Here’s my final take on books that could make great gifts in this holiday season:
“The Oxford Atlas of the World (20th Edition)” (Oxford University Press, 448 pages, $89.95)
This atlas usually makes my list because Oxford updates it annually.
The latest edition has a pile of fresh material; satellite images of London, Amsterdam, Cairo, Vancouver, Rio de Janeiro, and Sydney; thematic maps illustrating globalization, immigration, and water scarcity. This superb volume might make a lovely gift for an entire family.
“The Granny Alphabet” by Tim Walker, text by Kit Hesketh Harvey, illustrations by Lawrence Mynott (Thames and Hudson, 2 volumes slipcased, Vol. 1 has 88 pages; 66 color photos, Vol. 2 has 60 pages, 30 color illustrations, $40).
Pure whimsy; photos and pictures of that certain type of grandmother now slowly fading from memory, celebrated in amusing verses like this one:
“Kitty Knight is keen on knitting.
Kitty Knits an awful lot.
Did she knit that kilt she’s wearing?
I think knot.”
“The Sunflowers are Mine” by Martin Bailey (Frances Lincoln, 256 pages, $40).
Vincent Van Gogh’s seven still life paintings of sunflowers were completed when he was at the height of his artistic powers. This beautiful large format book contains a wealth of scholarly insights into that period as well as numerous reproductions of his work.
“Studio Life: Rituals, Collections, Tools, and Observations on the Artistic Practice” by Sarah Trigg (Princeton Architectural Press, 256 pages, $35).
Sarah Trigg takes readers within the studio spaces of 100 gifted artists. We discover what makes some of these creative people tick.
This inspirational book is loaded with photos of work spaces. Some are quite neat. Others are stacked with hoards of accumulated objects; shells, rocks, bones, record albums, books, and bizarre clutter.
“A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture” by Virginia Savage McAlester (Knopf, 850 pages, $50).
This new revised second edition of the guide originally published in 1984 is a treasure trove of material. This book will assist you in identifying every type and style of American home built from colonial times to the present day. An awesome resource!
“Reflections on Swedish Interiors” by Rhonda Eleish and Edie van Breems (Gibbs Smith, 256 pages, $50)
For lovers of Scandinavian design this gorgeous coffee table book on Swedish interiors might be just the thing. The authors are experts in this field and the photos they use to illustrate their design concepts, from furniture, to ceramics, to lighting is utter eye candy.
“The Secret Language of Color: Science, Nature, History, Culture, Beauty of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet” by Joanne Eckstut and Arielle Eckstut (Black Dog and Leventhal, 240 pages, $29.95)
The authors state that “anyone who claims to be an expert on color is a liar.” Color substantially influences our vision but how much do we really understand it? The grass isn’t actually green, is it? This is a fascinating book with a riot of incredible pictures.
“Life and Death in Pompei and Herculaneum” by Paul Roberts (Oxford, 320 pages, $45).
The volcanic eruption that consumed Pompei and Herculaneum left us with a snapshot of Roman civilization that was suddenly frozen in time. This stunning large format book is filled with amazing research material and a wealth of Roman art.
“The History of the World: Sixth Edition” by J.M. Roberts and Odd Arne Westad (Oxford, 1280 pages, $45).
The history of the world in one volume, how awesome is that? Newly revised and updated this year, this book deserves an honored place in home libraries across America. It’s that impressive.
“The Diner’s Dictionary: Word Origins of Food and Drink” by John Ayto (Oxford, 405 pages, $24.95)
This dictionary compiles more than 2,000 food words and phrases from “absinthe” to “zarzuela.” Warning: Reading this book might induce you to have a massive appetite.
“The Universe of Peter Max” by Peter Max (Harper Design, 288 pages, $35).
Peter Max was one of the most recognizable artists of the 1960s and ’70s. This lavishly illustrated book is his artistic memoir and testament.
“Visual Music” by Brian Eno (Chronicle Books,416 pages, $50).
Over the last 40-plus years Brian Eno has been one of those artists who always seemed to be ahead of his time. This weighty retrospective illuminates his music, paintings and artistic process. There is everything from sketchbooks, to Eno’s musings about his work. As you might expect from a creative visionary, each book contains a code for downloading a previously unreleased piece of Eno’s music.