Gift-giving season is upon us again. It’s the time of year when publishers release their flashiest, priciest oversized books in hopes of capturing the holiday market. And it’s our job to sort through them and pluck out the ones we think are the best. Here are our seven favorites from the offerings this year.
British author and illustrator Fred Fordham has produced a faithful adaptation of Harper Lee’s Southern classic about racial injustice in Depression-era Alabama. His color illustrations appropriately capture the tone and times of the book that is still cherished by many Southerners today, 58 years after it was originally published. More wordy than some graphic novels, not surprisingly, the text is taken nearly verbatim from the book and is set in frames of vivid drawings. The children’s first late-night encounter with Boo Radley is captured in moody purple tones and paced to thrilling effect. The frameless illustrations of the congregation singing hymns at Calpurnia’s church capture the lyricism of the moment. It makes for a great addition to a “Mockingbird” collection or provides a fresh way to introduce the timeless story to a new generation. (HarperCollins, $15.90)
The 1987 book about visionary artist Eddie Owens Martin (St. EOM) and the eye-popping environment he created in South Georgia was reissued this year when newly refurbished Pasaquan was reopened. The site is now managed by Columbus State University and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The book features 95 color photographs and text “as told to and recorded by Tom Patterson” based on three years of interviews with Martin. In his colorful way, Patterson makes the observation that “those great lady writers of the Dixie Bizarre School,” Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers, lived nearby but never created a character as outlandish as Martin. Patterson suggests that had they “ingested fistfuls of the hallucinogenic psilocybe (sic) mushrooms that grow in the South Georgia cow pastures, then set about a collaborative rewrite of L. Frank Baum’s ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ they might have come close.” The photographs are on view at the Lyndon House Arts Center in Athens through Jan. 12. (UGA Press, $34.95)
Reese Witherspoon is one of several actresses who have turned themselves into lifestyle brands. Think Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop newsletter, or Jessica Alba’s Honest Company line of baby products. Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine is a media company that publishes personal essays, produces podcasts, promotes books and sells products, so it stands to reason she would write her own lifestyle book. What sets her apart from the others, though, is her Southern heritage, which shines through in this pretty collection of recipes and tips on beauty and entertaining. It’s all presented with cheeky fun, like the section on hot-rolling your hair and “Talkin’ Southern.” But the content is authentic and downhome, like her Southern party playlist featuring tunes by Ray Charles and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and her recipe for Corn Bread Chili Pie. (Touchstone, $35)
Subtitled “The First 100 Years of Black Poster Art,” this gorgeous coffee-table book contains images from John Duke Kisch’s private collection of black film memorabilia, which includes 38,000 photographs and movie posters from more than 35 countries. The posters range from the early 1900s to the present and are organized by topics. There are chapters devoted to individual actors and directors, including Josephine Baker, Ethel Waters, Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier and Spike Lee. There are chapters on race films, movies made between the 1910s and 1940s by black casts for black audiences, and “problem” films, which emerged after World War II and explored racism. There are posters on topics such as blackface, stereotypes, jazz and blaxploitation. The styles of the posters are as varied as the types of movies illustrated. It’s especially interesting to see how different countries illustrated the same films. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Spike Lee provide the foreword and afterword, respectively. (Reel Art Press, $75)
Atlanta art collector and photographer Lucinda Bunnen has spent a lifetime traveling the world, taking pictures and collecting artwork. This year she combined her passions and created this unique, limited edition book of photographs she’s taken of objects and assemblages from her collection. The items tend toward the rustic and primitive and often display elements of whimsy and humor. “Gathered” is comprised of two accordion-style books printed on matte art paper and beautifully packaged in a cloth-covered box. The result is an art book that is a work of art in and of itself. (lucindabunnen.com, $125)
Art historian Alexandra Loske and astronomer Robert Massey have put together this lovely illustrated compendium of all things lunar designed to appeal to scientists and romantics alike. It’s filled with colorful images ranging from the moon card from a 15th-century Italian tarot deck to a 1969 photograph of Herschel Crater taken from Apollo 12 to Andy Warhol’s 1987 screenprint “Moonwalk,” made from an image of Buzz Aldrin’s first historic step. The book is composed of short chapters on various topics related to the celestial body, including The Female Moon, Moon and Death, Lunar Deities, The Moon in Eclipse, First Men on the Moon, Supermoons and Soviet Space Race Propaganda. And it’s filled with surprising tidbits of information like the startling revelation that every year the moon drifts 1.5 inches away from us. (Ilex Press, $24.99)
Written by music journalist Alan Light, this biography traces Cash’s life from his childhood in Arkansas to his death in 2003, and hits all the highs and lows along the way: recording at Sun Studio, his struggle with substance abuse, his relationship with June Carter and his religious faith. Helping tell the story are photographs of more than 100 personal items that belonged to Cash or his family members, including newspaper clippings, handwritten notes, letters, contracts and album track lists. There are also tons of personal photos of family members, his childhood home, the family log cabin he converted into a studio in Hendersonville, Tenn., and the “guitar pulls” he hosted there, not to mention photos from his career: on stage, in the studio, signing autographs, at Folsom Prison, with musicians Waylon Jennings and Tom Petty, and U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush. Brad Paisley provides the foreword. (Smithsonian Books, $40)
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