Watching documentaries is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. They provide education on a wide variety of topics, are thought-provoking, and are downright fun to watch. I’ve loved them ever since I was a kid, when I’d watch documentaries about ancient Egypt on the History Channel every chance I got.
Plenty of others share this sentiment, and odds are if you’re reading this article, you’re in need of a gift for your own documentary lover. To make your life a little easier, I’ve put together a list of some of the best gifts for documentary lovers and history buffs. I hope it’ll help you find a gift that your gift recipient will thoroughly enjoy.
Chances are if you love documentaries, you love a good book. They’re both a fun way to learn new things, and an excellent book can be even more intriguing than a documentary, simply because they take longer to consume and go more in depth on subjects.
An interesting book makes the perfect gift for a documentary lover, so here are a few of my favorite books that I could hardly put down.
1. A Life on Our Planet
If you aren’t well-versed in documentaries yourself, here’s one thing you should know – David Attenboro is the king of nature narration. He’s been the voice behind some of the most famous documentaries, including Planet Earth II, Blue Planet II, and Our Planet. If you’ve ever been remotely interested in documentaries, you’ve most likely watched one narrated by him.
Now, with that being said, David Attenborough’s newly released book A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future is phenomenal. The book showcases the changes that have occurred throughout our world over the past century, and explains the dire, yet still hopeful situation we have put ourselves in. Along the way, Attenborough talks about his own experiences and shares valuable wisdom that he has gained throughout his long life.
It’s one of my all-time favorite books, and I recommend everyone read it, not just documentary lovers. Here’s a little intro to the book that’ll give you an idea of what it’ll read like:
“I am 93. I’ve had an extraordinary life. It’s only now that I appreciate how extraordinary. As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world – but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day – the loss of our planet’s wild places, its biodiversity.
I have been witness to this decline. A Life on Our Planet is my witness statement, and my vision for the future. It is the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake – and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right.”
2. Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World
This is another favorite of mine, and one I hold especially dear because of my borderline obsession with ancient civilizations. Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World is a chronicle of forty different ancient civilizations that have all but faded from history. Each played a massive role in the development of modern society, and the book documents each civilization, their customs, their artifacts, their rich cultures, and the way they impacted the way we live today.
It does justice to these magnificent civilizations, is immersive (I couldn’t put it down), and is a fantastic read. 10/10 recommend to any documentary lover and history buff.
3. A Crack in Creation
Another one of my favorites, and one that focuses more on the future rather than the past, is A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution. It’s written by Jennifer A. Doudna, a Nobel Prize winner, and one of the co-creators of CRISPR.
The book goes into the science of genetic engineering, the potential development of life-changing medications and treatments for our society’s most sick individuals, and the removal of genetic diseases from family lines and fetuses. It discusses the ethical concerns behind the fact that evolution is now quite literally in our hands, and the potential benefits and dangers.
I recommend this book to anyone and everyone, but especially to those who are interested in documentaries. There aren’t very many documentaries released yet about genetic engineering, and this book was much, much better than any of the ones that I’ve seen.
4. The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator
The deadliest animal in the world, in terms of how many people it kills every year, is by far the mosquito. Mosquitoes kill more people than people kill people – they truly are the world’s most dangerous animal.
The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator is a narrative nonfiction that offers a new perspective on the history of mankind. It exhibits how, through the millennia, the mosquito has been the single most powerful force in determining humanity’s fate. If Earth lacked our deadly blood sucking companions, our history and the world we call home would be drastically different.
It’s an outstanding read, and I recommend it to insect lovers, history lovers, and everyone alike.
5. Wicked Bugs
Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army & Other Diabolical Insects is a dark comedy that sheds light on our sinister relationship with the world’s worst entomological enemies.
It discusses how certain insects – like the world’s most painful hornet, the flies that transmit deadly diseases, millipedes that stop traffic, and “bookworms” that devour libraries – cause great inconvenience and tragedy for Humanity.
It’s interesting, informative, and hilarious. If the person you’re buying a gift for enjoys comedy, this is the book I’d recommend for them.
6. Secrets of the Whales
Secrets of the Whales is a brand new book made by National Geographic that tells a visual story of whales, their intelligence, feeding strategies, parenting techniques, and their long-running relationship with humans. The book is filled with gorgeous, never-before-seen photographs captured by widely acclaimed Brian Skerry, a man who has explored our oceans for over 40 years.
7. An Entirely Synthetic Fish
This is an intriguing read on a topic that many people know nothing about, but that affects us all. An Entirely Synthetic Fish tells the story of rainbow trout, an opportunistic and highly adaptable fish that is native to the remote Waters of northern California. It’s dubbed the entirely synthetic fish, as it’s been introduced as the artificial freshwater fish of choice in countless ponds, lakes, and bodies of water. They can now be found in literally every single state and province in the United States and Canada, and in every continent but Antarctica.
The species is loved by some, but hated by many around the world, primarily because of their invasive nature, and how devastating of an impact their introduction can be to native fauna. The book showcases how rainbow trout became what they are today, largely because of human intervention, and how much they affect our ecosystems and our lives.
8. Sex in the Sea
If the person you’re buying a gift for would enjoy a more playful book, Sex in the Sea: Our Intimate Connection with Sex-Changing Fish, Romantic Lobsters, Kinky Squid, and Other Salty Erotica of the Deep would be the one to choose.
It’s a witty and hysterical book about the elaborate mating rituals of our ocean’s inhabitants, and how bizarre some of them are. Sustainability is also something it touches on, primarily how climate change and other factors are disrupting the procreation of these wonderfully strange creatures.
Because of how common apparel is, many people think it’s an unthoughtful gift. I disagree.
We all wear clothes, whether it’s around the house or out and about, so what’s wrong with getting someone a t-shirt that is inspired by the things they love? If anything, I think it shows how much you listen and care about their hobbies. Here’s a list of some of the best apparel for documentary lovers:
9. David Attenborough Tee
If your giftee is as big a fan of David Attenborough as I am, this shirt would be a great gift. It’s simple, fun, and would be a great conversation starter with other documentary lovers.
10. True Crime T-shirt
I’m not as into true crime as I am other types of documentaries, but my sister loves them. She’s an avid crime documentary watcher, and she pairs them with podcasts, books, and anything she can get her hands on. A t-shirt like this would be a huge hit with her, and any other true crime lover for that matter.
11. Eco-Friendly Clothes
One of the things I love most about my early fixation on documentaries is my learned appreciation for our planet. From a young age I was fascinated with all the different species on our planet, and it helped me develop a sense of responsibility for preserving our environment. I believe in sustainability, and every other documentary lover I’ve ever met feels the same way.
So if you’re thinking about buying your gift recipient some new clothes, look for apparel that is made of organic cotton, linen, hemp, or recycled material. All these are much better for the environment than their alternatives and have a much smaller water and carbon footprint.
A great affordable brand to shop from is Organic Signatures. They’ve got a ton of different basics that are made of organic cotton, like these henleys.
12. National Geographic T-shirt
National Geographic is a brand that I 100% standby, and they’re one of the top producers of quality documentaries. Odds are you’ve watched a documentary or docu-series made by them before, and you probably loved it. They’re high quality, intriguing, and fun to watch. If your giftee is also a fan of Nat Geo, this t-shirt would be a great gift.
Who doesn’t love a decor piece that’s catered to their likes? No one, that’s who. Even a true minimalist will enjoy a carefully selected decor piece that reminds them of their favorite pastime.
Here are some of the most fitting decor gifts for documentary lovers that I like the most, and that have the best reviews:
13. Solar System Paperweight
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a long-running fixation on anything space-related. For this reason, I am a collector of all sorts of space decor – ornaments, paperweights, dishware, planters, you name it.
If your giftee is similar, a fun gift for them would be something like this light up solar system paperweight. It’s unique, eye-catching, and makes the perfect night light or desk decoration.
14. True Crime Mug
Another great gift for any true crime lover (especially ones who enjoy hot beverages) is this printed mug. It comes in four different prints, and screams ” I love crime documentaries”. It’s also got stellar reviews, which doesn’t hurt.
15. National Geographic Calendar
I love calendars, and find they’re one of the few ways I can keep my life organized. Phone version suffice, but there’s nothing like a beautifully illustrated physical calendar.
National Geographic produces some of the best calendars year after year, that are both beautiful and sustainable. Their calendars are printed on high-quality, eco-friendly paper, each month is accompanied by a breathtaking photograph captured by world-renowned photographers, and each calendar has its own theme. This one’s theme is the most beautiful places on Earth in 2022.
16. This Day in History Boxed Calendar
If you think the person you’re buying a gift for would be more interested in something history related, History Channel’s This Day in History Boxed Calendar would fit the bill. It’s not a calendar that you can write your agenda on, but is instead a day-by-day record of extraordinary happenings throughout history.
Each day on the calendar is accompanied by a groundbreaking accomplishment, interesting fact, world-changing invention, or inspiring person who helped shape our world. The calendar and box it comes in is 100% recyclable and plastic free, and is printed on sustainable FSC certified paper.
17. Unexplained Mysteries Boxed Calendar
The History Channel makes multiple types of these box calendars, and another option for those who are more interested in the unknown is their Unexplained Mysteries Boxed Calendar. It features 365 day’s worth of unexplainable events and baffling phenomena.
Some of the fun facts include things like unsolved crimes, paranormal activity, and other strange happenings. It’s a fitting gift for true crime lovers and anyone interested in unsolved history.
18. This Day in Women’s History Boxed Calendar
Another boxed calendar that would be perfect for those who enjoy documentaries about the world’s most powerful and influential women throughout time is the History Channel’s This Day in Women’s History Boxed Calendar.
It includes 365 facts about the world’s most powerful women, from pilots, warriors, politicians, and queens, to activists, performers, and artists.
FUN & GAMES
If you’re looking for a gift that’s more interactive, and can be shared with others, a game would be the way to go. There are tons of games that would be perfect for documentary lovers, but I’ll narrow it down to a few of the best just so you’re not here all day!
19. Trivial Pursuit
This is a classic, and if your giftee doesn’t already own it, 100% get it for them. Trivial Pursuit is a game that was practically made for documentary lovers and history buffs, so you can’t go wrong with it.
To win the game, the player has to answer various types of questions correctly, and it’s a joy to play. Games can get a bit heated and a bit long, so keep that in mind. (which is a plus in my eyes – the more competitive, the better)
The game comes with 2,400 different trivia questions on a variety of topics such as geography, entertainment, history, arts & literature, science & nature, and sports & leisure. You can play with a minimum of two players and a maximum of six, and it’s classified as ages 16 and up.
20. Superfight History Deck
This game involves more creative thinking and is a total hoot to play. Superfight History Deck: 100 Historical Themed Cards for The Game of Absurd Arguments is a game in which players have to pair history’s most famous characters with attributes from human history. Once they’ve assembled their fighter, they have to convince everyone else at the table that their character would win in a fight between everyone else’s character.
To give you an idea of what this would look like, a valid character combination could be Vlad the Impaler in Tokyo with a Civil War era cannon. If that sounds absurd to you, good, because it is. That’s the point of the game, and it’s extremely fun to play. 10/10 would recommend.
21. Buffalo Games Chronology
This is another game that documentary lovers would enjoy. Buffalo Games Chronology is a game in which the players build timelines of cards. Players draw a card, read the historical event on said card, and then must decide where the event falls on their timeline. If they’re right, they get to keep the card and expand their timeline, and if they’re wrong, they lose it. The first to 10 cards wins.
Basically, the winner is the one who knows when things happened in history. Did the invention of mayonnaise or the invention of decaf coffee occur first? Or did Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or John Deere’s first plow come first? You can play with a minimum of two players and a maximum of eight, which makes it great for frequent party-goers, as you can play with more people than your typical board game.
22. Mythical Creatures Puzzle
If the person you’re buying a gift for likes both documentaries and puzzles, one of the best puzzles for them would be Laurence King’s The Mythical World 1000 Piece Puzzle. It’s a jigsaw puzzle of the world’s most famous regional mythical creatures. It’s beautifully illustrated, and is based on real folklore and mythology from all around the world.
23. Magellan Membership
Netflix is a great streaming service, but their documentary selection could be much better. They aren’t lacking quality, they’re lacking quantity. It got to the point where I was having to rewatch documenteries, and while I’m not against that, I prefer watching something new.
So I made the switch to MagellanTV, and have nothing but good things to say about it. It’s cheap – their plans start at $4.99 a month – and it features only documentaries. It’s basically an entire streaming service dedicated specifically to documentary lovers.
New movies and series are added to their collection every week, and it has over 3,000 documentaries and docu-series. If you’re interested in buying your giftee a subscription, you can find out more information here.
Those are all of the best gift ideas for documentary lovers that I could think of. I’m sure I’ve missed some, so if you have a great idea I haven’t mentioned, feel free to let me know about it in the comments below!
Please note that this article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of them, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I 100% stand behind.
Hi, I’m Ash!
I’m a laid back traveler who loves experiencing new things and spontaneity. My favorite hobbies are hiking, gardening, skincare, and all things tea.
My biggest goal is to spread the word about sustainable travel and show everyone how easy it is to partake in. If you wanna learn more about that or get to know me better, feel free to click here.