While organising my Christmas presents this year, I’ve realised just how often I choose a particular type of gift: beautiful small hardcovers.
After all, what better thank you gift, Christmas stocking stuffer, or small token of appreciation than a lovely little hardcover book?
Read on for my collection of the best small hardcover books for gifts (or a perfect excuse to treat yourself), most of which are short enough to read in a single sitting or, if you’re a faster reader than I am, before the bathwater gets cold…
The most beautiful small hardcover books
Gratitude by Oliver Sacks
“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
I would give everyone a copy of Oliver Sacks’s life-affirming and beautifully insightful essays if I could. Gratitude is my favourite book by the neurosurgeon and writer, but also one of the best small books for thank you gifts.
Written during the last few months of his life, this set of essays was Oliver Sacks’s way of exploring his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with its closure, offering an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the gift of living.
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
“The necessary thing is after all but this; solitude, great inner solitude. Going into oneself for hours meeting no one – this one must be able to attain.”
Originally penned as a series of letters to guide and inspire a fellow poet, this is Rainer Maria Rilke’s archive of insights into creativity, living, and his greatest poetry.
Recitatif by Toni Morrison
Available as a beautiful little hardcover with fewer than 100 pages, Recitatif is both a perfect introduction to Toni Morrison’s iconic writing and an excellent gift for fans who have read all of her major novels.
Accompanied by an introduction by Zadie Smith, this is the story of two lifelong friends, Twyla and Roberta, whose races are kept ambiguous throughout the story. All we know is that one is white and one is black. As the two women grow apart and come back into each other’s lives, a poignant story emerges of how our race and relationships shape our lives.
Galatea by Madeline Miller
I’m one of the countless readers spellbound by Madeline Miller’s retellings of Greek mythology, especially her two bestselling novels: Circe and The Song of Achilles.
This short story, Galatea, is a wonderfully elegant mythological retelling you can read in less than an hour, but it still feels beautifully formed. It’s one of my favourite little hardcovers and makes for an excellent stocking stuffer for bookworms.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
Over the last few years, I’ve found that one strong sign of a good bookshop is a beautiful hardcover edition of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets displayed prominently, probably near the cash register.
Threading together themes of depression, divinity, and desire, this is Maggie Nelson’s deep dive into a lifelong obsession with the colour blue. With nods to the interconnectedness of pleasure and pain, this little pillow book asks: what role can beauty play in times of heartache?
Winter Recipes from the Collective: Poems by Louise Glück
“The book contains
only recipes for winter, when life is hard. In spring,
anyone can make a fine meal.”
I could fill this list with wonderful little books of poetry, but I’m allowing myself just one: Louise Glück’s Winter Recipes from the Collective.
With barely 60 pages in the elegant little hardcover, this 2021 collection from the Nobel Prize winner is a meditative yet striking book to ponder in small moments and think back to for years to come.
For more beautiful books to give as gifts, you might like:
- 14 beautiful coffee table books to give as gifts in 2023
- The most beautiful classic book collections (Penguin Clothbound & more)
- 12 of the most beautifully illustrated books for gifts or your shelves
- New beautiful books of 2023: a guide for book lovers
- 15 of the best book gifts of 2023 to share & treasure