I believe that everyone ought to have some knowledge of classic literature, even if it's just one novel that you really cherish. I also think aesthetically pleasing hardcover books make terrific presents. Thus, giving a beautiful hardcover classic should be your next gifting venture (that was the thesis statement of this post, by the way).
One of my favorite classics is Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. When I was reading it for a women's lit class last year, I saw that one girl in my class had the illustrated edition by Dame Darcy. I died of jealousy. This particular version of Jane Eyre has faced quite to barrage of criticism, generally the question of why a classic, highly praised work needs to be bastardized and popularized by someone else's craft. Some folks think Darcy is taking advantage of a long aged piece and making fast cash on it. While this all may be valid, I love the idea of inviting a classic into the modern age and proving its timelessness by giving it a makeover. Call me shallow if you will, but I would love this as a gift.
If you like the idea of visually updated classics that aren't illustrated all the way through, look into White's Books. Available online at Waterstone's, artist David Pearson opened his own publishing house to create beautiful, modern jackets for old favorites. There are only a few titles available at a time so you've got to act fast if you see one you like. This Jane Eyre to the left is just one of several for sale right now, and I have to tell you, I would have been much more excited to show up to class if I had this edition in my hands.
Pearson doesn't only produce Bronte novels. White's Books
covers the classics from Austin to Dickens to Doyle. How amazing is this Sherlock Holmes? Not to encourage socialized gender stereotypes, but that pipe is pretty sweet, and I think a boy would feel dangerously dapper carrying this novel around under his arm.
One last suggestion. Say you have a friend who's a Jane Austen fan but has already exhausted their knowledge of her stuff. Or even more likely, your friend just isn't into classics. Or reading in general. The Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Series caters to scholars and slackers alike. Seth Grahame Smith took the Austen classic and nearly seamlessly turned into a story about socialites battling hoards of zombies. Awesome, right? P&P&Z actually did quite well on the shelves last year and is slated to become a Natalie Portman flick in the upcoming months. If this interests you, please don't overlook Smith's second project, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, which came out just a couple months ago.
If I've missed any crucial stuff, please remember to yell at me in the comments. Happy reading!