As a child, the idea of a book token filled me with joy. That sturdy slip of paper which offered a world of choice was the one thing I always, always wanted...and never received. Am I bitter? Okay, maybe a little. The great thing about book tokens is that they offer the reader in the house a real choice of gift while acknowledging their bookish obsession. Plus there's no risk of buying the wrong book, something they already own or something they'd never read, which is almost as disappointing as receiving no books at all. How often have you gleefully unwrapped that book shaped parcel, hoping for Bleak House only to find the latest Dan Brown inside? Sigh. If you fear your choice of book with meet with a glum face, book tokens are the safe bet.
Most high street book retailers will offer gift vouchers of some sort, but my choice would always be National Book Tokens, which are accepted by most book retailers and give your book lover the ultimate choice. You can buy these online from a range of outlets or find out more from the source at: National Book Tokens
If you are a bit more certain of your book lover's taste in reads, the next option would be to buy them a beautiful book. When I buy books, mainly I'm interested in the content and the cover art, etc, is not of that much interest to me. But when I receive a book as a gift, the more beautiful the better. I might not be willing to spend my own money on it, but as a receipient a beautiful book is guaranteed to make me happy. Fortunately, thanks to competition from the growing e-book industry, the publishers are fighting back with some truly spectacularly beautiful books with a reasonable price range. Here are my choices of true beauties this year.
The Folio Society
If you've got money to burn you can't go far wrong with a book from The Folio Society. These are books that a lot of thought and effort has gone into to make them stunningly beautiful. This copy of Lord of the Flies is truly head turning, and I'm quietly drooling over the beautiful Over Sea Under Stone (one of my favourite books) and this wonderfully illustrated Epic of Gilgamesh.
The Folio Society books can be found online at The Folio Society
Another bespoke publishing house, Persephone Books publish high quality 'forgotten' classic books by women. I discovered Persephone by accident earlier this year and have become a firm fan, both because of the classy look of their books but also because of the quality of the fiction. The books have a very stylish and simple grey cover and each book has its own, unique endpaper with matching bookmark (and the book marks are also excellent quality - if only cardboard they're very sturdy and pretty). There's an interesting selection of books; my personal favourites (so far) have been Marghanita Laski's Little Boy Lost (it's a sad one) and Elizabeth Sanxay Holding's The Blank Wall. Most of the books cost between £10-£12 each plus postage and they're well worth it. My small collection looks beautiful on my bookcase, the binding is incredibly sturdy and the content excellent.
More information is available at Persephone Book's website
Virago Modern Classics
Ever since I discovered Angela Carter, I've been a fan of Virago books. Again, the focus here is on female writers, but with a wealth of great female writers available that doesn't in any way restrict the reader's choice. Along with many publishing houses, Virago have released a range of beautifully bound, textured hardback books with a price range of around £10-£15 each dependent on the retailer. Current books available are as follows:
The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin
Good Behaviour by Molly Keane
The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy
The Tortiose and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
Check out these beauties!
Penguin Classics & others
Penguin are another publisher than have branched out into a range of sexy hardbacks to tempt the book lover in you. Focusing on their 'classic' range, they've brought out a gorgeous selection of clothbound classics with something for pretty much everyone. Check out this stunning version of A Christmas Carol (surely the perfect Christmas gift?), or this equally stunning copy of The Odyssey. There are many books in the clothbound range including a number of works by Dickens and Jane Austen, there's Middlemarch by George Eliot, a flamingo crazed version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which I particularly like, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorien Gray, Stoker's Dracula, The Hound of the Baskervilles amongst others. You can browse (or in fact buy, if you have the cash) the whole collection at Penguin's website here
If you fancy something a bit more modern, these Penguin deluxe classics are equally beautiful, if slightly less austere. Outside the classics range, penguin have also issued a number of contemporary 'greats' in jackets stylishly designed by tattoo artists, like the copy of Ali Smith's The Accidental below. The range also includes White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller, The Book of Dave by Will Self, High Fidelity by Nick Hornby and The Rotter's Club by Jonathon Coe.
Kindle...or other ebook readers
Okay, I feel I ought to mention this though personally if someone bought me a Kindle I'd probably be deleting them from my friend list. As a book lover I am not a fan of the Kindle or, in fact, of any e-readers, but I concede they may have their uses. Whilst I can't see the point of carrying your entire library around with you, or why you would want to supplant your perfectly working paperback for something which requires power, I can't deny the power and appeal of the e-reader for many book lovers, and I can see that for students, for example, they could be a useful tool in obtaining cheaper academic books, storing their notes and it is a lot less to carry around. With a cheaper model out at £89, Amazon look likely to corner the e-reader market and depending on your book lover's persuasion it could be the perfect gift for Christmas. But for me, meh, I'd rather have the piece of coal to be honest.
So there's my thoughts for Christmas book gifts this year. I hope it's given you some great ideas for how to bring a smile to your book lover's face this year.
I hope that's given you all some food for thought.