10 books that look as good as they actually are

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Francesca Brown
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Stylist’s books editor Francesca Brown picks the beautifully illustrated reads that transport your brain – and your Insta feed 

Thanks to the rise of #bookstagram and publishers counteracting the rise of ebooks with gorgeously produced and illustrated editions (in 2016, sales of digital titles fell by 17% while hard copies rose 8%), book covers are having a moment. 

More than ever, people are judging books by their covers and choosing to buy titles with photogenic designs for their #shelfies — however, that aesthetic habit could run the risk of having an Instagram-worthy bookshelf but nothing decent to read.

So if you’re looking for some new stylish reading material whose prose is just as good as its cover, here are 10 incredible books that will engage all of your senses…

Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

In a celebration of dystopian fiction, Vintage asked the legendary designer Noma Bar to rework the covers of The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984 and Brave New World in his distinctive minimalist style. The result for Aldous Huxley’s classic conjures up a test tube which on closer inspection features the outlines of people. A fitting cover for the 1931 book which foretold everything from reproductive technology to mass consumption. (£14.99, Vintage)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Inspired by Nigerian wax prints for headscarves, designer Jo Walker reworked the covers for all of Adichie’s novels in 2016. While we’d recommend you read them all, Americanah is one of her landmark works weaving together a captivating love story, politics, racism, social demands and, of course, her famous discourse on black hair. Incredibly funny and beautifully written, this cover gives Americanah the justice it deserves. (£8.99, Fourth Estate)

Man At The Helm by Nina Stibbe

A riotous semi-autobiographical account of Stibbe’s childhood – Lizzie Vogel, her sister and brother find themselves upended by their mother and decamped to a small village in the English countryside. All hell breaks loose as their attractive mother causes gossip to go into overload – not helped by the children sending love notes to what they perceive as potential suitors (married or otherwise). This retro cover captures the nostalgia perfectly. (£7.99, Penguin)

Fates and Furies

Fates And Furies by Lauren Groff

Famously described as Barack Obama’s favourite book of 2015, Groff’s unflinching tale of a relationship gone bad is told from a couple’s two viewpoints. Weaving tales of Greek tragedy into the lives of these two awful people (but entertainingly so), it’s a brilliantly written book that’s ideal for long weekends with the door locked.  (£8.99, Cornerstone)

Beloved by Toni Morrison

On its 1987 publication, The New York Times described Beloved as, “If there were any doubts about her stature as a pre-eminent American novelist, of her own or any other generation, Beloved will put them to rest. In three words or less, it’s a hair-raiser.” A landmark of US writing and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Morrison tackles the scars of slavery, abuse, violence and love with unflinching prose. (£9.99, Vintage)

Monday's Not Coming

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Need an antidote to the end of Sharp Objects? This young adult novel from Jackson is just the ticket. Exploring the very real issue of why the disappearance of women and girls of colour in the US is often overlooked, Monday’s Not Coming delves into the realities of social care and abuse with a time-jumping narrative that’s utterly gripping. (£9.75, Harper)

Where'd You Go Bernadette?

Where’d You Go Bernadette? By Marie Semple 

Possibly one of the most iconic book covers of the past decade (and Stylist’s favourite Insta recreation for World Book Day - just add headscarf), this is also one of the funniest and most touching plots that will help you out of even the most jarring reading ruts. Told via emails and notes and even school reports, it’s hard not to bow down at the sheer brilliance of Semple’s verve and imagination. (£8.99, Orion)

The Lottery And Other Stories

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

The writer who’s inspired everyone from Stephen King to Donna Tartt, Jackson is considered the queen of gothic. Overlooked in the 50s and 60s by the male-dominated publishing industry, Jackson has since become revered for her, quite frankly, terrifying work. The short story of The Lottery just about sums it up: what starts as a tale of smalltown America ends up as dark. We mean really dark… (£9.99, Penguin)

She Is Fierce

She Is Fierce edited by Ana Sampson

Featuring (wait for it…) Maya Angelou, Nikita Gill, Wendy Cope, Ysra Daley-Ward, Emily Bronte, Carol Ann Duffy, Hollie McNish, Imtiaz Dharker, Helen Dunmore and Dorothy Parker to name a few, this anthology is what every self-respecting bookshelf and social feed needs. Covering everything from love and freedom to protest and body images, dip in and embrace words of beauty on a daily basis. Plus, it’s a beauty to hold. (£9.99, Macmillan

Little People

Little People, Big Dreams by various

And finally… OK, OK they may be aimed at five-year-olds but place this series of little feminist books next to any succulent and you’ll be guaranteed all the likes. And, they’re also illuminating, beautifully illustrated and filled with little-known facts about breakout women from Josephine Baker to Ada Lovelace. They’re the perfect gift for the bookworms who have everything. (£9.99, Frances Lincoln)

Got all these? Here are this month’s hottest reads.

Images: courtesy of the publishers


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Francesca Brown

Francesca Brown is books editor for Stylist magazine and Stylist Loves; she also compiles the Style List on a weekly basis. She is a self-confessed HBO abuser and has a wide selection of grey sweatshirts. Honestly, you just can’t have enough. @franabouttown

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