Kirkus’ reviewers, journalists, and editors spend all year long reading books long and short, big and small. Except for our picture-book reviewers, most of us spend the year reading books full of words and no images. So we look forward to the end of the year, when publishers push coffee-table books, art books, and cookbooks with abandon. Here’s a guide to our favorite gift books of 2016. Happy holidays!
John Derian Picture Book
by John Derian, foreword by Anna Wintour
If there’s one coffee-table book that’s the must-have gift book of the season, this one is it. Derian has built a prominent décor business by decoupaging arresting, odd, and lovely images—many of them from the 19th century—onto paperweights, ashtrays, and other items for the home. This massive book is a collection of the images that have inspired him; it achieves what a coffee-table book is best at: allowing a reader to flip through its pages and be transported to another world.
Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners
by Therese Oneill
Little, Brown; $25
Oneillis our sarcastic “tour guide to the real nineteenth century” in this cheeky romp of a book. She’s here to tell you, ladies, that what you think you know is all wrong. With chapter titles such as “Getting Dressed: How to Properly Hide Your Shame” and “Running a Proper Household: The Gentle Art of Dictatorship,” we are ushered through daily life. If you’re seeking a witty life coach, look no further.
The Recurring Dream
by Rocky Schenck, foreword by William Friedkin
University of Texas Press; $50
Stunning photos developed using Victorian-era techniques fill this new collection from photographer and director Schenck. Alternating between black-and-white and color sections, you are able to see beauty and sadness often in the same shot. Haunting silouettes and eerie landscapes are made dreamlike due to the method of film development Schenck uses. If you aren’t a fan of Schenck’s before picking up The Recurring Dream, you certainly will be by the end.
Hotel Chic at Home: Inspired Design Ideas from Glamorous Escapes
by Sara Bliss
Veteran travel writer Bliss, the founder of hotelchicblog.com, has scoured cool hotels all over the world to create this alluring encyclopedia of design inspirations. Divided into the various rooms of a house, the book ranges from ideas that would be slightly outrageous to re-create at home (a palapa hut, anyone?) to more accessible inspirations (using lanterns usually hung outside as bedside lighting). This is the perfect book for anyone you know who thinks outside the box and is eager for well-sourced, inspired design ideas.
Intimate Geometries: The Art and Life of Louise Bourgeois
by Robert Storr
Bourgeois, a titan of 20th-century art, deserves a book 828 pages in length, with over 1,000 images. Storr, a close friend of the sculptor (and painter and printmaker and installation artist), is able to provide knowing detail and analysis of Bourgeois’ life and her struggles as an artist. This kind of intimate and devoted attention to an artist’s life, packaged in such a stunning and loving way, is rare.
America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World
by Kevin Baker
From past to present to future, discover the history of what Americans have made and what is on our horizon. The collection dives into communication, women inventors, medical cures, and so much more. Broken down within these headers, readers find not only page-length histories, but also how the inventions have evolved and are still being used today. History buffs and engineers will find America the Ingenious hard to put down.
Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert
by Helen Thompson; photos by Casey Dunn
Anyone who’s heard about Marfa, the art town in far West Texas, but never been there is right to wonder why it’s become such a popular destination: it’s hard to get there, it’s tiny, and the minimalist architecture can feel forbidding. Thompson, a longtime design writer, has chosen a number of stunning homes in this weird desert town whose interiors both belie and reveal Marfa’s minimalist reputation (this is the place where Donald Judd set up shop, after all). Marfa Modern elegantly depicts just how warm and inviting the town is and why people work so hard to get there. Perfect for the design maven on your shopping list.
@NatGeo: The Most Popular Instagram Photos
by National Geographic
National Geographic Books; $19.95
@Natgeo features 300 of the most liked and discussed photos from National Geographic’s Instagram account. With over 12,000 posts to choose from, these pictures show life on Earth from an abundance of different perspectives. A breathtaking book that can be opened and admired from any page.
StarTalk: Everything You Ever Need to Know About Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond
edited by Neil deGrasse Tyson& Jeffrey Simons & Charles Liu
National Geographic; $30
Have you ever wondered if our fate will be the same as that of the dinosaurs or wondered just when that zombie apocalypse will start? In Tyson’s new book, the astrophysicist curates many of the topics discussed on his podcast and TV show of the same name. One of the four sections, “Being Human,” includes entries such as “If We Evolved from Monkeys, Why Are Monkeys Still Here?” and “Where Does Creativity Come From?” StarTalk makes an out-of-this-world gift for the ninth-grader in your life whose freshman science class has his or her curiosity piqued, the uncle who knows a little something about everything, and the friend who can’t stop staring at the stars. This book will fascinate for light years to come.
Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart
edited by Krista Halverson; foreword by Jeannette Winterson
Shakespeare and Company Paris; $34.95
Paris’ legendary English bookstore Shakespeare and Company has fulfilled a dream of its late owner, George Whitman, by publishing a memoir for the beloved shop. With historic photos, surreal artwork, brand new essays, and old letters, editor Halverson and current owner Sylvia Whitman (George’s daughter) have captured the spirit of one of Paris’ most magical spots. The result is a big, beautiful book showing more than 50 years of Paris as seen by the bibliophiles, vagabonds, and expats who fell in love with the city and what George Whitman loved to call “a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.”
Art of the Pie: A Practicalcle Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings, and Life
by Kate McDermott
Countryman Press; $35
McDermott has been baking, teaching, and gaining acclaim for baking pies for years. In her debutcookbook, she gives detailed instructions on crusts and fillings from scratch. Within these pages are traditional and gluten-free crust options as well as fillings that sound too good to be true, both sweet and savory: poached pear sour cream caramel pie with a crumb topping, chai pie, and chicken pot pie, for example. Not only does McDermott guide the reader through these recpies with tips and side notes, she also lays down pie-making rules, No. 1 of which is: keep everything chilled, especially yourself.
Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces
by Michelle Slatalla
Gardenista, like Remodelista before it, makes simple, classy style ideas approachable. Modeled on the site it comes from, Gardenista consists of beautiful photos of 13 gardens Slatalla loves, with tips about how to purchase or create certain aspects of those gardens (with plenty of visual clues). Gardenista achieves the difficult task of being hip and accessible. This book is perfect for any garden-minded recipient on your list.
The London Cookbook
by Aleksandra Crapanzano
Ten Speed; $35
Is anyone still surprised that London has one of the world’s great food scenes? Jokes about British food are outdated by several decades. Crapanzano, an American food writer, starts off with a brief explanation of how that happened and then collects favorite recipes from restaurants all over the city: pasta from the River Café, fondue from La Fromagerie, sea bass with hot paprika vinaigrette from Moro, mung and haricot verts salad from Ottolenghi. Photos of the food and restaurants are interspersed with photos of the city, making a perfect souvenir for an Anglophile.
How to Celebrate Everything: Recipes and Rituals for Birthdays, Holidays, Family Dinners, and Every Day in Between
by Jenny Rosenstrach
In her first book, Dinner: A Love Story, Rosenstrach provided delicious, do-able recipes for family meals along with charming stories about the way her cooking changed as she morphed from single woman to newlywed to mother. Her new book focuses on creating memorable rituals for your family ranging from the standard (what she calls “Holidays we didn’t invent”: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah , etc.) to the quirky (“the sleepover breakfast”; “eating in front of the TV”). Her recipes, as always, are easy and inviting, and the photos will make you feel at home.
The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem
by Marcus Samuelsson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $37.50
“Right now, Harlem is delicious,” Samuelsson says in the preface to his latest production, a hymn to his neighborhood as much as a cookbook. Between recipes such as ham hocks with mustard greens and kraut, Obama’s short ribs, and chicken and waffles, there are stunning photographs both archival and new, playlists, personal essays, and interviews with local artists, musicians, restaurateurs, and other friends of the restaurant.
Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores: True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers
by Bob Eckstein
Clarkson Potter; $22
New Yorker cartoonist Eckstein has created a love letter to independent bookstores around the world. Each spread includes a painting of the store and a quote from an owner, customer, or other friend relating stories about famous patrons, interesting anecdotes, or just fond memories of the place. (Paul McCartney wanted to look at Dickens paperbacks at Books & Books in Miami!) A treat for book lovers everywhere.
In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs
by Grace Bonney
Creativity abounds within the pages of this collection, which showcases talented women across the country. From chefs to designers to producers and more, there is no limit to what these ladies can do. From the interviews with each woman, readers learn these pioneers’ childhood dreams and the sources of their inspiration. Perfect for budding and established creatives alike.
Horace & Agnes: A Love Story
by Lynn Dowling & Asia Kepka
Blue Rider; $25
A horse and a squirrel are at the beach hunting for sand dollars. Of course they are! This kooky little book is an elaboration of set designer Kepka and her partner Dowling’s photo series “Love Is Blind.” In the odd, arresting images in this book, a man and woman wear horse and squirrel masks and do typical human things: swimming in a lake, working, sleeping. For whomever on your list has a quirky, whimsical sensibility.
Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism: 1910-1950
edited by Matthew Afron & Mark A. Castro & Dafne Cruz Porchini & and Renato González Mello
This substantial, impressive study of the Mexican artists who engaged most fruitfully in modernism may seem forbidding to an art history novice (the 12 essays in this book by noted art historians, though clearly and engagingly written, assume at least some familiarity with art history). But the images in the book are so vibrant and striking they practically beg the reader to learn more by reading the astute essays. Perfect for both the art scholar on your list or anyone who has an inquisitive mind.