Most Beautiful Books of 2018 – A Holiday Gift Guide

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Most Beautiful Books of 2018: A Holiday Gift Guide

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, teensfiction, mysterythe natural world, poetryfantasy & scifi, Harry Potter, and Christmas

Picture Books

Dragon Post by Emma Yarlett

Alex finds a dragon living in the cupboard under the stairs, so he writes letters to lots of different people to ask for advice on taking care of his surprise visitor. Incorporates 5 fun removable letters.

► Buy Dragon Post from Book Depository or Amazon (US)

Once Upon a Wild Wood  by Chris Riddell

An inventive fairy tale mashup about the adventures of Little Green Raincape. Features a die-cut cover and richly detailed drawings by the masterful Chris Riddell. 

► Buy Once Upon a Wild Wood from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

Cinderella by Dinara 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.

► Buy Cinderella from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

► Buy the matching volume Beauty & The Beast from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

► Buy the matching volume Sleeping Beauty from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

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.

► Buy The Ink House from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

Children and the Young at Heart

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.

See also my Mary Poppins editions review page here…

► 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 other books in this series from Book Depository [UK Editions 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]

► Buy more books in the Pages & Co series from Book Depository [UK editions recommended]

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 recommended].

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.

► Buy Wakestone Hall (book 3) from Booktopia (AU) 

► Buy Wormwood Mire (book 2) from Booktopia (AU) 

► Buy Withering-by-Sea (book 1) from Booktopia (AU) 

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. 

► Buy The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

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 Restless Girls from Book Depository or Amazon (US)

► Buy the Deluxe Slipcase edition of Restless Girls from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

Little Mermaid and other tales by Hans Christian Anderson,  and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by MinaLima

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.

See the detailed article on MinaLima’s children’s classics for more on this series.

► Buy Minalima’s Little Mermaid from Book Depository or Amazon US

►Buy Minalima’s Secret Garden from Book Depository or Amazon US

The Legend of Sally Jones and The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

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]

Young Adult

The Mermaid Handbook by Carloyn Turgeon

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.

► Buy The Mermaid Handbook from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

► Buy the companion book The Faerie Handbook from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

→ Check out the rest of the Enchanted Library series here…

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. 

→ See the detailed review of this edition for more information.

► Buy The Lightning Thief Illustrated Edition from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

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).


The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

A gift edition of this road trip story across Japan with a cat. Features a ribbon bookmark and internal spot illustrations.

► Buy Travelling Cat Chronicles from Book Depository [UK Edition] or Amazon (US).

Fox 8 by George Saunders

An enchanting and comic, but ultimately quite dark fable of human greed and nature. Features delightful illustrations by Chelsea Cardinal.

► Buy Fox 8 from Book Depository [UK edition] or Amazon (US).

the corset cover

The Corset by Laura Purcell

This gothic thriller about a teenage seamstress and self-confessed murderess features a gilded cover and lovely peacock feather endpapers.

► Buy The Corset from Book Depository [UK edition].

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.

Read this guide to the books in the Classics Reimagined series for more details…

► Buy Frankenstein Reimagined from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

kingsolver unsheltered

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

The story of two families, in two centuries, navigating the political challenges of surviving in America. I just really love the gorgeous decorated page edges on this one.

► Buy Unsheltered from Waterstones (UK).

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].

a honeybee heart has five openings 9781471167713 hr

A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings by Helen Jukes

A fascinating account of a novice beekeeper’s year of keeping honeybees. Mainly it just features a pretty cover.

► Buy Honeybee Heart from Book Depository [UK edition].

► While stocks last, buy the signed edition from Book Depository.

black fox running

Black Fox Running by Brian Carter

A re-release of an older novel, this is essentially Watership Down with foxes. Again, I’m including this one mainly because it’s a good story with a very pretty cover.

► Buy Black Fox Running from Book Depository [UK edition].

Fantasy & Science Fiction

Legendary (Caraval #2) by Stephanie Garner 

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. 

► Buy Legendary from Book Depository (UK edition).

surface breaks

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

A reimagining of the Little Mermaid legend. Silver scales on the boards under the dust jacket.

► Buy The Surface Breaks from Book Depository [UK edition]

blue salt road

Blue Salt Road by Joanne M Harris

A beautifully illustrated modern fairy tale.

► Buy Blue Salt Road from Book Depository [UK edition]


New Agatha Christies 

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 Train from Book Depository  [UK edition].

► In series with Murder on the Orient Express from Book Depository [UK edition].

the sentence is death cover

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).

See the detailed review of Bibliophile for more information about this book, and several companion pieces.

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 overview of literary maps for more information about this book and others.

► Buy Writer’s Map from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

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).

heroes stephen fry

Heroes by Stephen Fry

Fry retells a collection of dramatic, funny and adventurous tales of the Greek Heroes. Patterned endpages.

► Buy Heroes from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

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.

See the full review of Zahhak for more information about this book.

► Buy Zahhak from Book Depository or Amazon (US).


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]

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 Old Toffer’s Dogs from Book Depository or Amazon.

► Buy companion volume Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot (illustrated by Edward Gorey) from Book Depository or Amazon.

Harry Potter

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.

► Buy Archive of Magic from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling and Chris Riddell

This lavishly illustrated edition of Rowling’s fairy tales is my favourite, but the US edition illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger is also beautiful.

► Buy Beedle the Bard illustrated by Chris Riddell from Book Depository (UK) or Amazon (US).

► Buy Beedle the Bard illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger from Book Depository (UK) or Amazon (US).

► The deluxe illustrated editions are also available while stocks last from Book Depository and Amazon (US).

★ See my full review of all the Beedle the Bard editions for more information about this book and other editions.

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.

► Buy Pop-up Guide to Hogwarts from Book Depository or Amazon (US).


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.

► Buy Nightmare Before Christmas Pop-up from Book Depository or Amazon (US).

► Also available while stocks last is the signed limited edition with extra pop-up from Book Depository or Amazon (US)

Christmas Booklet Cards by Various Authors

Delightful Christmas cards that are also illustrated short stories or poems. Here are a few of my faves:

► Buy All Night Bookshop from Book Depository

► Buy The Wood in Winter from Book Depository

► Buy Custard the Dragon from Book Depository


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