Welcome to my review of the most physically beautiful books published in 2018, with the aim of helping you to find appropriate gifts for your nearest and dearest, or – even better – take an opportunity to treat yourself during the holiday season! The books are loosely sorted by genre, and I’ve added links for every book to help you track down the exact edition if you see anything you love. There’s truly something for everyone: subcategories include picture books, children’s books, teens, fiction, mystery, the natural world, poetry, fantasy & scifi, Harry Potter, and Christmas…
Cinderella by Diana Mirtalipova and Katie Haworth
The classic Cinderella story for children, with delightful illustrations presented in a delicate pop-up aperture format. In series with last year’s offering of Beauty & the Beast.
The Ink House by Rory Dobner
The Ink House is an artist’s mysterious mansion, built on a magical pool of ink that inspires creativity in anyone who lives there. When the artist goes adventuring, animals great and small arrive for the Annual Ink House Extravaganza. Features a die cut cover and stunning ink illustrations.
Facsimile Moomin Books by Tove Jansson
The Moomins, in case you didn’t know, are kind, philosophical creatures with velvety fur and smooth round snouts, who live in a tall blue house in a beautiful woodland valley beside the sea.
Following on from the first four books in this series which I featured in the 2017 edition “Beautiful Books of the Year”, Sort of Books completed the set this year when released their final four special collectors editions of the original Moomin books.
These pocket sized hardbacks use the gorgeous original 50s and 60s cover artwork, and feature illustrated endpapers, hidden cover designs, and several volumes also contain foldout maps. They are delightful and very affordable.
► Buy Tales from Moominvalley from Book Depository [UK edition].
► Buy Moominsummer Madness from Book Depository [UK edition].
► Buy Moominpappa at Sea from Book Depository [UK edition].
► Buy Moominvalley in November from Book Depository [UK edition].
► Bonus: Check out The Moomin Craft Book from Book Depository.
Walliams’ 10th Anniversary Editions by David Walliams
A limited release of special 10th anniversary editions of some David Walliams’ best-selling children’s books with coloured illustrations. Featuring metallic dust jackets, special hidden covers, ribbon bookmarks and sewn bindings.
► Buy Mr Stink 10! Anniversary Edition from Book Depository [UK edition]
► Buy Gangsta Granny 10! Anniversary Edition from Book Depository [UK edition]
► Buy Grandpa’s Great Escape 10! Anniversary Edition from Book Depository [UK edition]
► Buy The Boy in the Dress 10! Anniversary Edition from Book Depository [UK edition]’
Mary Poppins by PL Travers and Lauren Child
First published in 1964, Mary Poppins has been delighting readers ever since. This lovely version is prolifically illustrated with Lauren Child’s fun signature mixed media images. Features full page spreads and inventive font designs.
► Buy Mary Poppins from Book Depository [UK edition]
Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend
The second book in the Trials of Morrigan Crow (see also the 2017 gift guide for the first in the series, Nevermoor).
The UK edition has a gorgeous hidden cover under the dust jacket –sprinkled with gold – and pretty illustrated chapter headings. The Australian edition has a small illustration on the boards with illustrated endpapers that feature the cover design from the UK edition.
► Buy Wundersmith from Book Depository [UK Edition recommended].
► Buy the first volume in the series Nevermoor from Book Depository [UK Edition recommended]
► While stocks last, buy a signed edition of Wundersmith from Waterstones (UK).
The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
In this modern day homage to Narnia, four children step through a mysterious library door to discover the magical world of Folio, where an enchanted kingdom of fairy knights, bears and tree gods is under threat from a sinister robot army. Features decorative chapter headings and a hidden cover under the dust jacket.
► Buy The Lost Magician from Book Depository [UK edition]
Pages & Co: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James
Since her mother’s disappearance, eleven-year-old Tilly has found comfort in stories at Pages & Co, her grandparents’ bookshop. But suddenly her favourite characters, Anne of Green Gables and Alice from Wonderland, wander into the shop, and Tilly’s adventures begin. Features a hidden cover under the dust jacket and b&w internal illustrations. Particularly lovely for anyone familiar with classic children’s literature.
► Buy Tilly and the Bookwanderers from Book Depository [UK edition]
The Train to Impossible Places by P. G. Bell
An imaginative middle grade novel about a train that travels through impossible places, a boy trapped in a snow globe, and a girl who’s about to go on an unbelievable adventure. Features internal illustrations and a hidden cover.
► Buy The Train to Impossible Places from Book Depository [UK edition].
Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell
The second volume in the Wizards of Once series. Wish is in possession of a powerful, Magic Spelling Book; Xar has a dangerous Witchstain on his hand. Together they can save the Wildwoods from the curse of the Witches but they are separated by the highest wall imaginable. Features delightful illustrations throughout.
► Buy Twice Magic from Book Depository [UK edition]
► While stocks last, buy a sprayed pages edition of Twice Magic from Waterstones (UK).
► While stocks last, buy a sprayed pages edition of the first volume Wizards of Once from Waterstones (UK).
Stella Montgomery Intrigues by Judith Rossell
Writer-illustrator Judith Rossell has just released the final book in her magical Stella Montgomery series. These delightful historical fiction books feature young orphan Stella and her dreadful aunts, good for fans of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. Each book is printed in a different coloured ink and contain lovely illustrations as well.
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by MT Anderson and
Elfin historian Brangwain Spurge and the goblin archivist Werfel are trying to survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s written narrative tells an entirely different story.
The Restless Girls by Jessie Burton and Angela Barrett
A delightful feminist retelling of the ‘Twelve Dancing Princess’ fairy tale. Features a hidden cover under the dust jacket and gorgeous illustrations. The deluxe edition comes in a slipcase with an exclusive print and sprayed page edges.
► Buy the Deluxe Slipcase edition of Restless Girls from Book Depository or Amazon (US).
This year saw two more books in MinaLima’s gorgeous children’s classics series with Harper Design: Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
The Murderer’s Ape is the story of Sally Jones, ape and gifted engineer, , with detailed black-and-white illustrations throughout the text. The Legend of Sally Jones is a colour prequel graphic novel following the ape’s early adventures.
Buy The Legend of Sally Jones from Book Depository [UK edition]
Buy The Murderer’s Ape from Book Depository [UK edition]
The Mermaid Handbook by Carloyn Sturgeon
A lavishly illustrated compendium of mermaid lore from the editor in chief of Faerie Magazine. Includes legends, facts, trivia, step-by-step projects and recipes, all accompanied by beautiful illustrations.
Percy Jackson Lightning Thief: Illustrated Edition by Rick Riordan and John Rocco
This new edition of “The Lightning Thief” has been illustrated throughout by American artist John Rocco. It’s a stunning edition, with full colour art on almost every page. The binding is smyth-sewn with a blue ribbon bookmark. And the mapped endpapers show Camp Half-blood on the front pages and Percy’s quest along the back pages.
Glass Sword [Collector’s Edition] by Victoria Aveyard
The collector’s editions of the Red Queen series feature bonus content, colour interior art, hidden covers under the dust jacket, and sprayed page edges.
► Buy Glass Sword Collector’s Edition from Book Depository or Amazon (US).
► Buy Red Queen Collector’s Edition from Book Depository or Amazon (US).
Six of Crows [Collector’s Edition] by
► Buy Six of Crows Collector’s Edition from Book Depository or Amazon (US).
And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness and Rovina Cai
► Buy And the Ocean was our Sky from Book Depository or Amazon (US).
Eleanor Oliphant [special edition] by Gail Honeyman
This is a humorous and poignant story about the importance of friendship in a world where people are increasingly isolated. The Waterstones special edition is signed, and features a redeigns glittery cover and patterned endpapers.
► Buy Eleanor Oliphant Special Edition from Waterstones (UK edition).
Frankenstein Reimagined by Mary Shelley and David Plunkert
This edition is illustrated with 100 dark and evocative images by American artist David Plunkert and includes an 8 page vellum insert detailing the doctor’s designs and a gatefold image of the monster.
The Natural World
Glorious Life of the Oak by John Lewis-Stempel
Explores Britain’s relationship with the iconic oak tree, including the life-cycle of the tree; the flora and fauna that depend on it; the oak as medicine, food and drink; where Britain’s mightiest oaks can be found; and tells oak stories from folklore, myth and legend.
► Buy Glorious Life of the Oak from Book Depository [UK edition].
► Buy the companion volume Secret Life of the Owl from Book Depository [UK edition].
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garner
► Buy Legendary from Book Depository (UK edition).
Harper Collins have released a few new hardcover editions of some classic Agatha Christie mysteries, with four now in the series. These pretty casebound novels have cheap paper and are only glued in, but they feature lovely illustrated endpapers and decorative chapter headings.
► Buy 4:50 from Paddington from Book Depository [UK edition].
► Buy ABC Murders from Book Depository [UK edition].
► Buy Mystery of the Blue Trainfrom Book Depository [UK edition].
► In series with Murder on the Orient Express from Book Depository [UK edition].
The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz
Death, deception, and a detective with quite a lot to hide stalk the pages of Anthony Horowitz’s fun new murder mystery, the second in the bestselling series starring Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne. Illustrated endpapers.
► Buy Sentence is Death from Book Depository [UK edition].
Book Lover's Reference
Bibliophile by Jane Mount
An illustrated love-letter to all things bookish. Makes a stunning gift.
► Buy Bibliophile from Book Depository or Amazon (US).
The Writer’s Map by Huw Lewis Jones
A fabulous illustrated atlas of the journeys that writers make, encompassing not only the maps that actually appear in their books, but also the many maps that have inspired them and the sketches that they use in writing.
★ See my upcoming overview of literary maps for more information about this book.
Myths & Legends
Circe by Madeline Miller
An epic retelling of the history of the infamous goddess from the Odyssey. Features stunning decorative covers under the dust jacket, and decorative endpapers.
► Buy Circe from Book Depository [UK edition recommended].
► While stocks last, there is a signed edition available from Waterstones (UK).
Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
A fascinating but rather brutal retelling of the Iliad that explores the stories of the women and girls that were collateral damage in the Trojan War.
► Buy Silence of the Girls from Book Depository [UK edition recommended].
► While stocks last, there is a signed edition available from Waterstones (UK).
Zahhak Pop-Up by Simon Arizpe and Hamid Rahmanian
This Iranian legend of Zahhak, taken from the incredible illustrated edition of the Shahnameh, is one of my favourite pop-ups of the year.
Poems to Live Your Life By by Chris Riddell
This gorgeously illustrated anthology is divided into sections covering: musings, youth, family, love, imaginings, nature, war and endings. Riddell brings them to life with his exquisite, intricate artwork. Includes a variety of poets, ranging from Lewis Carroll and William Shakespeare to Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and Neil Gaiman.
► Buy Poems to Live Your Life By from Book Depository [UK Edition].
I Am the Seed that Grew the Tree by Frann Preston-Gannon
This lavishly illustrated compendium of nature poems is named after the first line of Judith Nicholls’ poem ‘Windsong’. There is a poem for every day of the year (although if you want to follow the seasons you have to live in the northern hemisphere). Includes a wide variety of poets, including John Agard, William Blake, Emily Bronte, Charles Causley, Walter de la Mare, Emily Dickinson, Carol Ann Duffy, Eleanor Farjeon, Robert Frost, Thomas Hardy, Roger McGough, Christina Rossetti, William Shakespeare, John Updike, and William Wordsworth.
► Buy I Am The Seed from Book Depository [UK edition]
► While stocks last, a signed edition is also available from BookDepository.
Old Toffer’s Book of Consequential Dogs by Christopher Reid and Elliot Elam
Written by award-winning poet – and like TS Eliot himself a fellow former editor of Faber and Faber – this collection is conceived as a companion volume to Eliot’s original volume Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Introduces Dobson the Dog Detective, Flo the Philosophical Foxhound, and Frazzlesprat, a dog who would really rather be a cat and a host of other humorous hounds.
► Buy companion volume Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot (illustrated by Edward Gorey) from Book Depository or Amazon (US).
The Archive of Magic by MinaLima
This magnificent book is modelled after a special item from the movie, and features removable facsimile reproductions of props and other materials from the movie, along with some very special effects. A lovely tribute to moviemaking magic, it would be ideal for any Wizarding World fan, aspiring concept artists and designers, and cinema buffs.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling and Chris Riddell
This lavishly illustrated edition of Rowling’s fairy tales is my favourite.
A Pop-Up Guide to Hogwarts by Matthew Reinhart
This Pop-up guide to Hogwarts is incredibly detailed, you see different things from every angle, and you can fold it out into a huge connected map. The unfolding process is a little tricky so I suggest you watch the youtube tutorial before attempting it.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Pop-up by Matthew Reinhart
A magical pop-up retelling of Tim Burton’s iconic film, in time to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The deluxe edition is autographed and comes in a slipcase with an exclusive pop-up cover.
► Also available while stocks last is the signed limited edition with extra pop-up from Book Depository or Amazon (US)