Books are an easy gift choice, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fresh. There’s always a great selection around the holidays for a range of ages and interests.
Creature, by Shaun Tan. It’s as if, Tan writes, “I need to throw the artistic pebble far across a pond of weirdness in order to see some meaning in the ripples ...” Those words in the introduction of his new book speak volumes. The artist, writer and filmmaker from Perth, Australia, has collected his dreamy, sometimes eerie paintings and drawings. Tan reflects at length on his childhood in thoughtful text.
Regeneration: Black Cinema, 1898-1971, edited by Doris Berger and Rhea L. Combs. This companion to an exhibition of the same name at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles focuses on independent film. Interviews with Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, Ava DuVernay and more. Essays, glamour portraits and a chronology by year included. The goal: To provide a more expansive view of how American cinema has been shaped by African American creative expression.
Ugly-Cute, by Jennifer McCartney. Is there beauty in just about anything? McCartney thinks so. She has put together a small-in-stature, full-color look at “cuglies”: oft-underappreciated species both well known and obscure. Gaze upon the male star-nosed mole and its 22 pink, fleshy appendages in place of a face. McCartney filled her little book with bite-size facts and fun quizzes.
Africa In Fashion, by Ken Kweku Nimo. The Ghanaian researcher and designer explores the complex role the continent plays in the global fashion worlds past and present. He spotlights a new wave of African talent while looking back on vast textile, craft and embellishment traditions that are hundreds of years old. Nimo also delves into the potential of Africa as a luxury hub. Also consider Africa Fashion, which accompanies an exhibition of the same name at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The Crown In Vogue, by Robin Muir and Josephine Ross. Published for the late queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the two take readers through more than 200 images from British Vogue of the British royal family, starting in the early 20th century. At some point, every last one of the top royals graced the magazine’s pages, starting with the queen mother on through to Prince Harry and Meghan. With a range of commentary, from Evelyn Waugh to Zadie Smith.
Emily In Paris: The Official Cookbook, by Kim Laidlaw. Filled with 75 recipes inspired by the Netflix series. Lots of food porn here, along with photos of ex-pat Emily (Lily Collins) as fans await Season 3. Remember Gabriel’s omelette? It’s in there. How about that moment Emily was struggling to pronounce un pain au chocolate? The tasty croissant is included, too.
It Starts With Us, by Colleen Hoover. She has millions of fans on TikTok and elsewhere who eagerly awaited this sequel to her bestselling It Ends With Us. Her latest story of a dramatic love triangle and a woman’s struggle against domestic abuse helped cement her status on TikTok and made her the country’s most popular fiction writer.
The Pigeon Will Ride The Roller Coaster, by Mo Willems. The determined blue pigeon with seven playful books on his resume is back with a not-so-topsy-turvy lesson in managing expectations. This time around, he’s set on riding a roller coaster as he plots out the process: buying a ticket, waiting in line, the possibility of the bad-tummy dizzies. What he gets instead might surprise you. Great for kids 3 to 5.
Women Holding Things, by Maira Kalman. The artist, designer and bestselling author has expanded a booklet of the same name that raised money to combat hunger. True to its title, Kalman’s paintings and ruminations feature women who often do the job of holding things together. A woman holds a baby. A woman holds court. Kalman includes a painting of Virginia Woolf, who’s “barely holding it together.” She writes of the book’s last image, a girl with pink balloons: “Hold on.”
Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Chris Malbon. This dark urban fantasy from 1996 focuses on the dispossessed as the reader is taken into London Below, a secret world that exists in parallel with the London we know. Gaiman wrote the novel after the BBC made it into a TV series. He wrote in 2005 that the story’s goal was to move adults as he was so moved by “Alice in Wonderland,” the Narnia books and “The Wizard of Oz” as a kid. A special edition in a slipcase with a new introduction by Susanna Clarke.
Ice Cold. A Hip Hop Jewelry History, by Vikki Tobak. A photographic review of how hip hop helped redefine luxury with its over-the-top culture of bling. At the beginning, there was Run-DMC’s gold Adidas pendants and Eric B. & Rakim’s dookie rope chains and Mercedes medallions. They were followed by the likes of Pharrell Williams, Jay-Z, Gucci Mane and Cardi B. There’s a foreword by Slick Rick and essays by A$AP Ferg, LL Cool J, Kevin “Coach K’ Lee and Pierre “P” Thomas of Quality Control Music.
Adrift: America In 100 Charts, by Scott Galloway. How did the country land here? The professor of marketing at New York University explores that and other key questions starting in 1945 and landing in the present. Brief text accompanies his simple charts on a range of subjects, from the perception vs reality of the country’s crime rate to the earning potential of prospective male partners. The book isn’t for high-thinking statisticians but it’s full of conversation starters for the rest of us. – AP