Friday, February 24, 2012

Beautiful Books

"I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them -- with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself."
-- Eudora Welty

I have always been in love with books, with their actual physical presence.  I know that this is why I have not been able to read them on any of the electronic devices.  I need to hold a book when I read it.  I also love to look at books and display them around my house because many of them are just so beautiful.  In fact, looking at the stack of books by Colette and E.M Forster in the photo above, I could easily get inspired to decorate an entire room based on these book jackets.  I would love to recreate these raspberry and blue colors on a wall somewhere in my house.

Here are some beautiful books that have been inspiring me lately.  These books have pattern, color and texture.  Their patina takes me to different time periods and places in my imagination.  Isn't there a sense of excitement and inspiration when you see them, for not only do they promise to take us on a journey, but their physical beauty has endless possibilities for decorating all the nooks and crannies of our houses. 

These favorite classics have just been reissued by Penguin Threads.  The covers actually feel embroidered.

The cover of this book about Charleston is decorated in a typical Bloomsbury fashion with its cross hatching in the margins and a drawing of the house set within a decorative circle.  It makes me smile.

Here is a golden yellow invitation from Vita Sackville-West to join her in the garden at Sissinghurst Castle and receive her expert gardening advice.  These four volumes contain the articles she wrote in her weekly gardening column for the "Observer" over the course of 15 years. 

These stately volumes of Shakespeare's plays and poems add literary cachet to a library

I love this stack of old cookbooks and the way they beckon us to faraway places and cuisines 

This equally inviting stack of more modern cookbooks is an invitation to get cooking, now!

I marvel at the beauty of this cover of "Madame Bovary," with a new translation that came out last year

This slim volume of autobiographical essays by Elizabeth Bowen is one of my treasures.  I love its femininity.

And for a dose of glamour, the cover of this book about Deborah Mitford has a stunning design.  She was the least known of the famous Mitford sisters and has a fascinating story to tell.

These two larger than life personalities and dear friends -- Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey --  write each other gossipy letters in this attractive book with its green and red dust jacket.  It's hard to believe these two were engaged to be married, an engagement that was wisely and quickly called off. 

The colors and pattern of this vivid book make it stand out on my book shelf.  This is the American edition of "Seducers in Ecuador" by Vita Sackville-West.

Some happiness in the kitchen

And just a little more


  1. Such beautiful books. I happen to have the same Shakespeare set too.
    One of my favorite place to have bookshelves is a dining room. I think it adds such a feeling of warmth and comfort to what can often be a rather cold, and formal room.

  2. I'm coveting your books! Not that I need any more--all our bookshelves are filled and we're now making stacks on the floor. It's getting out of hand, but that won't stop us! I can't wait to go book shopping when we go to England later in the year. (So excited!)

    I have a Kindle and there are things I like about it (having a bunch of books at once, free copies of books in the public domain), but I just miss having the actual book and it's aggravating having to charge one's reading material. Also, I've had some technical issues and the Amazon people were less than worthless. I think I've pretty much given up on e-readers. That's OK. Real books are much better!

  3. Such a beautiful quote by Eudora Welty and reminds me of when I was a young child and would 'play' with my books. Dolls were simply not for me! And wouldn't I just love a closer peek at that Bowen.

  4. I feel the same way- I have had no success actually getting through a book electronically. It's like the weight of the pages in my hand makes them more real to me. I started collecting beautifully bound books as a teenager with my babysitting money, and one of the happiest days of my adult married life was when my husband figured out that well bound books would make a good gift for me. :) Your collection is lovely!

  5. Oh, I am in love with them too!
    Funny, since record album covers have gone the way of the DoDo, I find book covers to be even more beautiful. I wander the aisles and marvel at them. Little paintings, little works of art. I've always found it strange that authors don't get input into the covers that end up on their books. Can you imagine the fear and anticipation whilst they wait to see what it looks like?
    Have you seen the cover of AS Byatt's, The Children's Book, in hardback? Exquisite.

  6. Be still my heart - you have me in a bookish swoon, Sunday.

    I, too, have always had a love affair with books; their feel, their words, their appearance and I love to read them, possess them, and yes, decorate with them. I must find those Vita Sackville-West, which seem to be sitting next to a few Peresephones.

    You made my afternoon a simply delicious delight.

  7. The highest compliment: When I think of Sunday, I think of books.

  8. Okay, you had me with your first picture of books... We have so many titles in common. Thank you so much for visiting me over at Living Life and leaving a comment. I am looking forward to further browsing your wonderful blog. Bonnie

  9. Absolutely gorgeous collection of books!

  10. I'm currently reading my first Elizabeth Bowen. When dusting at the weekend I had to remind myself to dust and not just look at the books! What a lovely collection you have.

  11. Last year - aside from our blog entries (, I started to record my thoughts in a journal - and seeing all the photos of book covers on your blog reminded me of so many beautiful journals I've purchased from Peter Pauper Press - over the past months. There is something to be said about writing - no matter where - but, there's something very intimate about picking up a pen and putting thoughts down on paper, the old fashioned way.

  12. If I was set free in your house, I can tell I would be happily lost for hours and hours in your beautiful stacks!

    By the way, I recently bought "Charleston" on your recommendation!

  13. My daughter was just having a conversation with me discussing how concerned she was about how many books in her collection she could fit into her college dorm room. They are literally part of her world of others would view artwork, lambs, pictures, etc. So, I totally understand your love and attachment. It's a beautiful thing!

  14. I always enjoy your posts on books! I completely agree with you about the need to have the book in my hands, to turn the pages, to smell the pages, to have the books on a shelf to admire and return to. I'm always the person on the bus or at the cafe trying to decipher the titles of everyone's books so I can then go look it up and see if I want to read it too! You can't really eavesdrop like that when they're holding a plain-looking Kindle or Nook! :) The cover of "Seducers in Ecuador" is so lovely. And is that a new Peter Mayle book I spy??? Thanks for sharing part of your book collection!

  15. I do love that edition of Emma - saw it in Waterstones the other day. I like the fact that the colours are slightly 'off' and the inside covers show the back of the needlework!