting shorter, so perhaps some gift-giving-related-cheer will help light up the next few weeks until Official Holiday Time begins. I’ve been tasked with putting together this year’s CrimeReads Holiday Gift Guide, and I could not be more excited to do so. This gift guide is intended for literary and/or cinephilic persons (particularly, mystery and crime fans) and—here’s the big red bow on top—does not include books. Mostly. This list is for book-adjacent stuff (mostly). That’s right, we’ve got plenty of creative presents your friends and family won’t see coming.
You all probably know, by now, about the charming selection of mystery paraphernalia from Out of Print, as well as the impressive graphic work done by Litographs, so we’re not going to include those. No, we’re going to mix it up a bit. We’ve curated a selection of items with intent to spotlight smaller stores, as well as items made in the USA, and products that are cruelty-free and made from environmentally-responsible materials. And please try to shop local this season, to help keep small businesses afloat!
Okay, let’s get started!
Sherlock’s Study Candle (Frostbeard Studio)
I love Frostbeard Studio, a small candle store in Minneapolis that makes candles intended to smell like famous locations from novels. Their “Sherlock’s Study” candle is undeniably cozy. They release a new scent every month, and rotate their main stock seasonally, but because they are a small business, they can’t keep everything in circulation all the time. But you CAN request to bring some candles back, so when you’re on their website, be sure to request repeat pourings of “Cozy Murder Mystery,” “Watson’s Journal,” and “Reichenbach Falls.”
Amity Sunset Shower Curtain (Hygge and West)
Honestly, if anyone reading this is looking to get ME a present, I would like this shower curtain from Hygge and West, in Sky. This pattern, called “Amity Sunset,” is JAWS-themed! Look closely! The Minneapolis-based wallpaper company Hygge and West came out with a few charming styles honoring classic movies from the 70s and 80s, and in addition to printing wallpaper, they printed shower curtains. (Okay, don’t actually get me that shower curtain because I already HAVE a Hygge and West shower curtain that I’m obsessed with. But you agree with me that it’s super cool, right?)
The Big Sleep Mug (Penguin Books UK)
I got this Penguin Books “The Big Sleep” mug for myself as a present eight years ago, and it remains my favorite one. I got mine at the NYPL shop, which does NOT carry them anymore, sadly. They are hard to find, but Penguin’s own UK store still has them in stock!
Apothecary Jar Candle (228 Grant St. Candle Co.)
I know this actually doesn’t have anything literally to do with crime, but look at this extremely aesthetically pleasing candle and TELL ME it wouldn’t make your home cozier. This Black-owned, Baltimore-operated candle company uses only soy wax and glass/tin jars. Plus, their array of scents is divine. Divine, I tell you! I have a few of their candles (in the smaller, straight-sided jar size), and I’m obsessed.
The Best of Bond… James Bond 3XLP (Urban Outfitters)
You’re not going to want to miss this special release album compiling all the James Bond theme songs right up until Billie Eilish’s No Time to Die. Not to profile, but this could be a good “dad” gift, if you’re in the market for one. Or just a gift for yourself… I can’t imagine how good “Goldfinger” would sound on vinyl, are you kidding me?
Okay, just one more record. This whole gift guide could become just a giant Vinyl checklist if I’m not careful. JUST ONE MORE RECORD. Miles Davis composed a jazz score to Louis Malle’s 1958 noir Ascenseur Pour L’Echafaud (Elevator to the Gallows) and it’s GREAT.
Okay, this is the last record!!!!! Mondo, the design company that collaborates with film studios to put out special-edition LPs, has announced that it will be distributing a special-edition LP of the Last Night in Soho soundtrack (with colored discs). Look at this incredible album artwork from artist Paul Mann. (Also, if you don’t know about Mondo, I highly suggest you check it out NOW.)
Only Murders in the Building Holy Trinity Candles (flamingfeminist on Etsy)
Only Murders in the Building only finished its 10-episode first season a few weeks ago, and it already feels indelible in our cultural lexicon. You definitely have people in your life who are obsessed with the show, so consider getting them a OMitB votive candle. Or three. Your call, Arconiacs.
Pushing Daisies “The Pie Hole” Logo Sticker (ALWbyJes on Etsy)
If someone in your life loves Pushing Daisies, get them this sticker as a cute stocking stuffer: it’s the logo from “The Pie Hole,” the pie-shop at the center of the TV series.
Stasher Reusable Sandwich Bag (Stasher)
Is this product really relevant to crime and mysteries? Yes. It’s not a mystery that disposable sandwich bags are terrible for the environment. You need good gift ideas? Well how about one of these, as a stocking stuffer. You can put anything in them, and they can go in your dishwasher, microwave, oven, on your stovetop, or in your freezer. Do you need something to store your snacks when you go to the movies, or bring a book on a picnic? Do you need something to hold your book, kindle, or phone if it’s raining outside or if you’re going on a water ride? Aha! I keep my Vax card in one, just to make sure it stays safe. Give it to your loved-one to make their paper goods safer, their reading snacks pack-able, and their commitment to eliminating single-use plastic even stronger.
Paddywax Fireside Safety Matches (Paddywax)
Bookshelf Print by Jane Mount (Ideal Bookshelf)
Jane Mount’s Ideal Bookshelf illustrations are so lovely, a print would make a wonderful gift for a book-lover. Perhaps the Mystery Books Bookshelf or the Agatha Christie Bookshelf? (This is a mystery website, so we’ve gotta stay as thematic as possible, but there are tons of varieties to choose from.) OR, if you want to do something really really special, you can request a custom bookshelf print and pick the books on the shelf yourself!
Custom Book Painting by Jane Mount (Ideal Bookshelf)
OR, if you want to get something extra special, you can purchase an original, custom painting of your giftee’s favorite book; that’s right, Jane Mount will PAINT you a specific book cover.
Todd Alcott Pulp Cover (Etsy)
If your giftee has a favorite song, consider getting them a Todd Alcott print about that song. Todd Alcott is a genius graphic designer, both for his artistic prowess and his sense of humor. He turns famous songs into old-fashioned dime-novel covers, and they are hysterical. It will be the most unique gift they ever receive.
Classic Movie Print (EncorePrintSociety on Etsy)
There is often NO BETTER a gift for a movie lover than a really nice print of a stylish, vintage movie poster. I’m personally ENTRANCED by this French poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious. Nothing adds flair to a wall better than that green Strangers on a Train poster, or the classic pink Double Indemnity one. Just saying.
Cult Print Co. Movie Poster (CultPrintCo on Etsy)
I really, really like the aesthetic of the Cult Print Co. poster series, which places a single, tinted still from the film at hand in the middle, and surrounds it with black text on white. Feels very 70s, in the best way.
Concepcion Studios Movie Print (ConcepcionStudios on Etsy)
DITTO to the minimalist graphics of the Concepcion Studios poster series. I LOVE this one for The Shining, which brings the ubiquitous rug pattern to the maze motif.
Morse Code Art Print (Mr. Boddington’s Studio)
Want to learn Morse code, or the Nato phonetic alphabet? Here’s the most aesthetically-pleasing guide to helping you accomplish this. You’re on your way to joining the Coast Guard!
“Just One More Thing” by Stanley Chow: Signed and Stamped Print (EgoisteGallery on Etsy)
Fans of Columbo will doubtlessly LOVE to receive a print of this illustration by Stanley Chow, the artist who does the portraits for the staff of The New Yorker. Let’s see… looks like Egoiste Gallery, an official seller of Chow’s artwork, will ship you the illustration as a high-quality giclee print on 300gsm archival fine art paper, stamped and signed by Chow, himself. Is that correct?
Games and Entertainment
Murder Mystery at the Theater Game (Anthropologie)
The Anthro website promises that you and your friends can play this sleek and stylish game in person OR via zoom, so that’s a fair step up from most. Bravo!
Vintage Bookshelf Edition Clue Game (Anthropologie)
Last year, around holiday time, I splurged and bought every available installment of the “Vintage Bookshelf Edition” board game release. I have seven different games, all in a matching edition, all in different radiant colors! They look gorgeous on my shelf. But this year, they released an even NICER set–look at the leaf detailing on the sleeve! Mine’s just a solid color.
Sherlock Holmes: the Card Game (The Literary Gift Company)
My friend got me this delightful card game for Christmas last year and it is very fun. If your gift-recipient likes Sherlock Holmes, this is the gift to give. It’s elementary.
Criterion Collection DVDs (Criterion Collection)
Personally, my favorite gift to receive is a Criterion Collection DVD. Actually, no, my favorite gift to receive is a Criterion Collection Gift Card, because then I can wait until the bi-annual Flash Sale and then get double the amount of discs. But you can’t go wrong, getting someone this extremely-special Blu-Ray or DVD edition of their favorite movie. And also, all Criterions are 50% off at Barnes and Noble until November 29th.
Clothes + Accessories
Karen Mabon x Agatha Christie Book Covers Pajama Set (Anthropologie)
Even though Karen Mabon released her Agatha Christie Book Covers pajama set in the UK a while ago, now, Anthropologie seems to have the exclusive listing in the U.S. Endless Night? You’ll wish, with these things on.
Knives Out “Whodunnit” Shirt (SuperYaki)
Did someone in your life really love Knives Out? Don’t draw a BLANC this season… get them this shirt!
Harriet the Spy Tote Bag (Carle Museum)
One of the absolute best places in the world is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, which is located in Amherst, Massachusetts. I didn’t include tote bags on the list because, let’s face it, we’re all up to our ears in them… but this one, featuring Louise Fitzhugh’s classic illustrations from her novel Harriet the Spy, is a special Carle Museum tote. If you use it, you’ll help spread the word about the museum! Plus, its red handles and bottom will keep it cleaner for longer than your New Yorker tote!
Enamel Book Pin (Ideal Bookshop)
Ideal Bookshelf’s enamel book cover pins are so adorable, they will be sure to add a lovely personal touch to your tote or jacket. My favorite one of these is “And then There Were None,” because look at all the tiny murder weapons!
Olympia Le-Tan Book Clutch (Olympia Le-Tan)
Okay, if you want to get someone something REALLY special, get them an Olympia Le-Tan Book clutch. These purses are… spit-take expensive, but they are really unique: featuring book and magazine cover illustrations you’ll probably never see on a bag again. Hand-embroidered in Italy in tiny batches and numbered, they are little works of art. So, yeah, if you want to get someone a purse that costs as much as a sofa, here you go.
Ornaments and Holiday Decor
The Wet Bandits Ornament ( on Etsy)
I love giving this adorable, wooden Home Alone-themed ornament to friends for the holidays. Made by artist Brad Albright, it really only works as a gift if your recipient LIKES Home Alone (or really hates Kevin McAllister). Keep the change, you filthy animal!
Die Hard Christmas Ornament Set ( on Etsy)
Everybody knows somebody who thinks Die Hard is the best Christmas movie of all time, and this is the gift for them! (These lovely, laminated illustrated ornaments are also sold separately, if, for example, anyone wants to give a certain CrimeReads editor a Hans Gruber ornament.) (If Die Hard isn’t your thing, then may I direct you to the Twin Peaks ornament set?)
“Pseudonym” Body Milk (Ellis)
If you’re looking for a fancy gift for a book lover, try the “Pseudonym” line at Ellis: Brooklyn. They have diffuser oil, candles, and “body milk” (which is like lotion but called something else). Apparently it’s inspired by D.W. Lawrence’s poem “Figs,” but it’s also vegan, cruelty free, packaged in glass for better recycling, and made in NYC.
Aesop Hand and Body Lotion (Aesop)
Look, being a reader is hazardous. Your hands can dry out, they can get paper-cuts… it’s the worst. If you’re looking to get someone something really nice, get them a (metal) tube of Aesop hand lotion. It’s vegan, cruelty-free and all-natural, plus it smells incredible. I have both scents of their hand lotion (Reverence and Resurrection) in my bag at all times. It’s creamy and does not leave your hands greasy, which means that right after you apply it, you can touch a book without worrying about getting oil all over it.
Penco Notebook (Mr. Boddington’s Studio)
Ah, I love the look of a Penco notebook. Some of them are cased in plastic, so for the sake of the environment, I will not recommend those. But look at this sharp little guy, with a firm cardboard cover! Made in Japan, and perfectly-pocket-sized. Here are slightly larger ones, sold at Penny Post.
Ellepi Klizia 97 Stapler (FindTape)
ALWAYS IMITATED, NEVER REPRODUCED. The greatest desk-item in the world is the Ellepi Klizia 97 Stapler, a colorful metal stapler that looks like a whale. These perfect instruments have been made in the same four-person factory in Italy (just outside Milan) for generations. They are perfect, so aesthetically marvelous while perfectly dispensing (tiny) staples with the most satisfying crunch you will ever feel. Made from powder-coated steel, you can find them in a variety of places (Etsy, and lots of small shops like Mr. Boddington’s, Boston General Store, or Good Gray) but if you know exactly what color you’re looking for, I recommend looking on FindTape.com, an online office-supply retailer. Also, don’t forget to pick up extra packs of staples: Uni 76 size.
Letter Opener (Danforth Pewter)
Everyone who loves mysteries needs to have an elegant (but lightweight) letter-opener. That’s also safe. This beautiful, made in the USA, knife, made from stainless steel and lead-free pewter and with its gorgeous blue-patterned handle, will make the exciting prospect of opening mail even more exciting.
Prime Timber Mechanical Pencils (Boddington)
Herb Lester Fictional Hotel Notepad (Books Are Magic)
The English stationary company Heb Lester and Associates has released a bunch of notepads decorated with the logos of famous fictional hotels. They’ve got a bunch. I have one (the one up there, from Psycho’s Bates Motel) and I’m so delighted with it, it’s scary.
The Mysterious Mansion Activity Book by Daria Song (Carle Museum)
This workbook, by bestselling Korean coloring book artist/illustrator Daria Song, is a GEM. It’s about a girl who finds herself in a mysterious mansion and has to solve puzzles and riddles (and color!!!) to find her way out. Perfect for kids AND adults looking for a break.
Penco Plastic Letter Opener (Penny Post)
If you know a child who really wants a letter-opener (like I did, as a child), then consider getting them one of these. Penco makes plastic letter openers which seem much safer than the metal kinds. I have one and they are very, very dull. But then again, what do I know; I’m not a parent.
Uncle Goose Elemental Blocks (Uncle Goose)
Sherlock Holmes teaches us how *elementary* chemistry is to mystery-solving. And is there a better time to turn someone on to chemistry than early childhood? NO. Uncle Goose, the baby enrichment/toy company, makes a beautiful wooden periodic table block set! These blocks are completely manufactured in the USA, made using sustainable Midwestern basswood, and printed with non-toxic, mouth-safe ink. Plus, if your future mystery-solver loses a block, tell Uncle Goose and they will ship you the very one you need!
Okay, Fine, Books… Kind of
Penguin Mystery Paperback (WhiteSpacePress on Etsy)
The fact that so many mysteries were originally published as Penguin paperbacks means it’s fairly easy and affordable to find an antique copy of someone’s favorite mystery.
The Sopranos Sessions by Matt Zoller Seitz (MZS World Store)
There isn’t a MORE definitive Sopranos anthology out there. Pulitzer-prize nominated film and TV Critic Matt Zoller Seitz (TV critic at Vulture/NY Mag, Editor-in-Chief of RogerEbert.com) takes you through every single detail of history’s most influential series.
A Lie Agreed Upon: The Deadwood Chronicles by Matt Zoller Seitz (MZS World Store)
You’re also going to want to pre-order Matt Zoller Seitz’s Deadwood anthology, featuring an introduction by Megan Abbott. It’s out later this month!
I KNOW this list is not supposed to include books, but I’m making an exception for this one. You probably have, if you are my age, BUT have you ever read The Mysteries of Harris Burdick? It’s an unconventional children’s book following an unusual gambit. The book purports to have been assembled by Van Allsburg and his editor friend, Peter Wenders; Wenders says that one day, many years ago, when he had worked for a publishing house, a man named Harris Burdick came into his office with fourteen illustrations from fourteen books he had written. He handed them over as a sample. Each drawing came with the title of the corresponding story and a single caption. Wenders was entranced by the drawings and said he would like to see the rest of the stories. Burdick said he would return the following day. But he never did. Thus, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a book of fourteen eerie, rich illustrations without stories to match, which naturally inspire readers (especially children) to think of their own. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, an anniversary edition of the original book, includes stories from writers like Stephen King and Gregory Maguire, who were inspired to think of tales for the illustrations, themselves. So, either you gift this book to someone who does not know about it and it blows their mind, or you give it to someone who read it as a child it takes them back to a very magical time.