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  • Last chance: Check out these gift books

  • Every year at this time, in the name of compiling this gift guide, I put family and friends around an imaginary table and match them up with books.
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  • Every year at this time, in the name of compiling this gift guide, I put family and friends around an imaginary table and match them up with books.
    Hope you can find something for yourself, a loved one or a friend that's in your price range among this year's selections.
    • "The Power of Trees," by Gretchen C. Daily & Charles Katz Jr. (Trinity University Press, $10.95). This compact book has a powerful message — just how integral trees are to the world's biological systems. The understated black and white photographs by Charles Katz Jr. were taken on a walk along the Skagit River. Gretchen C. Daily is a professor of environmental science at Stanford.
    • "Portlandia: A Guide for Visitors," by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein(Grand Central Publishing, $16.99). A guffaw-inducing spin-off the hilarious television series, the perfect gift for anyone from Portland, living in Portland or thinking about moving to Portland. Think again!
    • "My Ideal Bookshelf," art by Jane Mount, edited by Thessaly La Force (Little, Brown, $24.99). A delightful collection of essays by all kinds of writers — Junot Diaz, Jennifer Egan, Stephenie Meyer, Patti Smith — about the most cherished and influential books on their shelves, each accompanied by a whimsical drawing by Mount.
    • "A Washington Irving Treasury: Rip Van Winkle, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Old Christmas," by Washington Irving(Universe, $34.95). For the book collector: A slipcased set of three beautiful facsimile reproductions of stories by Irving, one of America's earliest popular writers. The illustrations (by Arthur Rackham for "Rip Van Winkle," N.C. Wyeth for "Sleepy Hollow" and R. Caldicott for "Old Christmas") are charming ... and scary.
    • "Engineers: From the Great Pyramids to the Pioneers of Space Travel," edited by Adam Hart-Davis (DK Publishing, $40). There are a lot of engineers in the world, but how many groundbreaking engineers can you name? How about Joseph Bazalgette, the pioneering creator of the modern sewage network, the man who helped clean up the Thames? You laugh, but imagine life without him.
    • "America's Other Audubon," by Joy M. Kiser (Princeton Architectural Press, $45). This beautiful volume tells a tragic story — of Genevieve Jones, an amateur Ohio naturalist determined to create a reference work by creating images (through lithography and painting) of the nests and eggs that John James Audubon often left out of his paintings. After completing five, she died suddenly in 1879 of typhoid fever, but her family pressed on and published the work — only 90 copies. Author Joy M. Kiser, now a federal librarian, resurrected Jones' story through this book. The paintings — mostly of nests and eggs, not birds — are delicate and exquisite.
    • "Natural Histories: Extraordinary Rare Book Selections from the American Museum of Natural History Library," edited by Tom Baione (Sterling, $50). A treasure trove. This boxed set includes a book of 40 essays by experts in the natural-history field, each about a rare illustrated tome. Richard Ellis kicks things off with an essay on the 16th century's Historia animalium by Conrade Gessner, considered the beginning of modern zoology. Interesting stuff, but the icing on the cake is the 40 high-quality, frameable prints that reproduce some of the best art.
    • "Civil War Sketch Book: Drawings from the Battlefront," by Harry L. Katz and Vincent Virga, preface by Alan Brinkley (Norton, $50). The reporter-artists who drew illustrations for the Civil War era's newspapers are some of the unsung heroes of the conflict. This book ably showcases the work of these journalists, who kept going during under horrifying conditions. .
    • "More Than Human," by Tim Flach (Abrams, $65). Flach is the photographer who produced the beautiful photos in "Equus" and "Dogs." Now he takes the entire animal kingdom as his subjects — from sea horses to pandas, from the parent-child love of chimpanzees to the grotesquerie of a rooster bred to be featherless, these photos will delight, disturb and make you reconsider your relationship with animals.
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