Best Looking Books for the Aesthete's Shelf

OK, we know you shouldn't buy a book for its cover. But let's just say — for the sake of argument — that someone decides to go paperless, donate their books, and read everything from 2011 on via an e-reader. Which books would you try and convince them to keep?

Art and design books? Sure, you can't get the same big, beautiful images on a Kindle. Vintage leather-bound volumes of classic novels? Those might be too beautiful to part with. Complete collections that look amazing on a shelf? Why not — they serve a double function as sources for information/stories/etc and as decorative objects that personalize a room.

While books are first and foremost a source of ideas, they can also be beautiful — shelves lined with books inspire paintings, photographs, and countless blog posts, so here's another one with 10 lovely-to-look-at collections.

  1. Phaidon Design Classics: The ultimate design library in three bright yellow volumes, $175.
  2. Penguin Classics: Designed by superstar graphic artist Coralie Bickford-Smith, $20 each.
  3. Assouline Lifestyle Collection: A symphony of black, white, and red — $45 per volume.
  4. Wallpaper City Guides: Fill up a shelf with a spectrum of color, $9.95 each.
  5. Everyman's Pocket Poetry Library: Elegant covers for Dickens, Blake, and Rilke — $938 for the full set of more than 60 poets.
  6. Harvard Classics: Available in vintage sets with red or blue spines — this one is $895 on Amazon.
  7. Childcraft: Vintage children's how-to books in bright candy colors — this set is $36 on Etsy.
  8. Book City Jackets: Wrap these craft-paper-style jackets around your books — Artist Editions are $15 for a set of 3.
  9. Astrid Ortiz — The Lady Vanishes: Available in Catalan only, this set is covetable nonetheless.
  10. Dover Thrift Editions: Inexpensive and readily available, they seem cheap individually but look smart lined up on a shelf together.


First photo: Arthur's Long Distance Loft, Other images as linked above