Holiday Book Preview
Our recommendations for books that will warm your heart, spark your imagination, and keep out the chill of boredom
Some like it hot, and for those on your shopping list with a sweet tooth for Marilyn Monroe’s Sugar Kane, we recommend a luscious hardcover tribute to Billy Wilder’s comedy classic. If that’s not your cup of eggnog, lucky for you, this 2001 installment of EW’s ultimate gift guide to books offers a virtual literary wonderland brimming with eye-catching ideas that are bound to appeal to even the Grinchiest on your list — from works that celebrate the art of celebrity portraiture to cookbooks that dispense advice on no-sweat baking, from heartwarming page-turners for children to nature photography books that transport you to far-flung places. And, if you prefer to play it cool, check out our roundup of tomes devoted to high style and guaranteed to swank up any coffee table — even if it’s from IKEA. EW has taken the temperature of this year’s gift books. The forecast calls for joy.
BILLY WILDER’S SOME LIKE IT HOT Edited by Alison Castle (Taschen, $150) It’s hard to imagine a more thorough companion piece to Wilder’s 1959 comedy. In addition to a photo-accompanied reproduction of the original script, this 384-page coffee-table crasher boasts lengthy cast interviews, a production history, and a copy of Marilyn Monroe’s on-set notebook. What’s not to Like?
TIMOTHY WHITE: PORTRAITS (Rizzoli International Publications, $75) Famed celeb-shooter White took most of these 93 photos in the last 12 years. As a result, Portraits serves as an eye-pleasing overview of ’90s popular culture: There’s a boyish-looking Kevin Spacey from his pre-stardom days; Drew Barrymore in the last throes of her bad-girl era; and Chris O’Donnell and Madeleine Stowe from when they were kinda famous.
DENNIS HOPPER: 1712 NORTH CRESCENT HEIGHTS (Greybull Press, $75) From 1962 to 1968, Hopper and actress Brooke Hayward lived in L.A., hanging out with the likes of Jane Fonda, Roger Vadim, and Phil Spector. His black-and-white snapshots — taken on the beach, in the backyard, and on the road — capture the innocent sexuality and vagabond spirit of the time.
INCOGNITO Antonin Kratochvil (Arena Editions, $60) Kratochvil’s stark images of Eastern Europe have garnered him numerous accolades, and these black-and-white showbiz snaps are equally stirring: Whether it’s Johnny Depp walking the Prague set of From Hell or Liv Tyler relaxing in Toscana, his subjects seem to exist in a foggy, secret underworld of shadow and light.
THE COMPLETE LYRICS OF IRVING BERLIN (Knopf, $65) Just how complete? Try 1,200-plus songs from the grand old man of Tin Pan Alley. Sure, there’s ”God Bless America,” but this late-in-life lyric may strike a chord too: ”Let’s stroll down memory lane again/Where there’s a brighter view/Till this crazy world is sane again/And the sun comes shining through.”
THE PRODUCERS Mel Brooks and Tom Meehan (Talk Miramax, $40) In wise-cracking, self-effacing prose, Producers cocreator Brooks traces the history of the biggest show on Broadway — from early rehearsals to opening night to rapturous reviews. And at $40, this glossy, photo-driven compendium is still $440 cheaper than top seats for the show itself.
NUTCRACKER E.T.A. Hoffmann, Pictures by Maurice Sendak (Crown, $40) Sendak, the magician behind Where the Wild Things Are, reinvigorates the enduring 1816 classic with his heavenly drawings of snarling mice, ghoulish Godfather Drosselmeier, and the earnest Nutcracker, a hero unsure of his own worth.
OLIVIA SAVES THE CIRCUS Ian Falconer (Atheneum, $16) For those unacquainted with darling Olivia, she is a pig, a sweetheart with spunk who currently imagines herself a circus performer. Falconer’s simple charcoal illustrations are heartbreaking — especially Olivia tucked into red sleeper pajamas at the end of another big day, little legs nestled under pearl gray covers.
WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW Sonya Sones (Simon & Schuster, $17) What makes this young adult novel so winning is that Sophie’s story is told entirely in freewheeling verse — a 14-year-old’s discomfort with her ”fifty-foot” self set to the tender rhythms of a teenage poet.
LEWIS CARROLL BOX SET (Bloomsbury, $32) Literary hot dogs Will Self and Zadie Smith lend fancy-pants introductions (which children will ignore) to classics Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Regardless, this lovingly prepared box set, adorned by Mervyn Peake’s fantastical etchings and silver-stringed bookmarks, belongs in the hands of fine young readers.
THE CALIFORNIA POP UP BOOK (Universe Publishing, $49.95) Up go the Golden Gate Bridge and Watts Towers and Hearst Castle. Packed with a wide range of micro-essays, this 3-D book celebrates the Golden State in all its dimensions.
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD Marjorie Priceman (Little Simon, $19.95) In this witty, woodsman-free rendering of the fairy tale, we can unfold page 1 to make Red put her hood on and later pull a panel to see the wolf sneeze Grandma up.
KAHLO (Bulfinch, $85) Famous for her self-portraits, mustached and macabre, Mexican artist Kahlo painted more than her severe face. Over 200 prints explore the range of her sexy and disturbing vision; bold swatches of color pulse from these pages.
SOCIAL GRACES Photographs by Larry Fink (powerHouse Books, $55) Fink’s brutally honest photos, from New York’s Upper East Side to broken-down Pennsylvania porches, prove all social gatherings look the same — faces slackened by drink, men and women draped in awkward clutches, a host’s exhausted slouch.
CHURCHES Judith Dupre (HarperCollins, $35) The subject is holy, but this elongated work of elegance is really an homage to architecture. Bow down before awesome images of the twin spires of Germany’s Cologne Cathedral and the gold-plated mosaics of Italy’s Basilica San Marco.
CAPTURE THE MOMENT: THE PULITZER PRIZE PHOTOGRAPHS Edited by Cyma Rubin and Eric Newton (Newseum Norton, $30) Any history or photography lover will revel in the first major collection of Pulitzer-winning pictures. All are stunning; most are devastating, and remind us not only of moments in history but of the strangely passive role journalists play in capturing it. (You often want to scream, even years later, ”Put down your camera and do something!”) In ”Justice and Cleansing in Iran,” from 1980, an unnamed photographer snaps a firing squad at work. Not the stuff of holiday cheer, but absolutely riveting nonetheless.
BOXING James A. Fox (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $45) Black-and-white photos that show the raw beauty behind an often brutal sport. A preening Muhammad Ali strokes his neck; an unknown kisses and cradles the face of his bloodied opponent.
COINCIDENCES Sarah Moon (Arena Editions, $65) Moon’s gift is catching irreplaceable moments, like the pulse of a back muscle or the ruffled swish of a woman’s skirt. Bleary backgrounds only highlight the focus of her obsessive lens.
CELESTIAL NIGHTS: VISIONS OF AN ANCIENT ISLAND Neil Folberg (Aperture, $40) To use James Joyce’s metaphor, Folberg photographs ”the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit,” contrasting striking night skies with stark desert scenes.
THE WATERCOLORS OF WINSLOW HOMER (Norton, $39.95) It’s hard to go wrong with a collection of Homer’s work, especially his watercolors. This book is as bright and cheerful as any compendium of impressionists, but holds up far better when reproduced on the page. His wonderful Nassau and Florida works are included here, adding color to the more powerful images of gale-stricken British shores.
ANIMAL PORTRAITS Walter Schels (Edition Stemmle, $75) Schels’ hilarious but beautifully composed black-and-white collection provoked one cat loather to say, ”I could almost want one.” This book will be desired by all who believe in animal attraction.
AFRICA Art Wolfe (Wildlands Press, $75) As fine an armchair travel experience as even the most die-hard adventurer could ask for, Africa captures not only the animals, people, and topography of the continent but also the place’s most elusive and magical quality: the almost psychedelic, debaucherous light.
BIRDS Jim Dine (Steidl, $50) What Edgar Allan Poe did for ravens, Dine does for birds of all kinds of feathers in this collection of black-and-white portraits, which depict even the most prosaic of pigeons as haunting, macabre mysteries.
THE WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHS John G. Mitchell (National Geographic, $50) Far more than the expected ensemble of animals being their beautiful selves, this collection includes extraordinarily dramatic shots of sharks descending upon a wide-eyed fish and an unsuspecting, low-flying bird, cheetah feeding on an impala, and, more tenderly, two polar bears snuggling in the snow.
WEGMANOLOGY William Wegman (Hyperion, $30) It would take a true Scrooge not to slobber over Wegman’s latest edition of weimaraner whimsy. Included here are selections from the photographer’s alphabet and number collections, as well as new work that is as freshly funny as any of these pups’ past performances. There’s Batty doing the glamourama thing in a movie-star wig and shades, and Man Ray playing elephant, with the aid of a prosthesis right out of Boogie Nights. Sure, dogs are man’s best friends — and they’re this photographer’s best models.
EDWARD GOREY: THE DERANGED COUSINS (Pomegranate, $13.95) Witness the mysterious misfortune, month by month, that plagued three spindly cousins, Rose Marshmary, Mary Rosemarsh, and Marsh Maryrose. The darkly comic Gorey, who died last year, is still having wicked fun.
DISPATCHES FROM THE TENTH CIRCLE: THE BEST OF THE ONION (Three Rivers Press, $12.95) Revel in a year’s worth of the online news site’s best satirical hits. In February, ”Elton John Wows Mother Teresa Funeral Crowd with ‘The Bitch Is Back.”’ In December, ”Ritalin Cures Next Picasso.”
CROWNS: PORTRAITS OF BLACK WOMEN IN CHURCH HATS (Algonquin, $10.95) Adapted from last year’s best-selling book, these elegant head shots of women dressed for worship are lovely. Crinoline-laced or leopard-spotted, these hats are works of art, and so are the glowing faces beneath them.
365 DAYS OF ANTIQUES ROADSHOW (Workman, $11.95) Antiques are hot. Just ask the many fans of the PBS show who trade in dusty relics for crisp pay dirt. Check out the teapot that was appraised at 15 thou, and the board game that was valued at two grand. Then check out your closet.
ANDY Christopher Makos (Assouline, $18.75) A collection of stills from Makos’ 1981 Altered Images photo shoot that shows Warhol at his most vulnerable, in partial drag, his face swabbed in ghoulish makeup. Fellow ’70s scenester Ingrid Sischy explores the two-sided infatuation between the pop artist and pop culture.
POCKET MOVIE GUIDES Jaws, by Nigel Andrews; Blue Velvet, by Charles Drazin; Goldfinger, by Adrian Turner; Apocalypse Now, by Karl French; Performance, by Mick Brown. (Bloomsbury, $7.95 each) With these wallet-size compendiums, film buffs can wallow in every A-Z aspect of cult movie classics — from Arlene’s diner in Blue Velvet to the line ”Zap ’em with your sirens, man” in Apocalypse Now. Exhaustive entertainment for obsessives.
WONDER WOMAN: THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE AMAZON PRINCESS Les Daniels (Chronicle, $70) The latest ”Behind the Spandex” survey from a noted comic-book archivist shows how our most transcendent pop fantasies can have the most idiosyncratic origins. Those less interested in Wonder Woman’s roots can fawn over the accompanying action figure, complete with red boots and gold lasso.
ART TATTOOS Marty Noble (Dover, $1.50 each) For the thick-skinned folks on your list. Four booklets feature ready-to-wear, temporary body art. Choose from a gallery of popular, full-color images, including Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar and Munch’s The Scream.
THE LITTLE BLACK DRESS Didier Ludot (Assouline, $18.95) Essential for the style maven on your list, this ode to midnight frocks from the likes of Christian Dior, Balenciaga, and Issey Miyake is sleek, compact, and invariably elegant — just like the titular garment itself.
FEMME FATALE Serge Normant (Viking Studio, $35) Normant does with hair what Kevyn Aucoin does with makeup: transforms stars into fashion icons. Our favorites? Julia Roberts channeling Louise Brooks, and a pared-down Britney Spears as sultry starlet.
ETHNIC STYLE: HISTORY AND FASHION Berenice Geoffroy-Schneiter (Assouline, $45) A fascinating account of adornments around the world, filled with stunning images of Maori facial tattoos, ”giraffe woman” neck elongators, and bejeweled Indian nose rings.
HOW THE WEST WAS WORN Holly George-Warren and Michelle Freedman (Abrams, $45) So what if Faith Hill wouldn’t be caught dead in these polyester-and-sequin concoctions? This historical jaunt through Western style (from Buffalo Bill to John Travolta) shows that cowboys (and girls) don’t always sing the sartorial blues.
HORST PORTRAITS: 60 YEARS OF STYLE Terrence Pepper and Robin Muir (Abrams, $55) From old Hollywood glamour (Merle Oberon) to ’50s chic (Maria Callas) to Reagan-era style (Debbie Harry), Horst P. Horst snapped it all. Best bit: Duran Duran asking Horst for tales about ”all the people from the ’30s.”
LACOMBE CINEMA/THEATER Brigitte Lacombe (Schirmer/Mosel, $85) French photog Lacombe, known for her unfussy black-and-white portraits, captures celebrities — like a bedraggled Kevin Kline and a newly shorn Cate Blanchett — in unadorned glory.
EARTH FROM ABOVE: 365 DAYS Yann Arthus-Bertrand (Abrams, $29.95) Pink flamingos and smoggy Sao Paulo; Antarctic icebergs and Egyptian sandscapes; much ravishing, vanishing green — this is photographic globe-trotting with an ecocentric spin.
THE HIGH HIMALAYA Art Wolfe (The Mountaineers Books, $44.95) Though Wolfe’s shots of peaks and snowy slopes are the main draw, his portraits and nature photos reach heights of their own.
MANHATTAN UNFURLED Matteo Pericoli (Random House, $29.95) This book unfolds into two exquisite line drawings of the (pre- Sept. 11) skyline, each 22 feet long. The title of critic Paul Goldberger’s accompaying essay hits the mark: ”Delicacy and Grandeur.”
AMERICA WIDE — IN GOD WE TRUST Ken Duncan (Ken Duncan Panographs, $45) Wide-lensed and deeply spiritual, these pictures celebrate the American pastoral: purple mountains, covered bridges, fields of daisies.
THE BUTTERCUP BAKE SHOP COOKBOOK Jennifer Appel (Simon & Schuster, $26) Desserts your grandma made, from snickerdoodles to icebox pie, rendered in a fabulous retro format. The jacket photo alone — cupcakes lovingly slathered with thick buttercream frosting — will send you into a sugar frenzy.
MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING: THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION Julia Child (Knopf, $40) Has it really been 40 years since Julia Child rescued Americans from dreary casseroles? This reissue, clad in a handsome red jacket, is what a cookbook should be: packed with sumptuous recipes, detailed instructions, and precise line drawings. Some of the instructions look daunting, but as Child herself says in the introduction, ”If you can read, you can cook.”
THE ALL-AMERICAN COOKIE BOOK Nancy Baggett (Houghton Mifflin, $35) A great browsing cookbook, this is a nice mix of cookie history and lore, beautiful photos, and, of course, recipes, which range from the standard (sugar) to the sublime (hazelnut honey caramel bars).
LIDIA’S ITALIAN-AMERICAN KITCHEN Lidia Bastianich (Knopf, $35) Bastianich, a restaurant owner with her own PBS cooking series, explains in wonderful detail the effects immigration had on Italian food here, and offers dozens of classic Italian-American recipes, from shrimp scampi to lobster fra Diavolo.
THE MINIMALIST COOKS DINNER Mark Bittman (Broadway, $26) Bittman is famous for his cookbooks, which give simple instructions for fabulous food, and this one is no exception. You won’t just page longingly through the book — you might actually take it to the kitchen and make something.
IN THE SWEET KITCHEN: THE DEFINITIVE BAKER’S COMPANION Regan Daley (Artisan, $35) If your dessert repertoire is limited to brownies, this is your book: Daley demystifies the art of pastry dough, pie crust, and meringue once and for all.