• Leigh

The Most Beautiful Books I Own

Updated: Feb 22, 2020

Beauty is subjective, and yet there is no denying the aesthetic brilliance of a foiled hardback, an intricately detailed design, or the wondrous absence of a photo of some random model because good lord we do not need those kinds of book covers in our lives.

I own many books, a few hundred actually, most are alright looking, decent to the eye but nothing amazing, a few are downright hideous (I’ll get to those in another post), but the odd one here and there are beautiful, and I may or may not have bought them solely for that reason.

Herein lies the 10 most attractive books I own:

(Harry Potter illustrated editions will not be included in this list as y’all already know they are beautiful)

****I’m a fan of book boxes. Really any book fan is if they know they exist. The most popular is Owlcrate and every month the book they include has an exclusive cover you can’t get everywhere else. Sometimes it is not a big change (gold lettering instead of silver) others it's a complete redesign. But either way, they are always beautiful, hence why Owlcrate editions will be appearing on this list a few times.

1. Criers War by Nina Varela (Owlcrate edition)

First up is Criers War by Nina Varela, a futuristic LGBT robot sci-fi. The original cover is quite similar, golden foiling opposed to silver. I’ve recently started foiling my own artworks, I know how much of a pain in the arse it is, so I have a newfound appreciation for every book I see with foiling. The intricate line art referencing circuit boards not only lets the reader know this is science fiction but captivates the eye of the viewer, who is now determined to find out if the words are as beautiful as the cover. Plus it has a naked foiled spine as well.

2. House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin A. Craig (Owlcrate edition)

I’m not going to lie, originally I skipped this month’s Owlcrate as the theme didn’t interest me in the slightest but when Chantel received hers and I saw how stunning the book cover was, I went and got myself a copy anyway, without giving two shits about the contents of the book.

Allow me to explain my ‘irrational’ purchase through pictures:

It has octopus end pages people, octopus end pages!

3. The complete tales of H.P. Lovecraft by H.P. Lovecraft duh...

Now this book is a hefty boy, I had to pay $60 at the airport to bring it home because it increased my luggage weight that much. This book weighs 3kg! I’m a sucker for sci-fi and horror classics. I love seeing how they have shaped the books of today. So when I saw this big boy I got it straight away. (Other classics and collections are available in these editions, should Cthulhu not be your best bud) It’s a naked illustrated hardback, with foiling and indentation artwork on the cover.

4. Ink and Spark by Alice Broadway

This is once again a book I purchased because of its cover. I have since read the first book in the series 'Ink' and lucky I enjoyed it, so now I have a real excuse to buy the rest of the series.

Now it's been fairly well established that I like a foiled cover, but what if there were a book in which all the art on the cover was foiled. Surely not, no one would be that mad, Broadway's cover designer was, and I love it.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Nerdypost edition)

There are literally hundreds of editions of this classic, some are probably prettier than this one. But let us be honest, most aren't.

I received this particular copy in a Nerdy Post box, it's even more exclusive than the Owlcrate editions with only a few hundred copies ever made. The design is reminiscent of original hardback classics, no dust jacket; instead being clothbound with light foiling, patterns, and golden sprayed page edges. Plus there’s a nice calligraphic quote on the back.​

6. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan (Owlcrate edition)

In this edition, the background is matte black, the original is a slightly off white. The black against the red provides a much deeper contrast and gothic look that fits the story a lot better. The bare cover has a threatening quote alluding to the main protagonist. The spine displays a beautifully intricate silver pattern fitting to the gothic and dark themes of the book. As stunning as this book is though I've got to admit that face on the spine is kinda creepy.

7. A Passage to Shambhala by Jon Baird and Kevin Costner

While waiting for the bus home I decided to kill some time browsing The Warehouse's limited book range. The Explorers Guild Vol 1 immediately caught my attention, a hardback with a Victorian-era styling, it was beautiful. The inside proved to be even better, with antique-style world maps for end pages, stained pages, multi-media: a mix of prose, illustrations and comics. It wasn't till after I had bought to and was on my way home that I noticed the author was Hollywood actor Kevin Costner.

8. The Dark Powers of Tolkien by David Day

As with most fantasy lovers, my obsession with the genre started with The Lord of the Rings. The books defined the genre and set out the expectations and guidelines for every fantasy book that has come after. So when on holiday to Queenstown I visited a tiny independent bookstore (the same shop I got the Lovecraft collection from) and I found the entire collection on Leatherbound Tolkien books by David Day I spent hours going back and forth over which one to get, I was already getting the giant Lovecraft book so I knew I wouldn't be able to fit all of them, sacrifices need to be made. In the end, I went with this one as the Nazgul, like the one on the cover have always fascinated me, and I yearned to know more about the ultimate villain Morgoth. All the pages are stained, with dark yet wonderful illustrations filling every other page, bringing to life all the evils Tolkien created (and there was a lot). I shall never part with this book.

9. And the Ocean was our Sky by Patrick Ness

Few books are beautiful inside and out (though I have listed quite a few). But like the others, I've listed this one also manages the near-impossible. How could it not be though when its illustrated by Rovina Cai. This Moby Dick retelling from the whale's point of view is filled with bloody drawings of the hunts, with the naked cover depicting a harpoon in the blood-filled ocean.

10. I hate Fairyland (the entire series) by Skottie Young

This list would be a lie if it didn't include graphic novels, as though prose books have a difficult time being aesthetically pleasing, few graphic novels fail at it. I hate Fairyland is by far my favourite, for both the story and the illustrations. Bold and bright, these drawings are exactly what you'd expect from a world of magic and sweets but it teams it with Gertrude's brutal violence, mixing the bloody gore with the colourful fluffy beings of Fairyland. Plus it breaks the fourth wall a lot.

Truth be told I have many more that I could list. But I won't or you will be here forever.

Honourable mentions (because I have no self-control):

Children of Virtue and Vengeance - Tomi Adeyemi

Pride - Ibi Zoboi

Sorcery of Thorns - Margaret Rogerson

The Bone Houses - Emily Lloyd Jones

The Binding - Bridget Collins

The Hazel Wood - Melissa Albert

The Astonishing Color of After - Emily X.R Pan

The Sandman - Neil Gaiman

More than this - Patrick Ness

Queenie Malone's Paradise Hotel - Ruth Hogan

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