2016 Gift Guide: The Best Books for Gifting, Getting and Collecting
by Alison Blackman
Winter is a time to “nest” at home. It brings a renewed chance to stay inside, immersed in a good book or a new hobby. This 2016 gift guide featurs books for gifting, getting, and collecting, I am focusing on gift-able books that encourage “nesting” including 2 stunning coffee table books to peruse over and over again, 6 cookbooks to suit every talent and palate, and 3 non-fiction books that caught my eye. Please let me know which ones you enjoy, and feel free to leave a review or comments of our own.
Francois Nars by Francois Nars Rizzoli (September 6, 2016) is photo autobiography by master makeup artist, visonary, and creator of the NARS cosmetics brand. The book is 434 pages and weighs over six pounds. It’s an art book of the first degree, showing the progression of the career of the this uber talented man, his muses, and his ideas. *check our search box and you’ll find many, many reviews of NARS products and fashion week backstage beauty reviews throughout the decades.
In this glorious book to give, get/and or collect you will find vintage and more modern photos of the likes of fashionistas such as Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Steven Klein, Odile Gilbert, Charlotte Rampling, Marc Jacobs, and Tilda Swinton and plenty of photography projects shot by Nars. The book has a black and silver metallic cover featuring the face of Francois Nars that appears to be staring at you. Put this on a coffee table and no one will be able to resist picking it up. It is the “IT” book of the gift-able book season for anyone who loves beauty, fashion, makeup, art, photography. At $82.50 it might be a bit of a splurge, but it’s well worth the cost. I can’t stop flipping through the pages. I’m simply besotted!
One of my favorite places to visit is the gems and minerals exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. From the Hope Diamond to the lesser known rocks and minerals you’ve probably never heard of, and those with strange properties (check out the fluorescent minerals), shapes and colors, these wonders of natural, fascinate me. Now there’s a book for all the rock collectors and lovers of gemstones:
Gem by DK (October 4, 2016) was created in association with the Smithsonian Institution and features a foreword by New York Times author Aja Raden.The 440-page book that weighs almost 6 pounds dazzles on every page with gorgeous color photographs of precious and semi-precious stones, organic gems, and precious metals, plus some of the incredible pieces of jewelry that are displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington. Read about the myths and stories surrounding some of the celebrated gems in the Smithsonian collection.
Discover some of the most famous jewelry houses and their designers, including Cartier, Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co., and more. There is also a fascinating 80-page reference section at the back of the book that features other rocks and minerals, and a color guide directory groups gems according to their main color.This book is a bargain at $34.95 just for the visual pleasure it brings, but it also is educational as well as entertaining, and a fabulous coffee-table find. Buy it for a bored kid and inspire them to a new hobby (rock collecting or jewelry making, perhaps)? this is one of my new favorite holiday books!
Of all the cookbooks I’ve reviewed this year, CHICKEN – A Savor the South® Cookbook by Cynthia Graubart (The University of North Carolina Press/September 2016) is one of my favorites. I love chicken, and I just loved every recipe in this book because they not only sounded mouth-wateringly good, perusing the recipes, almost all of them seemed easy enough to make so I’d really try them. I also liked the small backgrounder given on the recipes. The first thing I noticed was a recipe for Hot Chicken, something I have recently learned to love from eating it in its incendiary form in Nashville, and at Carla Hall’s in Brooklyn in a milder form. But there are 53 recipes all about chicken, so there’s something for every chicken lover, and for every part of the chicken. Who doesn’t love chicken? At $20 for the hardcover version, this is the perfect gift book and hostess gift.
Japan From The Source by Lonely Planet (September 20, 2016) is a graphically beautiful “armchair cookbook” view of the street and true cuisine of Japan. Like Symmetry Breakfast (see below), I view this book more as “look book” full of gorgeous photos, lovely stories, and a way to experience Japanese food and some of the chefs that do special things, even if you’ve never been to Japan. In Japan,
The Japanese don’t believe you just “grab, gulp, and go” for the most part. Food is appreciated with all of the senses. Preparation, as well as presentation are vitally important and this is illustrated beautifully in this book. That said, of the 60 or so recipes that the street-food vendors to Michelin-starred chefs share, many are difficult to impossible for an American chef to accomplish easily (or at all) and some of them won’t appeal to a mainstream audience. This book is really for armchair travelers, collectors and definitely for sophisticated, accomplished cooks.
Symmetry Breakfast 100 Recipes for the Loving Cook by Michael Zee (PowerHouse Books November 15, 2016) is part art book, part recipe book and full of lovely breakfast ideas from around the world. It began, I’m told as a popular Instagram incorporating world cuisines, contemporary design, and a story of love over the meal of breakfast. If I take any issue with the book at all, it’s that most of these recipes would be challenging for an average cook to make, if s/he could find the exotic ingredients to make them at all. Most of these recipes are multi-process and take time.
As I perused the “breakfasts of all nations” I began to realize that I should just relax, forget about making the food, and just feast with my eyes, because I probably would never feast on the actual dishes with a fork! As a gift for a coffee table, a food stylist, a food lover, or for a more advanced book, this would be a lovely gift and at $17.78 for the hardcover version, an affordable one.
Whether you’re looking to make sweets to give as holiday gifts or are looking for holiday books this one is special. Give it to a baker that already has every standard “cookie and cake” book out there, or add another book to a collection, Les Petites Sweets: Two-Bite Desserts from the French Patisserie by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride (Running Press (September 6, 2016) will be the book to buy.
Each of these recipes makes minis-two bite wonders that will make you crave more, but do it the way the French do, and just enjoy the one. The photographs make everything looks delicious, but some of these recipes do take some skill, and some specific equipment (e.g. the right pans). Feast your eyes on everything “French” from classic canneles to trendy raspberry cream macarons. You will be very tempted to try all the recipes (or have someone else do a tasting party with the book you’ve just gifted to them).
Do you or someone you know have long hair? 5-Minute Hairstyles To Super Quick ‘Dos to Wear and Go by Jenny Strebe (Harper Design (November 15, 2016) would be a fun gift. This softcover how-to book gives you step by step directions for 50 different styles including ponytails, updos, buns and braids with styles to appeal to different personalities. The step by step directions and photos make it look really easy. The only caveat is that you really do have to have fairly long hair to accomplish the looks. This isn’t made clear until you start perusing the styles.
However, women with hair that is at least shoulder length could probably adapt some of these styles as well. If you know a teen who loves to play “hairdresser” and experiment with different looks or a busy woman who can’t fuss with her longer hair all the time but needs to keep it neat and stylist, $10.70 will put this book in her hands and make her very happy indeed.