We’re not doing a “Ten Best” list this year — it’s too frustrating having to leave out so many good titles. Instead, below, you’ll find cool new books that’ll make great holiday gifts.
ON SONDHEIM: An Opinionated Guide
by Ethan Mordden
Oxford University Press
Here’s a smart (and, yes, highly opinionated) guide to the master’s works. Stephen Sondheim is, of course, the brilliant lyricist-composer who has redefined American musical theatre. Mordden’s guide is an illuminating introduction to the man and his work.
A IS FOR ARSENIC: The Poisons of Agatha Christie
by Kathryn Harkup
OK, here’s a fun one for Christie fans. Clearly, Christie’s cup of tea was tainted; that is to say, she preferred using poison to kill off her characters than other messier methods. This penchant for the deadly dose is, in part, explained by the author’s education and knowledge of lethal chemicals. Kathryn Harkup explores the poisons used by the murderer in fourteen Christie mysteries, and illuminates the science behind the author’s fiction.
THE TROLLEY PROBLEM MYSTERIES
(The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)
by F. M. Kamm
Edited by Eric Rakowski
Oxford University Press
For the budding philosopher on your list, Kamm’s work poses the classic “trolley problem” that asks the reader to confront a moral dilemma. “A train is ripping down the track at full speed, headed straight for five unsuspecting workers. If you could push the person walking next to you onto the track and save those men, would you do it?” Hmm. Those two sentences lead us to a variety of complex questions and scenarios. Indeed, a ride on this trolley won’t soon be forgotten.
GRAPHIQUE de la RUE: The Signs of Paris
by Louise Fili
Princeton Architectural Press
If you love Paris (and who doesn’t?) then this love letter to French lettering is for you. Graphic designer Louise Fili has been photographing street signs in the city for over 40 years and her book is filled with glorious color reproductions of distinctive typography. Includes classic gold-leaf and dimensional Art Deco, Futurist, and Art Nouveau architectural lettering.
It’s a visual delight!
And speaking of France…
DEATH IN BRITTANY
A novel by Jean-Luc Bannalec
A new mystery series, introducing Commissaire Georges Dupin, a slightly cranky detective who solves his cases via injections of coffee and fine food. In fact, it’s his frequent pauses to partake during the murder investigation that make this novel such a delight.
Bannalec’s descriptions of this quaint coastal region will have you booking a flight there. DEATH IN BRITTANY was our favorite mystery of the year. A most promising debut and we can’t wait for Dupin’s next case.
COLOR ME CALM: 100 COLORING TEMPLATES FOR MEDITATION AND RELAXATION
|y Lacy Mucklow
Race Point Publishing
Last but not least, when the stress-filled holidays come to a roaring end on New Year’s Eve, chances are you’ll be left feeling wiped out and jittery. If so, here’s a gift you can give yourself— an adult coloring book designed to erase the stress and, perhaps, send you into a Zen-like trance. You’ll not only feel relaxed, but you’ll have a book filled with your own colored art. It’s soothing, fun to do, and lovely to look at.
Heck, coloring ain’t for kids anymore!
example by Carla M. Wilson