The Canadian Landscape/Le Paysage Canadien
by J.A. Kraulis
Published by Firefly
175 pages, 2001

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.


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Cosbyology: Essays and Observations from the Doctor of Comedy
by Bill Cosby
Published by Hyperion
192 pages, 2001

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.

 


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Fantasy of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History
by Randy Broecker
Published by Collectors Press
2001, 258 pages

With everyone potty about Harry Potter and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings in movie theaters, it seems everyone has fantasy on their minds. Another brilliant and timely addition to their ...of the 20th Century books Fantasy of the 20th Century: An Illustrated History is sure to please fans of this series of Collectors Press volumes. As beautifully produced and thoroughly researched as Science Fiction and Horror of the 20 Century, Fantasy takes us through the history and development of the genre, from the pulps to the more current mainstream works. This oversized coffee table book is a great encyclopedia of film work, writing and illustrations for filmmakers, writers and illustrators and an essential must-have for that lonely geek next door who won't leave his home without his Middle Earth amulet or saying an incantation to the gods of public transit and who believes himself the reincarnation of the Great Merlin and has every illustrated volume of everything Robert E. Howard ever wrote in every language ever published -- but I digress. As impressive as everything Collectors Press publishes. -- David Middleton


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How Milton Works
by Stanley Fish
Published by Harvard University Press
616 pages, 2001
ISBN: 0674004655

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.


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Light at the Edge of the World
by Wade Davis
Published by Douglas & McIntyre
180 pages, 2001

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."


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New York in the Sixties
London in the Sixties
Paris in the Sixties
San Francisco in the Sixties
edited by George Perry
Published by Pavilion
128 pages, 2001

The old axiom goes "If you remember the sixties then you probably weren't there." Well, for those of us who were there and don't remember, fortunately someone brought a camera. Compiled from a list of photographers from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Robert Doisneau and from photo agencies like Magnum and Corbis to name but a very few, this quartet of Sixties books touches on key moments from a troubled and exciting decade. Remembering what the big cities looked like before disco, cel phones and SUVs, New York, Paris, London and San Francisco in the Sixties are little different than many other photo books from a specific time period, but for the aging baby boomer on your gift list, this just may be the thing that helps them remember what good times they had, bad trips they took or have them frowning in disbelief that they wore such odd clothes and said things like "right on, man," "groovy, man" and the ever popular "hey, man." GoGo boots and mini skirts, peace rallies, Khrushchev, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Brigitte Bardot, Ian Fleming, Ken Kesey, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Timothy Leary, the Summer of Love and bell bottoms that could hide a VW Beetle. It's wonderful how art can often transcend its medium, transporting us to a moment captured in the fleeting passage of a shutter's leaf. The instant fixed in time is no longer just silver and celluloid, but can become the essence of the moment. But is a photograph art and what makes it memorable? Is it because it captures a famous person, a famous place or a famous event, or is it just a celebrated memory? We are able to look at a photograph and almost say we were there. These four books recall more memories in 128 pages than do most encyclopedias and you didn't even have to be there to feel the impact. You can be in the middle of a peace rally and not have to feel the sting of the tear gas, be on the film set with Bardot and not feel the need to avert you eyes to her precocious nudity. A trip down memory lane for the nostalgic, a social essay on politics and fashion and I'm sure if some of us look hard enough, it would be well worth your time to see if you got into any of the pictures. Right on, dude. -- David Middleton

Office Kama Sutra
by Julianne Balmain
Published by Chronicle Books
112 pages, 2001

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.

 


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Postmarked Yesteryear: Art of the Holiday Postcard
by Pamela E. Apkarian-Russell
Published by Collectors Press
162 pages, 2001

For those of you who know someone who is overly nostalgic for a time when the holidays were far less commercial and usually involved the simplicity of a handmade gift, Postmarked Yesteryear: Art of the Holiday Postcard is the perfect book. Author and avid Deltiologist (postcard collector) Pamela E. Apkarian-Russell takes us on a world tour of postcards from bygone days. Filled with stunning examples of more than a century of these inexpensive greetings and the illustrations that helped grace them. Celebrated here are Valentine's Day, Christmas, New Year, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, Halloween, various patriotic holidays, Easter and even a few you may not have heard of, such as Guy Fawkes day, Krampus (an Austrian holiday celebrated on December 5th involving a demon-like figure who preys on bad little -- and not so little -- girls and boys), Walpurgisnacht (a sort of bacchanal for witches and vampires) and Mexican Day of the Dead. Well-researched and produced with fine examples of what look like well-preserved and well-loved postcards.

 


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Shabby Chic: The Gift of Giving
by Rachel Ashwell
Published by Regan Books/HarperCollins
208 pages, 2001

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.


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