As the winter holidays approach, ’tis the season for the annual run on gift books. A selection of the best, chosen by Maclean’s editors and writers:
ShadowLight: A Photographer’s Life by Freeman Patterson (HarperCollins, $55) showcases the acclaimed photographer’s 30-year career with images that chronicle an inner journey. From South African rock formations to mist-covered hills in his native New Brunswick, Patterson evokes a sense of mystery and beauty.
The Great Lakes by Pierre Berton, with photographs by André Gallant, (Stoddart, $50) is a gorgeous reminder that the lakes comprise one-fifth of the world’s fresh water. Berton’s engrossing narrative covers natural history and how civilization has affected the inland seas.
The Fraser River by Alan Haig-Brown (Harbour,
$49.95) presents the remarkable story of British Columbia’s great waterway. Rick Blacklaws’ pictures travel the river’s 1,368-km length to its mouth on the Pacific while HaigBrown chronicles the river’s role in history.
The Explorers: From the Ancient World to the Present by Paolo Novaresio (General, $86) retraces landmark journeys with more than 500 images—fossils, engravings, paintings, photos and maps. The engaging text ranges from littleknown Bartholomew Columbus, Christopher’s brother, to such celebrities as Neil Armstrong.
A Day in the Life of India, edited by David Cohen (HarperCollins, $69.95) continues the series in which a bevy of photographers is sent out to capture the mood and look of a country.
What unites these diverse, arresting photographs is color—deep, rich, saturated color that stains every page.
The Chinese Century: A Photographic History of the Last Hundred Years by Jonathan D. Spence and Annping Chin (Random House, $90) presents more than 250 black-and-white pictures as the authors, both U.S. sinologists, deftly guide readers from the autocratic empire of 100 years ago to the emerging global power.
Painting Place: The Life and Work of David B. Milne by David P. Silcox (University of Toronto, $65) is the first of a four-volume series on one of Canada’s master painters. This definitive biography is laced with excerpts from the artist’s diaries and writings and accompanied by more than 400 small paintings and drawings.
Paterson Ewen, edited by Matthew Teitelbaum, (Douglas & McIntyre/ Art Gallery of Ontario, $65) combines an engaging profile of one of Canada’s senior artists with abundant illustrations and a perceptive analysis of Ewen’s powerful, lyrical paintings.
Frederick H. Varley by Peter Varley (Key Porter, $60) celebrates the Group of Seven painter. Peter Varley, Frederick’s son, has provided a highly personal chronicle of his father’s life and career, complete with 135 reproductions of the artist’s drawings and radiant paintings. Haida Art by George F. MacDonald (Douglas & Mclntyre/Canadian Museum of Civilization, $65) offers a thorough history of an extraordinary tradition, chronicling the development of Haida carving and other art forms from prehistory to such modern masters as Bill Reid.
Mermaids: Nymphs of the Sea by Theodore Gachot (Raincoast, $39.95) is filled with fine-art reproductions, literary quotations and a wealth of mermaid lore, making it an enchanting companion for idle times during the holidays.
The Venetian’s Wife by Nick Bantock (Raincoast, $28.95) is not strictly speaking a picture book, but it does include magical, evocative graphics by the author (Griffin & Sabine). Here he tells the tale of museum employee Sara Wolfe and her strange, sensual adventure.
Terence Conran on Design (Raincoast, $50) and The Look of the Century by Michael Tambini (Firefly, $49.95) are both wonderful-to-browse-in surveys of 20th-century design. Conran, Britain’s decorating guru, offers thoughtful essays on everything from clothing to food. Tambini’s book is more a pictorial history. Among the nifty spreads is one tracing the evolution of the toothbrush.
24 Hours in Cyberspace: Painting on the Walls of the Digital Cave by Rick Smolan (Somerville House, $59.95) looks like a contradiction in terms—a lavish coffee-table tome about a domain where print is supposed to be obsolete. But Smolan, who created the hugely successful Day in the Life series, has assembled a stunning variety of images—from a Coptic monk toting a laptop in the desert to Net surfers in a California hot tub.
Marilyn: The Niagara Photographs by Jock Carroll (Stoddart, $29.95) sheds some soft light on an overexposed legend. Carroll, who died last year, photographed Marilyn Monroe in 1952 while she was filming the movie Niagara. Some of the shots have the artless quality of holiday snaps; others capture the enigma, and the heat, of a superstar melting the lens.
Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan (William Morrow, $49) is a definitive guide to making breads, cakes, buns and cookies based on the techniques of America’s high priestess of food, Julia Child. Culinaria, edited by Joachim Römer and Michael Ditter, (Whitecap, $100) is a vast, beautifully illustrated two-volume culinary tour of Europe, with recipes for everything from strawberry snow (Finland) to dried cod in cream (Portugal). The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, edited by Susan Tomnay, (Whitecap Books, $39.95) is an amply illustrated volume on meatless meals—many drawing on Middle Eastern, Asian and Italian cuisine—that are enticing enough to convert Ronald McDonald. The Hamlyn Herb Book by Arabella Boxer (McClelland & Stewart, $35) devotes 50 of its sumptuous 255 pages to full-page descriptions of the cultivation and medicinal uses of herbs, which are then put to salivatingly good use in 170 recipes. A Year in Figure Skating by Beverley Smith (McClelland & Stewart, $40), Skate by Steve Milton (Key Porter, $39.95), and The Passion to Skate by Sandra Bezie (Opus, $39.95) are all informative. Globe and Mail staffer Smith gives a reporter’s view of the international cast of skaters competing in amateur and professional competitions during the 1995-1996 season. The subtitle for Skate is 100 Years of Figure Skating, but Milton, a reporter with The Hamilton Spectator, concentrates on the recent boom years. Bezie, a former Canadian champion pairs skater, details her work choreographing routines for top skaters, directing skating shows and producing TV specials. Smith and Milton offer front-row seats, but Bezie—with her insight and the book’s lush photography—has a backstage pass.
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