Wednesday 15 January 2020


10 Classics to Read on Cold Winter Nights

I do love a good book list, both to use as inspiration for my ever-growing literary wish list and to share my own recommendations. Following up from my 10 Cosy New Books to Read for Autumn, this time around I thought I'd do things a little differently. Rather than focusing on new books that are already likely to be spotlighted by other bloggers, reviewers, and magazines, I'm sharing some of my favourite classic novels – and the collectible editions that grace my shelves. They would make a beautiful addition to your own collection as well as thoughtful gifts to brighten up someone's day this time of year.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll  
MinaLima Illustrated Classics Edition

MinaLima – the duo behind the artwork and illustrations in the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises – are two of my most favourite designers. Their work is intricate and iconic, and I cannot get enough of it. I've written about their beautifully illustrated and interactive classics editions on many a times (see: Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales, The Secret Garden) as well as their free exhibition space in London, House of MinaLima. And the latest edition to their collection is none other than the famous adventures of Alice in a Wonderland where she meets the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, and the perhaps even madder Red Queen...

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Barnes & Noble Collectible Edition

While I have read this classic children's book many years (ahum, decades....) ago, I had the chance to see a preview screening of the upcoming film adaptation with Dixie Egerickx and Colin Firth and now I'm sure keen to rediscover the written story too. And while I own multiple editions of this novel, this is my all-time favourite version, and the book that got me addicted to picking up more and more Barnes & Noble collectible hardbacks on my travels to the US in recent years.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 
Wordsworth Collectible Edition

A Muppet Christmas Carol may be the best version ever of this iconic tale (fight me!), but after watching the Christmas film  starring Michael Caine, Gonzo and Rizzo the rat, there is nothing better than curling up under a fleece and rediscovering the original story as well. Did you know there was one Marley, and not two, for example? Dickens is often an acquired taste, but A Christmas Carol is short and accessible, making it the perfect gateway novella to Victorian literature. This edition is part of the Wordsworth collectible hardbacks, which have been hugely popular among book bloggers, vloggers, and bookstagrammers in the last year. And for good reason, just look at this beauty!

Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales
Puffin classics

This edition of the classic fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen (including The Little Mermaid, Thumbelina, and The Emperor's New Clothes) is a decade old, and is actually part of the first series of classics I started collecting when I moved to the UK and started building a brand-new library of books (as all my childhood ones are still in my parents' place). I now have a beautiful rainbow shelf full that brings me joy every time I see it. As this is an older series, these exact editions may be a little harder to find, but you do still come across them every once in a while in the major bookshops (and, of course, second-hand). Puffin has since released the books in various other editions, all with equally delightful covers, so whichever you end up going for, you won't be disappointed.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I have a confession to make. I only read my first Agatha Christie a few years ago, and it was because of the Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express. I loved the twisty-turny murder mystery where everyone was a suspect and there were more red herrings than characters. It has hooked me on Christie novels, and I've read a fair few since. This is still my favourite though, both for the story and the stunning special edition released by HarperCollins to celebrate the film. Here's hoping they'll continue rereleasing her books in the same style so I can build my collection.

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter
Virago (VMC Designer Collection)

On the topic of confessions: raise your hand if you've ever bought a book just because it's so darn pretty. Yup, me too. I've had this edition of The Magic Toyshop for at least five years and it has not moved up a single inch on my TBR. That doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed it throughout those years though. It's positioned on eye-level on my book shelves and every once in a while I admire it's sheer beauty – and remind myself to read it. One day...

Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Puffin in Bloom

I don't think Heidi is super well known in the UK, but in the Netherlands (and other Germanic countries in that part of the world) it's a staple of growing up. I read the books and watched the TV-shows and movies. When I reread the book for the first time in several decades last year I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for the spunky protagonist, clear mountain air, grumpy but caring grandfather, and Peter's cheeky goats. It's a classic for a reason, this one. This beautiful edition is part of the Puffin in Bloom series, which shines a spotlight on fantastic girl leads, such as Anne Shirley from Anne of of Green Gables and the March Sisters from Little Women.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
V&A Children's Classics

Have I ever read the book? I'm not sure. But did I watch the 1995 movie over and over again? Hell yeah. Hands up if you're a fellow 90s kid who remembers this iconic though rather bizarre tale of a group of friends made up of a mole, rat, and badger? Oh and there's a toad obsessed with motorised vehicles. Suuuuure. I still don't know what the actual plot of the movie was, I just vividly remember the characters and feel I should probably read the book at some stage to actually know what was going on when I watched the film all those years ago.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Bloomsbury (20th Anniversary House Edition)

I have more different editions of the Harry Potter books than I should probably admit to. Growing up I bought the first editions in Dutch as they came out (hardback first for the latter novels), and English when they became available in the Netherlands, and I also collected them in other languages as I thought it'd be a good way to learn that language. Because of course knowing how to say Hogwarts or Quidditch in Italian would be a valuable life-skill to have... Anyway, should I even still explain what these books are about? And orphaned, bespectacled boy with a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead discovers he's a wizard with the power to bring down the evilest baddy in the history of evil. I'm Gryffindor (and proud), so when the House editions came out, 20 years after the original release because we're all old now, I of course had to show off my colours.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle 
Penguin Clothbound Classics

When we talk about beautiful collectible editions of books, the Penguin Books clothbound editions are probably what started it all for many book lovers. They're 12 years old now and the iconic covers by designer Coralie Bickford-Smith are the gateway to classics from all the literary greats; Austen, Hardy, Wagner. You name a classic and it probably exists in an edition specially designed for this series. Sherlock Holmes is one of those series where I've read some stories, and I've seen a LOT of TV shows and movies, but I don't think I ever read the complete collection. I received this beautiful edition for my birthday last year and still have not finished it (and my birthday is coming up again in just a few weeks, oops). So here's my resolution for 2020 (and you can keep me accountable): read the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories.

What classics would you love to (re)read this winter? And are there any beautiful editions you collect? Leave your recommendations in the comments below!

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