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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide
Gently Mad

Gift to Open Again and Again

Tour through the national parks, up the Hudson, off to Paris and on to Egypt without leaving home. By Nicholas A. Basbanes Nicholas A. BasbanesNicholas A. Basbanes recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to work on his book on paper, which is forthcoming from Knopf. His most recent book is Editions & Impressions, a collection of essays. His other works include the acclaimed A Gentle Madness, Every Book Its Reader, Patience & Fortitude, Among the Gently Mad, and A Splendor of Letters.

For all the electronic trinkets out there vying for your attention this time of year, a book remains an ideal choice for holiday giving. Happily, there are a number of splendid new releases to choose from, many of them superb examples of what some unenlightened souls consider to be a declining species—books noteworthy not just for the pretty pictures, but most assuredly for the thoughtful texts as well. Here are some varied examples recently released by a number of publishers that I have found particularly appealing, and submit for your gift consideration.

Jacket image of Botanica Magnifica

Botanica Magnifica: Portraits of the World’s Most Extraordinary Flowers and Plants

photographs by Jonathan Singer, text by W. John Kress and Marc Hachadourian; Abbeville Press, 356 pages, slipcased, 510 illustrations, $185.

The original edition of this book was issued in five hand-bound volumes, each in a “double-elephant” format in tribute to John James Audubon’s Birds of America, and limited to ten copies, one of which is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution. While not nearly as large as those enormous copies, this trade edition of uncommonly interesting photographs is large enough certainly to feature sweeping images that open up to several feet in width, and still weigh in at ten pounds. Jonathan Singer’s close-up photographs of exotic plants, all shot with a Hasselblad digital camera, suggest the artistry of traditional botanical illustration; the text offers information on the botany, geography, history, and conservation of each specimen.

Jacket image of The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer

The Complete Lyrics of Johnny Mercer

edited by Robert Kimball, Barry Day, and Miles Kreuger; Alfred A. Knopf, 462 pages, 78 illustrations, $65.

The seventh volume in Knopf’s landmark Complete Lyrics series of American songwriters—Cole Porter, Oscar Hammerstein, Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Irving Berlin, and Frank Loesser are the others—makes available the texts of some 1,200 tunes written by Johnny Mercer (1909-1976), dozens of them like “Moon River,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Too Marvelous for Words,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Skylark,” and “I’m Old Fashioned” instantly familiar. Others are less so, and indeed many are published here for the first time, but it is a joy to have them all gathered in one splendid edition. Best known for his work for film—he was nominated for 18 Academy Awards, and won four—Mercer was a consummate pro, with a perfect ear; a fabulous gift for the music buffs among us.

The newly published The National Parks book

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan; Alfred A. Knopf, 404 pages, 440 illustrations and one removable map, $50.

The latest tie-in from filmmaker Ken Burns and textual collaborator Dayton Duncan focuses on America’s extraordinary assemblage of national parks—400 sites comprising some 84 million acres, from Acadia in Maine to Haleakala in Hawaii and Denali in Alaska—a true treat of a book that fills in details in ways that the television documentaries can never approach. This companion volume to the Public Broadcasting Service series of the same name is a lively tribute that offers insights and depth that go well beyond the truncated presentation on video, including mini biographies of such luminaries of John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Ansel Adams; America’s best idea, indeed.

Jacket image of The Lost Tombs of Thebes

The Lost Tombs of Thebes: Life in Paradise

by Zahi Hawass, with photographs by Sandro Vannini; Thames & Hudson, 288 pages, 208 illustrations, including 20 foldouts, $80.

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt and something of an antiquities celebrity in his own right, and his frequent collaborator, the Italian photographer Sandro Vannini, combine to offer armchair travelers a breathtaking excursion through a series of tombs not far from the Valley of the Kings, the wonderfully decorated resting places of prominent people who were not pharaohs, but served them with distinction. The illustrations are quite wonderful, and the text substantive. Amateur archaeologists will not be disappointed.

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