Coffee table gift books for young and old
The e-book revolution is all well and good, but you wouldn't display a Kindle on your coffee table, would you? When it comes to lavish, oversized photo and art books, we'll take an old-fashioned, printed book, thank you. Plus they make great gifts. Here are 13 of our favorites this season — something for everyone on your shopping list.
Just in case the continuous daily feed of all things Gaga doesn't keep you satisfied, there's "Lady Gaga X Terry Richardson" (Grand Central, $50), in which the omnipresent pop star du jour is followed for one year by the edgy fashion photographer known for his Marc Jacobs ad campaigns. Here's Gaga at Lollapalooza; Gaga being draped in her notorious meat "dress" for the MTV Video Awards; Gaga in private jets and limos; even Gaga working out.
William Steig is probably best remembered as the creator of "Shrek." But the prolific artist, who died in 2003, wrote numerous children's books and drew cartoons and covers for The New Yorker magazine for seven decades. "Cats, Dogs, Men, Women, Ninnies & Clowns: The Lost Art of William Steig" (Abrams ComicArts, $40), compiled by his widow, Jeanne, presents more than 450 unpublished cartoons — allowing us to revel again in Steig's misshapen, oddball and endearing creatures. With an introduction by Roz Chast and afterword by Jules Feiffer.
Stanley Kubrick's uncompleted film on Napoleon is one of cinema's great "what ifs." From 1967 to 1971, the director of "Lolita" and "A Clockwork Orange" researched this ambitious project; "Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made" (Taschen, $69.99) is a tantalizing assemblage of production notes, location and costume photos, press clippings, an index card chronology of Napoleon's life and Kubrick's original screenplay. If the book's 1,112 pages aren't enough, each edition comes with a key card granting access to the complete online picture archive.
"Temples of Cambodia: The Heart of Angkor" (Vendome, $65), with photographs by Barry Brukoff and text by Helen Ibbitson Jessup, is a tour of the monumental stone temples erected by the Khmer kings in what is modern-day Cambodia between 600 and 1300 CE. Stylized sculptural lions, giants, deities and Buddhas share these ruins with moss, vines and trees that have encroached over the centuries. Though the empire that created them is long gone, many of these temples are still places of worship, and Brukoff shows monks, nuns and other devotees and the ephemeral flowers and incense they've left in these timeless places.
Just try to harden your heart to this one. "Dogs Make Us Human" (Bloomsbury, $30) is part adorable doggy album and part uplifting "Family of Man" homily, offering definitive proof that humans have a special bond with canines. Photographer Art Wolfe traveled the globe — from New York to Mongolia, New Zealand to Myanmar — shooting people and their loyal animals. In his accompanying text, author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson ("Dogs Never Lie About Love") traces the history of the relationship.
Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. presents a richly illustrated chronicle of the African-American experience in "Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008" (Alfred A. Knopf, $50). From Harpers Ferry to "Soul Train," Crispus Attucks to Clarence Thomas — and, of course, President Barack Obama — Gates moves through the centuries in short chapters addressing a wide range of subjects and personalities.
The new expanded edition of "The Baseball Book" (Sports Illustrated, $29.95) is a no-brainer present for any lover of America's pastime. The lavish tome combines terrific action photographs (many drawn from the magazine, which launched in 1954) with vintage memorabilia (umpires' masks, catchers' mitts); classic articles by Roger Kahn, George Plimpton and others; and even SI's fantasy "Alltime All-Star Team," with Babe Ruth and Ted Williams in the outfield and Roger Clemens on the mound.
If you've never heard of the subject of "Vivian Maier: Street Photographer" (powerHouse, $39.95), you're not alone. This accomplished photographer — who took more than 100,000 pictures from the 1950s through the '90s — never showed her work to anyone. Maier worked as a nanny in Chicago, didn't marry, had no children. Fortunately, Chicago historian John Maloof came across a cache of her negatives in 2007 and recognized her talent for capturing the oddity, the pathos and the playfulness of urban street life.
No ordinary book, "The Art Museum" (Phaidon, $200) is a 13-by-17-inch behemoth that bills itself as a globe-spanning museum between hard covers, with "galleries" dedicated to the Art of the Stone Age, Ancient Greece, the Italian Renaissance, Africa, Art Since the Mid-20th Century, etc. The sheer size and quality of the reproductions are pretty outstanding; you'll get a better look at Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling here than you will by craning your neck at the Vatican.
For those who can recite chapter and verse from her classic memoir, "D.V.," the obvious gift this year is "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" (Abrams, $55), a stylish tribute to the legendary editor of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar who served as a special consultant to the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute. With text by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (married to Diana's grandson), Lally Weymouth, Judith Thurman and Judith Clark, the book reproduces magazine spreads with photographs by the likes of Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Louise Dahl-Wolfe.
Originally written for young readers in 1935, "A Little History of the World" by E.H. Gombrich (Yale University Press, $29.95) now comes to us in a handsomely illustrated edition — which only enhances the pleasures of Gombrich's brisk, clear-eyed trot through the centuries — pulling it off in a mere 346 pages. Gombrich was an art historian, so it only makes sense to supplement his text with the great paintings, sculptures and photographs.
Disney makes kids of us all — in a good way. An updated edition of Christopher Finch's "Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdoms and Beyond" (Abrams, $85) bottles that magic, following the career of the gifted illustrator who founded an entertainment empire. Sketches and illustrations from the classics — "Snow White," "Dumbo," etc. — are here, along with new chapters on recent films such as "Tangled."
A reminder of just why the camera — and the audience — loved her, "Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis" by David Wills and Stephen Schmidt (It Books, $40) is a gorgeous photographic portrait of the actress, in luscious color and luminous black-and-white. Classic portraits by Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton and others, sit alongside on-set snapshots and never-before-seen pictures from Norma Jeane's modeling career. In these pages, Marilyn feels gloriously alive.