10 beautiful books that are a joy to unwrap

From dazzling nature-writing to exquisite illustration, discover truly stunning books to unwrap on Christmas morning.


 

The Worm and the Bird

Coralie Bickford-Smith

As if The Fox and the Star weren't pretty enough, Coralie Bickford-Smith has crafted another clothbound beauty, embellished with festive foil and illustrations on tactile paper with hand-sewn seams. Telling the story of a lowly worm who wishes for more and a patient bird up keeping watch above, this is a tale of belonging, hoping and appreciating. And it's one of several books on this list that promises to be even more beautiful than the gift wrapping you put it in.
 

The Poetry Pharmacy

William Sieghart

Christmas isn't everyone's favourite time of year. If you know someone who could use a few well-chosen words to help heal the soul, then look no further. William Sieghart has collected these poems for just such a purpose - to remedy and reassure, comfort and console. Whatever your ailment, Sieghart has just the prescription in this soothing, pocket-sized handbook.
 

Ivy and the Inky Butterfly

Johanna Basford

Johanna Basford is well known for her intricately drawn colouring books and her latest is no exception. This time, we learn the story of Ivy, on her quest for the inky butterfly through a secret door into the land of Enchantia. The story is woven from threads of bedtime tales told by the author to her daughter, but to see what happens, you'll have to colour your own way through the adventure - the perfect activity for a lazy Christmas afternoon.
 

The Lost Words

Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris

Better known as a nature writer, Robert Macfarlane turns his hand to re-wilding something a little different: the language of children. With the help of artist Jackie Morris, Macfarlane uses wordplay, poems and games alongside beautiful illustrations of extraordinary flora and fauna to bring to life the natural world in all its glory. This book is elegant, exquisite and... extremely large, proving that not all the best things come in small packages.
 

Blue Planet II

James Honeybourne and Mark Brownlow

BBC1's Blue Planet series took five years to make and went on to win BAFTAs, Emmys and to be screened the world over. Little wonder then that this book is just as visually remarkable as the programme, the ideal gift for any avid viewers of the show. With stills from the footage and insightful explanations throughout, this volume will bring the wonders of the world's rivers, oceans and coastlines to you.
 

The Atlas of Beauty

Mihaela Noroc

Featuring breathtaking images captured by Mihaela Noroc on her backpacking adventures, here is another outstanding book with truly global reach - this time a photographic account of beautiful women all over the world. From the tropics to the tundra, cities to seaside, Noroc shows us that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all idea of beauty and that, if anything, true beauty is best found in diversity.
 

Silence

Erling Kagge

In the midst of festive madness, you might be looking for a bit of peace and quiet in which to enjoy the beautiful contents of your pretty presents. Erling Kagge, renowned Norwegian explorer, might be the man to help. In his accomplished book Silence, he writes about his extended periods of time in silence more profound than most of us will encounter in all our lives, from the Antarctic to Everest. Kagge talks about finding silence and stillness in an ever-changing, frazzling modern world, and why it matters.
 

Hortense and the Shadow

Natalia and Lauren O'Hara

Sisters Natalia and Lauren O'Hara have teamed up to produce a dark but delightful fairy tale inspired by the stories of their Polish grandmother. Hortense is a gentle girl who lives in the woods and though she also seems strong and brave, she is ashamed of her own shadow. As she tries to erase it, she comes to realise it's a hugely important part of who she is. As an update to the traditional yarns of eastern Europe, its message is a modern and feminist one, and one that comes in a charming package.
 

Britain's 100 Best Railway Stations

Simon Jenkins

From fantastical fables to something altogether more practical. If you're one of the millions who travels by train at Christmas, you might recognise some of the stunning images and histories of Great Britain's most remarkable railway stations as collected by Simon Jenkins. As well as astonishing feats of engineering and grand architecture, he writes in his inimitable style about their significance: the greetings, goodbyes and social history that tell the story of the nation.
 

The Secret Life of the Owl

John Lewis-Stempel

There's a reason nature writing features so heavily on this list, and Lewis-Stempel's magnificent exploration of owls continues the theme of bringing the beautiful indoors. Covering the history of owls and their plight in modern times, as well as what they mean to humans, he writes about wisdom, myths and the story of these extraordinary nocturnal creatures.

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