The Most Beautiful Books of the Year: a Holiday Gift Guide

It’s the holidays, time to unleash the year-end lists and let loose the hyperboles…

The greatest book of all time is now one of the most beautiful books of the year. The first part of that statement comes from me (and many others), the latter half comes from the NY Daily News (and many others, including me).

Artist, librarian, and mensch, Matt Kish reinterpreted every glorious page of Moby-Dick, generating well over 500 leviathan-inspired illustrations. The artwork was bound into a handsome and surprisingly affordable volume by Tin House. Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page is available for under $30 from Powell’s and other independent bookstores.

Amid the eBook boom, publishers are investing more into book design to turn physical books into collector’s items (insert comparison to the reprise of vinyl records here). If you’re in the business of judging books by their covers, here are some options for stocking your bookshelves or stuffing stockings this holiday season.

Much ado has been made about Murakami’s IQ84, praised for both its brilliant Murakami-ness and its attractive cover. You can watch a video by its designer Chip Kidd below, or for a real copy of a novel about an alternate reality, you can pick one up for $21 here.

Since the holidays with your family are going to be awkward no matter what you do, why not make it a Kafka Christmas? Peter Mendelsund created a beautiful series of covers for Kafka’s backlist. Find out more about the stunning series at Flavorwire or get Amerika for $14 here.

How to Avoid Being Killed in a War Zone might not be beautiful in a delicate sense of the word, but that’s the point. It’s hardcore cover was “designed to appear tough enough to be carried into battle,” according to the NY Times. Get equipped for $11 here.

I found this book when it jumped off the shelf at Housing Works. Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion?, by Norwegian writer Johan Harstad, begins with a line as compelling as its cover: “The person you love is 72.8 percent water and there’s been no rain for weeks.” Get your copy for $22 here.

This smart looking collection of smart books from Malcolm Gladwell will make a good gift for the smart person on your list, or a great gift that’ll make you look smart. Pick it up for $75 here.

The Art of the Novella is a seriously attractive series from Melville House. The cover featured here is part of The Duel x 5 Set, featuring “five great writers, five great books, one great title.” Watch the trailer, then order it direct from Melville House.

Speaking of a collectible collection, pick up Vol 1 of Electric Literature, featuring cover art from the likes of Fred Tomaselli & Sean Landers (and stories from some of the country’s greatest writers). Get all six issues here.

— Benjamin Samuel is the Online Editor of Electric Literature. He’s still flabbergasted that Fahrenheit 451 is an eBook.

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