Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday Gifts Books

Is there anything more fun than giving someone a book you know they want, but for some reason, can’t bring themselves to buy? Whatever the reason, financial, space concerns, or momentary laziness, they don't do it. Here are some fantastic books (and one non-book) that are exactly the kind people want, but never buy for themselves.

The Gorgeous Nothings: Who hasn’t scribbled a note on the nearest scrap of paper? A phone number, an errand, or a phrase or idea that just popped into your head. Emily Dickinson was also a note scribbler. The Gorgeous Nothings collects and presents facsimiles of her notes on envelopes as well as translations of her handwriting. The notes provide a surprisingly intimate look into one of the important literary minds in American history. The photos of the notes themselves are so vivid you feel like you could pick them up. An amazing gift for poets, Dickinson lovers, and anyone constantly scribbling their lives onto little scraps of paper.

The Great War: Joe Sacco illustrates one day, July 1, 1916, in WWI with one picture; a massive 19 foot incredibly detailed, breathtaking, picture. Pages can be turned like a regular book or the entire piece can be unfurled. Grim, sometimes gruesome, Sacco is able to create a powerful sense of atmosphere and emotion, managing to give personalities to the thousands of soldiers involved in the battle of the Somme. Less something to just look at, The Great War is an image to get lost in. Sacco unifies art and history into a powerful experience. The book also includes an essay by historian Adam Hochschild. 


Unfathomable City: The author of the fantastic Infinite City, now turns her unique technique of history of place on New Orleans. Maps and essays go beyond the basic historic events to paint a portrait of the character or even the soul of the city, exploring jazz, trees, family, Mardis Gras, and crime, as well as two of the biggest disasters in recent memory; Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. The beautiful full color maps draw you in, so what starts out as a casual flip-through on a cold winter Saturday, becomes a several hour exploration of what it means to be a city.

This Is Mars: One of the most thrilling moments of my life was staying up till the wee hours of the morning to watch Curiosity land on Mars. Since then I’ve been following Curiosity’s tweets and pictures as we begin to build a truly detailed understanding of the red planet. Xavier Barral has collected the panoramic pictures sent back from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Somewhere between a visual atlas and a sumptuous artistic coffee table book, the detail in the pictures is breathtaking. This is Mars also includes an introduction by research scientist Alfred S. McEwen, principal investigator on the HiRISE telescope; an essay by astrophysicist Francis Rocard, who explains the story of Mars' origins and its evolution; and a timeline by geophysicist Nicolas Mangold, who unveils the geological secrets of this fascinating planet. For the science lover, the photography lover, or anyone interested in what NASA has been up to the last five years. 

Art as Therapy: Can looking at art be good for you? Even therapeutic? What actually happens when you look, really look at a piece of art? De Botton, who has become a major philosopher on navigating daily life, argues that certain great works offer clues on managing the tensions and confusions of everyday life. The reproductions are vivid enough that you could just flip through this as you would any other art book, or you could delve into the ideas and ask the profound and challenging questions de Botton and co-author and art historian John Armstrong ask. A great gift for art lovers, therapists of any kind, and fans of de Botton’s take on existence. 

Star Wars Frames: I don’t usually cut and paste descriptions of books, but, I can’t really sum up what makes this book elicit mournful sighs of deep longing better than, “Star Wars: Frames brings together Lucas's personal shot-by-shot selections into a lavishly designed two-volume hardcover set--one volume for the Original Trilogy and one volume for the Prequel Trilogy.”

Shake: Look at their faces! And their fur! And their ears lookattheirearsgo! Photographer Carli Davidson gets dogs wet and then photographs them shaking off. It might be the silliest idea I’ve yet blogged, but the results are absolutely beguiling. (Though is it that much different than Phillipe Halsman making celebrities jump?) A wonderful gift for any dog lover or photographer and I guarantee it will be the most looked at gift at any party it attends.

Kobo Aura HD :And, finally, for someone looking for something from the wonderful world of electronics. Of all the ereader devices I’ve seen, this is only one that seems truly committed to creating a powerful and convenient reading experience. It has the highest e-ink resolution of any device on the market and the fastest processor. The faster processor is nice for speedy page turns, but it really makes annotating and highlighting smoother than any other device. It is the closest I’ve seen to scribbling notes in the margin and highlighting favorite lines in a print book. It has over 20 font choices including one designed to be easy for people with dyslexia to read. It also comes with a built in ambient light for night reading, that doesn’t point back up into your eyes. It is a little heavier and a little larger than devices tend to be, but it ‘s designed to feel like holding a paperback with the cover folded over. Wifi, a browser if you need it, a built in Kobo store, enough memory for thousands of books, and a battery life that can be stretched to almost a month, this is truly a reader’s ereader.

And while you're holiday shopping, don't forget our Shop Local Holiday Shipping Program for all online orders over $25 going to Cambridge or Somerville.


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