The Canadian Landscape/Le Paysage Canadien
It is, perhaps, too easy a subject. In a country as large, varied and relatively empty as Canada, there's much to photograph -- the majestic Canadian Rockies, the seemingly endless prairies, azure lakes, oceans of wheat, icebergs, forests... the country presents a smorgasbord for the outdoor photographer. As a result, the Canadian landscape has been endlessly photographed and stacks of books have been published on the subject. Many have been beautiful, but few have been noteworthy. J.A. Kraulis, European-born, though Canada-raised, brings rare sensibility and understanding to his topic. "Perhaps it is just my imagination," he writes in The Canadian Landscape. "But if I were blindfolded and transported across many time zones to a place I didn't recognize, I believe I would know whether I was in Canada or not." One would hope that, should such a transport take place, Kraulis would have his camera. The Canadian Landscape, whose French and English text is undisturbing, depicts a Canadian wilderness seldom so beautifully captured on film. Kraulis' gorgeous photos combined with excellent printing and production make for a book worthy of the most elegant coffee tables.
Cosbyology: Essays and Observations from the Doctor of Comedy
Fans of Bill Cosby's gentle, reductionist humor will enjoy this slender volume of 19 essays drawn from the comedian's own rich life. In Cosbyology we're treated to observations on marriage, his own childhood, grandparents and the transitions in his own career with titles like "Tranquility: Just a Thought While Listening to a Jackhammer," "Praise the Lard" and "Why I Don't Like Melting Snow Going Down the Crack of My Back." Those looking for cover-to-cover gut-wrenching humor will be disappointed. Cosbyology is more like the philosophy of life through stories, Bill Cosby style.
Fantasy of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History
How Milton Works
For the serious literary scholars on your list, How Milton Works is an important book by the reigning specialist on the author of Paradise Lost. It's a remarkable book and the culmination of a lifetime of expertise. In 1967, Stanley Fish wrote Surprised by Sin, a work that established Fish as one of the world's preeminent Milton scholars. How Milton Works "from the inside out" is the major thrust of this most recent Fish tome and the modern definitive statement on Milton's work. If your giftee has an overabundance of intellectual rigor, How Milton Works might be an excellent choice.
Light at the Edge of the World
Internationally respected anthropologist and plant explorer Wade Davis has spent his 25-year career traveling our ethnosphere: "A notion perhaps best defined as the sum total of all thoughts, beliefs, myths, and intuitions made manifest today by the myriad cultures of the world." His journeys have taken him to a myriad of places including the deserts of North Africa, the rain forests of Borneo and the Amazon, the swamps of Orinoco, the wilds of Canada and the mountains of Tibet. And wherever he traveled, he took his camera and his own questing soul. "In every case," he writes, "the scientific quest served as a metaphor, a lens through which to interpret a culture and acquire personal experience of the other." A beautiful -- and sometimes even -- haunting record of one man's quest to "rediscover and celebrate the enchantment of being human."
New York in the Sixties
Office Kama Sutra
This may or may not be the perfect office gift: A wonderful inside joke or the hint that everyone sees. It should be noted that Office Kama Sutra doesn't even slightly resemble that other book with a similar name. The illustrations are... well... much less graphic and the ever-popular "Congress of Cows" has been morphed into a section called "Remote Congress:" "If the organization has offices in several regions or the lovers are occasionally separated, there may be the opportunity for video conference congress." Office Kama Sutra is mostly fun and silliness and there is very little advice included that would actually be useful. On the other hand, it would certainly get conversation -- and maybe other things -- flowing at the office Christmas party.
Postmarked Yesteryear: Art of the Holiday Postcard
Shabby Chic: The Gift of Giving
This might be the gift you get yourself. Rachel Ashwell is like a left coast Martha Stewart: at least, a budding one. With a growing chain of Shabby Chic stores, a Style Network television series and an ever-deepening backlist of books, the British-born resident of Malibu is bringing her funky design sensibility to an ever larger audience. In her newest book, Shabby Chic: The Gift of Giving, Ashwell moves away from the home decorating theme of previous books and tackles a topic of great interest during this season: the selection and presentation of gifts. Cost, writes Ashwell, is not the salient thing: "I think what's really important is to pay attention and take the time to give appropriate gifts with a great deal of thought put into them." For Ashwell and her acolytes, that means combing antique stores and flea markets and combining her perfect finds with "new items to make it really practical and useful in today's world." Ashwell tends to teach more by example than by how-to: there are no step-by-step "this is how you do it" instructions in Shabby Chic. But there is inspiration in abundance.