Great books for your coffee table
These vibrant and visual new releases are perfect for your loved ones — or your coffee table.
Silhouette: The Art of the Shadow
From Grecian urns to Gestalt vases, the silhouette has cast its shadow on the history of portraiture. The method was a cheap way to capture likenesses in a time before cameras, and its use is chronicled beautifully here.
French Interiors: The Art of Elegance
Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery & Christina Vervitsioti-Missoffe
Rank-and-file Francophiles will love taking a peek inside lushly furnished homes bursting with cabriole chairs and fine-crafted bibelots. No doubt the owners are all as rich as five-course French meals, but the book is a true gilt-y pleasure.
Mike Caveney, Ricky Jay & Jim Steinmeyer
Three of magic’s top archivists conjure a history of prestidigitation in one massive tome. Written in three languages (English, French, German) and covering everything from early enchanters to Houdini, this magnum opus will make your time disappear.
Frescoes of the Veneto: Venetian Palaces and Villas
Filippo Pedrocco, Massimo Favilla, Ruggero Rugolo & Luca Sassi
Become a Renaissance man — or woman — with this book about the dazzling artwork that adorns some of Venice’s oldest and grandest residences. You’ll want to rush out and book that plane ticket to Italy immediatamente.
Man + Dog
Dalkey Archive, $15
This fetching (sorry) set of line drawings depicts man and his best friend in all their glory.
Black: The History of a Color
Following his 2001 history of blue, Pastoureau’s chromatic chronicle takes on the color that is not a color. Using a plethora of classic and modern artwork, he places the hue within its cultural, historical, and socioeconomic context.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith
The heirloom edition of the comedy of manners and brains comes with color illustrations of all those exploding heads and severed limbs. Plus, it’s hefty enough to make a formidable weapon in case you’re attacked by the undead.
Horace Walpole’s Cat
Thames & Hudson, $29.95
A charmingly illustrated history of one of the best-loved and best-titled poems, ”Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes,” which Thomas Gray wrote when his friend Walpole grieved the loss of his cherished feline.
Snapshots in History’s Glare
The urbane elder statesman of American letters has produced a compelling visual memoir composed of photos, notes, and correspondence from his personal archives. A rare glimpse into the well-lived life of a prolific literary giant.
The Penguin Classics
(Prices and titles vary)
Grab some of the hottest new titles: Wuthering Heights! Jane Eyre! Okay, these books have been sitting on the shelf, but they’ve hardly gone stale. And thanks to Coralie Bickford-Smith’s new cover designs, the classics are classy again.
Outlaws!: Adventures of Pirates, Scoundrels, and Other Rebels
Maréchaux curates this collection of brigands, bandits, and buccaneers, dividing them into leagues of infamy (Wild West outlaws, gangster thugs, etc.). Here, bad is good. Very good.
These stunning shots of our feathered friends, which are all set against Zuckerman’s trademark white background, may almost persuade you to forgive them for that whole avian-flu thing.
Earth on Fire
If this fall’s destructathon 2012 whetted your appetite for more about the planet’s fiery potential for devastation, check out these searing volcano images that positively erupt with craters, calderas, and coursing lava.
Henri Cartier-Bresson/Walker Evans: Photographing America 1929-1947
Agnès Sire & Jean-François Chevrier
Thames & Hudson, $50
Let us now praise famous photographers. Two of history’s greatest shutterbugs documented citizens during some of the country’s leanest years — from the Great Depression to the end of WWII — producing haunting portraits of Dust Bowl austerity and postwar uncertainty.
With laudatory quotes from the likes of Phyllis Diller and Paris Hilton gracing the back cover of this collection of pampered pooches, you definitely know what you’re getting into when you buy it. Still, it’s hard to resist the cute.
Eye of the Leopard
Beverly & Dereck Joubert
No, it’s not the new single from the band Survivor. It’s a surprisingly up-close look at a single cat as it grows, over a period of five years, from an appealing cub to a majestic adult. You can’t change a leopard’s spots, but with this book, you can certainly spot its changes.
A Shadow Falls
All creatures great and small populate this series of arresting black-and-white nature photographs. Simultaneously capturing the raw majesty and vulnerability of East African fauna, Brandt’s images reveal such pathos in his subjects that you almost forget they’re animals.
I Know How to Cook
Mathiot, dubbed the Julia Child of France, first published this bible of Gallic gastronomy in 1932; it has just been released in English for the first time. Mathiot’s basic recipes are intended for home cooks, not three-star Michelin chefs.
David Chang & Peter Meehan
Culinary wunderkind Chang reveals the kitchen secrets that have earned him numerous awards and the respect of the foodiesphere. The tone is disarmingly frank for a cookbook sprinkled liberally with an F-word that’s neither fava nor flambé.
Ad Hoc at Home
Keller is an American culinary master with top-rated restaurants in New York City and Napa Valley. But here he goes simple, opting for soul food over sous vide.
The Blackberry Farm Cookbook
The food from this rustic inn nestled in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains is unpretentious but not unsophisticated. It’ll make you want to watch the sunset with a julep in your hand, even if it’s only from your apartment building.
Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey Treats for Kids
The kids are going to destroy the kitchen even if they’re just making toast, so you might as well let them go wild with some of these sweet treats of face-smearing goodness.
Bugs in a Blanket
All the bugs living in a blanket discover they look different, but they decide, in the end, that appearances don’t matter. The illustrations, crafted from wool felt and bits of cloth, perfectly evoke an old, dusty blanket.
TheYellow Submarine-like color illustrations of this classic children’s picture book, and Hans Christian Andersen Prize winner, are exuberant fun for adults and kids alike.
Build Your Own Paper Robots
Julius Perdana & Josh Buczynski
St. Martin’s, $18.95
Pop the book’s CD into your computer, print out one of the color templates, and follow the assembly instructions to create one of 12 fabulously detailed robots.
The Little Prince: Deluxe Pop-up Book
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Houghton Mifflin, $35
This much-loved philosophical tale, which draws on the author’s own experiences in the Sahara, becomes even more magical here by the addition of spectacular paper mechanics. For kids of all ages.