Clear your coffee tables — the holidays are upon us, and with them a tidal wave of art and illustrated books suitable for living-room display. Here are some that would look great on anybody's coffee table, including your own.
Could Junot Diaz's last story collection — one of Newsday's Best Books of 2012 — possibly be improved upon? Well, yes, actually. The deluxe edition of "This Is How You Lose Her" (Riverhead, $40) features illustrations by brilliant comics artist Jaime Hernandez of "Love and Rockets" fame — a pairing so natural that you wonder why nobody thought of it before. Hernandez gives Diaz's unhappy lovers — Yunior, Nilda, Miss Lora, et al. — a simple, powerful intensity.
Photographer Brandon Stanton started shooting strangers on the streets of New York for his blog, humansofnewyork.com. Stanton's vibrant portraits — accompanied by short interviews with the subjects — were a huge online hit, and now his book, "Humans of New York" (St. Martin's Press, $29.99), is a runaway feel-good best-seller. He presents a delightful cross-section of New Yorkers going about their diverse lives — none of them too busy to stop and smile for the camera.
What an ironic title. In "The Great War" (W.W. Norton & Co., $35), cartoonist Joe Sacco chronicles the carnage on the first day of the World War I Battle of the Somme (July 1, 1916) in an accordion-fold panorama that opens to a length of 24 feet. Without the aid of words or thought bubbles, we see the amassing of troops and ammunitions and then the horrific unfolding of the day's conflict, which left a staggering 21,000 British casualties.
Prepare to be seduced by "The Libertine: The Art of Love in Eighteenth-Century France" (Abbeville Press, $125), a swoon-worthy tome that celebrates the French practice of amour. Editor Michel Delon matches lusty passages from "Candide" and "Dangerous Liaisons" to paintings by Fragonard and Watteau, a parade of frolicking lovers gorgeously reproduced.
If you're not already a fan of Tintin — the intrepid boy reporter created by Belgian cartoonist Herge in 1929 — feel free to read on. "Tintin: The Art of Herge" (Abrams ComicArts, $45) is for completists only, but fans of this strip tend to fall into that category. The book collects ephemera from the archives of the Herge Museum in Brussels, including collectibles, sketches, original plates and photos of the artist, his studio and his fans.
In 2007, the photographs of Vivian Maier were discovered at a thrift auction house in Chicago. From the 1950s on, this unassuming nanny shot thousands of street pictures in New York and Chicago — work that was never appreciated or published in her lifetime. "Vivian Maier: Street Photographer" collected the best of those pictures; now "Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits" (PowerHouse, $50) isolates the ones where the enigmatic Maier herself appears, reflected.
The poor, humble pizza box is lucky if it gets recycled — otherwise it's destined for the garbage heap. That's why it's such a delightful surprise to stumble on "Viva la Pizza: The Art of the Pizza Box" (Melville House, $22.95), in which Scott Wiener — the founder of Scott's Pizza Tours in New York — presents the many iterations of this everyday workhorse, decorated with mustachioed chefs, the Roman Colosseum and even Sophia Loren.
American Standard commissioned one. So did IBM, Singer sewing machines and Coca-Cola. During the 1950s, '60s and '70s, American corporations mounted elaborate musical theater entertainments for their sales conventions — shows with surprisingly catchy songs about the products and consumers (some written by real songwriters like Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock, who'd go on to create "Fiddler on the Roof"). In "Everything's Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of Industrial Musicals" (Blast Books, $39.95), co-authors Steve Young and Sport Murphy pull back the curtain on these ridiculous — and ridiculously enjoyable — productions.
Everybody has a Beatles fan in their life, and you'll make them very happy if you give them a copy of "All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release" (Black Dog & Leventhal, $50), an encyclopedic guide to — well, every single record. Here is the backstory on how the Fab Four's catalog was written, performed, recorded and received, from "Please Please Me" all the way to "The Long and Winding Road."
Cinephiles have been glued to the Turner Classic Movies channel on Mondays and Tuesdays this fall to watch Mark Cousins' 15-part documentary about the history of the movies. Now a companion book, "The Story of Film" (Pavilion, $34.95), hits bookstores in time for the holiday season. Cousins draws intriguing connections between directors who influenced one another visually, and gives well-deserved attention to Indian and Middle Eastern cinema.
With the 150th anniversary of The Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address, it's been a big year of Civil War remembrances — and books. One of the standouts has to be "Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection" (Smithsonian Books, $40), which presents more than 500 objects from 13 museums and archives — including photographs, Union and Confederate uniforms, weaponry, money, mobile printing presses and more.
Art is where you find it — and not just on the walls of museums and galleries. A beautiful new coffee-table book, "Art & Place: Site Specific Art of the Americas" (Phaidon, $79.95) surveys the many works of art — from sculptures to installations to murals — that were designed for indoor and outdoor locations throughout North, Central and South America. Dan Flavin's fluorescent tube sculptures in Bridgehampton are here, along with several field trips' worth of art in New York City alone.