Best books to give as holiday gifts
You could search high and low for the perfect gift for everyone on your list — but what could be better than a great book? In our increasingly digital age, the hardcover book is practically an objet d’art, and matching the right title to the right recipient is as personalized as it gets. From gorgeous coffee table tomes to literary delights, here are some suggestions.
PAPARAZZO and STYLING THE STARS(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
Here's a double-dose of vintage glamour: "Paparazzo" collects snapshots by Italian celebrity photographer Elio Sorci, who zipped around 1950s and '60s Rome on a Vespa snapping the likes of Rock Hudson, Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn; "Styling the Stars: Lost Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archive" presents production photos of Hollywood actors (Marilyn Monore, Cary Grant, Lauren Bacall) in costume on set. "Paparazzo," $100, from Roads Publishing; "Styling the Stars," $75, from Insight Editions.
AMERICAN MUSICALS and WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S STAR WARS(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
An ordinary book becomes a classy gift when you put it in a slipcover case. Show queens will thank you for the two-volume "American Musicals: The Complete Books & Lyrics of Sixteen Broadway Classics," edited by Laurence Maslon (including "Show Boat," "South Pacific" and "My Fair Lady"). And the three volumes of "William Shakespeare's Star Wars" -- Ian Doescher's retelling of the movie epic in the style of the Bard -- will be a hit with sci-fi geeks and English majors. "Musicals," $75, from The Library of America; "Star Wars," $44.85, from Quirk Books.
Collections of David Foster Wallace and Alice Munro(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
If you want to introduce a loved one to a favorite author, here are two excellent choices: "The David Foster Wallace Reader" pulls together selected fiction, nonfiction and teaching materials by the hugely talented, wide-ranging author who died in 2008; "Family Furnishings" assembles 24 piercing stories written by Canadian Nobel laureate Alice Munro since 1995. "The David Foster Wallace Reader," $35, from Little, Brown; "Family Furnishings," $30, from Knopf.
BOMB, edited by Betsy Sussler, and BY THE BOOK, edited by Pamela Paul(Credit: Rebecca Cooney)
For a certain kind of book-mad person, an author interview is pure catnip. "BOMB: The Author Interviews," edited by Betsy Sussler, showcases conversations between two writers from the pages of the New York arts magazine. "By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review," edited by Pamela Paul, collects 65 Q&As from the popular NYTBR feature. "BOMB," $40, from Soho Press; "By the Book," $28 from Henry Holt.
CIAO, CARPACCIO!: An Infatuation, by Jan Morris(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
And you thought carpaccio was just thinly sliced raw beef. Well, the foodstuff was named for Renaissance Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio (1460-1520), whose vibrant reds inspired restaurateur Harry Cipriani. Now venerated travel writer Jan Morris has paid tribute in "Ciao, Carpaccio!," a splendid little volume that includes beautiful color reproductions with her idiosyncratic and learned prose. $19.95 from Liveright Publishing.
JANE AUSTEN COVER TO COVER: 200 Years of Classic Covers, by Margaret C. Sullivan(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
If you don't think Jane Austen is for you, then you just haven't found the right edition yet. Margaret C. Sullivan's volume "Jane Austen Cover to Cover: 200 Years of Classic Covers" -- which belongs on the bookshelf of every Janeite -- collects all the wildly various cover treatments, from 19th-century gold-tooled hardcovers to democratic mass-market paperbacks to steamy romance-novel seductions. $24.95 from Quirk Books.
TOY STORIES: Photos of Children From Around the World, by Gabriele Galimberti(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
If there is a sweeter book this holiday season, I haven't seen it. Photojournalist Gabriele Galimberti hopped from Texas to Haiti to China to Malawi, capturing kids with their favorite playthings. "Toy Stories: Photos of Children From Around the World and Their Favorite Things" is a sly cross-cultural documentary masquerading as a feel-good crowd-pleaser. $24.95 from Abrams Image.
LETTERS OF NOTE: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence, by Shaun Usher(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
Letter writing is often bemoaned as a lost art, and "Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience," Shaun Usher's glorious selection of letters from writers, royalty, rock stars and ordinary citizens, makes you yearn to find a witty handwritten or typed missive in your mailbox. Drawn from the blog of the same name, this lovely volume combines photographs, transcriptions and commentary. $40 from Chronicle Books.
HORN PLEASE: The Decorated Trucks of India, by Dan Eckstein(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
Is there anything more festive than the brightly colored and festooned vehicles that crowd the roads of the Subcontinent, honking away? "Horn Please: The Decorated Trucks of India" is an exuberant book of photographs by Dan Eckstein that treats them as works of art, paired with portraits of their drivers. $45 from powerHouse Books.
Penguin Christmas Classics(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
Leave it to the folks at Penguin -- who gave us Gothed-out editions of horror classics for Halloween -- to package these "Penguin Christmas Classics," slim Yuletide-themed volumes by Charles Dickens, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Anthony Trollope, Louisa May Alcott and Russian master Nikolai Gogol -- whose 1831 "The Night Before Christmas" may be the only holiday tale ever to feature the devil. 5 volumes; $16 each, from Penguin Classics.
FILM NOIR 101: The 101 Best Film Noir Posters From the 1940s-1950s, by Mark Fertig(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
You've seen the movies, now thrill to the posters: "Film Noir 101" collects the lurid artwork employed to advertise the these moody midcentury thrillers in a full-color, oversized format. The classics are all here -- "The Big Sleep," "Laura," "Gun Crazy" -- along with lesser-known pictures such as "Pickup" and "Framed." $35 from Fantagraphics.
THE NEW ANNOTATED H.P. LOVECRAFT, edited by Leslie S. Klinger(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
Not widely known in his day, H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937) published his macabre fiction in pulp magazines such as Astounding Stories and Weird Tales; his work would later influence writers from Joyce Carol Oates to Stephen King. "The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft," a doorstop volume with an introduction by comic book writer Alan Moore, brings together 22 stories with scholarly notes and illustrations. $39.95 from Liveright.
THE BEATLES LYRICS, edited by Hunter Davies(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
For those whose Beatlemania will never die, there is a seemingly endless library of books about the Fab Four. Here Hunter Davies, who edited "The John Lennon Letters" in 2012, assembles the back stories of more than 100 Beatles songs for "The Beatles Lyrics," including pictures of handwritten lyrics (with revisions and unused lines) from John, Paul, George and Ringo. $35 from Little, Brown.
MARVEL COMICS: 75 Years of Cover Art, by Alan Cowsill(Credit: Bruce Gilbert)
The comics juggernaut that brought "Guardians of the Galaxy" to the big screen this year is celebrated in "Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art," a lavish collection of comics art from 1938 to the present. Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men, Avengers -- the gang's all here. With spreads on featured artists Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others. $50 from DK Publishing.