Here are ten reading recommendations for everyone on your list, from the gardener to the gourmand to the grandkids.
Around the World: The Grand Tour in Photo Albums
by Barbara Levine and Kirsten Jensen (Princeton Architectural Press, $55)
With photos, notes, postcards and maps these albums evoke not only a long-gone world of steamer ships, train travel and the grand tour, but also the boundless wonder of travel at a time when the world seemed unimaginably vast. As beautiful as it is fascinating.
by Andrew Zuckerman
(Chronicle Books, $60)
This is wildlife photography as you’ve never seen it. Photographer Andrew Zuckerman has collected 175 studio portraits of exotic wild animals. There is something about viewing an animal against a white backdrop, removed from its habitat, that allows you to comprehend both its form and its character in a whole new light.
Bird Songs from Around the World by Les Beletsky
(Chronicle Books, $45)
Ever wonder what the African lilac-breasted roller sounds like? Or a red avadavat from Asia? Following up on the huge success of last year’s Bird Songs, this new volume draws on the collection of the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University and features illustrated portraits and descriptions along with the digitally recorded vocalizations.
In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan (Penguin, $22)
The central message of Berkeley author Michael Pollan’s new book is simple: eat food. Food is easy to define. If your great, great grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, don’t eat it. His other rules—including “avoid food products bearing health claims” and “get out of the supermarket whenever possible”—are just as intuitive and easy to follow.
Historical Atlas of California
by Derek Hayes
(University of California Press, $40)
Using nearly 500 historical maps and many other illustrations, from sketches to beautifully rendered works of art, this lavishly illustrated volume tells a unique visual story of California’s past, from pre-Columbian times through the Gold Rush and up to present day. It’s the kind of book that reveals something new each time you look at it.
The Elements of Organic Gardening
by HRH Prince of Wales (W.W. Norton, $40)
Ever since his pilgrimage to West Marin in 2005, we’ve felt a kinship with Prince Charles. Now the old chap has written a book on organic gardening—a good book on organic gardening! His devotion to sustainability, good food and nature conservation are apparent in this useful how-to that serves as both inspiration and guidebook.
The Art Book for Children, Book Two (Phaidon, $20)
Two years ago we recommended The Art Book for Children, so we’re delighted to find its creators at it again. In this new volume they take the same approach—illuminating famous works of art by encouraging kids to ask simple questions and notice things like color, line and shape—and apply it to more modern artists like Hockney, Dali and Thiebaud. It makes a nice little refresher course for adults too.
by Alessandro Rocca
(Princeton Architectural Press, $35)
This is the next art book for lovers of Andy Goldsworthy. The artists and architects in Natural Architecture have transformed the art of building using natural elements—branches, twigs, pebbles, straw—to create sculpture. A pavilion with a roof made from water frozen in an exuberant shape and a hut suited for mythical creatures are just some of the inspired structures featured here.
by Simone Ortega (Phaidon, $40)
Last year Phaidon Press brought us the wonderful Silver Spoon Cookbook, otherwise known as the Joy of Cooking for Italy. Now they are doing the same thing for Spain with 1080 Recipes. This is a home cook’s kitchen bible, with recipes for all the old favorites. Think of it this way: if you had been raised in Spain, you’d own your mother’s old, tattered copy of this.
by Richard Blair and Kathleen Goodwin (Color and Light Editions, $49.95)
Here’s a coffee table book with guts. Inverness photographers/writers Blair and Goodwin, creators of Point Reyes Visions, have photographed California for the past 30 years—and this is their journey. Included are exquisite photos of Big Sur, Death Valley, Yosemite, Mendocino, et al. Other shots are of free-loving hippies, mourning Black Panthers, and a thoughtful Steve Wozniak. Insightful copy adds to the impact.
The Greatest Secret of All: Moving Beyond Abundance to a Life of True Fulfillment by Marc Allen
($18, New World Library)
This book by the New World Library founder and president takes the manifestation theories behind the best-selling book The Secret a step further by helping readers rediscover that the true source of fulfillment and happiness is not just material but must “always include loving and serving ourselves and others.” Here the author reveals the practices and secrets behind his own success.
You Know You’re a Writer When…
by Adair Lara (Chronicle Books, $10)
A collection of witty observations about the eccentric, quirky, word-obsessed condition that is being a writer from the beloved San Francisco Chronicle columnist and humorist. Example: “You know you’re a writer when… you know more than 10 synonyms for blue.”