From a book that supplements this fall's biographical film about Amelia Earhart to a book featuring wide-eyed newborn babies, the variety of reads to adorn your coffee table is vast this holiday season.
Here are some of them:
"AMELIA: The Motion Picture," Lydia Dean Pilcher, ed., Universe Publishing, 142 pages, $35
Featuring introductions by both filmmaker Mira Nair and actress Hilary Swank, this oversized hardcover is supposed to supplement this fall's biographical feature about the famed aviator.
However, it's much more complete than the actual film, which was sketchy and rather superficial, despite its first-rate cast. The volume includes photos from the movie production and pictures of the real-life figures who were involved, as well as various charts, maps and snippets of film dialogue. Those who have followed Earhart and her story will probably find this of some interest. — Jeff Vice
"FORT DOUGLAS (Images of America series)," by Louwane Vansoolen and the Fort Douglas Military Museum, Arcadia Publishing, 128 pages, $21.99
Another in the series of pictorial histories, this fun little volume traces the history of Fort Douglas from its beginning in 1862 to its closure in 1991.
The base was established by Col. Edward P. Connor and his 3rd California Volunteers in order to protect the overland mail and telegraphy routes between Nevada and Wyoming — and to keep an eye on the local Mormon community. Over the course of its history, the camp was the home of Buffalo Soldiers, sent men to fight in the Spanish-American War and World War I, became an induction center during World War II and the Korean War, and functioned as a support post for army, navy and marine reserves as well as the Utah National Guard. It also developed a nice relationship with the local community. This book offers a delightful look at that remarkable career. — Carma Wadley
"GREAT DISCOVERIES: Explorations That Changed History," Kelly Knauer, ed., Time Books, 138 pages, $29.95
Discovery is an on-going process. Scientists and explorers not only find new things, but they find new ways of looking at old things. And that's what you get in this lavishly illustrated book that considers new discoveries in the fields of geography, paleontology, astronomy and archaeology, while combining them with classic tales of exploration.
There are updates on fossilized dinosaur birds, reports of new digs in Egypt, a look at what's coming in from various craft investigating Mars, Jupiter and the moons of Saturn. There are new looks at Xian, Sutton Hoo, the Pueblo cliff dwellers, Jamestown and the explorations of Lewis and Clark. Polar expeditions, Yellowstone's bubbling pots, Indonesia's "hobbits," the wreck of the Titanic and much, much more are presented in a fresh way that captures the imagination and generates greater appreciation for the universe we are still coming to know. — C.W.
"HAMMER GLAMOUR: Classic Images From the Archive of Hammer Films," by Marcus Hearn, Titan Books, 160 pages, $29.95
As promised by its title, this is largely a pictorial history of the British movie studio Hammer Films, which produced dozens of theatrical features, mostly in the horror genre, between the late 1950s through the mid-1970s,
However, it has a unfortunate tendency to show starlets in various states of undress. The cover itself boasts a rather revealing photo of actress Madeline Smith. Also, the mini-biographies of the actress are generic and superficial, which is a bit surprising — the author, Marcus Hearn, worked for and with Hammer Films as a historian. The book, while of note to Hammer fans, does give an inaccurate picture of the studio's legacy. Most of its cinematic works were not nearly as exploitative as this makes them seem. — J.V.
"THE NEW YORKER ON THE MONEY: The Economy in Cartoons 1925-2009," Robert Mankoff ed., Andrews McMeel Publishing, 272 pages, $24.99
A man is trying on a strange-looking coat, not at all sure he likes it, as the store clerk says to his wife: "Buyer hesitancy is what is keeping this country back, if you ask me." A group of businessmen look at a new portrait of their president. "What a wonderful expression! He caught J.B. right at the peak of the market," says one of them." Two businessmen are talking: "These new regulations will fundamentally change the way we get around them," says one.
Then or now? The thing you realize in going through this collection of cartoons is that the movers and shakers of the financial world have always been fair game for poking fun at — and that a lot of things haven't changed. The cartoons, which all appeared in The New Yorker, are arranged by decade and provide a fun look at the times. — C.W.
"THE HAPPY BABY BOOK: 50 Things Every New Mother Should Know," by Rachael Hale, Andrew McMeel Publishing, 160 pages, $17
With softly colored photos of wide-eyed newborn babies on every other page, "The Happy Baby Book" is one for browsing. The sturdy, square-shaped book lists "50 things every new mother should know" — some exaggerated facts (40 percent of new moms will leave their baby in a restaurant), some humorously applicable tips (Never share potential baby names with your friends. They always know someone with a dog named exactly what you have chosen). — Brooke Brown
"ACE OF CAKES: Inside the World of Charm City Cakes," by Duff Goldman and Willie Goldman, William Morrow Cookbooks, 320 pages, $35
A treat for Food Network fans and cake lovers alike, this behind-the-scenes look into the workings of the popular Baltimore cake shop offers information on everything from how the Food Network reality show is filmed to the cake decorators' favorite music. The "Ace of Cakes" book pictures fanciful cakes from the show and also tells the unconventional story of just how rocker tough guy Duff Goldman got his start in baking business. — B.B.
"ITTY-BITTY TOYS: How to Knit Animals, Dolls and Other Playthings for Kids," by Susan B. Anderson, Artisan, 167 pages, $17.95
"Kids love toys, and toys you make yourself are extra-special," says knitting blogger, mother of four and author Susan B. Anderson. In theory, this might be true. But those handmade toys won't be so special if the knit doll looks slightly deformed and the knit boxes are more like knit spheres. Even experienced scarf and beanie-makers will probably struggle with the intricate patterns in this book. But for ambitious knitters who are up to the challenge, go to town with the reversible cat and mouse puppets, sock monkeys and the like. — B.B.
"NEW ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GARDENING TECHNIQUES," by the American Horticultural Society, Octopus Publishing, 480 pages, $45
Documentaries like "Food Inc." have aided the organic and self-sufficient food revolution in 2009, and this is a go-to book for all those looking to join the cause. Chock full of clear, simple illustrations and how-to steps, the nearly-500-page "New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques" guides aspiring gardeners through the complete process of digging, mulching, making compost, weeding, and growing and harvesting vegetables, herbs, fruit and lawns. — B.B.
"RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!: Seeing Is Believing," by Ripley Publishing, 256 pages, $28.95
Freaks of nature, record-breakers, miraculous survivors and daredevils come together with several thousand stories that make you think, "Wait, really?" in this coffee table book inspired by the Ripley's museum and television series. Through a smattering of overwhelming, brightly colored type and layered graphics, the book offers "extreme Earth" stories of a giant ocean bubble bath, "strange but true" stories of sky-diving Scrabble players and "body oddity" stories of ice men and eight-toed feet. — B.B.
"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: THE GOLF BOOK," by the editors of Sports Illustrated, SI Books, 296 pages, $29.95
The editors trace the game of golf from 1457 to the 21st century. This book contains more than 300 photographs, which showcase the game's greatest players, performances and courses. Also included are photos of prolific figures and celebrities golfing, such as W.C. Fields, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. Following an introduction by Roy Blount Jr., essays from Frank Deford, George Plimpton and Gary Smith, among others, are included. This is a terrific book for all golfers and golf fans. — Kari Morandi
NEW YORK 400: A Visual History of America's Greatest City with Images from the Museum of New York," by the Museum of the City of New York, Running Press, 480 pages, $40
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg opens this celebratory book of the 400th anniversary of New York City's establishment, a result of Henry Hudson's arrival along river now bearing his name. The book chronicles the history of New York City, accompanied with illustrations and photographs from The Museum of the City of New York. The images capture the everyday comings and goings of New Yorkers, on the subways, in the streets and dwelling in their homes, and exhibits the spirit of The City That Never Sleeps. — B.B.
"THE PERENNIAL CARE MANUAL: A Plant-By-Plant Guide: What To Do & When To Do It," by Nancy J. Ondra, Storey Publishing, 375, $24.95
Turn a bland backyard into a beautiful landscape with the help of this gardener's guide. "The Perennial Care Manual" gives hints on planting, watering, mulching and pruning, from a gardening expert who has contributed to The New York Times and numerous gardening sources regarding the topic. Tips and step-by-step guides are illustrated with the colorful photography of Rob Cardillo. — B.B.
"ARACHNIDS," by Jan Beccaloni, University of California Press, 320 pages, $39.95
After flipping through this spider-filled book that includes countless close-ups of creepy crawlers, some may have trouble sleeping at night. But those fascinated by multi-legged creatures will enjoy the informational spreads delivering facts on the diet, grooming, reproduction and anatomy of scorpions, beetles, mites and ticks. As the introductory chapter states — spiders aren't the only arachnids. — B.B.
"RIGHT ROSE, RIGHT PLACE," by Peter Schneider, Storey, 272 pages, $29.95
Learn everything you ever needed to know about growing healthy, beautiful roses from this book by the editor of "Combined Rose List," the annual directory of roses in commerce. Filled with photographs of numerous rose specimens, the book shows that growing roses entails proper choices about soil, sun and rain exposure and plant care. Schneider explains which roses are best for climbing, borders, hedges and trellises, offering helpful tips that only a seasoned rose-grower might know. — B.B.
"ILLUSTRATED BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA: Folio Edition," by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer, National Geographic Books, 503 pages, $50
Detailed, color illustrations of all 967 North American bird species fill this hefty coffee table book, which could serve as a bird-watching guide, reference book or art gallery. A simplistic design leaves the reader to focus on the 4,000 images by 20 contemporary bird artists. Supplementary text gives information on each bird species habitat, coloring, size and song. ?— B.B.
"BARBIE ALL DOLLED UP: Celebrating 50 Years of Barbie," by Jennie D'Amato, Running Press, 127 pages, $29.95
"I don't know what size I am. All my clothes are made to order." And with that quote, D'Amato starts us on a journey through the history of this enduring doll. Barbie's had more made-to-order clothes than any person of royalty or stardom. In five decades, Barbie's influence on the world of fashion has not faded. Barbie's purpose was to help young girls to envision adult achievement and came to represent the girl everyone wanted to be: fashionable, up for adventure and always appealing. Included are letters sent to fan club members, the patent sheet for the "Twist 'n' Turn" Barbie, designer sheets from designer Robert Best, and more. — K.M.
"WHY DOGS ARE BETTER THAN CATS," by Bradley Tervor Greive, photographs by Rachael Hale, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 224 pages, $19.99
Even though most people who love cats will bristle at the title, Greive wants everyone to know that he's not anti-cat, he's just pro-dog. He goes on to give several reasons to support the title of his book, such as: "Dogs are social. Cats are sociopaths;" "Dogs teach us patience, Cats test our patience;" ending with his bottom-line statement: "Dogs want love. Cats want fish." The pictures alone would make it a good book for all pet lovers, even if you disagree with the title. — K.M.