8 beautiful books for festive gifts this year

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I’m not a big gift person. I rarely feel like I need anything, and often I’d be just as happy with a nice box of tea or something edible than a gift that will clutter up my living space.

That said, there’s always a place in my heart (and house!) for beautiful books, and they’re usually what I give to others at this time of year too. For 2020, here are some of my favourite beautiful books for Christmas gifts.

Island Dreams: Mapping an Obsession

Island Dreams is really something. Gavin Francis’s new book is cloth-bound with gold detail on the front and makes for a perfect gift for travel lovers, cartophiles, and book enthusiasts. I picked up a copy from an independent bookshop here in Edinburgh, where I’ll be spending the next month or so, and know so many others who would love it too.

Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps

I’m biased with this one, but I think my new book makes for a lovely Christmas gift! Pick up a copy to escape to the Swiss Alps or give the gift of a meditative mountain vacation to a loved one. After working on this for so many years, I hope you love it!

You can currently order Mountain Song directly via my Live Wildly Store. With express delivery it should reach readers in the UK in a couple of days and worldwide within 5-7 days (if Covid doesn’t create too many delays). As a little gift from me, you can use the voucher code “tolstoytherapy” for a 10% discount. It’s also on Kindle here.

Ex Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread

What a book for bibliophiles. Ex Libris 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 classics, old and new, accompanied by gorgeous illustrations from lettering artist Dana Tanamachi.


An award-winning book for nature writing in 2020, Surfacing is Kathleen Jamie’s spellbinding collection of essays that reflects the passing of time on a millennia-spanning scale and in the microcosm of a person’s life.


Described by author David Mitchell as “a thing of shimmering wonder”, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is one of the most beautiful books of 2020, inside and out. The Boston Globe adds: “Of all the stories that argue and speculate about Shakespeare’s life… here is a novel … so gorgeously written that it transports you.”

Slow Down: Bring Calm to a Busy World with 50 Nature Stories

Although written for children, I think Slow Down by Rachel Williams is just as lovely for adults. Every day, hour by hour, magical transformations are happening right in front of us, but it’s not always easy to see them. Discover 50 nature stories, paused just long enough for you to watch them unfold, then go outside and explore… and see what you find when you take the time to slow down.

Serpentine: A story in the Arctic from the world of His Dark Materials and The Book of Dust

I picked up Serpentine alongside Gavin Francis’s Island Dreams in a tiny bookshop here in Edinburgh, and they have the best spot on my bookshelf. This is a tiny little book – both pocket-sized and with only eighty pages – and a delicately beautiful one. It’s the perfect re-entry to the world of Lyra and Pantalaimon for Pullman fans new and old as the two characters return to the North to revisit an old friend, and wonderfully timed if you’re also watching season two of His Dark Materials on BBC this winter.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse

Treasured by every bookshop, Charlie Mackesy’s story about a curious boy, a greedy mole, a wary fox, and a wise horse has been rekindled in a limited edition with a new rainbow illustration to mark this particularly hard year. Give a copy to your loved ones to let them explore a story of vulnerability, kindness, hope, friendship, and love during a time when we all need these most. This edition also contains a gold ribbon marker and is bound in green cloth.

Which books are you gifting this year? Let me know over on Facebook or Twitter – I’d always love to hear from you. For now, enjoy settling into the second half of December wherever you are in the world.


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It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.

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