Luxury Christmas: Shelf expression

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’Tis the season to be jolly, and any of these lavish books will put a smile on a cartoon lover’s face, writes Rory Ford

Ironically there can be few things as depressing as trawling through the array of humour books published to capitalise on the Christmas gift market.

Hastily written memoirs by stand-up comedians, novelty adult parodies of Ladybird books and absolutely anything by Jeremy Clarkson are – at best – ultimately destined for the nearest charity shop, if not landfill.

However, there are genuinely funny – and beautifully produced – books out there for all ages that are bound to be treasured for years if you’re prepared to look a little harder and spend a little more. The Complete Far Side (RRP £70, paperback) is an enormous collection of more than 4,000 cartoons by the masterful Gary Larson, complete with an introduction by Steve Martin.

At 1,300 pages, Jeff Smith’s Bone: One Volume Edition (RRP £29.99, paperback) is similarly hefty, but offers a complete epic which can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Named as one of the ten greatest graphic novels of all time by Time Magazine, Smith combines the narrative sweep of Lord of the Rings with the charm of Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics as three innocent creatures lost far from home make new friends and encounter dangerous enemies.

Although originally published in black and white there’s also a slipcased hardcover colour version available at over £100.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes (RRP £70) collects the entire 11-year run of Bill Watterson’s magnificently funny and touching newspaper serial about the adventures of a little boy and his stuffed tiger.

Arguably the greatest newspaper cartoon strip of all time, it is also one of the most perceptive series ever written about childhood and this lavish edition does full justice to its superb draughtsmanship.

Watterson was following in the footsteps of a master, of course, and Celebrating Peanuts: 65 Years (RRP £30, paperback) is a collection of some of Charles M. Schulz’s best-loved cartoons arranged by decade and presented with commentary to provide historical context.

Even important cartoonists are generally ill-served by biographies, but Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis (RRP £12.99) is a glorious exception which embraces its subjects flaws and shows how the artist used his strip as an ongoing autobiography.

And the 60th anniversary edition of Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (RRP £14.99) has to be mentioned. It comes complete with a foiled slipcase and new introduction making it perfect for children of all ages.