If you’re stumped on what to give someone on your gift-giving list this Christmas or Hanukkah season, consider a coffee-table book. For every possible hobby or interest, there is a book to match. Here are a few we recommend.
Those who profess a dislike of country music would be hard-pressed to walk away from Ken Burns’ eight-part documentary series on the topic, which debuted on PBS in September, without an appreciation for some aspect of the art form. Even die-hard country music fans came away with a newfound admiration and a deeper understanding of the genre’s origins. This 533-page, oversized book is a faithful re-creation of the series, complete with text from the film’s script, quotes from contemporary music-makers, and tons of never-before-seen photographs (including some from the late Georgia photographer Al Clayton). The book’s eight chapters align with the series’ episodes, and it gives readers the chance to linger over the photographs, letters and lyric sheets that fluttered by too quickly on screen. The only thing it lacks is the stellar soundtrack, and that can be purchased separately. (Alfred A. Knopf, $55)
Garden & Gun magazine has been celebrating the Southern lifestyle and debunking Southern stereotypes since it launched in 2007. This year, it turns its attention to the female persuasion with this recognition of 100-plus artists, leaders and innovators who hail from the South. Divided into categories, such as Tastemakers & Trendsetters, Chefs & Mixologists, and Performers & Players, the content is composed of short Q&A’s, essays and first-person reflections on each of the women, who hail from the region. Each one is accompanied by a photograph or illustration. Among them are plenty of women with Georgia ties, including poet Natasha Trethewey, author Tayari Jones, chef Mashama Bailey, cookbook authors Edna Lewis and Nathalie Dupree, actress Holly Hunter, jewelry designer Gogo Ferguson, musicians Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, Spanx creator Sara Blakely and Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, the first female president and dean of Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine. Atlanta is well represented among the book’s contributors, too, including Candice Dyer, Christine Van Dusen, Jewel Wicker and Rebecca Burns. (Harper Wave, $32.50)
Moiré is a type of distortion that occurs when photographing an image on a television screen. The fine pattern of dots that make up a TV image meshes with the pattern of dots the camera uses to produce a photograph, resulting in a third pattern of grids and wavy lines. That phenomenon plays a role, both visually and metaphorically, in this new art book by Michael Stipe, who was frontman for the Athens band R.E.M. Produced in collaboration with writer Douglas Coupland (“Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture”), the book explores the concept of interference between the digital world and the analog world, using 191 photographs from Stipe’s personal archives. Subjects include lyric sheets, male nudes, video screens, inanimate objects, and architectural details. The common unifying factor is the presence of patterns — some digitally manipulated, others occurring naturally. True to Stipe’s iconoclastic nature, the volume defies art book conventions. The images are printed on a lightweight, matte-finish paper without any white space around them, and there are no page numbers, introduction or artist’s statement. The only text is a list of titles in the back; Coupland’s contribution is unclear. Much like Stipe’s music, “Our Interference Times” is at once compelling and mystifying. (Damiani Books, $60)
For three decades, photographer Emily Matyas has been crossing the border between Arizona and Mexico for her work with a foundation that assists impoverished communities in northern Sonora, Mexico. The relationships she developed with some of the families there gave her privileged access to their private lives, which she has photographed with great empathy in this collection of 81 images. There is an arresting intimacy to the photographs, both color and black-and-white, that capture mundane events that are relatable and familiar to the viewer, if not for the primitive surroundings. A young girl in a frilly dress hunches over a table doing her homework, the room lit by gas lamp. A dog curls up for warmth on a dirt floor by the kitchen stove made from an oil drum. A child bathes in a crude, public shower. The border wall appears in only two images; the most haunting one shows it stretching into the ocean in Tijuana. There is nothing overtly political about the images, just the sensitive portrayal of the humanity of those living on the other side of the border. Included are essays in both English and Spanish by Matyas and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Linda Valdez, among others. (Daylight, $45)
With a retail price of $160, the 432-page “John Galliano for Dior” may be the splashiest fashion-focused coffee-table book London-based Thames & Hudson publishes this year. It’s certainly the heaviest, with a shipping weight of 9.9 pounds. But “Supreme Glamour,” featuring photographs of the show-stopping gowns worn by the darlings of Motown in the ‘60s and ‘70s, is more our speed. Behold the stunning silk, velvet, chiffon and taffeta gowns bedazzled with beads, sequins, pearls and rhinestones, trimmed in mink and feathers and topped with capes and boas. Whether they wore Grecian gowns, bell-bottom pants or mini dresses, the Supremes were always stylish. In a hybrid photography book and memoir, Mary Wilson, who was the only member to remain a constant in the group from beginning to end, tells her side of the trio’s story, beginning with their rise to fame and ending with life after Diana Ross. Illustrated with publicity stills and performance photos, the memoir is divided into two sections: “Dreamgirls to fashionistas: 1959-1965” and “Hit-makers to pop legends: 1966-1977.” In between are glossy, full-color photos of the gowns from Wilson’s private collection. Among the designers represented are Bob Mackie, Michael Travis and LaVetta of Beverly Hills, who, as a black woman designing couture in the ‘60s, was a rarity in the industry. (Thames & Hudson, $45)
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