Sometimes you just want something beautiful. Here are the 5 most sumptuous, indulgent, stunning books to give (and receive) this holiday season.
by George R. R. Martin, Elio Garcia, and Linda Antonsson
To be honest I haven’t read this book yet, because I’m so excited about it that someone has insisted I wait and receive it as a Christmas gift. But good lord, it’s everything I want in a George R. R. Martin book, which is to say, less plotting and more world-building. The World of Ice & Fire includes histories of the major houses of Westeros, deep background on memorable details from the series like the Sword of Morning, and plenty of original, full-color illustrations. It is going to sell a billion copies. Don’t be surprised if 6 of these turn up in your stocking.
edited by Gareth Cook
“The visual display of quantitative information” as the godfather of infographics Edward Tufte calls it, is finally getting its due. This book celebrates — and reproduces at full size, in lavish color — the best charts, diagrams, maps, and graphics of the year, from the mechanics of a professional pitcher’s arm rotation to the particular musical keys that classical composers favored. It will make you wish you could subscribe to a monthly magazine that offers nothing but really great bar graphs. Introduction by Nate Silver.
by Barbara A. Thomason
I hate Los Angeles. It’s not my fault. I grew up in the Bay Area, where hating Los Angeles is the main additive in our drinking water. But this book makes it okay, even for a hater like me, to gaze lovingly and attentively at the City of Angels. Barbara A. Thomason’s vibrant paintings look at the city in a new way, faithfully documenting the view from disused street corners, tucked-away hillsides, and obscure local landmarks. This is a beautiful work of civic anthropology.
by Harry L. Katz and the Library of Congress
Your dad will love this book. Drawing heavily on a trove of historical illustrations from the Library of Congress, it uses Mark Twain’s biography as a jumping-off point to stroll through America in the late 19th century. If your father loves old daguerreotypes and newspaper cartoons about Jim Crow laws, silver mines, and Ulysses S. Grant — and what father doesn’t? — then his book will shut him up while you spike another egg nog. Introduction by Lewis H. Lapham.
by Richard McGuire
This book, I can’t even. It’s the reason I made this list in the first place — just so I could say that Here by Richard McGuire is the most gorgeous, transformative, covet-able book of the year. Technically a graphic novel, its 300 or so pages depict the exact same vantage point from the exact same spot on earth. But time changes on each page, and within each page, so that stories come and go while you watch. It’s like McGuire set a camera on a tripod and recorded things for a million years, then pasted the images together in a series of collages. In the main story, you watch an American family evolve through the generations in their living room. But other stories intrude, like the fact that Benjamin Franklin once visited an even older house that’s visible through the window, or the fact that in the future this house will be destroyed in an environmental catastrophe. This book is a mindfuck in the best sense. I devoured the whole thing in 45 minutes. Read Here and treat yourself to something truly luminous this holiday season.
– Brian Hurley is Books Editor at The Rumpus and Founder of Fiction Advocate.