The Very Best Holiday Books to Read with Kids

As you might have noticed, we have a few kiddos between our two families, and our children's reading lives are very important to us. With all the holiday reading happening with the adults, we have been really intentional to carry the seasonal magic into our kids' books as well. Over the years we've cultivated a few favorites for all ages, both classic and contemporary. 

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Little ones

The Polar Express | Chris Van Allsburg- Such a treasured classic book for the holiday season, perfect to follow up with hot cocoa and the movie! Our children adore this one.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas | Clement Clarke Moore- A classic poem, with modern illustrations that still feel true to it's timeless nature. We read this one every year and I love it more and more each year.

Walk This World at Christmastime | Debbie Powell- This is an ultra modern, colorful explosion of a book, filled with little opening doors (my son is OBSESSED with these) and takes a look at how the holidays are celebrated around the world and in different cultures. 

Bear Stays Up For Christmas | Karma Wilson- Really, the whole series of Bear books are adorable, but this one has a particularly sweet message about friendship and giving during the holidays. Plus, you get a little peek at St. Nick! 

The Nutcracker | New York City Ballet- If going to see the Nutcracker is a beloved tradition for your family (it was in mine!) you'll love this book put out by the New York City Ballet. Fluid, modern illustrations mimic the choreography of the ballet accompany the classic text. 

Olive, the Other Reindeer | Vivian Walsh- A really humorous twist on the Rudolph story, Olive is a dog who thinks she should be one of Santa's reindeer, with zany and endearing results. 

The Twelve Days of Christmas | Alison Jay- The classic song, in book form, with the best illustrations I've found. Need I say more? It's a truly beautiful version, and a favorite in our house.

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Bigger kids

A Christmas Carol | Charles Dickens - For the middle grade readers, or to read aloud, classic seasonal, holiday novels are never a disappointment. We love this edition for extra little ones and this coloring book too!

Miracle on 34th Street | Valentine Davies - This is hands down, one of my very favorite holiday books and films to read and watch. A charming, warm story to enjoy with your children.

The Children's Christmas Carol | Johanna Spyri - We all know Spyri as the author of Heidi. She also has this classical story that will sweep you off to the Swiss mountains, in it's equally rich and charming prose about a mother and her two kids.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus | L. Frank Baum - My son and I were able to buddy read this one, it's an imaginative, well told story that is so perfect for this holiday season!

The Night Before Christmas | Nikolai Gogol - This is a unique, yet classic Russian tale with a bit of a dark twist and a love story. It's common tradition in Ukraine and Russia, to read this aloud on Christmas Eve.

What books do you love to read to your kids during the holidays? We'd love to expand our libraries!

Quality vs. Quantity in Books
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We moved over the summer, and if you follow us at all, you'll know that I had BIG beautiful built-in shelves floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall. They held ALL THE BOOKS and I had them packed full. Moving meant doing some serious downsizing. It was a struggle at first, but now that I have a smaller set of shelves (until we build new ones), and we're finally settled into our new home, I've thought a lot about what's on them. 

My bookshelves are one of the first things people see when walking into our house, and I love to see people walk up to them and scan through the titles. This scrutiny has made me hyper-aware of what they're seeing and how my books represent me. The more I scour my shelves, the more mindful I become about what I keep there.

This fresh awareness has made me very, very careful about what I buy. The best part, is that when I do find a book that's exactly what I want, I feel NO guilt about purchasing it AND paying a bit more to support our local stores, which is so important to me. Buying books less frequently (and using the library more!) means my book budget has a lot more wiggle room for those few extra dollars it takes to choose indie bookstores over big box stores.

I absolutely love seeing my favorite books on my shelves; rows and rows of books I truly love, classics I can't wait to read, and vintage books that make me so happy. There's simply something to be said about having things that bring joy, and 95% of the books on my shelves do just that. Michaela was actually a huge factor in this concept, even before we moved. She owns rather specific editions of classic novels she loves, has read, and hopes to read some day. She never just grabs any book, she hunts down EXACTLY what she wants, and she has a carefully curated and beloved collection because of it.

So, as we approach the holiday season, I'm thinking even more about my children's bookshelves and what I plan to buy for them this Christmas, because they are the ones I buy books for the most. I'm also thinking of dear friends and the family members I have that would enjoy a good book (always my number one gift choice for anyone). I want my kids to learn to think carefully about the books they purchase, and I want to keep prioritizing being able to afford to support our local bookstores.

Not only do I find the best book recommendations (even some written by local authors, which is so fun), but also bookish gifts that sometimes you just don't find anywhere else. All of this is to say, if you can support other families this season, why not?! I love getting to meet the people at bookstores, pet the store cats, and browse actual books instead of browsing online. So friends, #shoplocal this season every chance you get. Support their dream of owning that shop. Support their families. Feel good about what you buy and what you gift with the best of intentions. 

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

Holiday Book Pairings

You all know we generally do book lists and book flights to fit each season, but since the holiday season is so packed and busy, we thought we'd just do book pairings with some classic holiday stories! Bonus: a lot of these are short stories and the perfect size to sneak into your December TBR!

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*some links are affiliate, we deeply appreciate your support

A Christmas Classic

Start with the most classic of all classic Christmas stories: A Christmas Carol. After you've spent 100 pages in Dickens' holiday wonderland, learning the true meaning of Christmas with Mr. Scrooge, pick up Mr. Dickens and His Carol for a great imagined look at how this masterpiece of a story came to be.

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Nutcracker Magic

We've probably all seen the ballet at some time or another; maybe it's even a beloved family tradition for you (my best friend always danced in our home town's production!), but have you read the text it's based on? Pick it up and get acquainted with the original short story before you move to Maguire's retelling. Maguire is, of course, famous for his fairytale retellings, and reframes the story of the nutcracker by focusing on Drosselmayer, the godfather who gives Clara the nutcracker. This is on our own TBR this month, but we've heard great things from readers we trust! 

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A touch of holiday weirdness

I paired these two because they're both a little odd, in the best way. Gogol is a really popular Russian author, and his story of the Devil and the blacksmith in love with the same girl is a pretty famous one. The two lovers compete for her affections on Christmas Eve, and the story is a little dark and a little humorous and a lot different. Capote's short story A Christmas Memory is much warmer and realistic, but still has that very offbeat, quirky tone  to it that all his writing does, especially compared to most Christmas tales. I think if you're looking for something other than the standard fare this year, these two will do it for you. 

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The real santa claus

Both of these focus on Santa Claus himself, rather than Christmas as a tradition or a feeling. Baum tells the story of Santa Claus, starting with his childhood, and details how he became the Jolly Old Elf sneaking down your chimney each December 25th, while Tolkien compiled his own letters to his children "from Santa" wherein Santa regales them with tales of the year he had, including wars between magical creatures, disaster-prone polar bears, and reindeer on the loose. Both of them are just utterly inventive, charming little books. 

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Christmas Mysteries

If you just need a trusty cozy mystery, give Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a chance with their most famous detectives solving mysteries at Christmastime. A simple and satisfying way to get some holiday cheer into your reading life!

 

What holiday books would you pair? We'd love to hear!

 

Bookish Stocking Stuffers That Aren't Junk

I don't know about you guys, but stockings were my absolute favorite part of Christmas growing up. As an adult, it's less fun since I'm the one doing the stocking filling, but there have been such amazing little gifts cropping up lately! We rounded up a bunch of options that would be perfect to tuck into the stocking of any kid or adult who is a bit bookish. Also, if you missed it, check out our main gift guide for the readers in your life! 

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*some links are affiliate, and we deeply appreciate your support!

If you have someone who listens to audiobooks out loud, these speakers might come in handy. A great pair of earbuds (these are the ones I have) would do the trick as well!

My son would absolutely love this illuminated bookmark, and if that's not quite your thing, these lovely wooden bookmarks are certainly gift worthy! 

A tin of book darts would definitely be appreciated by any serious reader.

Enamel pins are really trendy right now, and while there are some monstrosities out there, these are really pretty.

How fun are these Harry Potter inspired bath bombs? Bonus points if you know which book it references!

Let them carry their favorite book around with them in spirit at all times.

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What about a perfect pack of pencils? Ideal for journaling, underlining in books, and looking gorgeous on desks!

It's a cliché, but you can't go wrong with a great, fun pair of socks.

These are some of my favorite things to stick in adult stockings; they're hilarious (and useful!).

Modern bookplates for kids or adults are great additions to anyone's book collection. These are my favorite!

A little $$ on a gift card to your favorite local bookstore! This is ours!

Or grab a bag of your favorite local coffee. Trust us, readers seem to love their caffeine, and a bag of beans fits nicely into a stocking!

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What's your favorite thing to fill stockings with? We are prepping our holiday shopping lists and would love to hear!

Cheers to the Weekend 12.01.17

Exciting articles, inspiring Instagrammers, and other fun stuff worth sharing!

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Around The Web

The season of being thankful doesn't end with Thanksgiving, we're stretching it out all throughout the year with these fabulous book choices. From the ones we picked up, my daughter really enjoyed this one.

I could look at this list of the most beautiful libraries all day long. Oh to be in those places! Have you been to any of them?

This made me genuinely laugh out loud and cringe at the same time. The award for the worst written sex scene in literature this year goes to....

We would LOVE to experience this holiday tradition for ourselves someday!

 

Instagram

Sushma has a lovely view of our beloved Seattle, but made even better with a good book in front of it!

Such beautiful flat lays and book choices. She talks about books in the kind of way you just want to chat with your friend.

With down to earth lifestyle vibes, Kate has a warm cozy feed you can't help but enjoy.

A fellow photography and book lover, Marta has a great cohesive show of books and the outdoors.

 

Cheers!

Wrap Up | November 2017
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Michaela

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay | Elena Ferrante- This book broke my miserable, weeks long reading slump, and I took my sweet, sweet time savoring it. This entire series is just amazing, and deceptively spare. There is an incredible amount of nuance and layer in the quartet, and the further I read the more intense it gets. What can I say that hasn't already been said about these books? If you like truly literary books, without the flowery writing style, pick this one up. The characters are created so vividly, the world they inhabit and their dynamics and struggles and thoughts on life are so real...I don't know what else to say except this series is going to stay with me for a very long time.

Also...I'm literally halfway through Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, Doomsday Book, All Our Wrong Todays AND Their Eyes Were Watching God...but I keep skipping around between them and haven't actually finished any of them. Reviews coming next month for those!

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Graphic Novels

Real Friends | Shannon Hale- A memoir about what it's like to be in and out of the "popular" girls group in elementary school. A great look at those dynamics and whats going on beneath the surface. I think most of us women have had some kind of experience with "those girls" whether you were in, out, or somewhere in between, so it was refreshing to see it laid out on the page. 

Nimona | Noelle Stevenson- Ahhhhhh I loved this one so much! This story spins classic fairytale and superhero narratives into a topsy turvy sassy bundle of delight. I sincerely just adored the characters in this, and it was just a really solid, fun read. 

Blankets | Craig Thompson- This is the closest thing I've read to This One Summer, which is my benchmark for a solid graphic novel, and though it was more adult and a little more complex, I didn't love it quite as much and I can't put my finger on why. I did enjoy it though, and feel like it was important to read to get kind of a foundation in the graphic novel genre. 

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Rikki

A Study in Charlotte | Brittany CavallaroThis was my up-late-with-the-baby read, which had me enthralled and read within just a couple of days. Very reminiscent of The Secret History, this book was a very fun campus read. Parts of the story were a bit corny with the references to Sherlock Holmes and various other parts, but it was fun nonetheless. I also didn't realize through the first half of the book that the characters were mid-teens, the story read much older for what it was.

Practical Magic | Alice HoffmanHoffman does a brilliant job with painting a picture. Full of descriptive details and light touches of magic, this was a fun story perfect for the current season. There were a few parts that dragged on for me, some repetitive details, but overall, it was most enjoyable. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God | Zora Neale HurstonThis book is certainly one of a kind. It takes a bit to get into, as Hurston brilliantly writes with an old time Southern dialect in this character-driven novel. If you've spent any time in the south, it shouldn't be too challenging to get, but listening to it on audio might serve you better if not. There's no denying how uniquely and brilliantly written this story is, but overall, I can't say I loved it. I also can't really explain what I loved or didn't love, just that it was like reading someone's story (through dialogue) about the interesting/uninteresting facets of their lives. The end. 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | J.K. RowlingI quite enjoyed book 3, but I couldn't put down book 4. Constantly living in Hogwarts land in my mind, I flew through the book in just a couple of days and found myself aching to watch the films. These stories sure are incredible! I'm so glad I've finally committed to reading them.

The Boys in the Boat | Daniel James BrownWhat I love most about this book, is knowing that Olympic rower, Joe Rantz, and Olympic runner, Louis Zamperini (whose story is beautifully told by Lauren Hillenbrand in Unbroken), were on the very same boat from America to Europe, to participate in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This was an exceptional historical non-fiction story that my son and I buddy read for this month. 

When Hilter Stole Pink Rabbit | Judith KerrOne of the lightest stories of a Jewish childhood during WW2. Although, it is semi-autobiographical, Kerr's life is quite fascinating beyond just these pages. This was an incredibly fun, middle grade story of one fortunate family that essentially escaped Hitler's wrath, and instead found themselves being world travelers and learning a completelynew and often difficult lifestyle. The definition of family and togetherness is imminent here, and wonderful to see them persist through the story.

 

Featured Reviewer

Jenna | @jennareadsbooks

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Hi! I’m Jenna. I’m a 20-something performance auditor living in Washington. I went to grad school for math in Utah and I’m from Kentucky originally so the Pacific Northwest rain is new to me, but it makes for perfect reading weather! 

I’ve always been a huge reader. My old neighbor still makes fun of me for bringing home stacks of books that I would have to balance under my chin from the library as a kid. Now that I’m out of grad school, I’ve had more time to read for pleasure and love sharing book recommendations on bookstagram. Thanks to Michaela and Rikki for letting me share my top books of last month!

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Bird Box | Josh Malerman- My sell for this book is going to be a bit different than telling you the description. I’ll tell you that it’s scary and thrilling and not my usual genre but I read it in a day. My non-traditional sell is telling you about my boyfriend’s reaction to this book. My boyfriend does not read books that are total fiction. I challenged him to read the first five chapters of this book, and he ended up staying up til 2 AMreading the whole thing in one sitting. This is a book for everyone who doesn’t mind being scared. Make sure to read it with the blinds closed.

The Changeling | Victor LaValle- I’m not typically a big reader of scary books, but apparently this was the month for multiple! This book surprised me so much. The writing is literary and the prose is easy to read and beautiful at the same time. It’s also poignant and describes parenting in the modern age accurately and interestingly. The story incorporates a take on classic folklore and makes it new and scary and it works so well. I’m definitely going to be reading more from this author.

Ginny Moon | Benjamin Ludwig- I loved this book so much. The story is told from Ginny’s perspective. She’s a 14 year old girl on the autism spectrum. She lives with her adoptive “forever parents” in what should be her forever home. However, Ginny gets herself into trouble trying to get her baby doll back from her birth mom. I was rooting for Ginny throughout this entire heartwarming book. She’s painfully naive, genuinely sweet, and instantly likable. She made me very anxious so I had to read it quickly to find out what happened! If you liked The Rosie Project or Atypical on Netflix, or if you just want a heartwarming story about an autistic girl trying to figure out where she belongs, this is a book for you!

OTHER NOTES

We have so many exciting things happening around here this month!

We know holiday shopping is in full swing now, so we've got a great bookish gift guide and a guide for the young readers in your life up, plus a few more gift guides headed your way soon!

Have you entered our giveaway over on instagram? We teamed up with our favorite #badassbookbabes to give one lucky reader 7 amazing new books!

We're also hosting a holiday book exchange, so check out this post if you'd like to give and receive a book this month; we already have about 60 people participating, so come join the fun!

*some links are affiliate, we deeply appreciate your support

The Ardent Biblio's Holiday Book Exchange
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Welcome to our first annual holiday book exchange! We've shared plenty of gift guides with goodies for loved ones, but now it's time for YOU to receive a gift!

In the spirit of giving, we'd love to have people who are genuinely interested in SENDING and RECEIVING a book just in time for Christmas. It doesn't take much time, but sending a little something special to a fellow reader is a great way to celebrate this season of giving.

  • If you'd like to participate in this Secret-Santa style exchange you can either message us your name and address over on Instagram, or shoot us an email with your info at theardentbiblio@gmail.com before 11:59 on Thursday, Dec 7th. US residents only this time, please!
  • We'll add your details to a list with everyone else (all information remains completely private), put it through a random generator on Dec 8th and send you the name and address of a fellow reader!
  • Feel free to secretly browse their Instagram and/or Goodreads accounts to get a feel for what they might like (or simply send YOUR favorite their way), wrap it up, and get it in the mail before the Post Office gets packed! Trust us, it's better to NOT put this one off. The lines at the post office Christmas eve of 2012 still haunt me.....
  • Your book choice can be new or used, sourced from wherever you like to get books, and just spend whatever you're comfortable with (though keep it reasonable, there shouldn't be any reason you need to exceed $20-ish). Feel free to tuck in any extras, or not; it's totally up to you! 
  • You can also share what you receive with the hashtag #ArdentBiblioExchange2017 over on Instagram!
  • Our hope is that you get a great new read AND a great new friend!

Interested? Let's do this!

A Gift Guide For The Young Readers In Your Life
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Between our two families we currently have four children, from newborn to thirteen (plus nieces and nephews galore). We really prioritize our kids having their own reading lives, and have been encouraging that in any way we can from their earliest days, so we use the holidays as yet another opportunity for us to incorporate the magic of reading into their lives. We firmly believe the bookish gift giving isn't just for adults, and that the kids in your life will be delighted to find any of these under the tree! 

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*some links are affiliate, we deeply appreciate your support!

 

Babies and Toddlers

Want to introduce classic literature to your 10 month old? No problem

Give your toddler their own reading chair to explore books in, and encourage that reading time.

How amazing would these be in a nursery?

This is my very favorite version of a timeless holiday classic. We've read this every December since my son was born, and the illustrations still delight me. 

How about some bright, bookish toy storage?

Our kids have these books, and they absolutely love them. The personalization of them is really unique, and would make a perfect gift.

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Kids

My 4 year old, after devouring all the Elephant and Piggie books, was bereft that there were no more until we found this series at the library last week. He's definitely getting more for Christmas!

So many pop-up books are too simplistic for kids who are past toddlerhood, but these are amazing. We have every single one in the series and they are all super informative, while having tons of bells and whistles for kids to manipulate. 

Nothing delights our kids more than getting mail, and magazine subscriptions have been a big hit! We like Ranger Rick four our younger kiddos and Muse for the older ones.

How about some super adorable bookmarks?

Book lights are such a big hit with our kids!

I love to send my favorite classics to my nieces. The options are endless!

Kids love getting mail, so order them up a subscription box and help build up their library! Plus use the code ARDENT15 for 15% off 

Have you considered a kid's tote bag so they can have their very own library book bag?

A reading journal just for kids is perfect for the dedicated little bookworm. Our younger kids aren't allowed phones or devices quite yet, so paper is the way to go!

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Teens

Keepsake classic novels in beautiful editions are always the perfect gift. The best part is that there are so many to choose from! Teenagers are the best to buy classics for because they are old enough for most of the really good ones :)

A clean, modern bookmark they'll love, or pick a fandom, any fandom.

Or stick to the original and get any piece of Harry Potter decor they could ever want! 

A custom book plate stamp, so they can lend their books out and actually get them back, for once.

Book flags are so great, my kids love to mark pages to later share with me.

Give them the gift of a fun bookish subscription box-- these are sincerely so fun.

Got a tech obsessed teen? Try our favorite e-reader!

 

We hope this helped! What are you getting the young readers in your life this year? 

Literary Lifestyle Photo Prompts | December
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December inevitably encompasses our gloomy vibes here in the Pacific Northwest. From our short days covered in dark gray clouds, to the Christmas lights strung up to bring in some cheer, it's a powerful month of family, togetherness, and warm seasonal books. December marks one year since we began participating in photo prompts on Bookstagram, and we haven't looked back since. Last year was also a great one for us, as we relished in a handful of phenomenal classics, the start of our literary dinners, and copious amounts of time together that kicked off all that The Ardent Biblio has become.

We hope you will join us for yet another great month of literary lifestyle photo prompts. We hope you've noticed that as we progress we have been leaving each prompt open to more interpretation in order to fit what suits your reading life and whatever creative flow you're feeling for that day. And if you're like us, sometimes it's even easier to keep a day ahead if you're invested in getting each photo in for the month, especially with the shorter light offered during the day. Be sure to check out our photography tips for some inspiration if you need some. Sometimes the days are just too busy, and we totally get it! Don't feel bad about planning ahead or missing some days, just jump in and join us whenever you can!

Thank you, friends, for being a part of our little community here. We love connecting with so many readers and those who value the beauty and importance of a literary lifestyle. We aim to make reading a social hobby, and hearing from you continues to motivate us. We hope you'll join us, whenever you can, on our prompts, found on Instagram under #TheArdentBiblioReads.

Be sure to use the hashtag #TheArdentBiblioReads and tag us at @theardentbiblio on Instagram! We cannot wait to see what you come up with!

Looking for inspiration? Be sure to check back at the end of the month for the final gallery. By the way, have you seen MarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctober, and November?!

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Cheers to the Weekend 11.24.17

Exciting articles, inspiring Instagrammers, and other fun stuff worth sharing!

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We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and enjoyed time relaxing with family or indulging in whatever traditions you love best! Did you guys do any Black Friday shopping? We avoided actual stores like the plague, but both picked up a couple things online (bless you, internet). Both of us love Thanksgiving, but now that it's past, it's full steam ahead for Christmas. The Ardent Biblio is going to be full of gift guides, cozy books, and holiday vibes heading into December, so keep an eye out! 

 

Around The Web

You know how much we love cocktail + book pairings! Thank goodness others are catching on!

Plus check out these foodie books to pair with holiday meal prep.

Thanksgiving is over and officially time for Christmas music!

Did you check out our gift guide? We promise no ugly "bookish" items, just awesome stuff to enhance anyone's reading life.

 

Instagram

Liisa has wonderful taste in books and takes some gorgeous photos!

If you need some bookish photography inspiration, check this out.

RaeAnna takes the most lovely literary lifestyle shots. 

 

Cheers!