'Tis the season for beautiful editions of favorite literary classics, photo-laden travelogues, luxe art retrospectives, and coffee-table books that feature everything from Broadway history to extinct birds. Enjoy!
Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom: Pinup Photography’s Golden Era
Petra Mason (amazon.com, $37.80)
Yeager, a model-turned-photographer, was integral to Bettie Page’s rise to stardom — and Darkroom celebrates her work with Page and other women during pinup’s heyday in the 1950s. In fact, it was Yeager’s famously sexy shot of the black-haired, blue-eyed, red-lipped Page in a Santa hat — snapped up instantly by Playboy — that catapulted both women to fame. Though the smoky, sultry photos may seem tame by today’s standards, they remain the definition of erotic.
Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat
Caroline M. Smith (bn.com, $45.88)
There’s the Dr. Seuss we all know — the one who counts fish and extols the virtues of unlikely breakfast items — but there was also a lot more to the man who penned the children’s books we grew up on. This wonderful collection gives readers a glimpse into a side of Theodor Geisel that we don’t often get to see, including some of his anti-anti-Semitic political cartoons and his ”midnight paintings,” a series of private works reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. It would take a real Grinch to dislike such a splendiferous book.
The Chronicles of Downton Abbey
Jessica Fellowes & Matthew Sturgis (bn.com, $16.29)
Exuding the gloss and prestige for which the show is known, this companion book gives fans an inside look at Julian Fellowes’ popular period series about Britain’s fading aristocracy. All three seasons of the stolid but delightfully sudsy import are covered, including the arrival of Shirley MacLaine as the free-spirited American mother of Lady Grantham.
Cabinets of Wonder
Christine Davenne & Christine Fleurent (amazon.com, $29.70)
Maybe your cabinets at home aren’t full of wonder — just Wonder bread. But this book traces an interesting (if creepy) phenomenon of art and science: taxidermied creations that straddle the line between naturalism and fantasy.
Charley Harper’s Animal Kingdom
Todd Oldham (amazon.com, $61.99)
Harper’s passion for color and lyrical sensibility make the images almost leap off the pages of this stunning volume.
Eames Demetrios (amazon.com, $126)
This book, which commemorates the work of husband-and-wife designers Charles and Ray Eames, is perhaps best perused while leaning back in one of their iconic chairs.
A chronicler of America’s huddled masses, Bellows brought out the vitality of life in the early 20th century.
Wesselmann’s vivid renditions of soda bottles are Pop art that pops, and the rest of his work — which spans a variety of different media — also insistently implants itself onto your corneas.
The Art of The Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkien (bn.com, $23.50)
Sketches of Gandalf, maps of the Lonely Mountain — it’s enough to make any Tolkien fan hiss, ”My preciousss.”
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
Geoffrey O’Brien & John Bartlett (bn.com, $31.25)
The 18th edition is packed with 2,500 new quips, including some from Jon Stewart.
A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess (bn.com, $14.71)
Burgess’ controversial novel has been rereleased for its 50th anniversary with its original British cover.
Jane Austen (amazon.com, $23.10)
Austenites can rejoice over this striking new annotated edition of Emma.
A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway (amazon.com, $17.82)
WWI’s most important novel has been reissued with Hemingway’s notes and alternate endings.
Neil Gaiman (amazon.com, $127.78)
This gift edition of Gaiman’s novel has a fairy-tale feel.
Really Cute Animals
Ralph Steadman (bn.com, $29.94)
The famous illustrator turns his twisted eye to extinct birds, both real and imaginary, in this hallucinatory collection.
Jill Greenberg (amazon.com, $34.65)
Greenberg captures horses’ primal beauty by homing in on tiny details: eyes, manes, taut muscles.
More Than Human
Tim Flach (bn.com, $39.15)
In these dazzling photos, Flach treats all his subjects, from jellyfish to insects, as fine art.
On This Earth, a Shadow Falls
Nick Brandt (amazon.com, $95.33)
Brandt’s book is a rich monochromatic ode to the majestic animals of East Africa.
Dan Kainen & Carol Kaufmann (amazon.com, $14.44)
”Photicular” shots of cheetahs, rhinos, and gazelles spring to life as the pages turn.
Seth Casteel (amazon.com, $11.60)
Photos of dogs chasing things underwater are alternately gorgeous and terrifying, but always visually sumptuous.
Science Made Simple & Gorgeous
Andrew Zuckerman (bn.com, $45.73)
Zuckerman, shooting blossoms against a white backdrop, transforms them into something almost alien.
William Wegman (bn.com, $25.60)
Famed for his photos of dressed-up Weimaraners, the whimsical Wegman shifts his focus to the outdoors.
The Human Face of Big Data
Rick Smolan & Jennifer Erwitt (bn.com, $29.41)
In a gripping series of graphs, charts, and essays, the authors capture the meaning of the digital revolution.
Michael Benson (bn.com, $31.60)
From the scarlet flares of the sun to the cool slopes of the moon, Planetfall brings the universe to your living room in haunting detail.
Simon Winchester & Nick Mann (bn.com, $17.21)
On the surface, Skulls may look a tad morbid, but at its heart, it’s a fascinating exploration of skulls, both human and animal.
Places to Go
Matteo Pericoli (amazon.com, $25.55)
Architect Pericoli sketched the north and south banks of the Thames in precise detail — every building, landmark, and bridge — in this dramatic 37-foot-long accordion book.
Amita Baig & Joginder Singh (bn.com, $51)
Blending history, architecture, and photography, Maharajas takes readers deep into the Indian subcontinent.
Jacques Boulay (amazon.com, $94.50)
These sweeping panoramic photos present Venice as a thriving modern city with beauty around every corner.
See the World Beautiful
Anne Menke (amazon.com, $53.55)
Menke’s book focuses on everyday men and women in remote, rural settings.
Slim Aarons: La Dolce Vita
This collection covers 40 years of the celebrated magazine photographer’s obsession with Italian high society.
Fashion & Design
Thom Filicia (bn.com, $28.93)
While vacationing at New York’s Finger Lakes, renowned interior designer Filicia fell in love with a dilapidated fixer-upper. This account of his two-year renovation — packed with rich photographs and a foreword by Tina Fey — isn’t so much a decorating book as it is an ode from a man to his house.
Cameron Silver (amazon.com, $37.80)
Silver, owner of L.A.’s acclaimed vintage boutique Decades (think couture, not used clothes), has spent years dressing Hollywood stars in glamorous period dresses for red-carpet events. Here he pays tribute to the iconic styles of the past hundred years in lavish, loving detail, zooming in on fabrics, trims, and silhouettes.
Louise Fili (amazon.com, $26.40)
Long known as something of a revolutionary in the field of book-jacket design, Fili took her distinctive and elegant old-world style to the food-packaging industry in 1989. There she brought a whole new level of sophistication to everything from candy-bar wrappers to wine bottles — and you can find many of them here.
Patricia Mears, Peter McNeil, Chris Breward, Christian Chensvold & Masafumi Monden (amazon.com, $34.62)
Blazers, penny loafers, and a whole lot of tweed: Ivy Style is a comprehensive guide to one of the defining trends of the 20th century, tracing it from its birth during the interwar years up through its revival in the 1980s. Navy blazers, anyone?
Love Looks Not With the Eyes
Anne Deniau (amazon.com, $46.03)
In the 13 years before his death, Deniau was the only photographer whom fashion designer Alexander McQueen permitted backstage at his legendary shows — and this stunning chronicle is the result. This is not a biography in the true sense of the word but the powerful story of a man’s work told through a series of candid photos.
Pop Culture Picks
Ben Brantley (amazon.com, $31.50)
This history of the Great White Way traipses all the way from the Ziegfeld Follies to that blasphemous megahit The Book of Mormon.
Karen Falk (amazon.com, $19.77)
You’ll love the Muppets even more after peeking behind the scenes in this collection of Jim Henson’s notes and sketches.
Edited by Johan Kugelberg & Jon Savage (amazon.com, $34.65)
The punk aesthetic is on display here in all its glory: one part dadaism, one part revolution, and one part whatever it took to piss grown-ups off.
Film-set photographer Schapiro caught celebrities at their most iconic, including Marlon Brando getting his Godfather makeup applied.
Streets of Fire
Eric Meola (amazon.com, $19.80)
Meola’s book marries Bruce Springsteen’s yearning lyrics with photographs of the singer at his most badass.
With nearly 200 pages of photos, this is easily the greatest gift of all for any Whitney Houston fan.