It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a book-lover in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a beautiful book.

Whether it's classics or cookbooks, graphic novels or poetry, this selection of some of our most exquisitely designed stories is ready to give your bookshelf a makeover and win you some brownie points this festive season.

Adult fiction

Sanditon by Jane Austen (1817)

Follow the story of Charlotte Heywood as she settles in at a newly established seaside resort. Written in the final months of her life, this is quintessential Austen with a cast of hypochondriacs, speculators and busybodies – and naturally a dashing gentleman. This edition, with its striking yellow and blue jacket, is one of the latest in the Clothbound Classics series.

Rusty Brown by Chris Ware (2019)

Taking inspiration from some of the side characters in his award-winning graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware is back with another work of intricately-illustrated genius that was more than 16 years in the making. This time, readers can journey through the ‘time-space interrelationships of six complete consciousnesses on a single Midwestern American day.’ Which is nice.

The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories by Various (2019)

Know someone who just can’t get enough of the festive season, Christmas jumper and all? Leave a copy of this collection under their tree, and bask in their eternal gratitude. Filled with Santas, ghosts, trolls, unexpected guests and, of course, Christmas miracles, this selection of stories is like a treasure trove of some of the best writing from around the world.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy (2019)

With his trademark ink and watercolour, Mackesy’s lovingly hand-drawn fables on kindness, friendship, vulnerability and love are as beautiful in looks as they are in meaning. There's a reason this has been one of the most talked-about books of the year.

The Penguin Classics Book by Henry Eliot (2018)

What could be more perfect for a fan of the classics than a whole book dedicated to them? In this reader’s companion, Penguin Classics editor Henry Eliot looks at 4,000 years of literature, encompassing 500 authors and 1,200 books, brought to life with lively descriptions, facts, and of course beautiful cover designs, all bound up in a luxurious clothbound package.

Childhood classics, old and new

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (1978)

Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a few sniffles over a very special pile of snow... you'll see the animated version on TV no doubt, but nothing beats the original picture book about the young boy and his intrepid night-time adventure with a certain friendly Snowman. This special 40th anniversary edition from 2018 includes a limited edition print and a letter from Raymond Briggs, as well as the beautiful illustrations. Perfect for fans new and old.

The Origin of Species by Sabina Radeva (2019)

Charles Darwin’s book on the theory of evolution may not seem like a 'natural' choice when picking a children’s gift, but this beautifully illustrated picture book, lovingly created by molecular biologist and illustrator Sabina Radeva, brings The Origin of Species  to life in a fun way. 

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison (2019)

From Oscar-winning actor Lupita Nyong'o, this a powerful exploration of colourism featuring artwork from much-loved illustrator Vashti Harrison. One of this year's most high-profile and celebrated new children's books, it also one of the most beautiful.

Matilda at 30 by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake (2019)

No Roald Dahl character continues to resonate quite like Matilda, his young, book-loving heroine. 2018 marked 30 years since Matilda was first published and to celebrate Quentin Blake created three new covers, celebrating what Matilda might be up to aged 30 – chief executive of the British Library, an astrophysicist or a world traveller, perhaps? These collectable editions are perfect for those who grew up thinking they were Matilda and for all those future Matildas.

The Bandit Queen by Natalia O’Hara (2019)

Following their delightfully dark fable, Hortense and the Shadow, sisters Natalia and Lauren O'Hara have teamed up again to give us The Bandit Queen – a whimsical tale about a young girl stolen away by a group of bandits and how family can be found in the most unexpected of places.

Poetry books

The Poetry Pharmacy Returns by William Sieghart (2019)

If you know someone who could use a few well-chosen words to help heal the soul (who couldn't?!), then look no further. William Sieghart has collected an assortment of poems in this clothbound compendium for just such a purpose – to remedy and reassure, comfort and console. 

Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Retold by William Shakespeare and James Anthony (2018)

Shakespeare’s sonnets are some of the Western literature’s best-known lines of verse, but their language – and explanations of it – can sometimes take away their magic. Here, James Anthony has rewritten the original 154 poems in modern language, while retaining the rhythm and rhyme of the originals. This compact hardback features Anthony’s new sonnets laid out alongside their Shakespearean counterpart. It’s perfect for fans of the Bard, poetry or just great love stories.

Great Goddesses by Nikita Gill (2019)

Nikita Gill has a knack for blending well-known stories – in this case, the women of Greek myths - with a more contemporary, feminist voice. In Great Goddesses, she reimagines Athena, Circe, Medusa and more alongside lovely hand-drawn illustrations. This gorgeous book will be appreciated by poetry and mythology fans alike.

The Zoo of the New by Don Paterson (2018)

Quite simply some of the best verse ever written, in English language and beyond. When putting together this collection of old favourites and new discoveries, poets Don Paterson and Nick Laird looked for work that felt timeless, from the ancient Greek words of Sappho to the more recent work of Denise Riley, via Eliot, Shakespeare, Plath and more.

Books about fictional worlds

Game of Thrones: A Guide to Westeros and Beyond by Myles McNutt (2019)

The television series might have come to a controversial conclusion earlier this year but your obsession with Westeros doesn’t have to. This guide to the world of Game of Thrones is full of photos, detailed illustrations and information on key players (as well as some you might have forgotten – we’re looking at you, Viserys) from all eight seasons of the show.

Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Guide to Hogwarts by Matthew Reinhart (2018)

Still waiting for your Hogwarts letter? Grab this pop-up guide to the iconic school and you can pretend you’re there. Including pop-up versions of key locations, beloved elements such as the Marauder’s Map and the Weasley family’s flying Ford Anglia and a pop-up map of the castle and its grounds, this 3D guide is a great way to explore Hogwarts from your own home.

Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down by Gina McIntyre (2018)

Explore Hawkins, Indiana and the world of Stranger Things with this official companion to the series. Featuring commentary from the show’s creators, interviews with some of the cast, exclusive photos, concept art and more, this guide adds new layers to the Upside Down experience.

Interesting lives and biographies

The Beautiful Ones by Prince (2019)

Containing unseen photos, original scrapbook excerpts and lyric sheets alongside the memoir he had started writing before his untimely death, The Beautiful Ones offers us a close-quarters look into how Prince Rogers Nelson from Minnesota became His Royal Badness, The Purple One – a generation-defining musician.

Speeches of Note by Shaun Usher (2018) 

The follow-up to Letters of Note is an illustrated collection of 75 of the world’s greatest speeches, from Nelson Mandela’s on the day he became South Africa’s first black president to the never-before-heard announcement President Nixon would have made if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became stranded on the Moon. A perfect book for anyone who loves the beauty of words, all bound up in a - you guessed it - beautiful package.

A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar (2019)

Award-winning writer Hisham Matar discovered the Sienese School of painting when he was 19-years-old. In the wake of his father’s disappearance from his life, the work of these artists offered him both comfort and hope. This fascinating book explores the relationship between art and grief.

‘Til Wrong Feels Right by Iggy Pop (2019)

Coinciding with the release of a new Iggy Pop album, ‘Til Wrong Feels Right is a compendium of photos, lyrics and other musicians’ interviews on the Godfather of Punk. This beautifully produced hardback is the book for die-hard Iggy Pop fans, or those into punk rock and its legacy.

Books to inspire you to make and do

East by Meera Sodha (2019)

Inspired by ‘The New Vegan’ column she writes for the Guardian each weekend, Meera Sodha draws on the cuisines of Asia for the vegan and vegetarian recipes in her gorgeous new cookbook. From snacks to mains to desserts, East is full of simple recipes with easily findable ingredients that will have even the most ardent of meat-eaters swooning over these moreish recipes.

Walking by Erling Kagge (2019)

Following his hit book Silence, Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge is back with another thought-provoking book that’s bound to resonate with many of us. This time, he focuses on walking: from our perilous first steps as a toddler to great expeditions and everything in between, Kagge delves into humanity’s love of exploration and why those who walk go further and live better.

Mum, Tell Me by Elma van Vliet (2019)

A beautiful book with a difference, Mum, Tell Me is a gift book that gives you the chance to ask your mother all the questions you’ve long wondered about, and plenty you might not have thought of. An interactive journal of sorts, once it’s been filled in and given back to you, you’ll be left with a lovely record of your mum’s memories, stories and dreams.

How to Draw Inky Wonderlands by Johanna Basford (2019)

Queen of colouring Johanna Basford is well known for her intricately drawn colouring books but her latest allows you to create your own fantasy worlds filled with flora, fauna and anything else you can dream up – it’s the perfect activity for a lazy Christmas afternoon.

Nature books

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris (2019)

Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ ode to re-wilding our language, especially that of the younger generation, has become something of a cultural phenomenon since its release in 2017. In The Lost Words, Macfarlane’s incantatory spell-poems combine with Morris’ captivating paintings to conjure the flora and fauna of our landscapes in all their glory.

The Private Life of the Hare by John Lewis-Stempel (2019)

While the hare is a rare sight in real life, they have long inhabited our legends and stories. But what do we actually know about this elusive animal? In this lovely, almost-pocket-sized book, renowned nature writer John Lewis-Stempel explores the myths, history and reality of one our most enigmatic creatures.

Seven Worlds, One Planet by Jonny Keeling and Scott Alexander (2019)

This year’s David Attenborough-fronted nature documentary, Seven Worlds, One Planet, is an epic exploration of the seven continents. This book, which comes with a foreword from Attenborough himself, is a perfect companion to the series and features over 250 images from the BBC’s Natural History Unit. Just the ticket for nature lovers, wannabe explorers and globetrotters alike.

A Wild Child's Guide to Endangered Animals by Millie Marotta (2019)

There are over forty animals in this book, and each one of them is at risk of disappearing from the world forever. This lavishly illustrated guide allows us to explore lush habitats and the creatures that live within them while instilling a conservational spirit within its readers – it’s definitely a good one to read along with children too.

Tiny House by Brent Heavener (2019)

For those who dream of giving up the city life and escaping to a remote cottage in the wilderness, this might just be the thing to spur you into action. Based on the popular @tinyhouse Instagram, this dreamy little photography book shows some of the world’s most creative small homes alongside the stories, ideas and advice of those living in them.

More books for Christmas