News Column

Holiday Gift Ideas 2013: Guide to 100 best books for readers young and old

November 29, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 29--Whether you think a book is a loyal friend, as Hemingway did; a frigate, as Emily Dickinson called it; or an ax, as Franz Kafka proclaimed, we have books for you to consider this holiday gift-giving season.

Specifically, we're offering 100 suggestions in a variety of genres, tones and topics. It is not a best-of-the-year list, though some books recommended here could easily be on such a list.

Most of these books are also available as e-books, though no e-reader out there can spit out a Lego minifigure.

Special thanks to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff members Mary Louise Schumacher and Chris Foran, who contributed the pop-culture and art/architecture sections, and to freelance reviewers Mike Fischer and Carole E. Barrowman, whose reviews we tapped for some of our choices.

Happy gifting and reading.

Editor's picks

"American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Deborah Solomon. Solomon's biography of the complicated artist makes the case that Rockwell's work, in all its fussy homeyness, is worth looking at and thinking about, and will continue to be so for a long time.

"Beyond the Rift" (Tachyon Publications), by Peter Watts. Hard-hitting sci-fi stories about human-alien encounters, brain programming and religion, including Watts' brilliant re-imagining of "The Thing" from the so-called monster's point of view.

"The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons," by Lawrence Block. The mystery grandmaster brings back gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr for a caper that involves buttons and spoons -- and plenty of banter about the book business. It will be published Dec. 25 as a paperback and e-book.

"The Luminaries: A Novel" (Little, Brown), by Eleanor Catton. Set in New Zealand in the 1860s, Catton's Man Booker Prize-winning novel features a page-turning Victorian plot, psychologically intense cat-and-mouse dialogue, and a mythic structure that calls to mind James Joyce's "Ulysses."

"Men We Reaped: A Memoir" (Bloomsbury USA), by Jesmyn Ward. Ward, who won the National Book Award for fiction for "Salvage the Bones," writes about five young black men she grew up with in rural DeLisle, Miss., who all died violent deaths within a few years.

"The Most of Nora Ephron" (Knopf). A career-spanning collection of Ephron's writing, including her novel "Heartburn," her screenplay "When Harry Met Sally..." and many of her personal essays, such as "I Feel Bad About My Neck."

"At Night We Walk in Circles" (Riverhead), by Daniel Alarcon. Three actors in a Latin American country resembling Peru seek refuge from an incomprehensible present in a fictionalized past, writes reviewer Mike Fischer.

"Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion" (Bloomsbury USA), by Robert Gordon. An engaging history of the record label that gave us Otis Redding, Booker T. and the MG's and Isaac Hayes, contrasting its interracial cooperation with Memphis' racial troubles.

"Roth Unbound: A Writer and His Books" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Claudia Roth Pierpont. A smart, sympathetic rereading of Philip Roth's books, enhanced by Pierpont's conversations with the novelist.

"The Spymistress" (Dutton), by Jennifer Chiaverini. Madison writer Chiaverini's historical novel brings to life fortysomething spinster Elizabeth Van Lew, one of the Union's most successful intelligence agents behind Southern lines during the Civil War.

"A Thousand Perfect Things" (Premier Digital Publishing), by Kay Kenyon. A smart, engaging fantasy set in an alternate 19th century, where England (science) and India (magic) represent opposite poles of power and knowledge, featuring a young Englishwoman who might be able to bridge the two worlds.

"Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of 'Fiddler on the Roof'" (Metropolitan Books), by Alisa Solomon. Reviewer Mike Fischer praises "Solomon's ability to weave gobs of meticulous research into a compelling, beautifully written story about the musical she persuasively argues has seeped into our culture like no other."

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

Fantastic works of fiction

"Carried Away: A Personal Selection of Stories" (Everyman's Library), by Alice Munro. This year's Nobel literature laureate handpicked the stories for this collection, including "Friend of My Youth," "The Albanian Virgin" and "The Bear Went Over the Mountain." With an introduction by Margaret Atwood.

"Claire of the Sea Light" (Knopf), by Edwidge Danticat. A Haitian fisherman and widower must decide whether to give his daughter to a woman who can give her a better life.

"The Goldfinch" (Little, Brown), by Donna Tartt. A 13-year-old boy loses his mother and steals a painting during the same explosive event. Then his adventures really begin. National Public Radio reviewer Maureen Corrigan called Tartt's novel "Dickensian both in the ambition of its jumbo, coincidence-laced plot, as well as in its symphonic range of emotions."

"The Ghost Bride" (William Morrow), by Yangsze Choo. A young woman in 19th-century Malaysia navigates the ghost world in Choo's entertaining debut.

"The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly" (Penguin), by Sun-Mi Hwang. A hen dreams of escaping the egg farm where she toils, and of raising one chick of her own.

"John Updike: The Collected Stories" (Library of America). A two-volume boxed set of 186 stories spanning Updike's prolific career. (I'm writing about one story from this collection each Wednesday at the Recommended Reading blog.)

"Let Him Go: A Novel" (Milkweed Editions), by Larry Watson. Milwaukee novelist Watson ("Montana 1948") pits two iron-willed grandmothers against each other in a custody conflict headed for a violent showdown.

"Life After Life: A Novel" (Reagan Arthur Books), by Kate Atkinson. A girl is born in England in 1910, dies, is born again, dies again, and keeps being reborn in the same time period, as if she had a national destiny to fulfill.

"The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P." (Henry Holt), by Adelle Waldman. A thirtysomething Brooklyn writer is on the verge of big literary success, but is not so brilliant in his relationships with women.

"More Than This" (Candlewick), by Patrick Ness. Reviewer Carole E. Barrowman says of Ness' novel about a teen investigating a desolate English wasteland: "This genre-bending, pulse-pounding book is provocative and philosophical and sweet and darkly funny and it's destined to be discussed and debated."

"Night Film: A Novel" (Random House), by Marsha Pessl. Reviewer Mike Fischer writes that while Pessl's Gothic thriller set in the film world "has as many hairpin turns as 'The Da Vinci Code,' the writing is worlds better and what's at stake infinitely more important."

"The Rosie Project: A Novel" (Simon & Schuster), by Graeme Simsion. Don, a postdoctoral researcher who appears to be a high-functioning Asperger's guy with more than a little OCD and a preference for ruthlessly efficient time utilization, sets out to find a wife. Hilarity ensues.

"S." (Mulholland Books), by Doug Dorst. Conceived by movie director J.J. Abrams, "S." is presented as a 1949 novel, "Ship of Theseus," whose pages are filled with thousands of words of marginalia written by a man and a woman, and stuffed with letters, postcards, notes and other ephemera.

"The Tenth Witness" (The Permanent Press), by Leonard Rosen. Barrowman writes that Rosen's "tightly constructed mystery propels us into the dangerous mud flats of the Wadden Sea to the mansions of German industrialists, the factories of Hong Kong, the safe havens for war criminals in Argentina and the industrial legacies of Nazi Germany."

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

Compelling nonfiction

"The Art of Lying Down: A Guide to Horizontal Living" (Melville House), by Bernd Brunner. Cultural writer Brunner celebrates the many rewards, and notes the occasional pitfalls, of taking life lying down.

"Behemoth: The History of the Elephant in America" (Harper Perennial), by Ronald B. Tobias. Elephants as work animals, as circus attractions and as abuse victims in the United States.

"Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now: The Best of Mary Schmich" (Midway). A wide-ranging collection of pieces by the Chicago Tribune columnist, including her famous pseudo-commencement speech, "Wear Sunscreen."

"Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital" (Crown), by Sheri Fink. A journalist-doctor's probing account of the deaths of several gravely ill patients inside New Orleans' Memorial Hospital. "Anyone interested in Hurricane Katrina, human behavior in times of crisis, or medical ethics should read it," wrote reviewer Sarah Carr.

"High Rise Stories: Voices From Chicago Public Housing" (Voice of Witness/McSweeney's), compiled and edited by Audrey Petty. First-person accounts of life inside Chicago's horrific high rises.

"The Prostate Monologues: What Every Man Can Learn From My Humbling, Confusing, and Sometimes Comical Battle with Prostate Cancer" (Rodale), by Jack McCallum. A helpful, often entertaining book by a well-known sportswriter about navigating life and the medical system after a prostate cancer diagnosis.

"Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It" (Yale University Press), by Jennifer Michael Hecht. Addressing people troubled by depression and feelings of worthlessness, poet and scholar Hecht makes a secular case for life.

"To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing" (Gotham Books), by Simon Garfield. A friendly survey of correspondence from the ancient Romans to Stephen Elliott's contemporary Letters in the Mail project.

"Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle With the Torah" (Reboot/Workman), edited by Roger Bennett. Aimee Bender, Sloane Crosley, Ben Greenman, A.J. Jacobs, Adam Levine and many others grapple with their portions of Judaism's five great books.

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

Books with Wisconsin connections

"From the Top: Brief Transmissions from Tent Show Radio" (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), by Michael Perry. Perry, the well-known essayist and chronicler of rural life ("Population: 485"), collects his six-minute monologues from a syndicated radio program, with such evocative titles as "Dumpster Date," "Tough Granny," "Steve Earle, Life Coach" and "Cock-a-Doodle-Ego."

"How I Built an Empire & Gave It Away," by Joseph J. Zilber with Kurt Chandler. In this memoir, the late businessman Zilber (1917-2010) describes how he made a fortune in real estate and development, then became an important local philanthropist.

"It's All a Kind of Magic: The Young Ken Kesey" (University of Wisconsin Press), by Rick Dodgson. Dodgson, an associate professor of history at Lakeland College, chronicles Kesey's life from the beginning through the writing of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Sometimes a Great Notion."

"Layton's Legacy: A Historic American Art Collection 1888-2013" (Layton Art Collection), by John C. Eastberg and Eric Vogel. A voluminous and richly illustrated book about Frederick Layton, whose art collection is part of the core collection at what is today the Milwaukee Art Museum.

"One Small Farm: Photographs of a Wisconsin Way of Life" (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), by Craig Schreiner. Photojournalist Schreiner documents life and work on the small Lamberty farm near Pine Bluff in western Dane County.

"A People's Art History of the United States" (The New Press) by Milwaukee artist and activist Nicolas Lampert. A parallel art history and a deep dive into activist art dating from the colonial period to the present.

"Searching for Marquette: A Pilgrimage in Art" (Marquette University Press), by Ruth D. Nelson. An art historian retraces Pere Marquette's 17th-century journey, photographing and writing about the monuments to the French Jesuit that can be found in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Arkansas.

"This Superior Place: Stories of Bayfield and the Apostle Islands" (Wisconsin Historical Society Press), by Dennis McCann. Former Journal Sentinel travel writer McCann turns his graceful prose on the place where he lives, and that he loves, now.

"A Wisconsin Harvest Volume II" (Wisconsin Writers Association Press), compiled by Rodney Schroeter. A multigenre anthology of writing that mixes work by contemporary writers, including Ludmilla Bollow, Mary Jo Balistreri and Sandra Lindow, with pieces from well-known writers included in the first "Wisconsin Harvest" anthology in 1966, including Fredric Brown and Clifford D. Simak.

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

Excellent anthologies

"USA Noir: Best of the Akashic Noir Series" (Akashic), edited by Johnny Temple. Thirty-seven stories from Akashic's geographically based collections of dark-hearted fiction ("Chicago Noir," "Detroit Noir," "Indian Country Noir"), including Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Joseph Bruchac, Laura Lippman and Lisa Sandlin.

"Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories From the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense" (Penguin), edited by Sarah Weinman. A collection of crime stories by women written from the mid-1940s through the early 1970s, including ones by Patricia Highsmith, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Millar.

"Dangerous Women" (Tor), edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Twenty-one original stories about women you don't want to mess with, written by genre giants including Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, Lawrence Block, Sharon Kay Penman, Diana Gabaldon and "Games of Throne" author Martin.

"The Moth: 50 True Stories" (Hyperion), edited by Catherine Burns. The storytelling franchise pulls together a collection of its tales, with a sprinkling of famous names including Andrew Solomon, Richard Price, Darryl (DMC) McDaniels, Sebastian Junger, Malcolm Gladwell and Joyce Maynard.

"Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales" (Little, Brown), edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt. Neil Gaiman, Kelley Armstring and Saladin Ahmed deliver new stories inspired by classic fairy tales.

"xo Orpheus: Fifty New Myths" (Penguin), edited by Kate Bernheimer. Aimee Bender, Benjamin Percy, Victor LaValle, Kit Reed, Sigrid Nunez and other writers offer new stories based on great mythological figures including Persephone, Icarus, Odysseus and their ilk.

"Old Mars" (Bantam Books), edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Fifteen new stories about the Red Planet from Mike Resnick, Howard Waldrop, Melinda M. Snodgrass and others that harken back to the Martian visions of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury.

"The Cool School: Writing From America's Hip Underground" (Library of America), edited by Glenn O'Brien. A collection of writing by the Beats, their friends and other outliers (Lord Buckley, Hunter S. Thompson, Andy Warhol) under the hipster umbrella.

"The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries" (Vintage Crime), edited by Otto Penzler. Penzler brings together 60 holiday-related mysteries by such elves as Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Donald E. Westlake, John D. MacDonald, Ed McBain and Sara Paretsky.

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

One day at a time

"A Reader's Book of Days: True Tales From the Lives and Works of Writers for Every Day of the Year" (W.W. Norton), by Tom Nissley. Birthdates, death dates, quotes from and anecdotes about a dizzying array of writers, from Jane Austen to David Foster Wallace, organized by date.

"Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History" (NationBooks), by Eduardo Galeano. The Uruguayan writer chronicles the world's unsung heroes and their enemies, one day at a time.

"A London Year: 365 Days of Life in Diaries, Journal and Letters" (Frances Lincoln Limited), compiled by Travis Elborough and Nick Rennison. Passages from more than 200 writers through the years, including such worthies as Alan Bennett, Mary Lamb, Michael Palin, Samuel Pepys and Virginia Woolf, about the great city.

"All the Time in the World: A Book of Hours" (Nan A. Talese), by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins. In a tribute to medieval books of days, Jenkins takes us on a tour of what people have done and do at various hours of the day.

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

New books for Beatlemaniacs

"Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years, Vol. 1" (Crown Archetype), by Mark Lewisohn. A biography of more than 900 pages, including the detailed notes and index, on John, Paul, George and Ringo, and Brian Epstein and George Martin, too, from Liverpool youth to the cusp of fame in 1962.

"Beatles vs. Stones" (Simon & Schuster), by John McMillian. McMillian explores the history of this great rock music rivalry and the relationships between members of the bands.

"The John Lennon Letters" (Little, Brown), edited and introduced by Hunter Davies. Apart from his songwriting, Lennon was a whimsical writer and doodler of some quality. In addition to his letters, many of his spot illustrations are included.

"All the Songs: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Release" (Black Dog & Leventhal), by Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon. The genesis, production story, technical details and trivia for 213 songs the Beatles recorded.

"The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970" (Sterling), by Mark Lewisohn. A day by day account of the Beatles' recording sessions, with an introductory Q&A with Paul McCartney.

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

Books for fans of the subject

"The Thoughtbook of F. Scott Fitzgerald" (University of Minnesota Press), by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Pages from a diary Fitzgerald kept at age 14, with related essays and photos.

"A Prayer Journal" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)," by Flannery O'Connor. A transcription and facsimile edition of a religious journal the young O'Connor kept while a college student at Iowa. For readers interested in the mature O'Connor's religious outlook, I strongly recommend "The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor" (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

"Sylvia Plath: Drawings" (Harper), by Sylvia Plath. Pen-and-ink drawings with a few related letters by the poet.

"Fame: Neil Gaiman" (Bluewater Productions), by Anthony Laplume, illustrated by Marco Gerratana. A comic-book life of the comic-book writer turned fantasy fiction giant.

"Driven: From Homeless to Hero, My Journeys On and Off Lambeau Field" (Crown Archetype), by Donald Driver with Peter Golenbock. Driver tells his rags-to-riches story, from the streets of Houston to a Super Bowl victory with the Green Bay Packers, and the delightful coda of a "Dancing With the Stars" triumph.

"Eminent Hipsters" (Viking), by Donald Fagen. A collection of essays and pieces by the voice of Steely Dan, including his "grouchy" 2012 tour diary.

"Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey: The Official Backstage Pass to the Set, the Actors and the Drama" (St. Martin's), by Emma Rowley. Lots of photos and just enough text about the popular public TV show.

"Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living" (Dutton), by Nick Offerman. The star of TV's "Parks and Recreations" offers entertaining advice on eating red meat, growing a mustache and other manly pursuits.

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

New books capturing pop culture greats

"Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington" (Gotham), by Terry Teachout. Cultural critic Teachout, whose work includes the critically acclaimed Louis Armstrong biography "Pops," sets out to untangle the contradictions surrounding the life and music of the jazz genius. Exhaustive book goes deep into Ellington's music and provides rich context for the story of one of America's singular artists.

"Johnny Carson" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), by Henry Bushkin. There isn't a figure who's had more impact on American pop culture -- and revealed less about who he really was -- than the "Tonight Show's" beloved host. Bushkin, Carson's longtime lawyer, gives a rare insider's glimpse into the fame and foibles of the king of late-night television.

"Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him" (Algonquin), by David Henry and Joe Henry. Book relies on interviews and contemporary accounts to re-create one of comedy's most influential -- and later, most problematic -- figures.

"The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside 'The Room,' the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made" (Simon & Schuster), by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. Auteur wannabe Tommy Wiseau set out to make a personal work of art; instead, he made the new "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Sestero, who met Wiseau in acting school, came along for the ride, and offers an inside look at a $6 million train wreck that is nearly as fun to read about as it is to watch.

"A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907-1940" (Simon & Schuster), by Victoria Wilson. First volume of a painstaking biography of one of classic Hollywood's best and hardest-working performers -- "a brave enough actress to let her audience see her think," Wilson says.

"My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles" (Metropolitan), edited by Peter Biskind. Jaglom, a filmmaker who got his start with Welles' coaching and coaxing, secretly taped scores of chats he had with the movie legend and Kenosha native. The conversations -- interspersed with interrupting waiters and other distractions -- are a fresh reminder of what a great storyteller Welles could be, whether he was telling the truth or not.

"Ready for a Brand New Beat: How 'Dancing in the Street' Became the Anthem for a Changing America" (Riverhead), by Mark Kurlansky. Cultural historian Kurlansky ("Cod," "Salt," "1968: The Year That Rocked America") doesn't quite make the case for the Martha Reeves and the Vandellas hit as a national anthem, but he does give a fascinating glimpse into the making of a classic song and the world in which it was created.

"Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman: King of the B Movie" (Abrams), by Chris Nashawaty. An oral history, with lots of fun movie stills and posters, of the world of Corman, the low-low-budget filmmaker who fostered the careers of a whole generation of Hollywood creators, many of whom -- including Martin Scorsese, John Sayles, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson, William Shatner, Sylvester Stallone, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola and Jerry Zucker -- contribute their remembrances.

"Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From 'The Sopranos' and 'The Wire' to 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad'" (Penguin), by Brett Martin. Book weaves together many of television's best male-centric dramas of the past 15 years, showing how they've changed pop culture and helped tilt the creative focus from the big screen to the small screen.

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

Visually interesting books

"The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest -- and Most Surprising -- Animals on Earth" (Houghton Mifflin), by Steve Jenkins. More than 300 of Jenkins' animal illustrations, supplemented with facts, in a family-friendly volume.

"The Castle: A Graphic Novel" (SelfMadeHero), adapted by David Zane Mairowitz, illustrated by Jaromir 99. A black-and-white graphic novel adaptation of Franz Kafka's chilling novel.

"Dave Berg: Five Decades of 'The Lighter Side of...'" (Running Press), by Dave Berg. A heaping helping of work by the Mad magazine writer-artist.

"Dog Shaming" (Three Rivers Press), by Pascale Lemire. Photos of dogs posed with signs outlining the creative ways they've caused trouble (stealing food, eating clothes, peeing in the house) because their owners don't think things through.

"Dogs of War" (Graphix), written by Sheila Keenan, illustrated by Nathan Fox. Extended comic-book-style tales of Boots, Loki and Sheba, three war dogs who saved the lives of soldiers in WWI, WWII and Vietnam.

"The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Graphic Novel" (Little, Brown), by Isabel Greenberg. London writer-illustrator Greenberg's remarkable table begins with a man and a woman from opposites poles who fall in love but can never touch each other.

"Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design" (Workman), by Chip Kidd. Kidd, one of the world's leading book-cover designers, has written an encouraging and entertaining primer on graphic design for children 10 years and older.

"The Goods by McSweeney's" (Big Picture Press), edited by Mac Barnett and Brian McMullen. A big collection of games, puzzles, activities and diversions written and illustrated by the likes of Mo Willems and Jon Scieska. Think Highlights magazine, but with a hipper look and feel.

"Lego Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History" (DK). A detailed look at and description of the minifigs Lego has made since 1978. The book includes three actual minifigs: a townsperson, a robber and a "Star Wars" stormtrooper.

"Maps" (Big Picture Press), by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. More than 50 charming hand-drawn maps that introduce children of all ages to countries of the world.

"Star Wars: Complete Vehicles" (DK). An in-depth look at the vehicles in the six "Star Wars" movies, from a V-Wing to the Death Star, with plenty of illustrations and labeled cutaway views.

"Skyscrapers: A History of the World's Most Extraordinary Buildings" (Black Dog & Leventhal), by Judith Dupre. This strikingly vertical book by architectural historian Dupre looks at some of the world's most famous tall structures, including the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and the Willis (Sears) Tower.

"Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants" (Andrews McMeel), by The Oatmeal. More humor in a snarky, R-rated vein from online king Matthew Inman.

"Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction" (Abrams Image), by Jeff VanderMeer. A handbook for writers of fantasy and speculative fiction that relies on illustrations as much as words. Certainly the most beautiful writing book I've ever seen.

Editor's picks -- Fantastic works of fiction -- Compelling nonfiction

Books with Wisconsin connections -- Excellent anthologies

One day at a time -- New books for Beatlemaniacs

Books for fans of the subject -- New books capturing pop culture greats

Visually interesting books -- Books for lovers of art and architecture

Books for lovers of art and architecture

"Art as Therapy" (Phaidon Press), by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong. This book should put the "art for art's sake" argument to bed forever, making a thoughtful case for art's intimate and practical purposes.

"Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Gardes" (Phaidon Press), by Antawan I. Byrd and Reid Shier. Making the case that the most cutting-edge artists today are not always working in the art centers like New York.

"The Flamethrowers: A Novel" (Scribner), by Rachel Kushner. A wonderfully rich story about what it means for artists to love each other, steeped in the stuff of the 1970s art world.

"Hanging Man: The Arrest of Ai Weiwei" (Faber & Faber), by Barnaby Martin. An intimate look inside the life and detention of one of the most important political artists in the world and a knowing primer on contemporary China.

"Inventing Abstraction: 1910-1925" (The Museum of Modern Art), by Matthew Affron, Yve-Alain Bois, Masha Chlenova and Leah Dickerman (editor). A retelling of a story you think you know filled with tales of influence, road trips and cafe encounters.

"Nature Morte" (Thames & Hudson), by Michael Petry. A gorgeously illustrated exploration of contemporary artists working in the still life tradition.

"Shiro Kuramata" (Phaidon Press), by Deyan Sudjic. A gorgeous two-volume monograph, the first for this Japanese designer. Comes in a lovely acrylic slipcover.

___

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