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December 5, 2019

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Coffee table books fill the right gift niche

Art, architecture, music or travel: Coffee table books can fill just the right gift niche, especially when the cost would be budget-busting if you bought one for yourself.

Offerings abound at holiday time. Some suggestions:


“Architectural Digest: AD at 100, a Century of Style,” by Architectural Digest, Abrams. In her foreword, Anna Wintour calls the book “quite the house tour.” It’s a centenary celebration of homes past and present. Marlene Dietrich lounges in Beverly Hills, circa the 1930s. The studios of famous artists and the homes of legendary architects are included. US$100


“My Name is Prince,” by Randee St Nicholas, Amistad. A retrospective of the photographer’s 25 years working for Prince. Over 384 pages, St Nichols sheds light on some of their most intriguing shoots. In the mid-1990s, she ran across the charred remains of an elegant building in Hollywood, hired a shiny grand piano and shot Prince bathed in red light amid the ruins. US$90

“Jeff Buckley: His Own Voice,” edited by Mary Guibert and David Browne, DaCapo/Hachette Books. Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of Buckley’s debut album, “Grace,” is this collection of never before seen journals and unpublished lyrics. Buckley died in 1997 in an accidental drowning three years after “Grace” was released. The book intersperses photos of such artifacts as his guitars and favorite books with his writings. US$40

“Rihanna,” by Rihanna, Phaidon. It’s 504 pages. It weighs 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms). It’s Rihanna’s visual biography. In more than 1,400 photos, the superstar shares her backstage moments, vacation moments and fashion moments, along with the obligatory concert moments. She smokes. She skis. She gets tattooed. There’s little from her childhood, though one of her report cards notes she was “sure of herself and displays a positive attitude.” The cheapest of four versions sells for US$150.


“Game of Thrones: The Costumes,” costumes by Michele Clapton, written by Gina McIntyre, Insight Editions. The costumes of the HBO series were integral in bringing George R R Martin’s world alive. Best jewelry? The dragon necklace of Daenerys. Best wedding gown? Sansa had two, one in gold with the Lannister lion embroidered at the back of the neck and another in spectral white with a fur collar and fish clasps influenced by her mother. US$75


“Ralph Lauren: In His Own Fashion,” by Alan Flusser, Abrams. How did little Ralph Lifshitz, born to Jewish immigrants of modest means in the Bronx, become the mighty Ralph Lauren? For starters, he scrutinized the style of 1940s Hollywood stars. But when it came to westerns, Lauren wanted to be Randolph Scott, the “tough, trail-worn cowboy,” rather than the clean-shaven hero riding the white horse, Flusser writes. The book coincides with a new HBO documentary, “Very Ralph.” US$50

“Supreme Models: Iconic Black Women Who Revolutionized Fashion,” by Marcellas Reynolds, Abrams. From the first to make it into catalogs and onto the covers of magazines to runway stars past and present, this book pays homage to black models. Iman Abdulmajid, included, once said: “I’ll be truly happy when we’re not counting the number of ethnically diverse models on a fashion runway or campaign ...” US$50


“Ansel Adams’ Yosemite,” by Ansel Adams, Little Brown and Company. The book includes images from Yosemite National Park selected by Adams before his death in 1984 and meticulously reproduced by his publisher of more than 40 years. Adams, an environmental activist, wanted to encourage park visitors to be the same when he selected eight photographs in the 1950s to offer exclusively as affordable souvenirs at Yosemite. He added to the eight over the years. US$40

“Ballerina Project,” photographs by Dane Shitagi. Chronicle Books. Shitagi has parlayed the popularity of his Instagram feed @ballerinaproject — into a book in more than 170 shots of accomplished dancers around the globe over 18 years. Katie Boren stands en pointe on a Wolford factory floor in Austria, and Mikaela Kelly is draped over a fire hydrant in Bushwick, Brooklyn. USS$40


“Drag: The Complete Story,” by Simon Doonan, Laurence King Publishing. Here in the second decade of the 21st century, there are no more rules when it comes to drag, Doonan writes. The creative ambassador for Barney’s New York makes use of his trademark wit to trace the history and heroes of drag while also celebrating the new generation. “What is fuelling drag now? Better to ask what isn’t fuelling drag now,” he concludes. US$40

“1,000 Place to See Before You Die: The World as You’ve Never Seen It Before,” by Patricia Schultz, Artisan Books. The veteran travel journalist has reimagined her 2003 bucket list bestseller into a showcase with more than 1,000 lush photos. Locations are the same, from Palau to Porto. US$50


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