Coffee-table books for holiday gift giving

"Bank parking lot, Plains," is an image in William Eggleston's book "Election Eve," featuring photographs taken in South Georgia shortly before Jimmy Carter won the presidential campaign.
Courtesy of Eggleston Artistic Trust

Combined ShapeCaption
"Bank parking lot, Plains," is an image in William Eggleston's book "Election Eve," featuring photographs taken in South Georgia shortly before Jimmy Carter won the presidential campaign. Courtesy of Eggleston Artistic Trust

A high-quality coffee-table book can be an ideal gift for that person who has everything, especially if you can find one on a topic of particular interest to the recipient. Here are five new books ranging in subjects from music and art to fashion and nature that promise hours of pleasure and enlightenment.

Combined ShapeCaption
"Election Eve" by William Eggleston. (Courtesy of Steidl)

Credit: Handout

"Election Eve" by William Eggleston. (Courtesy of Steidl)

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
"Election Eve" by William Eggleston. (Courtesy of Steidl)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

‘Election Eve’

Plains prior to Jimmy Carter’s presidential election is the subject of this photo essay by William Eggleston, a Memphis photographer with a long and highly lauded career who is credited with elevating color photography from a commercial endeavor to the realm of fine art. The book features 100 color images taken on Eggleston’s journey from his home in Memphis to Plains in October 1976. Originally released in 1977 in two leather-bound volumes, only five books were produced, making it a highly prized collectible. This second edition is now available in a single volume at a price considerably more affordable. Subjects include vacant fields, tin-roofed shacks, crumbling brick buildings, white farm houses, a water tower and rusty gas pumps, silos and cars. Human life is mostly absent, with a handful of exceptions, and even then, people appear small and distant. The photos capture an environment seemingly frozen in time just prior to a monumental event, the outcome of which was then unknown. There is often an on-the-fly quality to the composition, as though the photographs were shot from a moving car, the shutter pressed a second too late to capture the subject in its entirety. Without a shred of nostalgia or sentimentality, the images evoke a sense of longing for a vanishing slice of the rural South. (Steidl, $80)

Combined ShapeCaption
"Dolly Parton Songteller: My Life in Lyrics" by Dolly Parton with Robert K. Oermann. (Courtesy of Chronicle Books)

Credit: Handout

"Dolly Parton Songteller: My Life in Lyrics" by Dolly Parton with Robert K. Oermann. (Courtesy of Chronicle Books)

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
"Dolly Parton Songteller: My Life in Lyrics" by Dolly Parton with Robert K. Oermann. (Courtesy of Chronicle Books)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

‘Dolly Parton Songteller: My Life in Lyrics’

In addition to elaborate blond wigs, Dolly Parton wears a lot of hats. Singer, multi-instrumentalist, entertainer, actress, theme park owner, philanthropist, fashion iconoclast. But at the heart of Parton’s many accomplishments is one singular talent that has secured her place in the pantheon of country music legends: her gift as a songwriter. Parton has more than 3,000 songs to her credit, some 450 recorded by her or others, including Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris and Whitney Houston. This illustrated coffee-table book casts a spotlight on 175 songs that provide the organizing principle for an illustrated autobiography written by Parton with Robert K. Oermann. In addition to the lyrics, there are stories about what inspired the songs and backstories on the recording and performing of them. There are tons of photographs of Parton taken throughout her life, plus album covers, costumes and objects from her childhood home on display at the Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood. One of the charms of the book is reading lyrics from some of her lesser-known songs, including her first one written at age 6 called “Little Tiny Tasseltop,” an ode to her corncob doll, and the lurid “Daddy Come and Get Me,” written with her aunt, Dorothy Jo Hope, in 1970 that begins: “In this mental institution, looking out through these iron bars / How could he put me in here, how could he go that far?” (Chronicle Books, $60)

Combined ShapeCaption
"Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto." (Courtesy of Thames & Hudson)

Credit: Handout

"Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto." (Courtesy of Thames & Hudson)

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
"Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto." (Courtesy of Thames & Hudson)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

‘Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto’

Fashion icon Gabrielle Chanel will always be associated with the elegantly tailored suit she debuted in 1925 that changed women’s fashion forever with its slim skirt and collarless jacket. But as demonstrated by this coffee-table book produced to accompany a retrospective of the designer’s work at the Palais Galleria fashion museum in Paris, she was so much more than the Chanel suit. She got her start in 1910 as a milliner producing enormous hats with long feathered plumes, but she soon turned modern with her fabulous flapper fashions — sleeveless, drop-waisted gowns that fell just below the knee, embellished with fringe and glass beads. Around that same time, she became the first designer to create her own perfume and name if after herself. Chanel No. 5 remains one of the world’s most beloved scents. Then came the accessories — purses, shoes and even jewelry made from lacquered metals and crystals. But the suit remains her defining creation, and the book contains exquisitely photographed portraits of them that reveal the delicate weave of the fabrics and the extraordinary craftsmanship that went into making of what are now museum pieces. Every fashion lover will want to add this volume to their book collection. (Thames & Hudson, $60)

Combined ShapeCaption
"Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s" by Jeff Gold. (Courtesy of Harper Design)

Credit: Handout

"Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s" by Jeff Gold. (Courtesy of Harper Design)

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
"Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s" by Jeff Gold. (Courtesy of Harper Design)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

‘Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s’

This nostalgic, illustrated look back at the golden age of jazz by Jeff Gold features more than 200 color and black-and-white photographs, advertisements and promotional materials from clubs across the U.S. The book is divided into three sections — East Coast, Midwest and West Coast — but more than half the book is devoted to the East Coast and the lion’s share of the section is centered on New York, naturally. Highlights of the section include an illustrated “Night-Club Map of Harlem” from 1932 that captures the concentration of hot spots between Lenox and 7th avenues, including Club Hot-Cha, Log Cabin, Savoy Ballroom and, of course, the Cotton Club. A menu from Connie’s Inn features a caviar sandwich for $1.75. Among the book’s images are lots of souvenir photographs taken of dapper patrons, both black and white, and sailors with their dates, all sitting around dining tables draped with white tablecloths. There are also performance shots of stars such as Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway and Dizzy Gillespie and details of unique clubs like Crystal Caverns, crafted to look like a real cave, located in the basement of a drugstore in Washington, D.C. Gold, a music archivist and historian, puts the images in context with historical details, and there are interviews with Quincy Jones, jazz historian Dan Morgenstern and Sonny Rollins, who says, “Jazz was really the music that facilitated integration among the races in this country and never got credit for it.” Adds Jones, “Back then, it wasn’t about color in the clubs, it was about how good you can play. Racism would’ve been over in the 1950s if they’d listened to jazz guys.” (Harper Design, $39.99)

Combined ShapeCaption
"Fragile: Birds, Eggs and Habitats’" by Colin Prior. (Courtesy of Merrell)

Credit: Handout

"Fragile: Birds, Eggs and Habitats’" by Colin Prior. (Courtesy of Merrell)

Credit: Handout

Combined ShapeCaption
"Fragile: Birds, Eggs and Habitats’" by Colin Prior. (Courtesy of Merrell)

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

‘Fragile: Birds, Eggs and Habitats’

One of the bright spots of sheltering at home during the pandemic has been a resurgence of interest in birds and their habitats. “Fragile” takes it a step further and asks us to consider the egg. The vast array of sizes, shapes, colors and patterns of the eggs pictured here are mind-boggling, as is the beauty of the mottling and marbling of complementary colors. Scottish landscape photographer Colin Prior juxtaposes close-ups of the eggs with landscapes of the birds’ habitats, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between the two. The eggs were collected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are part of an extensive collection at the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh. Using a high-tech imaging process, Prior photographed each egg between 40 and 80 times and blended the results together to create a single, hyper-real image that pops off the page. Chapters are divided by habitats, from coniferous forest and farmland, to sea cliffs and rocky islands. Paging through this gorgeous, oversized book evokes a peaceful state not unlike a walk in the woods. (Merrell, $60)