For the history buffs
"199 CEMETERIES TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE," by Loren Rhoads, Black Dog & Leventhal, 235 pages, $27.99
While graveyards are admittedly our final resting places, they are also serene, beautiful parks packed with interesting historical details. The book "199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die" highlights, with nice color photographs, some of the loveliest burial grounds in the world, including two right here in Utah: The Mormon Pioneer Memorial Monument, where Brigham Young is buried, and the Salt Lake Cemetery, which covers 120 acres in the Avenues.
For the Harry Potter fan
"HARRY POTTER: A History of Magic," Arthur A. Levine Books, 144 pages, $19.99
This gorgeously illustrated paperback is the official guidebook for the British Library's "Harry Potter: A History of Magic" exhibition, which will be on display in London through Feb. 28, 2018. The book offers a mixture of Harry Potter lore and its real-life counterparts, with nice explanations for, say, gnomes, and how they fit into the Harry Potter world. The book is roughly organized by Hogwarts courses — Herbology, Charms, Divination, etc. — with extra chapters like "The Journey" to pad out the courses.
For People magazine subscribers
"THE 100 BEST CELEBRITY PHOTOS," People, 224 pages, $26.99
Love 'em or hate 'em, celebrities are hard to avoid — at least, in their print and online form. People magazine has been recording their highs and lows since its inception in 1963 and always with glossy photos to accompany their dishy stories. Current People editor-in-chief Jess Cagle wrote the foreword for "The 100 Best Celebrity Photos," a collection of photos of our Most Beautiful People, which includes text from each of the photographers who shot the accompanying pictures. The vignettes are just as fun to read as the pictures are to see, with stories about Princess Diana, the original "Star Wars" cast and Beyonce, to name a few.
For the naturalist
"THE NATURALIST'S NOTEBOOK: An Observation Guide and 5-Year Calendar-Journal for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You," by Nathaniel T. Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich, Storey Publishing, 208 pages, $19.95
"The Naturalist's Notebook" wants its users to be organized and careful about their observations of the world, which is part of the appeal of this elegant book. The first half is basically a how-to of natural observation, with chapters like "Being Attentive" and "Simple Experiments As a Way of Learning" guiding readers in the arts of looking, as well as a section on observing nature in a city versus in the country. The later half of the book allows users to put their newfound knowledge to good use with a five-year calendar journal for recording observations.
For the dog lover
"THE DOGIST: Puppies," by Elias Weiss Friedman, Artisan, 304 pages, $24.95
If the internet is any indication, pictures and videos of puppies (and kittens — OK, all baby animals) never fail to please — the basic idea behind the book "The Dogist: Puppies" by Elias Weiss Friedman, who launched the website TheDogist.com in 2013. The book is heavy on adorable pictures of puppies, with a scattering of doggy how-to thrown in for those with a new puppy at home. The shots of baby doodles alone are worth getting the book for your canine-loving friends or family.
For the fashionista
"PARIS FASHION: A Cultural History," by Valerie Steele, Bloomsbury USA, 344 pages, $40
Valerie Steele, the author of "Paris Fashion: A Cultural History," is director and chief curator of The Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, so you know going in that her book is going to be more than just pretty pictures. This hefty coffee-table book offers an in-depth look at the history of Parisian fashion and its impact on global styles, starting with a chapter titled "Paris, Capital of Fashion?" (spoiler: yes). All the famous French designers get their moment here, from Chanel to Christian Dior to Yves Saint Laurent, as Steele guides readers through the very well-heeled fashion history of Paris.
For the sports fan
"SPORTS ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL'S GREATEST: Revised and Updated," Sports Illustrated; Revised edition, 288 pages, $34.99
"Sports Illustrated Football's Greatest: Revised and Updated" channels that very human need to rank and organize, here ranking and organizing all things football from football players — best quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and so forth — to teams, stadiums and franchises. Whether you agree with Sports Illustrated's pronouncements is part of the fun of this large (almost 2-foot-tall) and glossy book. A group of "NFL stars of past and present," including Eugene Robinson, Boomer Esiason and Jerry Rice, make their own rankings in the entertaining introduction.
For the music lover
"COVER ME: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time," by Ray Padgett, Sterling, 240 pages, $22.95
Behind every great song is a great story … and just as often, the original artist who recorded it. Ray Pagdett's "Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time" reveals both the stories of some of our biggest radio hits as well as how those songs were often popularized by someone other than their original recording artist. Read how Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," which became a megahit thanks to Whitney Houston, almost became an Elvis Presley hit, and the story of Devo frontmen Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale playing their version of "Satisfaction" for Mick Jagger himself. Packed full of pictures with a playful layout, "Cover Me" will have readers remembering favorites and discovering covers they never knew existed.
For the art and biography buff
“LEONARDO DA VINCI” by Walter Isaacson, Simon & Schuster, 624 pages, $35
Biographer Walter Isaacson ("Steve Jobs") analyzes and dissects Leonardo da Vinci’s life, art and huge collection of notebooks, similar to how da Vinci himself dissected cadavers, analyzed water motion and experimented with all things that drove his insatiable curiosity. With every descriptive page about da Vinci, Isaacson adds a new thread that eventually forms a beautiful tapestry of da Vinci the scientist, engineer, producer of pageants, poet, musician, architect, inventor and painter. This is the sort of book that will have readers asking more questions, becoming more curious in their own lives and looking at life differently. While not a gift book, Isaacson's biography of this Renaissance luminary makes an excellent gift for anyone interested in art, science and the life of a genius.
— Aaren Humpherys
For the young — or young at heart
There are so many good holiday picture books this year that we chose not just one to share, but five.
"WE WISH FOR A MONSTER CHRISTMAS," by Sue Fliess, illustrations by Claudia Ranucci, Sterling Children's Books, 32 pages, $16.95
Sue Fliess and Claudia Fanucci's "We Wish for a Monster Christmas" will have little ones giggling as a big hairy Christmas present — thanks for the monster, Santa! — makes a mess of the characters' house.
"SANTA REX," by Molly Idle, Viking Books for Young Readers, 40 pages, $17.99
Christmas dinosaurs reign in Molly Idle's "Santa Rex." Light on text, the bright, graphic illustrations do the job of telling a story about a host of dinosaurs who show up for the holidays.
"SANTA CALLS," by William Joyce, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 40 pages, $18.99
Storyteller, illustrator and filmmaker ("The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore") William Joyce's "Santa Calls" (reissued this year) beautifully accomplished the difficult task of adding a new Christmas story to an already full canon. The illustrations are worth the price of the book, but the story — which has a nice payoff at the end — is an endearing tale of sibling love and acceptance that includes a trip to a very natty North Pole.
"THE LITTLE REINDEER," by Nicola Killen, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 32 pages, $15.99Comment on this story
Nicola Killen's gorgeous "The Little Reindeer" tells the story of a little girl who slips out of bed on Christmas Eve to help one of Santa's reindeer. The black-and-white illustrations — with a touch of red — evoke a snowy midnight world as main character Ollie races out on her sled to find the source of the softly jingling bell.
"WALTZ OF THE SNOWFLAKES," by Elly MacKay, Running Press, 32 pages, $16.99
"Waltz of the Snowflakes" by Elly MacKay is a wordless picture book that beautifully tells the story of a little girl and boy who bond during a performance of "The Nutcracker." You don't need to be a fan of the ballet to appreciate MacKay's whimsical illustrations.