Best bets for the book obsessed
Get ready to wrap! We’ve assembled a stack of picks for the bibliophile on your shopping list. These outstanding anthologies and coffee table-worthy titles will give serious readers an extra reason to celebrate the season.
Check your bookshelves—you’re bound to own at least one volume with a cover designed by Chip Kidd. Maybe you’ve got David Sedaris’ Naked, with its white boxers on the front. Or Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, which bears the image of T. Rex in silhouette. The associate art director at Alfred A. Knopf, Kidd has been producing mini-masterpieces like these for more than 30 years. His visionary designs, along with a wealth of sketches, mockups and ephemera, are beautifully presented in Chip Kidd: Book Two: Work: 2007-2017.
This big, bold collection—the follow-up to Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006—includes Kidd’s lively commentary on the creation of covers for Oliver Sacks, Jill Lepore, Haruki Murakami and other world-class authors. He observes, “no matter what form a book takes, its author wants the work to be visually represented—in as interesting and memorable a way as possible.” Kidd has turned this task into a fine art. Here’s to another 10 years.
THE GIFT OF VERSE
Providing sustenance for the season to come, Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver is perfectly suited to the winter weeks that lie ahead and an excellent pick for the introspective literature lover. The poems in this exhilarating collection span five decades and were arranged by Oliver, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who often uses poetry to celebrate nature and to explore humankind’s place within it. Featuring more than 200 poems in a variety of forms and moods, this radiant survey showcases Oliver’s versatility as an artist. In “Flare,” from The Leaf and the Cloud (2000), she writes that a poem “wants to open itself, /like the door of a little temple, /so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed, /and less yourself than part of everything.” It’s a fitting description of what readers will experience when they dip into Devotions. This wide-ranging collection is a wonderful introduction for those who aren’t familiar with Oliver and a great gift for readers who already love her.
SECRETS OF SUCCESS
Questions regarding the creative process are among those most often posed to eminent writers. When faced with a blank page (or screen), how does one begin to work? Is the act of composition ruled by logic or magic? Insights into these and other hair-tearing issues can be found in Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process.
Edited by Joe Fassler, Light the Dark brings together the best of his By Heart author interview series from The Atlantic. In this revealing anthology, Roxane Gay, Billy Collins, Viet Thanh Nguyen and others share craft-related anecdotes and excerpts from works they find most inspiring. Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Junot Díaz says, “altered my personal and creative DNA.” For Walter Mosley, reading Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye was a “one-two combination punch” that brought home to him the power of language. For artists in need of a creative fix, Light the Dark is as good as a visit from the divine muse. Well, almost.
Illuminating the path that brought us to where we are now as a nation, The Annotated African American Folktales features almost 150 stories of African American lore, some famous, others obscure, all timeless and telling. Edited by Maria Tatar and Henry Louis Gates Jr., this meticulously assembled anthology brings together an astonishing range of ballads, myths, fairy tales and oral narratives, along with contextual essays and breathtaking imagery.
Featuring stories of the African shapeshifter Anansi, tales of Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit, and legends of Creole and Caribbean lineage, this playful and profound volume will make readers re-evaluate traditional African literature. Selections from Zora Neale Hurston’s groundbreaking book of folktales, Mules and Men, are also included, along with contributions by notable folklorists such as Sterling A. Brown and William Owens. This is a landmark collection and a necessary addition to the study of America’s heritage.
(Remarkable Books photo from the British Library Board.)
The title says it all: Remarkable Books: The World’s Most Beautiful and Historic Works showcases more than 75 archival gems, from ancient papyric manuscripts to Penguin’s first paperbacks. The works are arranged chronologically, giving readers a sense of how advances in book production have paralleled the progress of human thought.
In addition to groundbreakers such as the Gutenberg Bible and Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language, readers will find literary rarities like Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s handwritten draft of Le Petit Prince. Stunning photos provide an intimate look at illuminated manuscripts, detailed woodcuts and engravings, and examples of innovative typography while capturing the genius at play in each creation. Brimming with bibliological trivia, the volume is a stunning celebration of the book as both achievement and objet d’art. For the bibliophile, it doesn’t get any better than this.
This article was originally published in the December 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.