Like many people who love reading, I have a habit of picking up a second (or third) copy of something just because the cover is too pretty to walk away from. I’ve made rules, of course. I have to have actually enjoyed the book (low bar) and be planning to read it again (slightly higher bar). I struggle to resist beautiful books. These books also make great gifts because they’re both books (which are always the best gift) and beautiful objects in their own right.
Beautiful Books That Won’t Break the Bank
Penguin Clothbound Classics
Penguin Clothbound Classics were my introduction to the world of pretty books. The first one I bought was Jane Eyre. If you Google “pretty books” chances are these are going to come up first. They’re very pretty and more affordable than some of the other ‘collectable’ options out there. There are more than 60 titles available in this collection including Pride and Prejudice (and all of the other Austen novels) and The Count of Monte Cristo. They look really nice all together on a shelf. I dare you to stop at just one.
I discovered the Juniper Books covers when they did covers for V.E. Schwab’s books and I think it’s brilliant that you can both order the books themselves and just the covers if you already have the books. They also do a House-themed Harry Potter set that is pretty cool if your covers, like mine, are nearly 20 years old and looking a little tired.
Barnes and Noble Collectable Editions
Not all of them are my cup of tea aesthetically, but some of the Barnes and Noble Collectable Editions are very cool looking. I also like that you can get some “modern” classics like early Stephen King or Jurassic Park. These would also be very well-received as a gift if you happen to know the recipient’s favorite book or author. I really like the look of this combined edition of The Bell Jar and Plath’s collected poems.
Puffin in Bloom
I liked the floral motif of the Puffin in Bloom books so much that I have Anne of Green Gables as a shirt from Out of Print. I would love a set of all of the Anne books in this style but for now there is only Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Heidi Puffin in Bloom, and A Little Princess. I am keeping my fingers crossed for more.
Picador Modern Classics
Picador Modern Classics are so little and cute! I love this edition of The Virgin Suicides. I also bought Slouching Towards Bethlehem to keep in my purse because you never know when you’ll need some emergency Joan Didion. It’s a very sensible travel edition. (In my house there is Shelf Joan and Handbag Joan and Lending Joan. It’s very reasonable.)
The Pricier Side
The Franklin Mint
The Franklin Library partnered with The Franklin Mint to create collectable leather-bound editions of classic books from the 1970s until the year 2000. I think my family had a few of their books when I was growing up and they looked so fancy and important that I’d try to read them all the time even though I was 7 and not at all ready for Madame Bovary. They encouraged me to learn to read faster so that I could finally read the fancy books. These are more classically “collectible” leather-bound-looking books and some of them are signed first editions. You can sometimes find them in used bookstores (I once found a signed Joan Didion and that was a great birthday.)
A similar company, the Easton Press, is still in business. Newer books like The Martian and Salvage the Bones are now available. These books also feature leather covers, gilded pages, and ribbon bookmarks.
The Folio Society has been creating beautiful editions for more than 70 years. They come in slipcases and have all of the bells and whistles: ribbon bookmarks, illustrations, and head and tail bands. They’re a little spendy (books range from $50.00 to several hundred dollars) but are made to be passed on. Here you can also find more modern classics, including Octavia Butler’s Kindred, The Shining and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.