The comics Uncle Sam didn't want you to see. Wanderlust in 448 pages. The muse who inspired Monet. Once again, The Globe and Mail hand-picks the best eye candy of the season for your gift-giving pleasure .
1000 ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS: A Selection of the World's Most Interesting Building Elements By Alex Sanchez Vidiella, Julio Fajardo and Sergi Costa Duran, Firefly, 295 pages, $29.95
True to the idea of form following function, this contemporary guide divvies up architecture into its component parts - façades, roofs, lighting, storage - and then features the coolest examples of each from around the world. Want to know what's new in walkways? Here are two Chilean wooden paths; over there a marble-and-glass bridge in Copenhagen's stunning opera house. Part designer porn, part building textbook, it's the ultimate guide to every neat nook and cranny on the planet.
SKETCHES: From Here and There By A.J. Diamond, Douglas & McIntyre, 130 pages, $45
Famous, award-winning Canadian architect Diamond shares the sketches and paintings he has been making daily since he was a child, recording his impressions of buildings, landscapes and people from his travels around the world. The book is a personal reflection on his artistic life, and a look at the foundations of his architecture.
THE QUEEN'S DOLLS' HOUSE By Lucinda Lambton, Royal Collection Publications, 120 pages, $24.95
This exquisite little book details Queen Mary's richly decorated Edwardian doll house. It was designed by architect Sir Edwin Lutyens in the 1920s and is on permanent display at Windsor Castle. Tiny original paintings, wine bottles containing a thimbleful of vintage wine, electricity and running water - no expense spared, no detail left out - both of "upstairs" and "downstairs" life. Rich colour photographs accompany the descriptions of each room and its contents.
ART & DESIGN
THE WORLD IN VOGUE: People, Parties, Places Edited by Alexandra Kotur, Knopf, 388 pages, $92
More than 40 years of Vogue articles were combed by Kotur, style director at the magazine, to select 300 photographs of the world's most celebrated actors, artists, models and social figures, including photos from unpublished stories. The photographers represented include such superstars as Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst, Edward Steichen, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and Annie Leibovitz. An equally impressive cast, including Truman Capote and Gloria Steinem, dishes the stories behind the celebrities.
100 DRESSES: The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Yale University Press, 232 pages, $25
The 100 dresses of the title, taken from the largest and most comprehensive costume collection in the world, range across four centuries, from the elaborate, buttoned-up gowns of the 17th century to cutting-edge 21st-century designs, featuring dresses by Paul Poiret, Coco Chanel, Madame Grès, Yves Saint Laurent, Gianni Versace, Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.
THE NATIVE TREES OF CANADA By Leanne Shapton, Drawn & Quarterly, unpaginated, $19.95
Browsing in a used bookstore, Shapton - a Canadian illustrator, writer and art director in New York City - discovered an old edition of the government reference book The Native Trees of Canada, published in 1917. The dusty compilation inspired her to create her own version, in which she distilled each image into its simplest form, using vivid colours in gouache, stripping the complex objects down to bold, abstract shapes and colours.
FABERGÉ'S ANIMALS: A Royal Farm in Miniature Caroline de Guitaut, University of Chicago Press, 119 pages, $28.95
In 1907, renowned Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé was commissioned by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra to make miniature carvings of all the animals on their country estate at Sandringham. Every creature, domesticated or wild, was to be rendered in hardstone, with rose diamond, emerald and ruby details. This book, with more than 150 full-colour photographs, brings the magical menagerie to life.
JOHN SINGER SARGENT: Figures and Landscapes, 1983-1899 By Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, Yale University Press, 392 pages, $75
The combined skills of Ormond, an art historian, and Kilmurray, executive director of the massive Sargent catalogue raisonée, focus in this, the fifth of a six-volume series, on the artist's extensive travels through England, Europe and North Africa. Besides Sargent's penetrating portraits, lush landscapes and historical representations, there is a fascinating selection of letters, some published for the first time, showing his close personal and professional relationship with painter Claude Monet.
THE MOMENT OF CARAVAGGIO By Michael Fried, Princeton University Press, 304 pages, $49.50
"Revolutionary" is not too strong an accolade for Caravaggio's brilliance as an interpretive and dramatic painter. In this exquisitely illustrated volume, art historian Michael Fried binds Michelangelo Caravaggio's short life (1571-1610) and tumultuous times to the stirring innovations in his art, especially with regard to portraiture, violence and realism. With a little help from the master, Fried encapsulates Caravaggio's tempestuous personality, his place within the religious and political intrigues of the Baroque era, and his primary significance as an artist.
THE BEST ART YOU'VE NEVER SEEN: 101 Hidden Treasures From Around the World By Julian Spalding, Rough Guides, 276 pages, $25.99
The operative word is "hidden" - art hidden by chance, hate, choice, place, time, convention and collectors. (One example is Shon-ka-ki-he-ga, a portrait of the chief of the Grand Pawnees, by George Catlin, now in the Smithsonian Art Museum.) Each piece has a photograph and a short essay that tells the story of the work, many by unknown artists. A clever book idea.
THE FASHION FILE: Advice, Tips and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men By Janie Bryant, Grand Central 192 pages, $26.99
This cool little book is really a fashion primer with a sweet twist. Before making our fashion decisions, we're asked to consider what Joan, Betty, Peggy or Don would do, and then it tells us why that matters. Jam-packed with colourful, retro-ish designer drawings of fashion choices that range from vintage to modern to bohemian, and lush photographs of jewellery and accessories (not to mention of the luscious Mad Men performers themselves).
COCO CHANEL: The Legend and the Life By Justine Picardie, It Books, 344 pages, $46
Chanel, one of the great couturiers of any age, spent her life striving for elegance and beauty, constantly redefining the fluidity of her couture. Copiously illustrated with photographs and sketches, Picardie's book draws a portrait of a sophisticated but secretive Chanel, while reflecting on her enduring legacy.
PAINTING FOR PROFIT: The Economic Lives of Seventeenth-Century Italian Painters By Richard E. Spear and Philip Sohm, Yale University Press, 400 pages, $85
It comes as no surprise that most Italian painters of the Baroque era were poor, despite growing demand. Patrons were reluctant to pay and competition was fierce. For example, Dolci, a Florentine artist who took six months to craft a commissioned work, was undermined by a competitor who could complete a piece in no time. This is a beautiful book for any art lover who wants to peer behind the canvas.
THE GREEK BODY By Ian Jenkins and Victoria Turner, Getty Publications, 144 pages, $29.95
Greek sculpture conjures images of idealized, naked youth, but later Greek art began to explore the differences in the human form regarding age, ethnicity and social standing. The Greek Body draws on the British Museum's collection of Greek and Greco-Roman sculptures. Sensuous colour photos show these changes expressed in stages from early Cycladic figurines to the beauty of the classical age and the realistic portraits of the Hellenistic age.
MONET AND HIS MUSE: Camille Monet in the Artist's Life By Mary Mathews Gedo, University of Chicago Press, 289 pages, $63.50
Mathews Gedo takes on the delicate task of deconstructing the misconceptions behind the work of French impressionist great Claude Monet. She brings to life the four women who served as his muses and contributed so much to his legacy. She also analyzes the relevance of water in so many of his paintings. For her, it is his refuge, where he seeks inner peace and searches for his lost muse.
BATEMAN: New Works Edited by Nancy Kovacs, GreyStone, 176 pages, $55
These beautiful images often hide some camouflaged creature lurking in the shadows. Accompanying these recent paintings and sketches by Bateman are 11 essays by him on nature, life and art. Not all the paintings are easy to look at, such as Growth-Nairobi, an aerial view of an impossibly crowded Nairobi slum. But all show an intense connection to life.
GAUGUIN: Maker of Myth By Tamar Garb et al., edited by Belinda Thomson, Princeton University Press, 254 pages, $55
His paintings of Polynesian beauties are beautiful in their simplicity, but the artist himself was complex. Torn between the exotic and familiar, Paul Gauguin was an enigma even to those who knew him best. This new book of essays and art contemplates the man behind the paintings.
INUIT MODERN: Art from the Samuel and Esther Sarick Collection By Gerald McMaster, Douglas & McIntyre/Art Gallery of Ontario, 256 pages, $55
This book is full of treasures from one of the world's most comprehensive collections of Inuit art. With more than 175 works by Inuit artists, the reader is taken on a journey of the Inuit aesthetic as it is evolves from its from traditional roots to a more contemporary and globalized art form.
PATTERN By Orla Kiely, Conran, 304 pages, $41.99
This lovely book, by renowned London designer Kiely, explores the use of pattern in design from vintage to modern, and shows how bold, colourful graphics have help shaped her own style and collections through her lengthy and successful career. This is a great gift for the stylistically inclined.
TOM THOMSON By Dennis Reid and Charles C. Hill, Art Gallery of Ontario/National Gallery of Canada/Douglas & McIntyre, 386 pages, $50
Produced to accompany a travelling exhibition of Thomson's work, this gorgeous book is a fresh look at the Canadian master and his work. It's full of all the beautiful paintings we know and love, but moves beyond the artist's life and work to provide perspective on his times - how he influenced the art world and was influenced by it. Who wouldn't want to know more about Tom Thomson?
MATISSE: Radical Invention, 1913-1917 By Stephanie D'Alessandro and John Elderfield, Art Institute of Chicago/Museum of Modern Art/Yale University Press, 368 pages, $74.95
Between returning from Morocco and leaving Paris for the south of France, Matisse experimented with geometric forms and an atypically subdued palette, working often in black and grey. This catalogue explores the methods he used to produce some of his most abstract work. There are still plenty of beautiful colour plates.
THE ART OF BRITISH ROCK: 50 Years of Rock Posters, Flyers and Handbills By Mike Evans with Paul Palmer Edwards, 212 pages, Frances Lincoln, $40.95
From the genesis of Genesis to the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust, this tome covers the evolution of British album design and poster art across five decades. Design powerhouses such as Roger Dean, Peter Saville and the Hipgnosis studio all get their due, as does Britain's rich tradition of rock-festival posters. Cool Britannia indeed.
HOUSE & GARDEN FRONT YARD GARDENS: Growing More Than Grass By Liz Primeau, Firefly, 256 pages, $24.95
It begins with a discussion of the once ubiquitous front-yard lawn. But that's only a jumping-off point for Primeau's look at the transition from lawns to other front-yard gardens. There are many, from opulent to minimalist, from small-city to secret. What is more, they are displayed with wonderful photographs, smart advice and how-to instructions.
SELF SUFFICIENCY FOR THE 21st CENTURY By Dick and James Strawbridge, DK, 304 pages, $35
All the information you need to move toward sustainability, or even self-sufficiency. Full of comprehensive, practical data that allow the reader to accomplish green changes, this is the compilation of information Dick and James (Dick's son) Strawbridge learned over many years at their farm in Cornwall.
ATLAS OF THE WORLD Oxford University Press, 448 pages, $85
For people who love maps, no computer screen image can compare with turning the pages or feeling the heft of this benchmark atlas. In this 17th edition, the phenomenal satellite images have been updated with visuals of Kabul, Denver and Port-au-Prince after the January earthquake. The text delves into such topics as climate change, biodiversity and the global food supply.
CANADA'S NATIONAL PARKS: A Celebration Canopy, 256 pages, $29.99
It's been 125 years since land was set aside for Canada's first public park, and now we have 42. Few of us can say we've explored them all; in the meantime, we can admire them through pictures by Canada's top landscape photographers (printed on environmentally sensitive paper). To inspire us to actually visit, the book has a complimentary entry pass tucked in the back.
THE OPPOSITE OF COLD: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition By Michael Nordskog, University of Minnesota Press, $34.95
Far from an ode to beer-guzzling, skinny-dipping cottagers, this compilation honours the alluring and enduring mystique of the Finnish sauna. Beyond describing the sauna's architectural evolution from homestead log hut to contemporary lakeside retreat, the book tells the story of Finnish immigration. The accompanying photos by Aaron Hautala make a reader long for the hot steam and a quick dip in a cool lake.
HISTORICAL ATLAS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN RAILROAD By Derek Hayes, Douglas & McIntyre, 224 pages, $49.95
Hayes's atlas charts the evolution of rail from steam engine to bullet train. While the focus is on the railways, and their place in our popular imagination, the real story here is their impact on the landscape. From communications to industry, to the growth of key cities, it all started with steel wheels. With more than 400 maps, photos and illustrations, Hayes captures it in vivid detail.
EXPLORERS: Great Tales of Adventure and Endurance By the Royal Geographical Society, Smithsonian Institution/DK, 358 pages, $45
For those who love to learn about other civilizations from the comfort of home, navigating the perilous path from couch to fridge with the aid of a GPS tracker, this ambitious project details the lives of those destined to travel hard. From Alexander the Great to Robert Scott of the Antarctic, this book brims with maps, photos and fascinating detail about more than 80 larger-than-life explorers who chose to "stick it out to the end."
GREAT AMERICAN CITIES PAST AND PRESENT By Rick Sapp and Brian Solomon, Firefly, 256 pages, $40
This captivating offering uses 250 large-scale photographs to contrast past and present in 59 U.S. and six Canadian cities. The changes - in height, density and traffic - are jarring. A muddy street in Winnipeg circa 1870, with tethered horses and Red River carts, is juxtaposed with a photo of the core area today. An almost-pastoral Washington of 1865, with the majestic Smithsonian Castle as the only interruption, gives way to newer cultural institutions.
CONSTRUCTING THE ANCIENT WORLD: Architectural Techniques of the Greeks and Romans By Carmelo G. Malacrino, Getty Publications, 216 pages, $60
From the timeless stone and marble creations of ancient Greece to the technologies Rome used to build the Via Appia and towering aqueducts, this book features 200 colour illustrations showing how the ancients were able to produce such technically sophisticated and monumental projects, and why modern architectural engineers remain indebted to their genius.
THE WILD RIDE: A History of the North-West Mounted Police 1873-1904 By Charles Wilkins, Stanton Atkins & Dosil, 240 pages, $45
This book helps to dispel the misconception that the opening of the Canadian West was a bland affair compared with the Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp version of U.S. history. The westward pilgrimage and founding of the North-West Mounted Police was a raucous affair, packed with Indians, devious politicians, whisky traders and visionary nation-builders. Letters, diaries and memoirs help connect the dots, along with more than 200 colour images.
COMMANDERS: History's Greatest Military Leaders By R.G. Grant, DK, 351 pages, $45
From Alexander the Great to the present, Commanders tells the stories of the world's great military leaders in land, naval and air warfare. Stunningly illustrated, and featuring biographical detail, historical and political background and battle plans, it outlines the strategies, tactics and special circumstances that have made our world what it is. For the military history buff, a prize.
THE PENINSULAR WAR ATLAS By Colonel Nick Lipscombe, Osprey, 384 pages, $86
In 1808, a British army landed in Iberia to take up the fight against Napoleon. Led by Wellington, this army - the duke once called them "the scum of the earth" - fought for six long years in one of the key campaigns against the Corsican tyrant, defeating the French in 1814, just before Waterloo. A veritable play-by-play of this seminal campaign.
TRENCH: A History of Trench Warfare on the Western Front By Stephen Bull, Osprey, 270 pages, $27.95
A solid, informative historical account of trench warfare in Europe during the First World War. What else would you expect from the curator of military history for Britain's Lancashire Museums? Not much Canadian content, but extraordinary photos of trench life and artifacts, many from the author's own collection.
WE WERE FREEDOM: Canadian Stories of the Second World War By Tim Cook, Key Porter, 228 pages, $35
A moving and perfect gift book that offers much more than you'd expect. Try reading aloud this collection of first-person accounts from some of Canada's few remaining veterans. From the screaming tail gunner, to the Métis military policewoman, to the infantryman recounting his emotions on liberation day, these voices ring true as they recount gripping tales filled with drama, blood, excitement and not a little humour.
THE HISTORY BOOK: A Trip Through History from the Stone Age to the Digital Age Edited by Julie Ferris and Jim Green, DK, 303 pages, $22.99
A history book as a gift! Are you crazy? Crazy like a fox, or crazy like a Napoleon Bonaparte, the rascal emperor who is explained by the use of a fake Facebook page in this irreverent but handy story of the world. Inventively conceived, this isn't your grandfather's history tome.
JOURNEY THROUGH THE AFTERLIFE: Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead By John H. Taylor, Harvard University Press, 320 pages, $40.50
The ancient Egyptians left a treasure trove of writing and art intended to instruct and empower the dead on their hazardous passage to the afterlife. This exhibition catalogue explores the holdings of the British Museum's ancient texts. Find out what the dearly departed needed to meet the goddess of the West, or ascend from pyramids to reach the boat of the sun god. The colour plates are detailed and exquisite.
THE RECORD: Contemporary Art and Vinyl Edited by Trevor Schoonmaker, Duke University Press, 216 pages, $45
Published to accompany the exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (running until Feb. 6), The Record traces the indelible mark vinyl made on the music industry and the people who listen, from white youths crossing into black neighbourhoods in the passt to the obsessed retro collectors of today. Long live vinyl.
FENDER: The Golden Age: 1946-1970 By Martin Kelly, Paul Kelly and Terry Foster, Cassell, 287 pages, $37.99
With apologies to Elvis Presley, this book might better be titled Love Me Fender. A lavish celebration of the guitars that for the rock 'n' roll generation became the musical equivalent of AK-47s, the book has 250 photos of the legendary Stratocaster, Telecaster and Precision Bass, plus historical background on Les Paul and other icons, advertising ephemera, factory shots and endorsements, ranging from Tex Ritter to Keith Richards.
JOHN LENNON: Life is What Happens (Music, Memories & Memorabilia) By John M. Borack, Krause Publications, 256 pages, $32.99
John Lennon would have been 70 this year; it has been 30 years since he was murdered. Life Is What Happens is full of rare images of Lennon, Ono, the lads and others, quotes and photos of some strange pop-culture items (Beatles shampoo bottles?); Beatlemania was fair game for marketers of all persuasions. For fans, this book will be hard to put down. And oh yeah: It's fun.
CHILDREN'S BOOK OF MUSIC DK/HarperCollins, 144 pages, $27.99
Music bridges all ages and all cultures. This beautifully illustrated music history book, created with young people in mind, literally makes that theme sing. The book comes with a CD loaded with music that can also be read about in the book, everything from traditional Chinese melody to Caribbean steel pan.
GAGA By Johnny Morgan, Sterling, 160 pages, $31.95
With her disco stick firmly in hand, Lady Gaga is the reigning queen of pop. The cultural chameleon is the subject of a book that walks Little Monsters (what the Lady calls her rabid fans) through her charmed life so far, from her private-school upbringing to selling out arenas worldwide. Filled with rarely seen family photos and shots of her greatest sartorial moments, it's a must-have for any self-respecting Gaga-phile.
THE EAGLES: An American Band By Andrew Vaughan, Sterling, 288 pages, $38.95
Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and the other current and former Eagles were all just prisoners of their own device. This artful and useful big book chronicles the ups and downs of the radio-friendly country-music renegades, from Laurel Canyon upstarts to take-it-easy superstars to the end of the innocence and beyond.
ROADS By Mark Schacter, Fifth House, 192 pages, $39.95
Travel books often look far off the beaten track. Mark Schacter does the opposite: He looks at the roads that get us into the far reaches of our vast nation. From Carmacks, Yukon, to Phinney's Cove, N.S., from crumpling, rolling asphalt to old, red-soil lanes, Schacter captures a country that forgot to look at the camera. An honest glimpse of a nation in repose.
THE TRAVEL BOOK: A Journey Through Every Country in the World, 2nd edition By Robert Reid, Lonely Planet, 448 pages, $56
If you don't have a serious case of wanderlust already, you will after flipping through The Travel Book. It's a visual starting point with beautiful pictures and basic facts - when to visit, what to see and do, eat and drink, and what to read and watch before you go - on all 192 United Nations-recognized countries (and foreign dependencies).