For the lucky person on your list who deserves a sumptuous coffee-table book, we’ve compiled a roster of books certain to light up the faces of whoever receives one of these classy tomes. Happy holidays, and happy reading!
Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home ($37.50)
By Julie Carlson, with the editors of Remodelista, foreword by Julianne Moore
Remodelista is precisely the classy, useful book you’d expect from the creators of the popular design website. The book’s aim is to demystify home design and the writers reveal, helpfully, where to find the drawer pulls, sinks and other items displayed in the photo spreads of beautiful, striking home interiors.
Beat Box: A Drum Machine Obsession ($49.95)
by Joe Mansfield
In the last few decades, the defining feature of popular—and plenty of unpopular—music might just be the digital drum. Kraftwerk, Prince, Madonna, Radiohead, Kanye West, Beyoncé—where would they be without a digital bass drum and a programmable snare? In this luscious, nearly pornographic display of 75 drum-machine models from the ’50s to the ’80s (many of which are still in use), producer and music fanatic Joe Mansfield lays out the case for the study of drum machines being the study of pop music. He’s backed by interviews with Roger Linn, the pioneering drum-machine creator; father of house music, Marshall Jefferson; and hip-hop innovator Davy DMX, among others. Hundreds of full-color photographs from Gary Land fill out this encyclopedic look at how the machines—and the musicians behind them—took over the club and probably your iPod.
The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti ($35)
by Rafael Schacter
Displaying their art within what is effectively the largest, most open museum in the world, urban artists unveil their beliefs and imaginations to a public unable to avoid their work. The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti is an inclusive survey of international street art, focusing on some of the world’s most influential urban artists and their works. It is organized geographically by country and city, including Steve Powers (ESPO) in New York City, Miguel Mejia (NEUZZ) in Mexico City, INVADER in Paris, SpY (JABO) in Madrid and Ben Frost in Sydney. “The World Atlas of Street Art and Graffiti demonstrates the enormous vibrancy of this popular form of global contemporary art, a practice of image-making that remains untethered by the restraints of the white cube,” writes editor Rafael Schacter in the introduction to the book.
Color: American Photography Transformed ($75)
by John Rohrbach, Amon Carter Musuem of American Art
The invention of the Autochrome in 1907 ushered color into photography and excited artists at the time. But then something strange happened: they recoiled from color, feeling it was too similar to the way we see the world. If the burgeoning medium of photography couldn’t provide something different than what each of us could see using our own eyes, what was it good for? Color: American Photography Transformed tracks the curious history of color in American photography and is a sumptuous beauty to hold in the hand, with images from Walker Evans, Irving Penn and Ansel Adams, among many others.
The Chronicle of Jazz ($39.95)
by Mervyn Cooke
The Chronicle of Jazz charts the evolution of jazz from its roots in Africa and the southern United States to the myriad urban styles heard around the world today.The chronicle is up to date, exploring the exciting recent developments in jazz, from the rise of modern Big Bands and the renaissance of the piano trio to the popular appeal of Jamie Cullum and HBO’s Treme. The Chronicle of Jazz features hundreds of rare images, from record cover artwork to pictures of live performances, each chronically arranged section contains special box features on such topics as jazz clubs in Paris, personality sketches and seminal gigs and albums.
History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture, 1400-2000 ($80)
Edited by Pat Kirkham and Susan Weber
Nearly a decade in the making, History of Design is right for both the design maven and novice. Organized by historical era (1400-1600, e.g.) and by various areas of the world (East Asia, Europe, etc.), this heavyweight is dotted with gorgeous images. The knowledgeable commentary by various design writers lets interested readers delve into the details, but flipping through the book’s 700 pages is fun too.
The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert ($19.99)
by Richard Betts
Our first question about this funky, fun little book was whether it actually works. The idea here is to charmingly educate wine novices about the complex scents and tastes inherent in wine and to encourage enthusiasm about wine, without all the snobbery. Little scratch & sniff buttons are dotted throughout the book (the smells of red vs. black fruit, pear and mineral stone, for example) and they mimic the real smell quite well. The book includes a handy pull-out map of the entire wine world, to boot.
Southern Light: Images from Antarctica ($85)
by David Neilson
Photographer David Neilson and his camera have been everywhere, it seems: His previous three photo books are about Tasmania, Wilsons Promontory in Australia and Patagonia. Neilson’s images of lonely Antarctica are crisp, vast and otherworldly. Lumbering fur seals, wandering albatrosses, emperor penguins and other animals animate some of the book’s pages but the stark landscapes of ice, rocky promontories and frozen lakes are just as stirring. For a curious someone who’s intent on learning about an eerie, beautiful place.
Oxford Atlas of the World, Twentieth Edition ($89.95)
Nearly $90 may seem like a steep price to rummage naively through the alluring maps and graphs of the vast Oxford Atlas of the World, and maybe it is. But think about how you’ll be expanding your knowledge of the world while doing so! With more demographic information than you could ever hope for (projected population changes up until the year 2050 around the globe, for example), the Atlas is useful as well as eye-poppingly beautiful.
Lego Space: Building the Future ($24.95)
by Peter Reid and Tim Goddard
An unauthorized, fan-driven vision of adapting Lego blocks creatively, Lego Space is lovingly crafted. Lego geeks can nerd out eyeing the cool creations here (space pirates, ice vehicles, a VX-02 Drop Ship) but those of us who’ve outgrown our childhood love of Lego will appreciate the intricate worlds created here. And kids still in love with Lego will be agog at the various space robots and ships (some of which feature step-by-step directions for creating at home).
The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings ($35)
by Nathan Williams
The Kinfolk Table risks feeling too exclusive; everyone featured in both the magazine and the pages of this stunning book are beautiful, cool and ambitious. It’s a lot to measure up to, but the recipes—all of which are intended for small gatherings, “where the hours pass easily, the cooking is participatory and the company is satisfying”—range from beautifully simple (steamed cod) to more elaborate (Sweet Potato-Mushroom Tacos with Spiced Almond Sauce). All of the recipes feature short articles about their creators, so you feel connected to them and their ideas about food.
Reading Magnum: A Visual Archive of the Modern World ($75)
Edited by Steven Hoelscher, foreword by Geoff Dyer
There are more than 200,000 photographs just from the New York office of Magnum, the legendary photo cooperative (Magnum has four offices around the globe). Drawing from that archive, American Studies scholar Steven Hoelscher and other contributors mine the images (of war, social upheaval, celebrities: you name it) for insight into how photography has influenced our world, and vice-versa. With photos from major photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Robert Capa, among others.