Most Beautiful Books of 2022 – A Holiday Gift Guide
Hello and welcome to my sixth annual holiday gift guide! This post is where I review the most beautifully designed books published during 2022, to help you find something special to gift to your family and friends, or identify new treasures to add to your own shelves. This year has had an amazing selection – I think because so many books were delayed during the pandemic years.
The best books of 2022 are listed below, loosely sorted by genre, and any book with a star (★) next to it is also visually reviewed in the video above. If I recommend a book in this list, you can rest assured it’s not just the physical beauty that counts – I do also read any book I recommend on this site, and I only include books where I think the contents are beautiful too ツ .
Bookshop links are included below if you are interested in buying any of the books for yourself. Some of the links are affiliate links (and thank you if you use them!) but please do support your local bookstore as a priority if you can. If you’re new here, and you’d like more regular recommendations, you might also like to check out my regularly updated lists of special editions, pre-order offers, and subscribe to my occasional newsletter.
And now, on to the books!
Children and the Young at Heart
★ Stocking Filler Alice in Wonderland Editions
These two pocket-sized hardback editions were released in limited numbers to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. Both feature foiled page edges and covers, and classic John Tenniel illustrations with blue text (for Alice) or red text (for Looking-Glass).
☞ Also check out my collector’s guide to recommended Alice editions
★ Snow White and other Grimm’s Fairy Tales [Interactive Edition] by MinaLima
An illustrated collection of 23 of Grimm’s classic fairy tales with nine interactive features ranging from a pop-up forest and pull-tab mirror for Snow White and a wall of thorns encasing Sleeping Beauty to a three-dimensional ball gown for Cinderella and a pop-up tower for Rapunzel.
☞ Read more about the MinaLima Interactive Children’s Classics series.
★ The Golden Age: Ovid’s Metamorphoses by Ovid, adapted by Heinz Janisch, illustrated by Ana Sender
From The Story of the Origin of the World to Midas, Pan, Europa, Apollo, Daphne, Narcissus, Echo, and Fama, the goddess of rumor and stories, we see the multifaceted world of Ovid’s Metamorphoses retold by award-winning Austrian author Heinz Janisch.
The Midnight Panther by Poonam Mistry
Panther is not like the other cats. Leopard has beautiful spots, Tiger has impressive stripes and Lion has a magnificent mane. Panther is small, shy and dark. One night he decides to go and find out where in the jungle he really belongs. A beautifully illustrated fable about courage and finding your place in the world.
The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, illustrated by Olia Muza
Illustrated edition with bonus chapter. Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella dreams of the faraway lands her cartographer father once mapped. When her friend disappears, she volunteers to guide the search. The world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a fire demon is stirring from its sleep.
Puffin Clothbound edition:
UK hardback editions (glued) with pretty foiled cloth covers.
Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
Tales of the Greek Heroes – Roger Lancelyn Green
★ The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse: The Animated Story by Charlie Macksey
Charlie Mackesy’s beloved The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse has been adapted into an animated short film, coming to AppleTV this Christmas. Charlie’s distinctive illustrations are brought to life in full color with hand-drawn traditional animation and accompanying hand-written script.
★ Disney Twisted Tales collector’s editions by Liz Braswell and Jen Calonita
These retellings of Disney classics are Australian hardbacks (glued), with exclusive new covers and matching sprayed page edges.
Inside the Body by Joelle Jolivet
Cleverly designed, annotated flaps and die-cuts allow readers to explore the wonders hidden underneath our skin, with four large-scale figures that unfold to illustrate the muscles, nerves, circulatory system and skeleton in meticulous detail.
★ A Natural History of Mermaids by Emily Hawkins and Jessica Roux
In the Folklore Field Guide series, Featuring a silver-foil-embossed cloth cover, a ribbon marker and sprayed silver edges, this gorgeous volume is filled with beautiful illustrations and precise notes detailing the secret life of mermaids.
★ The Land of Stories: Wishing Spell (10th Anniversary Illustrated Edition) by Chris Colfer
Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, twins Alex and Conner leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with fairy tale characters they grew up reading about.
Anniversary edition: Illustrated special edition.
★ The School for Good and Evil (Collector’s Edition) by Soman Chainani
Every four years, two girls are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon. Legend has it these lost children are sent to the School for Good and Evil, the fabled institution where they become fairytale heroes or villains.
Collector’s edition, with reversible dust jacket and decorative endpapers. (Mine did not have the advertised blue page edges.)
➤ Signed collector’s edition at Waterstones
A Children’s Literary Treasury by Anna James (ed)
In her second compilation for the British Library, children’s author and commentator Anna James delves deep into the collections to present stories for comfort, inspiration and adventure. Illustrated throughout with both classic beloved illustrations and new archive finds.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Chris Dunn
This unabridged large-format version of this timeless tale of adventure and friendship is beautifully illustrated by Chris Dunn, with vivid watercolours. Originally released via Kickstarter.
★ And Everything Will Be Glad to See You: Poems by Women and Girls, edited by Ella Risbridger, illustrated by Anna Shepeta
A wide ranging and uplifting collection of poems by well-loved poets that is guaranteed to inspire, delight and empower, including Maya Angelou, Wendy Cope, Lucille Clifton and Christina Rossetti, to newer voices such as Amanda Gorman, Yrsa-Daley Ward and Amineh Abou Kerech.
★ Little Clothbound Classics – various authors
Four seasonal collections of 12 books each are being released.
These are small novella sized companions to the clothbound classics series.
➤ Links to all the books
★ New Chiltern Classics – various authors
8 new titles released in mid-2022
- Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott
- Peter Pan by James Matthew Barrie
- Silas Marner by George Eliot
- Far From the Madding Crown by Thomas Hardy
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
- The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
- The Romantic Poets by various authors
Chiltern Classics series: Pocket sized books with wonderfully textural covers, heavy weight paper, and gilded page edges. They are really quite adorable.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald, illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso
Fitzgerald’s beloved account of the devastating costs of the American dream gets a fittingly gorgeous update in this oversized high-end art-book edition, elaborately decorated with more than 50 illustrations by the Balbusso Twins, housed in a shimmering die-cut sculpturally embossed slipcase,.
★ Persuasion – Jane Austen
The complete novel, featuring pockets throughout containing replicas of thirteen items from the story, re-created with exquisite calligraphy and painstaking attention to historical detail.
★ Little Women – Louisa May Alcott, illustrated by Marjolein Bastin
A beautiful, illustrated edition of the classic novel about Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, with removable inserts, including a self-made newspaper, a map, an invitation, and more.
☞ Read more about the Marjolein Bastin illustrated classics series
Harper Muse Painted Classics (series 2) by various authors
These are embossed hardcovers featuring Laci Fowler’s distinctive hand-painted art, decorative interior pages featuring pull quotes distributed throughout; matching ribbon marker; and gold page sprayed edges.
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
Nov 15, 2022.
☞ Read more about the Penguin Deluxe Classics series.
Penguin Deluxe series: Paperbacks with French flaps, deckled edges, and beautifully illustrated covers – this one has cover art by Ruben Toledo, who also illustrated covers for the classic Penguin Couture Collection.
Myths & Legends
The Magic of Mushrooms by Sandra Lawrence and the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew
Featuring images of over 100 fascinating species, sourced from the archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, The Magic of Mushrooms explores these fascinating organisms that are the centre of countless superstitions, folkloric tales and magical beliefs, as well as appearing in recipes and medicines both traditional and modern. A lovely companion to last year’s The Witch’s Garden.
★ Spiritus Mundi by Elizabeth Sulis Kim
The term spiritus mundi describes the realm from which all creative and magical inspiration springs. This is a delightful illustrated anthology of creative writing revealing the connection between imagination and the divine.
★ Gender Swapped Greek Myths by Karrie Fransman, illustrated by Jonathan Plackett
For thousands of years, Greek Myths have been told and retold. Switching the gender roles in these retellings makes clear that brutality and bravery was reserved for men, while women were wicked witches or helpless maidens. Buy it for the pretty illustrations!
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
In 1960s California, Elizabeth Zott is an unconventional female scientist whose career takes a detour when she becomes the star of a beloved TV cooking show.
Waterstones exclusive: UK hardback with chemical elements sprayed on the page edges.
➤ Find signed, sprayed edition at Waterstones
B&N exclusive: US hardback, with extra chapter, designed endpapers, blue sprayed page edges, and an ‘interview’ with Elizabeth Zott, the main character.
➤ Find it at Barnes & Noble
★ Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief by Maurice Leblanc, illustrated by Vincent Mallie
An omnibus collection of the first 9 novellas about Arsene Lupin, a charming thief and master of disguises.
This illustrated edition features dozens of black-and-white and full-colour illustrations and plates including numerous two-page spreads.
★ The Secret History – Donna Tartt
30th anniversary edition, with cloth spine. Under the influence of a charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at a New England college discover a way of thought and life a world away from their banal contemporaries. But their search for the transcendent leads them down a dangerous path, beyond human constructs of morality.
★ Scattered Showers – Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Jim Tierney
Nine charming, witty love stories featuring princes, trolls, imaginary boys and the return of Simon Snow.
Waterstones exclusive: UK hardback signed by the author with rainbow sprayed page edges.
➤ Find it at Waterstones
First printings of the trade editions of this book will also have special features, including duotone illustrations by Jim Tierney, patterned endpapers, a white ribbon bookmark and sky-blue stained page edges.
US Trade Edition: US hardback with pale blue sprayed page edges.
UK Trade Edition: UK hardback with red sprayed page edges.
UK International Edition: UK hardback with clouds painted on the page edges.
★ Looking for Alibrandi (30th Anniversary) by Melina Marchetta
Josephine Alibrandi is seventeen and in her final year at a wealthy girls’ school. This is the year she meets her father, the year she falls in love, the year she searches for Alibrandi and finds the real truth about her family – and the identity she has been searching for. This deluxe edition includes an exclusive introduction by the author and colour illustrated section that contains facsimiles of the original edited manuscript, photographs, reviews and articles.
★ The Little Match Girl Strikes Back by Emma Carroll and Lauren Child
Bridie works hard to feed her family, selling matches on the streets of Victorian London. After an incident leaves her with only three matches left, the magical strike of each one sees her tumble into visions of a brighter future. Realizing she has the power to change her own fortune, Bridie leads the match factory workers out on strike, achieving the remarkable through their unity and courage. A feminist retelling of the classic tale.
Waterstones exclusive: UK hardback, signed by the authors with a red ribbon bookmark.
➤ Find it at Waterstones
The Pothunters: 120th Anniversary Edition by P. G. Wodehouse
Suspicion abounds at St Austin’s School when two silver trophies, or ‘pots’, are stolen from the cricket pavilion. Jim Thomson, a talented sportsman who due to an unfortunate series of coincidences could be thought to be the burglar, resolves to clear his name. (I haven’t yet seen this one in person, the low price suggests gluebound and not particularly sturdy, just a fun edition of his first novel for Wodehouse fans).
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Mysterious Affair at Styles [Special editions] by Agatha Christie
Two more classic mysteries in the HarperCollins ‘special edition’ series binding. These UK (glued) hardbacks have spot foiling on the covers and decorative endpapers. The Mysterious Affair at Styles includes for the first time the original courtroom climax as an alternate ending.
Marple – Various Authors
A new collection of short stories featuring the Queen of Mystery’s legendary detective Jane Marple, penned by twelve bestselling and acclaimed authors. I found the interpretations of Jane to have differing levels of ‘believability’ but it was mostly a fun read.
With A Mind To Kill (James Bond) by Anthony Horowitz
Thriller. 007 – accused of M’s murder – is smuggled across the Iron Curtain in a deadly game of subterfuge and double cross with the lethal SMERSH.
Waterstones exclusive: UK hardback, with 007 stencilled on the page edges.
➤ Find it at Waterstones
Fantasy & Science Fiction
★ The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
A special edition of the forerunner to The Lord of the Rings, illustrated throughout in colour by J.R.R. Tolkien himself and with the complete text printed in two colours.
Illustrated edition: Hardback, with stencilled green page edges, Tolkien’s own paintings and drawings for the first time, two colour printing, and a letter written by Tolkien in 1951 which provides a brilliant exposition of the earlier Ages.
Collector’s note: A companion to the matching Lord of the Rings edition released last year.
Deluxe edition: Hardback in a slipcase, quarter-bound with blue leather, including Tolkien’s own paintings and drawings for the first time, two colour printing, and a letter written by Tolkien in 1951 which provides a brilliant exposition of the earlier Ages. Unique to this edition are two poster-size, fold-out maps revealing all the detail of Beleriand as the tales grew, an illustrated booklet featuring ‘A Brief Account of The Silmarillion and its Making’ by Christopher Tolkien, and a printed art card reproducing ‘Taniquetil’.
Collector’s note: A companion to the matching Lord of the Rings limited edition released last year.
The Fall of Númenor by J. R. R. Tolkien, illustrated by Alan Lee
J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings on the Second Age of Middle-earth, collected for the first time in one volume.
Special edition: Deluxe slipcased special edition.
★ The Rise of the Dragon by George R R Martin, Elio M García and Linda Antonsson
Oct 25, 2022.
Fantasy. Volume 1 of a lavish visual history of the Targaryen Dynasty.
US edition: Hardback edition by Ten Speed Press.
UK edition: Hardback edition by HarperCollins.
★ The Dragon Universe by Ablaze
An illustrated encyclopedia, which combines extraordinary texts on the history of dragons, with illustrators from around the world – from John Howe, designer of The Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, to Todd Lockwood, illustrator of Dungeons & Dragons, and Olivier Ledroit, creator of the Chronicles of the Black Moon and Adrian Smith, one of the authors of Warhammer, and more. A beautiful art book for the dragon-lover.
A Voyage to Arcturus – David Lindsay, illustrated by Jim Woodring
Lindsay’s gender-bending work of visionary sci-fi as brought to life through Woodring’s psychedelic illustrations.
Beehive Books Illuminated Edition: High-end art book with more than numerous illustrations housed in a shimmering die-cut sculpturally embossed slipcase, printed on uncoated acid-free paper, and published in an oversized 9×12″ trim format.
❦ Peek inside this volume and read more about the Beehive Books Illuminated Editions here…
The Last Unicorn by Peter S Beagle
The classic modern fairytale, with a new introduction by Patrick Rothfuss. The special limited edition has blue sprayed page edges, cover foiling, patterned endpapers and a ribbon bookmark. Limited to 2000 copies.
➤ Find limited edition at Gollancz
The Ballad of Never After by Stephanie Garber
Sep 13, 2022
Book 2 of the Once Upon a Broken Heart series.
UK first printings: UK hardbacks will have one of 4 different gold stamped hidden cover designs under the dust jacket.
[Potential Waterstones exclusive]: UK hardback, signed by the author (TBC: previous volume in the series had sprayed edges added shortly before publication, and the publisher mentioned in a deleted post that one was anticipated, but it has not been formally announced, so keep an eye on this).
➤ Find signed edition at Waterstones
B&N exclusive: US hardback, signed by the author, includes a bonus chapter from Jacks’ POV, and has a unique cover and case stamp. A matching exclusive edition of the first book is also being released (see below).
Note: this is also the same edition as the Indigo Exclusive.
➤ Also find exclusive edition of the first book Once Upon a Broken Heart at Barnes & Noble
City of Bones (Mortal Instruments #1) by Cassandra Clare
Celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones, where Clary Fray first discovered the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world and back to their own.
Collector’s edition: UK hardback with new cover artwork and a special letter from Cassie.
★ Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [Collector’s Illustrated Edition] by J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay and Neil Packer
The fifth book in the beloved, bestselling Harry Potter series, an oversize edition that is brilliantly and profusely illustrated.
Deluxe edition: Oversized clothbound hardback in slipcase with high quality paper, two ribbon bookmarks, a special art print, and a bespoke packing carton.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Deluxe edition of the modern classic that predicted the metaverse. Hiro lives in a Los Angeles where franchises line the freeway as far as the eye can see. The only relief from the sea of logos is within the autonomous city-states, where law-abiding citizens don’t dare leave their mansions. He spends most of his time goggled in to the Metaverse, where his avatar is legendary. Includes new material and decorative endpapers.
Fairy Tale by Stephen King
A spellbinding story of mysterious houses, parallel worlds and reluctant heroes as an ordinary high school kid discovers a portal to a universe populated by classic fairy tale archetypes.
UK exclusives: Regular 1st/1st has navy boards; Indie bookshop edition has aqua boards, WH Smith has purple boards, and all have a quote on the spine. There was also a signed, limited edition released in a slipcase.
➤ Find it at your local Indie (make sure you get a first edition, first printing).
Unraveller by Frances Hardinge
Kellen – a boy who has the power to lift life-destroying curses off others – must find a way to remove the one that hangs over his own life.
Waterstone’s exclusive: UK hardback with blue sprayed edges and a short story about the fate and nature of the Dancing Star, one of the haunting and mysterious creatures from the Wilds.
➤ Find it at Waterstones
Marvel Comics Library: Spider-Man Vol 1: 1962-1964
Oversized volume with the first 21 Spider-Man stories from 1962–1964, meticulously photographed from the most pristine copies of these rare comic books—a fine art celebration of the teen super hero in this inaugural volume of TASCHEN’s Marvel Comics Library series.
Taschen Limited Edition: Hardcover with ChromaLuxe aluminum print cover tipped into a leatherette-bound spine. Limited to 1000 copies. Pre-ordering from Taschen entitles you to preemptively secure the same edition number for all forthcoming Collector’s Edition titles in the Marvel Comics Library.
➤ Find LE at Taschen
Star Wars: The Bounty Hunter Wars by K. W. Jeter
Science fiction omnibus, bound in decorative bonded leather.
Star Wars: The Bounty Hunter Wars by K. W. Jeter
A trilogy of novels about Boba Fett: The Mandalorian Armor (1998), Slave Ship (2001), and Hard Merchandise (2002).
➤ Find it at Barnes & Noble
Star Wars Legends: Tales of Kenobi by John Jackson Miller and Alan Dean Foster
➤ Find it at Barnes & Noble
Non-Fiction & Reference
★ The Magic of MinaLima [Interactive Edition] by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima
A full-color illustrated compendium chronicling the magical twenty-year journey of acclaimed art and design studio, MinaLima, the creative genius behind the graphics for the Harry Potter film series.
Interactive edition: Interactive elements include the Marauder’s Map, the Black Family Tapestry, and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.
★ Around the World in 80 Birds by Mike Unwin, illustrated by Ryuto Miyake
Tells the stories of 80 birds around the world: from the Sociable Weaver Bird in Namibia which constructs huge, multi-nest ‘apartment blocks’ in the desert, to the Bar-headed Goose of China, one of the highest-flying migrants which crosses the Himalayas twice a year.
★ The Modern Bestiary : A Curated Collection of Wondrous Creatures by Joanna Bagniewska, illustrated by Jennifer N. R. Smith
From the familiar to the improbable, the gross to the endearing, The Modern Bestiary is a compendium of curious creatures. It includes both animals that have made headlines and those you’ve probably never heard of, such as skin-eating caecilians, harp sponges, or zombie worms – also known as bone-eating snot flowers.
Plant Magick (Library of Esoterica) by Taschen
Explores the historic roots of plants in myth, religion, and magickal practices. Through essays, interviews, and more than 400 images-from ancient Egyptian stonework to 18th-century botanical illustrations, Plant Magick chronicles the beautifully symbiotic relationship between plants and people.
Phaenomena by Giles Sparrow
The expansive and intricate Atlas Coelestis, created by Johann Doppelmayr in 1742, set out to record everything known about astronomy at the time, covering constellations, planets, moons, comets, and more, all rendered in exquisite detail. Through stunning illustrations, historical notes, and scientific explanations, Phenomena contextualizes Doppelmayr’s atlas and creates a spectacular handbook to the heavens.
★ Paddington’s Christmas Post based on the character by Michael Bond, illustrated by R. W. Alley
An interactive picture book that follows Paddington as he does his best to help the Brown family get ready for a very special Christmas. Five envelopes inside open to reveal a removable Advent calendar, Christmas cards, a bear-shaped Christmas tree decoration, and more
The Very Merry Murder Club – Serena Patel & Robin Stevens (eds)
A joyous anthology of Christmassy crime stories for young readers (the hardback was released last year).
Waterstones exclusive: UK paperback, with decorative sprayed page edges.
➤ Find it at Waterstones
Literary Gift Ideas
★ Librorum Ridiculorum: A Compendium of Bizarre Books by Brian Lake
A celebration of all the weird and wonderful books that can be found in antiquarian bookshops, from Scouts in Bondage to Frog Raising for Pleasure and Profit. (Note: available now in UK, preorder in US).
★ Great Novels: The World’s Most Remarkable Fiction Explored and Explained by DK
Explores the finest novels from around the world and through time. Includes paintings, photographs, and artefacts help to tell the story of each novel and what inspired their authors; features superb images of first editions and manuscripts; includes quotations and extended extracts offer a flavour of each novel; and some “character maps” to show how characters relate to each other.
★ Lang’s Fairy Book Journals by Paperblanks
A variety of differently sized journals with beautiful Victorian illustrations from the first editions of Andrew Lang’s Green and Violet Fairy Books
➤ Find at Amazon
Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo, translated by Charlotte Whittle
“Journeying along the battlefields of Alexander the Great, beneath the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, at Cleopatra’s palaces and the scene of Hypatia’s murder, award-winning author Irene Vallejo chronicles the excitement of literary culture in the ancient world, and the heroic efforts that ensured this impressive tradition would continue.” Lots of interesting anecdotes and insights from this Spanish writer – it covers everything from the birth of the alphabet to the Great Library of Alexandria. (Sadly, no illustrations, just an interesting read.)
Novelist as a Vocation – Haruki Murakami
Murakami’s musings on the peculiar profession of the novelist, discussing his own creative process as well as the role of novelists in society in characteristically luminous prose.
Waterstones exclusive: UK hardback, with white stencilled design on black sprayed page edges.
➤ Find it at Waterstones
★ Phantomwise Tarot by Erin Morgenstern
When Erin Morgenstern was working on her international bestseller The Night Circus, she began a creative exercise to better understand the complexities of the tarot. This fantastical 78 card tarot deck is the result, with a black-and-white world that is a little bit circusy, a little bit Wonderland, and a little bit nocturnal phantasia of its own invention. It is a mix of myth and fairy tale, where each individual you meet may be an illusion, reflection, or distortion.
★ Botanica: The Herbalist’s Tarot by Kevin Jay Stanton
Explores the biological roots of the Arcana with 78 fully-painted symbolic cards, rooted in classical Tarot interpretations as well as the lore and mythology of the plant kingdom.
Includes foil stamped, gilt-edged cards, printed 3.25″ x 4.15″ on premium heavyweight card stock with a golden dandelion charm, an embroidered patch, four stickers, and six Tarot-sized postcards.
★ The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, translated by Ralphe Manheim, illustrated by Marie-Alice Harel
When ten-year-old Bastian is inexplicably drawn to a mysterious old book, he is transported through its pages to a world beyond his wildest imagination; an enchanted kingdom populated by dragons, unicorns, giants and sprites.
A simply stunning edition put out to celebrate Folio Society’s 75th anniversary – bound in blocked art silk, printed in two text colours throughout. One of my top books of the year!