Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, November 27, 2015

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

Glorious Gift Books

This is our first gift book issue of the season, and we've so many to choose from--causing much gnashing of teeth, along with the need for copious cups of coffee and perhaps a bottle in the desk drawer. We've finally selected 20 titles to review below; here are just a few more.

The National Parks: An American Legacy, photographs by Ian Shive (Earth Aware Editions, $50), celebrates 100 years of the National Park Service and is a paean to one of the finest achievements of this country. Channel Islands sea lions and starfish, the Cascades' spectacular Mt. Rainier, cholla cactus in Joshua Tree, Death Valley in shades of purple, peach and lavender--the images range from extravagant to intimate, all fabulous.

A striking companion to National Parks is Yosemite in the Fifties by Dean Fidelman, John Long and Tom Adler (Patagonia, $60), a history of climbing in the park. This was a time of "maniacs just winging it," and the archival photos and first-person commentaries are an entertaining look at a classic American era.

Farther afield, Lonely Planet's Wild World (Lonely Planet) is an extravagant portfolio of images ranging from an autumnal forest in Croatia whose flame-colored trees match the facing page's volcanic eruption in Iceland, to the unbelievable Iguazu Falls in Argentina and a starry sky over Cappadocia's Rose Valley. At $39.99, it's a steal.

Focusing on a single area, William Craft Brumfield has photographed and written about Architecture at the End of the Earth (Duke University Press, $39.95): the Russian North, "sparsely populated and immensely isolated." Centuries-old chapels, cathedrals, barns and houses--plain or ornamented, used or abandoned--Brumfield's photos and travelogue are splendid.

If these books are obvious visual aids to travel dreams, Mark Ovenden's Transit Maps of the World (Penguin Books, $35) might evoke more subtle longings with subway, light rail and streetcar maps, both historical and current. Expanded and updated, almost 1,000 systems are included, like Gdansk, Okayama, Tianjin, North Jersey, Mecca, Baku; even the index is mapped.

And here's one more map you won't want to miss: find your favorite indie bookstore for tomorrow's third annual Indies First Day. Be sure to go--meet your favorite authors, enjoy some cake or cider, and check out these beautiful gift books in person. --Marilyn Dahl, editor, Shelf Awareness for Readers

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

Book Review

Graphic Books

Pablo: Art Masters Series

by Julie Birmant, illus. by Clement Oubrerie

Julie Birmant and Clément Ouebrerie (Aya) have created a beautiful graphic biography that pays tribute to one of the 20th century's most prolific and best-loved artists. Told from the point of view of Fernande Olivier, Picasso's former lover and muse, Pablo chronicles Picasso's early career as a struggling artist in 1900s Paris, living among a group of colorful characters, whose friendships and rivalries (particularly with Henri Matisse) helped shape his art.

Birmant's Picasso is a man obsessed with his own appetites, whose artistic vision is little appreciated until American writer and benefactress Gertrude Stein steps in as his champion. Birmant makes clear the debt Picasso owes to his Bateau-Lavoir network, and Oubrerie's panels are spun in a visually dreamy palate that highlights the stages of Picasso's work, from the erotica that dominated his earliest paintings, to his later forays into Cubism and modern art. Pablo is brilliant and engaging, and a worthy addition to any Picasso canon. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

Discover: Julie Birmant and Clement Oubrerie's graphic biography captures Pablo Picasso's early years as an artist in Paris.

SelfMadeHero, $27.50, paperback, 9781906838942


WWII Remembered: From Blitzkrieg Through to the Allied Victory

by Richard Overy

It is nearly impossible to pack World War II history into one volume, but Richard Overy's WWII Remembered makes a valiant effort to do so. From the war's roots in the post-World War I settlements of 1919 to its final days, this book covers every aspect of "the largest and costliest war in human history." Across full-color pages decked with primary photographs and images of original period documents, Overy details every major battle, blitz, operation and meeting of the Second World War--in every theater of the war--in chronological order.

Overy's text is accompanied by a removable dossier containing some 30 pieces of memorabilia--including document facsimiles, combat reports, telegrams and photographs--and an audio CD with veterans' firsthand accounts of the war. Because of its breadth, WWII Remembered is not a particularly detailed history of any one aspect of World War II--but it is an impressive history of the war in its entirety, sure to appeal to any armchair general. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: Period photographs, replicas of primary documents and audio accounts of veterans' experiences augment Richard Overy's history of World War II.

Andre Deutsch, $75, hardcover, 9780233004501


Pope Francis and the New Vatican

by Robert Draper, photographs by Dave Yoder

Pope Francis is a pope of firsts: "First Latin American pope... first Jesuit... first non-European-born pope in more than a thousand years... first pope to take the moniker of St. Francis of Assisi, champion of the poor." Therefore, it is fitting that this refreshingly approachable Bishop of Rome would agree to be intimately profiled inside the Vatican.

Images of the Vatican's ornate, breathtaking beauty enhance insightful commentaries about the city and its historical traditions. Moving, candid photographs of Pope Francis reflect his humble mission of mercy, his life and how his papal presence has re-energized the Catholic Church and faith. Together, Draper and Yoder have captured the "intersection between place and culture." Catholics and non-Catholics will be intrigued viewing what the international press calls a "reformer... radical... revolutionary" pope at the helm of a religious institution in transition. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: Words and pictures capture the Vatican and Pope Francis in action.

National Geographic Society, $40, hardcover, 9781426215827

Nature & Environment

The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature

by Garret Vin

Garret Vin's photographs in The Living Bird are captivating--a flock of red-winged blackbirds against an azure Midwestern sky, a Lapland longspur on a bright patch of moss the exact shade of its beak, a yellow-billed loon alighting on a northern lake--but the essays are equally as enchanting. In the foreword, Barbara Kingsolver escapes childhood resistance to her father's passion for birds when she moves to the "biologically hostile" Arizona desert, only to experience Christmas Bird Counts with her ornithologist husband. John Fitzpatrick extrapolates how "migratory birds represent a true 'heartbeat' of our planet's natural cycles." Scott Weidensaul explains migratory flight patterns, regional dialects of sound and nest architecture. Lyanda Lynn Haupt believes that "birds are unique in offering us ready access to... wild wisdom," teaching us when to harvest, sing and be silent. Still, the images of birds remain the true stars here. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics

Discover: Photographer Garret Vyn and many writers reveal the "deeper, truer, wilder, more creative, and most alive" world of birds.

Mountaineers Books, $29.95, hardcover, 9781594859656


by Ralph Steadman, Ceri Levy

Self-titled "gonzovationists," Ralph Steadman and Ceri Levy (Extinct Boids) pick up pens, paint and keyboards for a stunning art book devoted to the "nextinct"--critically endangered birds that will vanish forever without conservation. The cheery, chatty duo describes their project as one of hope for these rare species.

Steadman's bold, vibrant illustrations take center stage. His real-life subjects, like the Sociable Lapwing, are presented in natural palettes and dignified poses, but the true fun comes not from the birds but the "boids"--imaginary, cartoonish birds, like the Teeny Spint (Eencius weencius), that seem to emerge autonomously from ink blobs and slashes. Levy's notes on each species, real and imagined, sit alongside e-mails and transcripts of phone and Skype chats the authors shared while working on the project, giving insight into their rapport.

Ideal for the birder or art enthusiast, this vibrant collection is perfect for holiday giving and even contains a portrait of two turtledoves. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: Cartoonist/writer duo Steadman and Levy offer gorgeous illustrations of critically endangered birds and imagined boids.

Bloomsbury Natural History, $50, hardcover, 9781472911681


Skate the World: Photographing One World of Skateboarding

by Jonathan Mehring

Skateboarding photographer Jonathan Mehring's coffee table book is filled with photos of famous skaters conquering physics-defying tricks around the world. The adrenaline-fueled photography, from Mehring and others, soars across every page, framed by deep, reverent quotes, and essays about the sport from the artists and performers portrayed. However, it's the smaller victories that give this volume its warm heart: young boys in Warsaw, working on their first trick with faces furrowed in concentration; a line of Native American teens waiting their turn to run the pipe at Wounded Knee, a skatepark built for them by Pearl Jam's bass player Jeff Ament and the Vitology Foundation.

Skating, as superstar Tony Hawk says in the introduction, transcends race, religion, language and economic barriers to bring life lessons of perseverance to everyone who falls in love with the sport. Skate the World provides a visual treat that readers will want to spend some serious time with. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: A thrilling, action-packed volume with photos of skateboarders around the world and essays about the sport.

National Geographic, $30, hardcover, 9781426213960

A History of Baseball in 100 Objects

by Josh Leventhal

Josh Leventhal traces the evolution of baseball via relics and artifacts from the game. Equipment is included--bats and balls, uniforms and gloves--but Leventhal also features other, sometimes unexpected material. An illustration of ball players from a medieval calendar (1300s) suggests an early form of the pastime. A ball-strike umpire's counter (1887) is the lead-in for a commentary on how the sport went "pro." A hot dog vendor's bucket (1900s) symbolizes commercialism of the game. Each object is paired with specific eras: Jackie Robinson's Brooklyn Dodgers jersey (1947) celebrates the breaking of the color barrier; a Reggie! candy bar illuminates the 1970s "Bronx Zoo" of the New York Yankees; and Barry Bonds's 756th home run helmet (2007) probes the influence of steroids. These, and a wide range of additional items, launch entertaining insights into the history of America's favorite pastime. Leventhal's distinctive presentation is like visiting a well-conceived museum exhibit between the covers of a book. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: An inventive, entertaining history of baseball is presented via relics of the game.

Black Dog & Leventhal, $29.95, hardcover, 9781579129910

Travel Literature

Across the Arctic Ocean: Original Photographs From the Last Great Polar Journey

by Sir Wally Herbert, Huw Lewis-Jones

In 1968, Sir Wally Herbert set out from Point Barrow, Alaska, in an attempt to travel across the Arctic Ocean's longest axis (and pass over the geographic North Pole in the process). Sixteen months later, he and his three companions struck land again, in Spitsbergen, Norway, marking the conclusion of one of the greatest expeditions of all time.

For those 16 months they never touched dry land, traveling across shifting ice floes, always at risk of losing their way and vanishing into the ocean. Their accomplishment was overshadowed by the moon landing, but Across the Arctic Ocean brings new life to this nearly forgotten journey. With hundreds of stunning photographs, entries from Herbert's journals, an introduction from explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, and original documents from the Herbert collection, Across the Arctic Ocean is perfect for the adventurous and travel-minded. With the future of the Arctic threatened by climate change and development, Across the Arctic Ocean is a timely reminder of its austere glory. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: These photographs regale readers with the story of the last great polar expedition.

Thames & Hudson, $39.95, hardcover, 9780500252147


The Irish Garden

by Jane Powers, photographs by Jonathan Hession

"It is no surprise that Ireland, with its favourable climate, a range of plants that runs from the subtropical to the subarctic, and a landscape that varies from gently pastoral to savagely rugged, possesses some of the most interesting gardens in the world," writes Jane Powers in her introduction to The Irish Garden. With the help of lush, full-color photographs by Jonathan Hession, Powers takes readers on an extensive tour of the gardens throughout the Emerald Isle, from formal estates that cover hundreds of acres, first planted hundreds of years ago, to backyard plots that provide food and flowers for modern schools, restaurants and local villagers. Powers skillfully blends exquisite descriptions of nearly 60 gardens with the history behind each, providing readers with a mini-course on the cultural, social and economic developments that have influenced Ireland since before the 1600s. The Irish Garden is a lovely meander through a vast and colorful network of trees and plants that truly pays homage to the unusual climate and diversity found in Ireland. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: Photographs and delightful prose lovingly portray a myriad of Irish gardens.

Frances Lincoln, $60, hardcover, 9780711232228

Performing Arts

Musicals: The Definitive Illustrated Story

by DK Publishing

For more than a century, musical theater productions have captivated audiences around the world, on stage and screen. DK Publishing explores the history, glamour and key figures of this celebrated art form in Musicals: The Definitive Illustrated Story.

Beginning with Tin Pan Alley and the influence of vaudeville, the book travels through the golden age of musicals (1940–1969) to the rock operas of the 1970s, the "mega musicals" of the 1980s (such as Les Misérables) up to the present day, highlighting current smash hits such as The Lion King and Matilda. Actors like Fred Astaire and Ethel Merman get top billing in two-page spreads, as do composers such as the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Packed with colorful production photos and movie posters, with fascinating backstage tidbits about the shows and stars, Musicals is sure to be a toe-tapping hit for fans of the footlights. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: This lavishly illustrated history of musical theater is packed with fascinating tidbits about the shows and their stars.

DK Publishing, $40, hardcover, 9781465438867

Gilliamesque: A Pre-Posthumous Memoir

by Terry Gilliam

Comedian Terry Gilliam could measure his life in reels, from Monty Python skits to turns behind the lens directing such films as Brazil and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In Gilliamesque, he chronicles his outlandish and enchanted life with insight, insouciance and whimsy in dense, color-saturated pages.

Told in a first person, off-the-cuff style, each chapter ferries the reader through distinct phases of Gilliam's life--childhood in the wilds of Minnesota, a move to California, falling in love, the onset of the Vietnam War and the formation of what would become the Pythons. Gilliam's easy way with words and one-liners shines in every seemingly extemporaneous paragraph, like sitting down to tea with your funniest friend.

Like the brushes with fame it describes, the book is splashy and colorful, but the hand-scribbled notes, photographs and errant dribbles of paint make this a coffee-table book for those who take their brew with a dash of irreverence. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

Discover: Monty Python member and famed director Terry Gilliam ferries the reader through his wacky, wild and wonderful life and career in the beautifully designed Gilliamesque.

Harper Design, $40, hardcover, 9780062380746

Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History

by Daniel Wallace

Arriving more than 30 years after the original Ghostbusters movie made its debut in theaters and several months before the 2016 reboot with an all-female cast, Daniel Wallace's Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Visual History is an entertaining collection of behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the origin and production of the 1984 movie and its sequel. The book is generous with on-set pictures and recollections from the cast and crew, though many of the quotes are from previously published or broadcast sources. It also contains pullout memorabilia, such as storyboards, concept art and Peter Venkman's business card.

Though it doesn't explain why several key original crew members--including visual effects designer Richard Edlund and production designer John DeCuir--didn't return for the sequel, this compendium is a must-have for fans who fondly remember the hit movie and are eagerly awaiting the remake. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: The Ghostbusters franchise gets a handsome tribute.

Insight Editions, $50, hardcover, 9781608875108

Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers

by Jay Jorgensen, Donald L. Scoggins

Besides Edith Head, how many influential costume designers could most cineastes name? Jay Jorgensen and Donald L. Scoggins's Creating the Illusion should help raise that number. This encyclopedic compilation contains profiles of--and interviews with--costume designers who've left indelible impressions on film throughout the last century.

For the adaptation of Frank L. Baum's The Wizard of Oz, costume designer Adrian (a one-name wonder long before Cher's and Madonna's time) feared the silver slippers from the book wouldn't pop on screen, so he made them ruby--and created movie history. While Oscar-winner Gloria Wakeling moonlighted in TV, she designed Barbara Eden's pink costume on I Dream of Jeannie. The intimidating Irene Sharaff created larger-than-life gowns for The King and I and Cleopatra, among others. Marilyn Monroe's white, billowing dress? Designed by William Travilla. Who's responsible for Neo's black duster in The Matrix? Kym Barrett. They're all here, along with many more, receiving rightful credit for helping shape iconic characters and sartorial moments in pop culture. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

Discover: Movie costume designers from the silent to modern era receive the spotlight.

Running Press, $65, hardcover, 9780762456611

Art & Photography

Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World

by Jens M. Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin, editors

Edited by the curators of an eponymous exhibit at the Getty Museum, Power and Pathos is both an informative study of the techniques and artistry of early Greek and Roman sculptors and a lush, prolifically illustrated panorama of the Getty show. A dozen easily accessible essays by scholars and curators explore the ways in which history unfolds through the integrated expertise of archeologists, scientists and, in this case, metallurgical engineers. We learn, for example, that unlike one-off marble sculptures, the reproducibility of clay models for bronze casting allowed commercial artisans to create many more statues and to tweak wax working models to alter the figure's age and appearance.

Fascinating stuff, but the exquisitely detailed full-page photos are really the heart of Power and Pathos. The natural patina of aged bronze; the contrasting color of copper, ivory and bone eyes; and the detailed delineation of hair, muscle and even crow's feet embody this artistic golden age. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Summarizing a recent Getty Museum exhibit, this survey of Greco-Roman bronze sculpture is both informative and lavish.

Getty Museum, $65, hardcover, 9781606064399

The Ultimate Alphabet: Complete Edition

by Mike Wilks

In the 1980s, artist Mike Wells set out to paint as many objects as possible in 26 images--each representing a letter of the alphabet. The surreal, carefully detailed paintings are crammed with items: for example, the E page has 261--including an ensign, an enchained escapologist, an escarpment, eels, eyes, eunuchs, excavators, elk, emeralds, an elf, an easy chair, etc.

This two-volume, slipcovered set contains The Ultimate Alphabet, with beautiful, full-color renderings of the 26 paintings, and The Annotated Ultimate Alphabet. The latter displays the outlines of each item numbered to correspond with a list on the opposing page that features all 277 H items or all 410 M items, and so forth.

Sure to please artists and wordsmiths alike, The Ultimate Alphabet is the perfect way to while away an hour or two, trying to name everything on a page, or simply flipping through and enjoying the whimsical artwork. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: A series of beautifully detailed paintings represent the letters of the alphabet.

Pomegranate Communications, $50, hardcover, 9780764972133

Punks, Poets, & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys, 1977-1982

by Marcia Resnick, Victor Bockris

Startling and addictive, from its front cover shot of John Belushi to its back photo of Mick Jagger, photographer Marcia Resnick's Punks, Poets, & Provocateurs is a terrific overview of the underbelly of New York's arts scene, as the rowdy 1970s gave way to the Reagan '80s. With text by prolific '70s biographer Victor Bockris (e.g., Warhol, Richards, Reed, Burroughs, etc.), it captures, up close and all tricked out, the players who made those years a renaissance of the underground. Resnick (Re-visions) snaps both the old guard, like Burroughs, Ginsberg, Warhol, even Chuck Berry, and the new--including "bad boys" with last names like Hell, Pop, Rotten, Gunn and Thunders. As sax player for the Lounge Lizards John Lurie says: "We were so sure of ourselves, we never doubted anything. We were powerful, smart, energetic, confident, egocentric and astonishingly naïve. Nothing outside of our fourteen block radius mattered." Resnick and Bockris have created a true masterwork. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Marcia Resnick's photographs of the "bad boys" of the late '70s New York City arts scene are mesmerizing.

Insight Editions, $35, hardcover, 9781608876013

Moments: The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs

by Hal Buell

In this expanded paperback version of Hal Buell's stunning collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs from 1942 to 2015, the vast array of subjects, techniques and even photographers underscores the ambiguity in what makes an image Pulitzer quality. Compassion, brutality, success and failure: they run the spectrum of experience.

Moments moves chronologically through the existence of the award, illustrating the advances in technology as well as the growing diversity of recipients. But more than anything it showcases the history captured in these gripping snapshots--Babe Ruth saying goodbye at Yankee Stadium, a woman crying over one of the dead students at Kent State, for example--instances that so powerfully capture not only the subject but also the height of emotion and richness of atmosphere. The short essays accompanying each image provide insight into the photographers' thoughts and the extreme dangers in which they often place themselves in order to achieve that perfect picture.

Each turn of the page steals the reader's breath. Photography and history fans alike are sure to cherish the impassioned world captured spectacularly in Moments. --Jen Forbus of Jen's Book Thoughts

Discover: The history of world news as captured through all the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs from 1942 to 2015.

Black Dog & Leventhal, $24.99, paperback, 9781631910081

Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us

by Paul Koudounaris

Paul Koudounaris (The Empire of Death) presents phenomenal photographs and a fascinating survey of death across cultures and history with Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us. His text is concise but effective, allowing his photography to take the lead. Images are gorgeously rendered in large format and across full spreads. They feature ossuaries, charnel houses and intricate, artistic arrangements of bones, mummies and decorated skeletons from various cultures.

Koudounaris portrays the Torajans of Indonesia, who place their dead in caves, and after the coffins disintegrate, arrange the bones decoratively; the Aymara Indians of Bolivia, who keep treasured skulls in their homes and ask them for advice; and the elaborate, even decadent, Catholic ossuaries created in response to Protestant reforms. Buddhists gilded certain mummies; Rwandans set up memorial vaults. Wrapped in a blue satin cover, with more than 500 illustrations, Memento Mori offers a striking tribute to many ways of remembering and honoring death and the dead. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Discover: Photographs of memento mori from around the world illustrate rich relationships with death.

Thames & Hudson, $60, hardcover, 9780500517789

An Embarrassment of Riches: Photographs

by Adrian Buckmaster

Adrian Buckmaster's An Embarrassment of Riches is a stirring collection of portraits that will leave readers with the impression that they have stumbled upon a gothic, otherworldly carnival. This inspired and stunning book features 295 color and black-and-white photographs of people in costumes and settings that range from the mundane to the fantastic. Buckmaster's portraits reveal even the mundane as interesting via arrangements that form a deep and complicated emotional resonance.

While many of the portraits illuminate the subject's individuality, Buckmaster's interpretation of archetypes and mythology offers a deeper meaning. Readers with an eye for fine details will discover the multi-layered stories Buckmaster has composed in every shot. States of decorative undress reveal each character and create a charged tension between subject and photographer. An Embarrassment of Riches is one of the most interesting and playful collections of portraits released this year, in which humanity is explored in its splendor. --Justus Joseph, bookseller at Elliott Bay Book Company

Discover: Dark and luxurious, this collection of portraits is bewitching and utterly captivating.

Glitterati, $85, hardcover, 9780986250057

The Art of Horror: An Illustrated History

by Stephen Jones, editor

Vampires, zombies, werewolves, psychos, aliens and ghosts--The Art of Horror compiles a phantasmagorical collection of images to terrify and excite in a beautifully made and gorgeously laid out coffee-table book. With an introduction by author Neil Gaiman and a respected researcher or writer in the genre covering each topical chapter, this collection does more than just show, it also tells, with detailed  information on the imagery, from the earliest film posters and book illustrations to more modern digital art pieces. The chapters tackle their specific topics with reverence and an appreciation of what the horror genre across all media does for its audience. As Gaiman says in the introduction, horror isn't just scary--it is--but it is also incredibly fun. This broad examination of powerful, vibrant, glorious reproductions from works of horror art is a treasure for any fan of the macabre. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Discover: This solid collection is filled to the coffin's edge with vibrant, moody and horrifying art from posters, paintings and book jackets.

Applause Books, $40, hardcover, 9781495009136

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