Gift Guide 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music: From Rock, Pop, Jazz, Blues and Hip Hop to Classical, Folk, World and More
foreword by Sir George Martin, edited by Paul Du Noyer
Published by Billboard Books
448 pages, 2003

In the house of pop, there are many mansions. This profusely illustrated coffee-table volume attempts to give a tour (through spare text and many pictures) of music's most significant genre-structures, from medieval-classical to new-age electronic. The book breaks its massive subject into 16 categories (including "Pop," "Rock," "Jazz," "Blues," "Country" and "Folk"), each of which is in turn divided into as many as 30 subcategories. The result is a breezy reference work short on depth but long on overview, especially useful for those who are less informed about more recent developments in popular music. With its editor and most of its contributors being British, this encyclopedia may seem somewhat UK-centric to North American perusers; but the rest of the world (and its world music) is also well-represented. To remember old favorites, or to learn about trends you missed completely ("gabba"? "tech-house"? "bobo dread deejays"?), this work is ideal for browsers. -- Tom Nolan

Dirty Words of Wisdom
edited by Sam Stall and Lou Harry
Published by Quirk Books
96 pages, 2003

The title of the book is a little misleading. One expects, perhaps, erotica or things that are otherwise sex-related. This is not the case. Not, as it happens, really even close. "You hold in your hand a work centuries in the making --" write the authors in their introduction, "a survey of pungent quotes, uttered by politicians, writers, movie stars .... The only thing they have in common is that each includes at least one 'dirty' word." Not that the world needs more swearing, they assure us. "What the world needs is better swearing." Sound like a pretty thin premise for a collection? Well... thinner premises have been used. And its nicely packaged. The small and slender volume is produced very much like a child's book: brightly colored, effectively illustrated, not a lot of words to bog the whole thing down. Except, of course, for all those dirty ones. And, in truth, they're not all that dirty. An example, from the artist Frida Kahlo: "I drank to drown my sorrow, but now the damned things have learned to swim." John Lennon, George S. Patton, Frank Zappa, Tom Robbins, e.e. cummings, a couple of entries from Dennis Miller. Many of the quotes are thought-provoking, some are entirely profound, a few downright silly but, all together, this is a book that seems to shout "gift!"

Doga: Yoga for Dogs
by Jennifer Brilliant and William Berloni
Published by Chronicle Books
96 pages, 2003

Though the artform is thousands of years old, Yoga has never been cooler, hipper or more now. That being the case, it was only a matter of time before a couple of wags (sorry) came out with a yoga book for dogs. The wags who came up with Doga were the perfect authors for this particular project. Jennifer Brilliant is the director of teacher training at OM Yoga Center in New York City. She knows yoga. Her co-author, William Berloni, is a professional animal trainer. Many of his canine clients are animal actors and appear in films, commercials, television shows and the theater across the United States. Berloni knows dogs. Put these two together and tell them to write a book and you end up with... Doga, a book ostensibly based on the teachings of six dogis: Bennie, Harlem, Buster, Pi, Cricket and Kessie. The target for this book is, clearly, yoga enthusiasts (or would-be enthusiasts) who also love dogs. While the very good photographs in Doga depict our six dogis in various -- ahem -- doga positions, actual canines will not benefit from the book. However, and as odd as it may sound, humans practicing yoga can expect to pick up a few pointers. It's a very fun book that the dog-loving yoga practitioner on your list will appreciate.

40: Houses
by Oscar Riera Ojeda
Published by Thunder Bay Press
347 pages, 2003

40: Landscapes
by James Grayson Trulove
Published by Thunder Bay Press
351 pages, 2003

Though 40: Landscapes and 40: Houses are not necessarily meant to be companion books, the similarity in the principle, layout and the linked subject matter make these two books natural coffee table companions. In both cases, the best work of a handful of excellent international firms are looked at in-depth. In the case of 40: Houses, the book opens with a look at Moore House in Sharon, Connecticut, designed by Alfredo de Vido Architects. Over the next 10 pages, we see really excellent photos from various angles; some simple, descriptive text, elevations; a site plan and a section plan. Other houses thus documented are located in Argentina, Chile, Portugal, Switzerland and various places in the United States. If one thing is missing from this otherwise well-thought-out book it is the construction and design dates that would give complete relevance to what we're shown. As it is, however, it's enlightening to see how modern designers deal with their challenges. In Worcester, New York, for example, we're shown how the firm of Peter L. Gluck and Partners dealt with adding an addition that would include a lap pool and art gallery to an 18th century farmhouse. Both books are beautifully produced and ideal resource and idea guides.

The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson
by David P. Silcox
Published by Firefly Books
441 pages, 2003

Much has been written about the Group of Seven, the corps of Canadian artists who banded together in 1920 to bring their idea of Canada as a spirited wilderness to the world. What sets David P. Silcox's book apart is the breadth of material the author has accumulated here, showcasing the seven -- actually, ultimately 11 -- as being far more than many Canadians are aware. Along with a wealth of well-research, documented and presented written material, Silcox has included 369 full color paintings, including many that will change the view of the Seven that many people hold. Silcox has broken the book into very logical chapters, including Canada by region (Algoma and Lake Superior, The Canadian Arctic and so on), paintings from the First World War (several members of the group had been variously engaged painting war-related images both in Canada and overseas), a chapter called, fittingly, "Images of Canada" delivers some of the best known paintings from the Seven, including Tom Thomson's Study for a Northern River, Lawren Harris' Isolation Peak, Arthur Lismer's Isles of Spruce and other images that have taken on the patina of iconography in our culture. The most surprising chapter comes directly after: Gardens, Still Lifes, and Portraits delivers up a view of the Seven few realize exists. A series of nudes from Edwin Holgate in the early 1930s, a brace of self-portraits by F.H. Varley -- one from 1919, the other from 1940 -- that illustrate his development as an artist and a man; still lifes by Lemoine FitzGerald and a 1915 garden scene by Tom Thomson called Marguerites, Wood Lilies and Vetch that show why, in so many ways, he was also included as a spiritual member of the group, despite the fact that he died in a canoeing accident prior to the Group's formation. Though Silcox's book is certainly not the only one on this topic, it is, by far, the best. Bringing us the most comprehensive -- and beautifully illustrated -- work on these historically important Canadian artists.

A History of Scottish Art
by Bill Smith and Selina Skipwith
Published by Merrell
288 pages, 2003

Though A History of Scottish Art is based on The Fleming Collection, collected by the international investment bank, Flemings, the collection is so comprehensive that its reflection deserves the book's title. When the bank was sold to Chase Manhattan in 2000, the collection was transferred to the newly formed Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation. The publication of A History of Scottish Art commemorates the opening of The Fleming Collection Gallery in London. The book, like the collection, looks at Scottish art between 1800 and the present day, examining over 200 works from artists including Charles Rennie Makintosh, Elizabeth Blackadder, David Wilkie, various members of the Glasgow School as well as other, less popularly known, artists. The plates here are wonderfully reproduced and the text that accompanies the reproduction of each work of art is lively and informative. A History of Scottish Art is a must have book for the serious collector of art and art books.

Hong Kong Apothecary: A Visual History of Chinese Medicine Packaging
by Simon Go
Published by Princeton Architectural Press
200 pages, 2003

"Chinese medicine has a reputation for miraculous cures, perpetual rejuvenation, and secret formulas handed down through generations," writes Simon Go in his quite excellent Hong Kong Apothecary. "The packaging of Chinese medicine has similarly seen the development of a strong and dynamic tradition, yielding a vocabulary of basic forms that have had a direct influence on the modes and materials used in packaging." Go is a photojournalist, fine art photographer and documentarian who lives in Hong Kong where he collects and preserves traditional packaging from the area. This blending of the journalist's access, the artist's eye and the collector's instinct has resulted in a starkly lovely and frankly interesting little book. For instance, in a series of photos, we see contemporary artisans making hand-rolled pills using traditional methods. Later in the chapter, we're shown the original hand-rolled pills, in their distinctive packages, while the text gives us lucid details about pills in Chinese medicine: their manufacture, available sizes and so on. Hong Kong Apothecary is a book that will be greatly enjoyed by both collectors and those with an interest in graphic design.

John Vachon's America: Photographs and Letters from the Depression to World War II
edited, with introductory texts, by Miles Orvell
Published by University of California Press
344 pages, 2003

Among our most unforgettable "memories" of America in the 1930s and 40s are those given us vicariously by the photographic images created through the Farm Security Administration project, supervised by Roy E. Stryker. Some of the photographers employed by that program (including Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange) became internationally famous. Less well known was John Vachon, a portion of whose FSA work is collected (incredibly, for the first time) in this handsome, hardbound volume, along with a considerable amount of his prose. Most of the latter consists of correspondence to his wife, Penny, to whom Vachon seems to have been as devoted as any man who spent much of his time on the road and far from home. Vachon's letters are filled with details about the nation he was busy capturing on film -- an older, mostly rural land that was disappearing even as Vachon fixed it in his lens. But it's here once more, or still, in these haunting, endearing pictures: citizens dressed up in coat and tie to take the Greyhound bus in Washington, D.C.; a Texas railroad station waiting room with a pot-bellied stove and one waiting traveler; gleeful or serious or unselfconscious children studying and playing in one-room schoolhouses; clothes hanging on the line in a farmhouse yard; the box office of a Chicago burlesque house, adorned with girlie art; a newsstand displaying rack after rack of pulp and slick magazines, circa 1938; and lonely looking el-train passengers. Vachon (who died in 1975, after a successful career as a photojournalist) credited Walker Evans as the man who inspired his photographic vision, and Roy Stryker as the one who gave him the chance and incentive to use it. "He was a forceful, garrulous, earthy, cantankerous, impressionable human being who could recognize and nurture talent ...," Vachon wrote of his old boss in an essay for Harper's Magazine (reprinted here). "Stryker had a keen sense of what kind of ordinary street scene in 1937 would be interesting in 1973." Or -- as this beautiful volume demonstrates -- in 2003. -- Tom Nolan

Loft Design: Solutions For Creating A Livable Space
by Katherine Stone
Published by Rockport
160 pages, 2003

Though books written in support of a television series can often be flat and lame, Katherine Stone, host of the HGTV network's Lofty Ideas does a credible job with her effort, Loft Design. This is probably because, unlike many television series-connected books, Stone brings her expertise to the series, rather than deriving her credibility from the show she hosts. In fact, where the series is slightly wan, the book is a rich and full look at Stone's passion: reclaiming former industrial spaces for use as homes, offices, or both. Loft Design lives up to its... er... lofty title. If you were seriously considering attempting a conversion yourself, there simply couldn't be a better starting point. Stone covers all the necessary ground very well. From the opening chapter, "What is a Loft?" through to necessary planning steps, mechanical matters, dealing with architects and contractors right through to designing your space. If, like many of us, you are an armchair loft enthusiast and an actual loft space of your own is still but a distant dream, Loft Design satisfies as well, delivering wonderful photographs from a variety of sources along with design tips that would work in many types of home.

Man and Horse: An Enduring Bond
by Fulvio Cinquini
Published by Chronicle Books
288 pages, 2003

Sir Winston Churchill said, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man." In Man and Horse author and photographer Fulvio Cinquini takes this thought to new levels, here lusciously presenting hundreds of photos of Genus Equus from every place he can conceivably be found. And, unlike others who have tried to photograph the horse spectacularly, Cinquini is a horseman. He has played polo and worked with the gauchos in Argentina. His understanding of the horse -- and more particularly, horsemen -- leads to intelligent, informed photos, not to mention his elegant, loving text. "All of the qualities judged to be positive in a human being are projected onto the mount," Cinquini writes in his introduction, "so that the rider seems to be suffused with them, lit up by this source that rushes through his entire body." The photographic view of the horse that Cinquini brings us is completely international. The horses of the Asian prairies of Mongolia; in the Syrian badia; in Ladakh, India; in Tibet's Chang Tang region; the Bale region of Ethiopia; Afghanistan, Peru, Pakistan, Italy, Oman, Mexico, France, the United States; Portugal; Ireland; every place, in fact, that horses might be found. Cinquini does not break his book into geographic regions, however. His arrangement has more to do with horse culture -- and the culture around horses -- than geography.

Playboy 50 Years: The Photographs
text by Jim Peterson
Published by Chronicle Books
240 pages, 2003

As Playboy magazine celebrates its half century anniversary it's becoming apparent that, for the first time in its history, the magazine's exclusive hold on white collar American males seems to be waning. Its place surprisingly taken by edgier magazines offering pictures of sexy women not bearing their breasts. Regardless of Playboy's likely longevity, there is no arguing with the place the magazine has earned in the hearts and minds of 50 years -- potentially three generations -- of readers. Playboy 50 Years: The Photographs is a fitting tribute, mostly showing, but also telling, what gave the magazine its icon status for such a very long time. On some levels, Playboy led its readers to a revolution of sorts, bringing the sexual from behind closed doors and onto glossy pages welcomed in some places in most homes. Though the playmates were icons in their own rights, there has always been more to Playboy than scantily clothed babes. Playboy 50 Years shows us these aspects of the magazine, as well. A Mario Casilli photo of a buff and youthful Arnold Schwarzenegger posed with a blonde bombshell on his elbow from the April 1975 issue. A moody Mark Hanauer photo of Nicholas Cage from June 1989. Woody Allen is green and geeky in a Barry O'Rourke photo from the May 1966 issue. Photos by and of Andy Warhol. Nude photos of all of John Derek's wives. Lifestyle was always an important component of Playboy and here we see it: the cars, the booze, the electronics, the dames. Playboy 50 Years is not so much a best of as a telling sampling. This is who we were. This is where we were headed. There's no strong sense of Where we're going now. Maybe the next 50 years will help decide.

The Stress-Free Home: Beautiful Interiors for Serenity and Harmonious Living
by Jackie Craven
Published by Rockport
159 pages, 2003

It's a tall order: a home designed in a way that helps us capture and hold feelings of peace. A home designed not only for more peaceful living, but for stress-free living in a world where, as most of us know only too well, the word "stress" has become as common as "headache." Most of us get it, we just don't know how to make it go away. Jackie Craven, author of The Stress-Free Home, tells us that, by combining certain elements, "the stress-free home encourages love, camaraderie, and spiritual connectedness." Where do I sign, right? Though the book's effectiveness can not be tested by a simple review, it's certainly a lovely book, filled with beautiful, restful images of rooms designed in a visually unstressful way. And Craven knows her stuff. The author of The Healthy Home, she's also a columnist for Home & Garden. More interesting is the vast list of resources from which she culls her thoughts on creating a stress-free home. Zen, Feng Shui, Vástu, the Inca, the Japanese, Ayurveda and others all have a place in The Stress-Free Home. And does it work? Maybe yes, maybe no, but -- in this case -- the journey is the thing, and what a lovely journey it is.

This Book Will Change Your Life: 365 Daily Instructions for Hysterical Daily Living
by Benrick
Published by Plume
380 pages, 2003

Despite what the publisher might say, the authors might say and even what the book itself tells us, This Book Will Change Your Life isn't really meant to. Not that it's not capable of doing so. Were you to follow these instructions precisely, to do what it says every day for a year, your life would change a great deal. Take for example, the instructions for day 134: "Today hack into a computer network." Or day 163: "Shoplift today." Or, almost the opposite of that last one, on day 321: "Bail a stranger out of jail." Lots of them are doable, though. And some even would possibly have positive reverberations on your life. Think about, for instance, composing a poem and leaving it in a public place to brighten someone's day (day 161). Or, on day 222, including the word "vortex" non-clumsily in all of your conversations, all day. (No, seriously: think about it.) Or, on day 274, finding someone with the same name as you, calling them up and offering to meet. At its core, This Book Will Change Your Life is a well thought out and executed art book and a fairly effective humor book. The fact that, because of these things, it is also a gift book hardly needs stating.

The Warrior's Path: Wisdom from Contemporary Martial Arts Masters
edited and photographs by James Sidney
Published by Key Porter Books
176 pages, 2003

While he was working on The Warrior's Path, author and photographer James Sidney says his vision for the book changed. He'd gone into the project thinking he'd share the "Universal appeal among martial artists," but when he'd finished, he realized he discovered something further. "While this volume is the very antithesis of a martial arts textbook, it remains a manual nonetheless -- a manual for a way of living, compiled from fifteen lifetimes spent living the Way." Thirteen men and two women are interviewed and photographed in The Warrior's Path: All are contemporary masters of their respective arts: the respected masters, many of them responsible for introducing martial arts to the West after W.W.II. Their stories, combined with Sidney's elegant and beautiful photos, indeed create a broader story than might be expected. Taken as a whole, The Warrior's Path becomes a book of meditation and growth.

You Give Love A Bad Name: Timeless Poems of Tainted Love From the Pop Hits of the '70s and '80s
edited by Danny Cassidy
Published by Quirk Books
96 pages, 2003

Quick, quick! Name that tune: "Another night slowly closes in, and I feel so lonely. Touching heat freezing on my skin, I pretend you still hold me." If you said "The Flame," by Cheap Trick, you win. I'm not sure what you win, but it has something to do with loser of love of the month award. Seriously: if you still remember the lyrics to that late 80s power ballad, you've spent way too much time moping next to your stereo, wiping at your eyes because the tears are causing the luminous dials to blur. Editor Danny Cassidy writes, "When I have a broken heart, I just turn up the radio, because pop music gives me all the consolation I need." Full lyrics to 30 soft rock favorites are included in You Give Love A Bad Name, as well as a section called "First Lines," that includes -- you guessed it -- the first lines of songs in case you're looking for a hit but don't know where to find the fix. You Give Love A Bad Name is silly and pointless, making it a great gift idea for that certain someone you can't figure out what to get. Especially if they're suffering from a broken heart.

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Gift Guide 2003