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Reach for a Nonfiction Read When Choosing Holiday Gifts, Pop Art to Ballet

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Six books with colorful covers.
Just some of the coffee table reads for your loved ones this year.

A good book packs power. A good book thoughtfully chosen as a gift can add a layer of joy.

The holidays are a great time to track down just the right coffee table reads for loved ones. There’s a wide array this time of year. Some options:

A book cover featuring people sunbathing on a stark white roof in front of an expanse of blue ocean and trees on the shoreline.
‘Slim Aarons: The Essential Collection,’ photographs by Slim Aarons (Abrams Books)

Slim Aarons: The Essential Collection, photographs by Slim Aarons, text by Shawn Waldron.

The World War II photographer turned Hollywood insider had incredible access to the uber rich, from the pools of Palm Beach to the ski slopes of Gstaad. But he was so much more, shooting war orphans in Rome to tailgaters in Aiken, South Carolina. This hefty career-spanning collection has meaty text and includes more than 100 previously unpublished photos. Getty Images purchased his archive in 1997.

(Abrams, $175.)

A red book cover depicting simple dotted artwork that resembles a Christmas tree covered with gold baubles.
‘The Christmas Book,’ by Phaidon editors. (Phaidon Press)

The Christmas Book, by Phaidon editors, with essays by David Trigg, Sam Bilton and Dolph Gotelli.

The holiday, in festive cultural imagery. This is a jolly look at Christmas via design and artifacts. There’s a history of Christmas pudding charms, to be hidden within the holiday treat. And there’s an angel made of beads by an artisan in the Woza Moya collective of South Africa. Picasso’s Dove of Peace is included along with a Lego Santa’s Visit set.


(Phaidon, $49.95.)

A book cover depicting an elegant and beautiful Black woman posing on a staircase wearing a white one-shouldered gown.
‘Lena Horne: Goddess Reclaimed,’ by Donald Bogle. (Running Press Adult)

Lena Horne: Goddess Reclaimed, by Donald Bogle.

The authority on Black representation in film and entertainment history based this biography on decades of research. Bogle dug deep into Horne’s chaotic childhood, which took her from Brooklyn to the Deep South and beyond. He spells out in detail her Cotton Club start as a teen and her years as a racial justice activist. He doesn’t smooth over the star’s bitter disappointments. Plenty of photos included.

(Running Press, $35.)

A young Black woman stands in side profile, arm raised above her head.
‘The Color of Dance,’ by TaKiyah Wallace-McMillian. (Black Dog & Leventhal)

The Color of Dance, by TaKiyah Wallace-McMillian.

The photographer behind the Instagram account Brown Girls Do Ballet has put together a celebratory essay in images of just that. Filled with insights from inside the dance world and hopeful girls in training, her portraits are set indoors and out with her subjects speaking for themselves. One young ballerina, Kailyn Scales, says of her craft: “I am small but mighty. When I dance, I feel powerful. I don’t feel like the smallest person in the room.”

(Black Dog & Leventhal, $30.)

A book cover depicting photos of a variety of fresh foods over a large 'Y.'
‘Yellowstone: The Official Dutton Ranch Family Cookbook,’ by Chef Gabriel ‘Gator’ Guilbeau with Kim Laidlaw. (Insight Editions)

Yellowstone: The Official Dutton Ranch Family Cookbook, by Chef Gabriel “Gator” Guilbeau with Kim Laidlaw.

Guilbeau was the set caterer for Yellowstone and played the Dutton family’s cook on the hit series. This book is filled with more than 55 recipes beloved by the cast and featured on screen, some inspired by Guilbeau’s Cajun roots. Showrunner Taylor Sheridan is a fan of his Louisiana fried shrimp. Anybody remember that octopus Gator set in front of John, Kayce and Beth in Season 2? It didn’t go over well, but it looks delicious with lemon and roasted potatoes.

(Insight Editions, $34.99.)

A book cover depicting a woman in 1950s-era clothing. She is wearing yellow heels and a green raincoat.
‘Dressing the Part: Television’s Most Stylish Shows,’ by Hal Rubenstein. (Harper)

Dressing the Part: Television’s Most Stylish Shows, by Hal Rubenstein.

In interviews, images and commentary, this frank, veteran fashion expert takes readers through the cultural significance of clothes in 50 top TV shows dating to the dawn of the medium. There’s the predictable period dramas. And there’s Mary Tyler Moore’s black capris pants as Laura Petrie. On The Dick Van Dyke Show, Moore insisted on dumping the TV practice of wearing cocktail attire to vacuum, and met 1960s network pushback. Within a month, Rubenstein writes, there was a nationwide run on capris. Within two years, Dawn Wells was wearing second-skin short shorts as Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. The network for both? CBS.

(HarperCollins, $40.)

A book cover depicting a yellow bird hanging from a tangled round nest.
‘Birding for a Better World,’ by Molly Adams and Sydney Golden Anderson. (Princeton Architectural Press)

Birding for a Better World, by Molly Adams and Sydney Golden Anderson.

Adams, founder of the Feminist Bird Club, and Golden Anderson, a habitat coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, have produced a helpful primer on birding for all. It includes basic vocabulary and equipment use, and ways to make birding safer and more inclusive. They’ve included journal prompts and blank pages to record observations.

(Princeton Architectural Press, $22.95.)

A plain grey book cover with the words Thom Browne on it.
‘Thom Browne,’ by Thom Browne and Andrew Bolton. (Phaidon Press)

Thom Browne, by Thom Browne and Andrew Bolton.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the designer’s eponymous brand, this 420-page tome lets his clothes speak for themselves. Set against white backgrounds, images in this comprehensive book include commissioned photography by Johnny Dufort that was curated by the Met’s Bolton, Browne’s husband. It also includes glimpses of Browne’s conceptual fashion shows.

(Phaidon, $150.)

A book cover depicting a little Black girl wearing a frilled and lace gown with prominent shoulders. She is standing proudly.
‘The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to Black Families,’ by Karida L. Brown and Charly Palmer. (Chronicle Books)

The New Brownies’ Book: A Love Letter to Black Families, by Karida L. Brown and Charly Palmer.

This husband-and-wife team have created an homage to the monthly children’s magazine founded by W.E.B. Du Bois in 1920. They’ve mixed poems of Langston Hughes and other works that ran in The Brownies’ Book with stunning new short stories, art, poetry and plays of leading Black artists today. The mission then and now: To serve and inspire Black youth.

(Chronicle Books, $40.)

A beige book cover with pink and black lettering.
‘Dressing the Part: Television’s Most Stylish Shows,’ by Hal Rubenstein. (Viking)

Mother Tongue: The Surprising History of Women’s Words, by Jenni Nuttall.

This lecturer in English at Exeter College has investigated dictionaries, manuals, poems, letters and more to lend an exacting analysis to today’s conversation over the words used to discuss and perceive the female experience. What surprised her most? “For every sexist idea which leaves its traces in our vocabulary, you can usually find a contemporary voice in the past challenging or even making fun of the extremes of misogyny.”

(Viking, $29.)

A black cover with gold lettering.
‘Vanity Fair: Oscar Night Sessions,’ photos by Mark Seliger. (Harry N. Abrams)

Vanity Fair: Oscar Night Sessions, photos by Mark Seliger.

For a decade, Seliger has set up a pop-up studio inside the Vanity Fair after-party on Oscar night. This stunning collection of his A-list portraits over the years is telling and bittersweet. Couples have split (Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner). Stars have passed (Chadwick Boseman). Controversies later unfolded (Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith). Others have carried on (Robert De Niro). “Everything captured by a camera is ephemeral,” Seliger writes in an introduction. “It’s the art that lives on.”

(Abrams, $80.)

A book cover depicting a painting of a glass vase of tulips.
‘Art in Flower,’ by Lindsey Taylor. (The Monacelli Press)

Art in Flower, by Lindsey Taylor.

The floral and garden designer behind the Wall Street Journal column “Flower School” has collected 40 of her floral arrangements with the art that inspired them. And they’re all wonders. Her column ran from 2014 to 2019. She takes readers through her thoughtful process for choosing vessels, along with flower gathering. On foraging, for instance, Taylor writes: “Try not to be greedy. The shrub or tree we’re cutting from is more important than our fleeting arrangement.”

(Monacelli, $60.)

A pink book cover depicting a colorful and surrealist rendition of a group of people.
‘Milton Glaser: Pop,’ by Steven Heller. (The Monacelli Press)

Milton Glaser: Pop, by Steven Heller, Mirko Ilić and Beth Kleber.

Glaser, the graphic designer who gave the world the I (Heart) New York logo, was at his best in the 1960s and ‘70s. Amid a revolution in graphic design, Glaser busied himself on book, magazine and album covers. He also created typefaces that endure today. More than 1,100 color images included in this broad overview, Glaser’s wit ever-present.

(Monacelli, $65.)

A book cover depicting a wall of boom boxes.
‘LL Cool J Presents the Streets Win,’ by LL Cool J, Vikki Tobak and Alec Banks. (Rizzoli)

LL Cool J Presents the Streets Win, by LL Cool J, Vikki Tobak and Alec Banks.

A beautifully illustrated homage to 50 years of hip-hop in the words of the icons who were there at the beginning. Includes rarely seen images and recollections from Salt-N-Pepa, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C., Mary J. Blige and more. Peep Ludacris as a cutie child on page 288.


(Rizzoli New York, $55.)

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