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Subtle Book Merch Is The Best Book Merch

We all love having merch that shows off our favorite books. But what about those of us that want to subtly show that love?
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There weren’t many book-inspired clothes and candles when I was growing up unless it was Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, or Lord of the Rings. Nowadays, small businesses have popped up and created all kinds of bookish products. While most of what I see is overtly Sarah J. Maas-inspired, there are some generic reader merch, classics, and even more subtle designs. If you just take a scroll on the “bookish” side of TikTok or Etsy, you’ll find something you love. Here are some of my favorites.

Book Coasters

Book Coasters
Rebound Designs on Etsy

I was recently looking for coasters, and a variation of book-inspired products came up in my Amazon search. But none of those quite hit the mark or matched my existing décor. So, I went to Etsy and typed “bookish coasters” into the search bar.

I immediately found the perfect ones. Still, I kept scrolling because they all looked so amazing. Some coasters include illustrations from books, some with passages from the books, and a few that look like book covers. They’re all so cute.

Playing Cards

Playing Cards
Seasonal Vibe on Etsy

For some reason, I’ve started collecting dice and decks of cards. And while my search for character-inspired dice has come up empty, I found quite a few playing cards inspired by my favorite books. Most of them are from Etsy, but I found a couple on Kickstarter, too.

These are perfect for those who want to be a little more subtle about their fandoms. At first glance, they just look like fancy cards. But once you look closer, you can see elements of characters. And my favorites are when they have characters as the Jack, Queen, King, and Joker cards.


Sunny Kiwi Co on Etsy | @10-4GoodBuddy on RedBubble

I am a sticker fiend, and I’m proud of it. Sadly, I don’t have the heart to actually stick my favorites to anything because they would announce a little too loudly my love of a certain book or show. But, for those who want that, there are options.

Some are a little more obvious what book they represent, while others are a little more subtle. On my scroll through Etsy and Redbubble, many artists have caught my eye, specifically ACOTAR and Harry Potter designs. I especially love when they make the fandom sound like a book club.

Collage Kits

Collage Kits
Archive Sunday |

I never really liked collage walls until Archive Sunday came across my TikTok “For You Page.” I already bought three different sets and some of their other merchandise. But what caught my eye with them wasn’t that it was a nerdy business; it was that their collages are somewhat discreet.

In the collage section of the store, you can find themes from Harry Potter, ACOTAR, Star Wars, Marvel, and more. The three sets I have are the Night Court, Dark Wizard, and Artemis. What I love most about the sets is that you can mix them together, and they’ll still look good together most of the time.

See related: Best Gift Ideas for Everyone On Your List

Subtle Art

Subtle Book Art
Chey Does Art on Etsy

Before I get into more bookish art, let me preface that I broke it down into four categories. This one is subtle because they don’t look like they’d immediately allude to books. You’d have to have read the books (or just love fiction in general) to understand the significance of the artwork.

I have probably too many fiction-inspired artworks, both illustrated and word art, in my room right now. But I can’t help it; they’re all so pretty and remind me of my favorite fictional worlds. Just scroll through Etsy and Redbubble, and you’ll find thousands that exceed your expectations.

Take the two above, for example. The pomegranate painting is about the fruit in the Hades and Persephone love story that I’ll never get tired of. And the hands are a remake of Michelangelo’s painting but was made with A Song of Achilles in mind.

Blackout Poetry Art

Blackout Poetry Art
Chey Does Art on Etsy

Did you also have to do blackout poetry in a high school English class and immediately get hooked on it? I did, and I just found out there are some Etsy shops that sell blackout poems they made from passages in popular books.

Some of the best, in my opinion, are the poems that describe a character using a passage from the same book they are in. It just feels like it’s coming full circle. And it’s perfect for those that want to be a little obvious, but still slightly subtle, about the books they love.


ACOTAR Artwork
Marcoandopaginas on Etsy | Magic Art by Angela Shop on Etsy

We’re onto our third art category with A Court of Thorns and Rose. When I’m looking for artwork based on ACOTAR or Throne of Glass, it’s much harder to find subtle pieces, which is why I had to put it in its own space.

On the one hand, I love that we have beautiful quote art from both series, but it can get a little boring with the same general designs that are tweaked slightly. On the other hand, there are so many different artist renditions of the main characters, and I love each one of them.

Harry Potter Art

Harry Potter Art
Marcandopaginas on Etsy | Kiko Ilustrador on Etsy | For the Good Creative on Etsy

On to the last category for art, we come to specifically Harry Potter-inspired works. And if you don’t want to support the author, don’t fret – she doesn’t get a cent if you buy from small businesses on Etsy, Shopify, or Redbubble. And I think that’s a win for those with Hogwarts in their hearts.

I have so many Etsy bookmarks and art pieces inspired by the magical series. Artists have taken on quote art, Patronus art, and drawing their favorite characters. Some of my favorite character drawings were from SavySamiArt when she drew them covered in tattoos.

Fictional Maps

Fictional Maps
All About the Maps on Etsy

While I didn’t categorize these as “art,” I will say that creating maps is an art form that takes a lot of practice. So I won’t degrade those artists by saying it isn’t art. But it does deserve its own category because there are so many different types of map styles.

While I’ll get to real-world maps next, let’s talk about fictional maps. I love finding maps in books, so when I can buy them to put on my wall, I get excited. And if you like maps in general, this would be the perfect way to start a wall of maps.

Real-World Maps

Real-World Maps
Mediaeval Mapmaker on Etsy

Now, let’s talk about real-world maps related to literature and theatre. I was just looking for a fictional map the other day and came across a map of the locations Shakespeare wrote about. From there, I found the artist created multiple literature-inspired maps.

Each of them is unique and focuses on authors and their works. If Shakespeare isn’t your cup of tea, why not look at Jane Austen maps? The one above points out places Jane Austen visited or grew up in, while others I’ve seen add the iconic locations from her novels.

Read More: Ranking Jane Austen’s Heroines From Worst to Best

Miniature Models

Miniature Models
Kiko Ilustrador on Etsy

If you love Legos but don’t have the money to afford the Death Star or Hogwarts, you’re going to love what I found. I talked about Book Nooks around Christmastime, and I still love those. But I wanted something to set on top of my dressers and small bookshelves.

That’s when I came across miniature paper model kits. There are many different models across the internet, but I’ll focus on book-inspired settings. My favorites are obviously Hagrid’s Hut and Diagon Alley (pictured above). Still, if someone made a mini Court of Dreams, I wouldn’t hesitate to get it.

See related: Bookish Gifts Perfect for the Book Lover in Your Life

Decorative Candles

Decorative Candles
Briarwick on Etsy | Book and Reverie on Etsy

Now it’s time for three candle categories because I know some people want the most extravagant labels, while others (like me) want more subtle ones that blend in on their bookshelves. Let’s start with the more decorative and illustrated labels.

When I scroll through Etsy, these are the most common candles I see. They usually have things embedded in the wax and have labels with designs that allude to other characters. I even saw a Nico di Angelo (from Percy Jackson) candle with a wax skull on top.

Subtle Candles

Subtle Bookish Candles
Fantasy Flame Shop on Etsy | Briarwick on Etsy

A little less “extra” than the candles before, the subtle candles usually have solid-colored labels with the character or trope that inspired them. I also included colored candles in this category because they don’t fit perfectly into the next listing.

This is the next most popular candle I see on Etsy and in small businesses. This is the type of candle I also gravitate to when looking for one to light. If you’re looking for the perfect middle ground of the three candle categories, definitely pick up one of these.

Minimalist Candles

Minimalist Candles

Minimalist candles are the last candle category because they are exactly the bare minimum for book-inspired merch. The minimalistic ones are the white or beige candles in clear glass containers with clear or white labels that just say the name and scent.

If you’re going for hygge-style decorating, this is the perfect candle for you. The only downside I personally see with this category is that the candles are less likely to allude to characters in popular young adult or new adult books and stick closer to tropes and general topics.

Wax Melts

Wax Melts
Midnight Soapery on Etsy | Cornerfolds Candles on Etsy

So as to not exclude those that can’t light candles for various reasons, I did find a few stores that sell their candle scents in wax melt form. Even if you can light candles, this is perfect for adding to a wax melter because they are the most subtle way to show your love of a fandom.

Instead of having them out on display, you’ll just smell them as they burn. So when you have friends and family over, you don’t have to explain your favorite books and characters to them and just say you liked the scent and bought it.


Story Scentsations on Etsy

We’ve got another smelly entry to this list of subtle book merch with soaps. And I’m not saying you smell bad; I’m just saying if you’re already using soap, why not splurge on artisan soaps inspired by your favorite fictional people and worlds.

This entry also gets better when you remember that many small soap businesses post their soap-making process on social media. So you kind of get a two-in-one: satisfying entertainment and shower essentials. And trust me, nobody will complain about cute and nice-smelling soaps.

Starbucks Cups

Starbucks Cups
Lisha’s Labels on Etsy

While I don’t go to Starbucks (I don’t drink anything but water), I do love customized Starbucks cups. And while people typically gravitate towards mugs when they think of bookish cups, we need to start thinking about these styles instead.

I say that because the only designs I could find were Marvel, DC, or Sarah J. Maas-themed. I want to see some Six of Crows, Percy Jackson, and Harry Potter-inspired designs. It’s kind of exciting meeting new people out and about because they ask about your cup.


Keychains or Keyrings
Blissfully Bookish on Etsy | Kiaya’s Art on Etsy

I don’t know why, but I have recently become obsessed with keychains (specifically the retro-style motel keychains). But regardless of what style you prefer, there are thousands to choose from. While I prefer the acrylic type, I’ve seen quite a few others.

The one I have on my keys right now is a Harry Potter Funko, but I have my eyes set on the Six of Crows one I show here. Other than that, I’ve seen clear ones like the others I show here and small metal ones that usually include motifs from books.

Minimalist Shirts

Minimalist Subtle Shirts
The Dear Writer Co on Etsy

Out of all of the book-inspired shirts I’ve seen, I’ve found myself owning more of these styles. Maybe it’s because I can walk around town and not get a ton of weird glances at my outfit. But since I live in a small town, I think that’s going to happen regardless.

These shirts typically have small designs on the back or where the pocket would be on the front. They don’t exactly say what book they’re from, but if you love it, you won’t care. And it’s a fun way to add your fandom to your everyday life without announcing it to everyone around.

Classics-Inspired Shirts

Classics-Inspired Shirts
Neon Thief Co on Etsy

On a similar note as the minimalistic shirts, we have classic-inspired tops. From my many years scrolling through Etsy when I couldn’t sleep (well before TikTok took over my nighttime routine), I’ve noticed that clothes inspired by classic novels and their authors are pretty plain.

That said, there are some pretty and intricate Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte shirts. But they’re part of the minority of this category. While I say they’re plain, they do match the aesthetic of the novels in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. I do wish there were more of these shirts in the next listing.

Graphic Tees

Graphic Tees
Blissfully Bookish on Etsy

The last of the T-shirt categories are graphic tees. And I know, they’ve gone out of style for the most part. But I love them, and I think they just add a little bit of nerdiness to any outfit. Maybe I’m just saying that to make myself feel better for having so many graphic tees in my dirty clothes right now.

Most of the book-inspired clothes I see on Etsy, small business websites, and Redbubble are in this category. And I’m not complaining. My favorites are when they show a location, like the three pictured above. It’s like wearing your fictional home on your sleeve.

‘Romeo and Juliet’ Sweatshirts

Romeo and Juliet Sweatshirts
Bobbie JJ Designs on Etsy

Before I get into the next listing, I had to take a minute to talk about these Romeo and Juliet-inspired sweatshirts. Now, I can’t stand the play, but I have to give credit to the Etsy shop for making me actually want merch from it.

With these, you can choose which family you think you’d belong to. Or maybe you don’t choose and just buy both to wear whenever you feel like it. I especially love that they said fencing team because of the sword fights that took place during the iconic play.

“University” Sweatshirts

University Sweatshirts
College Bookcore on Etsy

I may have graduated a few years ago, but I still love the look of university sweatshirts. So whenever I see them for fictional universities and towns on Etsy, I have to add them to my favorites list. Every design is extremely similar, but I think that’s okay in this instance.

Most Etsy shops offer enough color and design choices that there are enough choices to keep you busy for a few minutes. I just can’t stop loving these lounge-around shirts.