I’m not a big gift person myself. I rarely feel like I need anything, and often I’d be just as happy with a nice box of tea or something edible.
That said, there’s always a place in my heart and house for beautiful books, and they’re usually what I give to others too. For 2023, here are some of my favourite beautiful books to give to booklovers.
I've included some of the best new books for 2022 , beautifully illustrated books, fantastic books about books, and other choices that most bookworms will appreciate (even if it seems like they have every book already).
Looking for small bookish gifts? You might also like my lists of the best bookish gifts from Etsy.
The most beautiful books for gifts for booklovers in 2023
1. Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien: The Deluxe Hardcover Edition
With Christopher Tolkien as your guide, take a tour through this wonderful gallery of enchanting art produced by his father, J.R.R. Tolkien. It's a book to treasure for any fan of Tolkien, offering a feast for the imagination.
Presented in a gorgeous cloth slipcased edition, this wonder of a book confirms Tolkien's talent as an artist with examples including delicate watercolors depicting Rivendell, the Forest of Lothlorien, Smaug, and Old Man Willow, to drawings and sketches of Moria Gate and Minas Tirith.
2. A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader by Maria Popova
Like everything else from Maria Popova, the mind and heart of The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings), A Velocity of Being is a gorgeously curated book celebrating the joys of reading.
Maria Popova has brought together some of the most wonderful culture-makers – writers, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and philosophers — to reflect on the joys of reading, how books broaden and deepen human experience, and the ways in which the written word has formed their own character.
A beautiful illustration accompanies each letter about how books have shaped a contributor's life, sharing stories from figures as diverse as Jane Goodall, Neil Gaiman, Shonda Rhimes, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Elizabeth Gilbert.
This is a thoughtful and beautiful book to give to bookworms who you think have already read everything.
3. Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer's Guide by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras
From the ever-curious minds behind Atlas Obscura comes this adventurous guide to the diverse food that defines our world, spanning each of the seven continents.
Like a feast of tapas, this delightful book offers a selection of traditional delicacies, unexpectedly delicious treats, and hidden gems to feed your sense of wonder.
4. Wanderlust USA: The Great American Hike by gestalten
I received a gorgeous copy of gestalten's hardcover Wanderlust Europe as a gift a couple of years ago, and it's since become one of my favourite travel books to enjoy pride of place on my shelves. This companion book, Wanderlust USA: The Great American Hike, is also stunning.
It's a stunning guide to the best U.S. long-distance treks, short day trips, and extended weekend adventures, compiled in a hardcover that's perfect to give to adventurous loved ones this holiday season. Once you see it for yourself, you'll probably want your own copy too.
It's one of the best travel books to show off on a coffee table and keep turning to for inspiration, complete with wanderlust-inspiring photos and maps.
5. The Unwinding: And Other Dreamings by Jackie Morris
In this beautifully illustrated book to prompt dreaming and creativity, the Kate Greenaway Medal-winning artist Jackie Morris bridges the magical land between awake and dreaming where fairytale characters explore and magnificent creatures dwell.
The Unwinding is a book written with the chief purpose of easing the soul, unlocking the peaceful harbours where our imagination can stretch and quiet reflection can bring us tranquility. It's a wonderful book to gift to readers both young and grown to treasure for years to come.
Maria Popova of The Marginalian describes it as, "A quiet masterpiece . . . a love story, a hope story, a story out of time, out of stricture, out of the narrow artificial bounds by which we try to contain the wild wonderland of reality because we are too frightened to live wonder-stricken."
6. Water, Wood & Wild Things: Learning Craft and Cultivation in a Japanese Mountain Town by Hannah Kirshner
"With this book, you feel you can stop time and savor the rituals of life," shared Maira Kalman about Water, Wood & Wild Things. I came across this beautiful book in my local library recently and fell in love with it.
Water, Wood & Wild Things is artist and food writer Hannah Kirshner's journey through the culture and cuisine of one misty Japanese mountain town, its evergreen forests, local water, and smoke-filled artisan workshops.
Part travelogue, part meditation on the meaning of work, and full of Hannah's beautiful drawings and recipes inspired by her time in Yamanaka, this is a soothing and inspiring book about what it means to find purpose in cultivation and craft and sustain traditions.
From making a fine bowl to harvesting rice, this tender book is a celebration of craftsmanship, creativity, quiet dedication, and the simple beauty of life.
7. Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami
"Murakami is like a magician who explains what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers," writes The New York Times Book Review about this anticipated book for 2022.
Novelist as a Vocation is an insightful look into the mind of the master storyteller behind Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, and 1Q84.
It's a unique look at the lonely and patient craft of writing, sharing Murakami's musings on the sparks of creativity that inspire his surreal words, his prodigious output, and the life that he has devoted to his craft.
8. Collective Wisdom by Grace Bonney
In this gorgeous book, Grace Bonney, the bestselling author of In the Company of Women (another fantastic book to gift!) curates the best lessons, inspiration, and advice from women over 50.
Best enjoyed as a hardcover, Collective Wisdom is a rich and multilayered collection of interviews, conversations, and intimate photographs of over 100 trailblazing women who describe the ups, downs, and lessons learned while forging their unique paths.
From an Olympic athlete and a NASA team member to award-winning artists, activists, writers, and filmmakers, Grace Bonney celebrates the stories of those who have been there and know the road, generously sharing their wisdom across generations.
9. Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall
"Over a hill, at the end of a road, by a glittering stream that twists and turns stands a farmhouse."
If you have young children to buy gifts for this year, use it as an excuse to buy this gorgeous new picture book from Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall. That said, it's a book that's just as exquisite for grown readers.
Step inside the dollhouse-like interior of Farmhouse and relish in the joyful daily life of the family that lives there, rendered in impeccable, cozy detail.
10. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
In this beloved and lyrical classic, Anne Morrow Lindbergh gracefully weaves her meditations on youth and age, love and marriage, and solitude and contentment as she settles into a vacation by the sea.
Drawing inspiration from the shells on the shore, the mother of five, acclaimed writer, and pioneering aviator casts an unsentimental eye on the trappings of modernity that threaten to overwhelm us, offering a reminder of the bliss to be found in carving out space for contemplation and creativity within our own lives.
11. Island Dreams: Mapping an Obsession by Gavin Francis
Island Dreams is a delight to browse, read, and hold. Gavin Francis’s memoir of a life obsessed with maps is cloth-bound with gold detail and makes for a perfect gift for curious travellers, cartophiles, and book enthusiasts.
I picked up a copy from an independent bookshop in Edinburgh, and know so many others who would love it too.
12. Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread by Michiko Kakutani
Ex Libris is another perfect book to give to booklovers. This is literary critic Michiko Kakutani’s personal selection of over 100 works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, with passionate essays on why each has had a profound effect on her life.
From Homer’s The Odyssey to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Ex Libris covers a rich and vast range of old and new classics, accompanied by gorgeous illustrations from lettering artist Dana Tanamachi.
13. Wild Places (Inspired Traveller's Guides) by Sarah Baxter
From the Galápagos Islands to St Kilda in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, this beautiful celebration of the solace of wild places transports you to some of the most awe-inspiring corners of the world from your armchair.
14. Gratitude by Oliver Sacks
A small but mighty book, Gratitude is Oliver Sacks’s most tenderly-curated collection of essays. Dr Sacks reflects on and gives thanks for a life well-lived, expressing his thoughts on growing old, facing terminal cancer, and reaching the end with wisdom and appreciation.
It doesn’t take long for Oliver Sacks’s writing to soothe my spirit and help me to breathe easier. Gratitude makes for a perfect gift, too – I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve given it to.
15. The Annotated Arabian Nights by Yasmine Seale and Paulo Lemos Horta
Like Emily Wilson achieved for The Odyssey with her new translation in 2017, Yasmine Seale’s proficiency in (and poetic ear for) Arabic, English, and French shines through in this lyrical and accessible new translation of The Arabian Nights.
Accompanied by hundreds of stunning illustrations and edited by Paulo Lemos Horta, this exquisite edition lets readers travel into the evocative dreamland of the stories and their history. It's a huge book, packed with annotations and special details, and it makes for a really special gift.
Enjoy more from me
- Retreat into my new book, Your Life in Bloom: Finding Your Path and Your Courage, Grounded in the Wisdom of Nature.
- I'm also the author of Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps, a book about my time living alone by the mountains.
- If you love books, are feeling a little lost right now, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, join The Sanctuary, my seven-day course to rebalance your life.