Your Guide to Gifts
When the holidays roll around, I start a whole stress habit: listing the people I need to buy gifts for, feeling on top of things, then doing nothing else about it, week after week until it's crunch time. But gift giving doesn't have to be a long sweaty nightmare, especially when you have your local indie bookstore as your secret weapon! Below, you'll find reviews of 15 of our gift recommendations, and to start things off, I have a few more suggestions.
Picador has been reissuing modern classics in marvelous, pocket-sized new hardcovers for the past few years. Most recently, this gorgeous little series included A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson and The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard, with covers designed by Rodrigo Corral and illustrated by Anna Parini (each $16). In addition to being perfectly sized as stocking stuffers, their elegant bindings have a collectible quality sure to live handsomely on anyone's bookshelf.
For the completist, I'd like to draw your attention to The Art of Nothing: 25 Years of Mutts and the Art of Patrick McDonnell (Abrams ComicArts, $40). Not only are the delightful Mutts comic strips presented with their original newspaper run dates, the book also contextualizes them alongside McDonnell's sketches and sundry that later yielded the finished products. What's more, at the back, an illustrated correspondence with fellow comics artist Linda Barry closes the collection on a heartwarming note.
And lastly, We Came First: Relationship Advice from Women Who Have Been There by Jennifer Wright (Laurence King, $19.99). These aren't your typical advice columns, as they're imagined to have been written by the likes of Cleopatra and Julia Child. And quite hilariously so! Maybe it seems tactless to give your friends and family the gift of (I'm sure totally warranted) advice, so let Dorothy Parker, for instance, do it instead.
Asterix's First Female Hero in 60 Years
"Meet Adrenaline: Asterix gets first female hero in 60-year history," the Guardian reported.
Buzzfeed shared "16 Tweets English majors will feel personally attacked by."
Quirk Books advised readers on "how to survive a horror novel, from beginning to end."
Mental Floss shared "13 reading tips from Theodore Roosevelt."
Natalie Portman "flips out over getting a copy of The Baby-Sitters Club," signed by author Ann M. Martin, People reported.
Australian novelist Kylie Tennant's hut is a "cozy coastal retreat, turned campground."
Rediscover: Humans of New York
In 2010, Brandon Stanton began taking photographs of people he met on the streets of New York City. Humans of New York, a blog where Stanton posted these photos alongside quotes by his subjects, quickly gained millions of followers. In 2013, St. Martin's Press published a collection of 400 photos from Stanton's blog. The book, also called Humans of New York, became a massive bestseller and remains popular to this day. Little Humans (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which collects photos of kids for kids, came out out in 2014. Humans of New York: Stories (2015) expands on the quotes and life stories shared by Stanton's latest subjects. It is available from St. Martin's Press ($29.99, 9781250058904). --Tobias Mutter
World War II: Infographics
by Nicolas Aubin, Vincent Bernard, Nicolas Guillerat, Jean Lopez
Created by a team of historians and data designers led by Jean Lopez, the managing editor of Guerres & Histoire (Wars & History) magazine, World War II: Infographics tells the history of that war entirely through well-designed graphics. Although visually stunning, this is not a picture book. Its 357 maps and infographs provide a data-rich examination of 53 topics, beginning with the fall of democracies across Europe in the period between the two world wars and ending with unrest and independence in Europe's colonial empires after the war.
Whether considering aircraft production statistics, Soviet military losses or desert campaigns in the Sahara, World War II: Infographics uses geopolitical, economic, demographic and military data, organizing each topic in ways that ask new questions about familiar information and often provide new answers to enduring questions. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins
Discover: World War II: Infographics is the perfect gift for World War II buffs and data hounds.
Thames & Hudson,
hardcover, 192p., 9780500022924
Body, Mind & Spirit
The Big Book of Less: Finding Joy in Living Lighter
by Irene Smit, Astrid Van Der Hulst
Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst, creative directors of Flow magazine and coauthors of A Book That Takes Its Time, introduce The Big Book of Less: Finding Joy in Living Lighter, a pleasurable guide to clearing the mind through minimizing belongings, digital distractions, negative thinking and the need for control.
Essays explain how we become overstimulated--believing we "can't do without," might miss "something important" or must accomplish everything--and suggest solutions like taking breaks from thinking and screens, developing a dot journal and "embracing... upheaval." Advice comes from experts in psychology, philosophy, mindfulness and stress management. Extras include how-tos on such things as bucket lists, growing plants, slow-cooking recipes, "tiny pleasures" to appreciate. Exploring beyond the book via cited TED Talks, websites and "inspiring reads" is encouraged. Perfect for anyone needing a break, this beautiful adventure in letting go celebrates a simpler life. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer
Discover: Bursting with fun activities and bound-in extras, this fulfilling guide to decreasing mental and physical clutter offers a kind reminder to cherish life's uncomplicated joys.
hardcover, 224p., 9781523506286
Health & Medicine
Wild Beauty: Wisdom & Recipes for Natural Self-Care
by Jana Blankenship
Jana Blankenship, creator of the popular Captain Blankenship natural beauty line, brings her understanding of chemical-free lotions, shampoos and more to Wild Beauty: Wisdom & Recipes for Natural Self-Care. As befits a company whose motto is "Beauty Wild with Nature," this book features "natural perfumery and the rich palette of essential oils." Readers will find 45 recipes for hair and skin products, aromatic oils and healthy drinks, accompanied by lush photography and Blankenship's encouraging voice on making time for self-care. She introduces her recipes by demystifying the ingredients and methods, and she offers supportive directions to reassure those who are trying potions for the first time. Compounds like "Sea Salt and Sunshine Body Scrub" and "Wild Beauty Tea" are examples of the products within that are simple, affordable and offer "the intelligence of nature." --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: Recipes and tips to make natural self-care products at home from the founder of the Captain Blankenship natural beauty line.
Ten Speed Press,
hardcover, 160p., 9780399582813
House & Home
Decorating with Plants: What to Choose, Ways to Style, and How to Make Them Thrive
by Baylor Chapman
In Decorating with Plants, designer Baylor Chapman invites readers not only to bring plants into their homes, but also to integrate them into new and existing designs. Following a short introduction, she walks readers through the process of choosing among different types of houseplants and then adding plants to every room in the house. She pairs gorgeous photographs and careful styling with practical suggestions to avoid common problems like water damage and dark corners.
Chapman describes each suggested plant in detail, with attention given to nutritional needs, plant size and level of difficulty. Her ingenuity shines, however, when she broaches design in the second section. Chapman gives each room multiple treatments, with options for small spaces, high-traffic rooms and those frequented by children and pets. This is a beautiful, practical book for those who wish to raise beautiful, practical houseplants.--Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels
Discover: Decorating with Plants is full of inspiration and instructions for those just starting out with plants in their homes, those who just need design tips, and everyone in between.
hardcover, 272p., 9781579657765
Land of the Rising Cat: Japan's Feline Fascination
by Manami Okazaki
According to a 2014 shocking reveal by creator Sanrio Japan, Hello Kitty isn't actually feline, she's a British child. Nevertheless, "this culture of anthropomorphic kitties is one of the reasons feline fever has taken so many forms," including--a Japanese historical first!--cat-owners surpassing dog-owners in 2017. The country's "unprecedented boom" originates from centuries of claiming cats as "cherished companions," but social media and a quickly aging population (cats are easier for the elderly) are making kitties more prominent than ever--not only as pets, but as "a ubiquitous presence in art, design and popular culture."
In Land of the Rising Cat, Japanese writer and journalist Manami Okazaki (Kawaii! Japanese Culture of Cute) gathers tales of temples and cemeteries, islands and train stations, artists and activists, cafes and inns--all devoted to cats--throughout Japan. She interviews experts and enthusiasts along the way. Full-color photos enhance every page, tempting, celebrating, fueling readers' furry feline obsessions. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Pop-culture journalist Manami Okazaki's Land of the Rising Cat demonstrates why Japan's centuries-old feline fascination (thankfully) shows no signs of abating.
paperback, 176p., 9783791384948
Girls and Their Cats
by BriAnne Wills, Elyse Moody
When fashion photographer BriAnne Wills rescued two kittens while living in Ukraine, her love affair with cats began. Two years later, resettled in Brooklyn, N.Y., she started photographing other women who shared her healthy obsession, observing, "Cats truly are good for the soul." Wills, along with Elyse Moody, senior editor at Martha Stewart Living, presents 50 sparkling photographs of artists, writers and activists--women from different walks of life--and their beloved "furry quadrupeds." The collaborators pair each visual portrait with the heartwarming story of the distinctive human-feline bond pictured.
Wills and Moody modernize the traditional "cat lady" stereotype, while offering tidbits on everything from how to catproof a home to deciphering cat tail language. Cat worshipers--and those who love them--will be held rapt by this charming collection. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: Delightful portraits and stories about contemporary cat ladies and their beloved feline companions.
hardcover, 176p., 9781452176796
What I Lick Before Your Face and Other Haikus by Dogs
by Jamie Coleman
"Who's a good human? Come on, who is it?" While he doesn't exactly parody the common inane question humans pose, Jamie Coleman (Please Stop Touching Me... and Other Haiku by Cats) does metaphorically point the paw at the indignities our best friends endure, by channeling 64 haiku "written" by poetic canines.
A number of entries are scatological ("The definition/ Of friendship must surely be/ You, a bag, my poop"), with recurring themes around walkies (and the "harness of oppression") and consumption: grass, shoes, maybe sausages, drinks from that big white bowl. Canines are philosophical. A woeful bloodhound addresses the "Good Boy" question: "I no longer know/ If you are being genuine/ Or rhetorical." Each entry includes a portrait-quality photo of the poet, and while some may be snippy, most poems reflect the loving bond between dog and human. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, bookseller, Book Passage, San Francisco, Calif.
Discover: Dogs wax poetic about their experiences with their humans in this delightful collection of haiku.
hardcover, 128p., 9781982127442
Morning Glory on the Vine: Early Songs and Drawings
by Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell fans who are still sulking because they weren't among the hundred friends to whom she gave a collection of her drawings and handwritten song lyrics over the 1971 holiday season can perk up: they can finally own a copy. In Morning Glory on the Vine: Early Songs and Drawings, the lyrics to 60-odd Mitchell songs--"Big Yellow Taxi" and "River" among them--are reproduced in her lilting cursive alongside 30-something moody, full-size drawings in color and black-and-white. Subjects include homey scenes (various dining rooms) and familiar faces (Graham Nash, Neil Young). In an introduction written for this edition, Mitchell says that she created the book because in 1971, "all my friends were kind of nouveau riche, so buying Christmas presents was going to be really difficult." This year's holiday shoppers will find nothing difficult about choosing a gift for the Mitchell fans on their list. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer
Discover: The elegant handcrafted holiday gift that Joni Mitchell gave to her friends in 1971 is now available in a gorgeous facsimile edition for fans.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
hardcover, 136p., 9780358181729
The League of Extraordinarily Funny Women: 50 Trailblazers of Comedy
by Sheila Moeschen, illus. by Anne Bentley
In the introduction to The League of Extraordinarily Funny Women, author Sheila Moeschen informs readers that in 1916, the El Paso Herald ran a headline proclaiming, "Women's Sense of Humor Is Steadily Developing." A hundred years later, there's ample evidence the female sense of humor is alive and well. Funny Women is a compendium of 50 trailblazers--each spotlighted with an illustrated portrait and short bio--who have changed the face of comedy throughout the past century.
With categories like "Snarky, Sassy, Super Smarties" and "Magnificent, Marvelous, Mighty Misfits," the list is inclusive, with longstanding favorites like Joan Rivers, Nora Ephron and Carol Burnett mingling with more recent stars such as Tig Notaro and Maysoon Zayid. And it's heartening to see many diverse personalities, including Ali Wong, Nasim Pedrad, Margaret Cho and Wanda Sykes. Comedy might be hard, but these women make it look easy. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd
Discover: A brightly illustrated collection highlights 50 groundbreaking comediennes from the past century.
hardcover, 232p., 9780762466641
Art & Photography
by Rosamund Cox
Unforgettable Portraits is a beautiful, large-format collection of images from several decades of the international Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Each stunning photo--close-ups and dioramas; elephants, leopards, ants and springtails--gets accompanying text explaining the species, the context, the photographer's equipment and technique, with an emphasis on endangered species and climate change. Readers meet the Atlantic wolfish, the spotted-tailed quoll and the Namib Desert's welwitschia, and learn that spirit bears have "a mutation of the same gene that gives rise to red hair in humans" and that the photographer must be part wildlife scientist to get these shots, designing blinds and lying in wait for days, weeks and longer.
These 70 stunning images, by more than 50 photographers from more than 20 countries, would make a wondrous gift for any lover of wildlife, strangeness and beauty. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Discover: Lions, tigers and bears--and more--light up the incandescent pages of this collection of stunning wildlife photography.
hardcover, 128p., 9780228101833
by Courtney Watson McCarthy
You don't have to be Dan Brown's Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon to spot the wondrous truth of these da Vincis. With Leonardo Pop-Ups, the paper engineer and graphic designer Courtney Watson McCarthy puts the work of a master--and the page itself--into flight. Da Vinci's sketchbook rendering of The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne stands 12 inches tall, its five separate panels creating a dazzling dimensionality. Turn the page and the Vitruvian Man himself leaps up, arms and legs stretched out in his square and circle, representative of the perfection of creation, exquisitely rendered in cardboard. McCarthy's 10 da Vinci pop-ups also include The Annunciation and, from a sketchbook, a pedal-powered flying machine. The follow-up to previous volumes honoring the likes of Gaudi and Escher, Leonardo Pop-Ups itself is something of a flying machine, an improbable marvel. It's sturdy, too. -- Alan Scherstuhl, freelance writer and editor
Discover: The Vitruvian Man leaps from the page in this marvelously engineered pop-up book.
Thames & Hudson,
hardcover, 16p., 9780500239964
Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains
by Chad Oppenheim with Andrea Gollin, editors
Architect Chad Oppenheim remembers watching The Man with the Golden Gun in 1978, enthralled by the modernist elegance of assassin Francisco Scaramanga's home: "He had one of the sickest hideouts of all time." In some ways, Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains is the culmination of Oppenheim's childhood fascination and delves into the sinister architectural marvels of 15 motion pictures. Several but not all of them belong to Bond villains; one even belongs to animated antagonist Syndrome in Pixar's The Incredibles.
This arresting compendium provides an overview of each film, villain and hideout, along with striking stills and blueprints, all set in silver ink against black pages. Also included are essays and interviews that explore deeper facets of morality and modernism. For the movie buff and design aficionado, Lair offers an unforgettable tour of top-secret retreats of exceptional taste. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Architect Chad Oppenheim and others invite readers to trespass into dangerous and exquisite territory in this magnificent exploration of movie villain hideaways.
hardcover, 290p., 9781732297869
Jim Marshall: Show Me the Picture: Images and Stories from a Photography Legend
by Amelia Davis
Music fans may not realize they know Jim Marshall's photographs, but odds are they have been wowed by his iconic work. From his legendary shot of Johnny Cash "giving one" (i.e., the finger) to the warden before his 1969 concert at San Quentin Prison (purportedly the most bootlegged photograph ever) to a portrait of Miles Davis hanging in Obama's White House, Marshall is known as "the chronicler of rock royalty."
Jim Marshall: Show Me the Picture is a beautifully bound and slip-covered volume of almost 300 glossy pages showcasing hundreds of Marshall's images, marked-up contact sheets, short essays and a brief story of his colorful and tragic life. Marshall respected his subjects--gaining him unparalleled insight and access--whom he captured, almost impossibly, without cropping or added lighting. The power leaps from Marshall's photographs like Peter Frampton in flight. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: Essays by those who knew rock 'n' roll, jazz and civil rights photographer Jim Marshall are woven throughout glossy pages displaying his celebrated images.
hardcover, 288p., 9781452180373
Everyone's a Critic: The Ultimate Cartoon Book
by Bob Eckstein, editor
Despite the numerous essays, reviews and works of short fiction the New Yorker has published since 1925, special attention has always been paid to the cartoon work that accompanies each issue. In this spirit, editor (and frequent New Yorker cartoon contributor) Bob Eckstein here curates work from 36 masters of the craft--half of which have never been published--that plays on a timeless theme and serves as the collection's title. Everyone's a Critic is an intelligent, hilarious discourse on modern-day criticism, featuring everything from judgmental cavemen to altruistic burglars to a police sketch artist with more lofty ambitions. With work from acclaimed contributors like Roz Chast, Bob Mankoff and Liza Donnelly, Eckstein summarizes the book in his introduction when he declares, "I'm hoping this book can be a life-changing experience for those who up until now have been unable to roll with the punches or simply enjoy a chef's salad." --Zack Ruskin, freelance reviewer
Discover: An amusing yet thoughtful collection of cartoons from the New Yorker's best artists focused on our obsession with critiquing everything we encounter.
Princeton Architectural Press,
hardcover, 144p., 9781616898533
Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design
by Mark Ovenden, Maxwell Roberts
Mark Ovenden, author of Transit Maps of the World, has teamed up with Maxwell Roberts to create Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design. This beautiful book, filled with images of vintage airline maps starting as early as 1919, showcases how the expanding world of flight led to the evolution of maps over the century.
From their outset, these maps were almost art deco posters in their own right; they became even more color-saturated in the 1950s and 1960s, and then gradually more streamlined as the decades passed. Various airlines chose to highlight differing aspects: cultural icons from their landing places, distorted versions of maps to make destinations look closer, and technical details about the planes on which customers would travel.
Sure to please armchair globetrotters and graphic designers alike, Airline Maps is a fascinating book to explore. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: This attractive volume pairs graphic design and travel in its exploration of airline maps.
paperback, 144p., 9780143134077