Glossy books for holiday giving

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FOR FANS OF FAB SOUNDS

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At this early point in the rehash of the 1960s that we’re locked into for the present decade—with every half-significant date of that previous era revisited in 50-years-ago-today articles, books, and shows—we’ve arrived at the emergence of a popular band called the Beatles. The Beatles were four smiling, uniformed men from a city in the north of England. They played a lively form of “beat” music that caught on quickly around 1963 and eventually convinced many to take confusing drugs and wear terrible clothing. They also wrote some very good songs that are still admired today.

If this odd story interests someone on your gift list, he or she can find out more—a lot more, a cosmos more—in Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years, Vol. 1 (Crown Archetype). The fact that it takes two colons and a comma to write down the title hints at the minutiae-load of this bicep-straining package; its 800 pages bring us only as far as 1962. Lewisohn, a leading Beatles scholar, plans to produce two more huge volumes to cover the remaining eight years of the band’s career.

Competing with this in the drop-it-and-break-toes category is All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release (Black Dog & Leventhal). That’s right: all 213 of them, each given at least a page of a photo-stuffed coffeetable book. Parisian authors Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon, along with foreword contributor Patti Smith (yes, the same), don’t approach the revealing wit and inventiveness of Ian MacDonald’s 1994 song-by-song analysis, Revolution in the Head, but there are great shoals of information and insight here, all very finely laid out.

As for the aftermath, James A. Mitchell’s brand-new (and, at a modest 270 pages, comparatively tiny) The Walrus & the Elephants: John Lennon’s Years of Revolution (Seven Stories) leans on fresh interviews with friends and contemporaries to document Lennon’s move to New York and his role in the antiwar and social-justice movements.

If you’d like to know more about musicians other than the Beatles, sorry. They’re only writing about the Beatles now. Just the Beatles.

FOR DEVOTEES OF LOCAL LORE

Take a minute every day of the coming year to read the appropriate page of Jesse Donaldson’s new date-by-date chronicle of our city, This Day in Vancouver (Anvil), and you’ll run across any number of strange things. Like the report from August 14, 1907, on how the value of a property in the city centre went from $8,600 to $25,000 in the space of only two years (sound familiar?), or the account of a November 2, 1974, George Harrison concert that drew truly horrible reviews. Incidentally, Harrison was at one time a member of a popular band called the Beatles.

It’s not often that a book of history is itself a piece of history, but that’s the case with the 35th-anniversary edition of Now You’re Logging! (Harbour), by Bus Griffiths. First released in 1978, when Griffiths was 65 years old, this lovingly drawn black-and-white work was a graphic novel back when such things were known as “comic books”—indeed, it was the first of its kind produced in B.C. This appealing new version arrives in honour of the author’s centenary. Through the adventures of the fictional Al Richards in the 1930s and ’40s, Griffiths recounts his own experiences in the hard-nosed, ever-dangerous logging industry, stopping regularly to drop definitions of vintage terms like “cold-deck”, “whistle punk”, “scissor-bill”, and “widow maker”.

FOR NATURE GIRLS AND BOYS

Most of us don’t have the patience to photograph a spawning salmon as it leaps unwittingly into the jaws of a waiting grizzly bear, or the nerve to snorkel for hours amid arctic ice to capture an image of a bowhead whale gliding straight for the lens. And even if we did, we’d probably wind up with a frameful of blurry smears obscured by one of our fingertips. Best to leave it to people truly gifted with the camera, several of whom are featured in The Masters of Nature Photography (Firefly).

This grand full-colour coffeetable book contains portfolios by 10 winners of Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition held annually in the U.K. An emerald cluster of tadpole embryos clinging to a rainforest leaf, a leopard draped across a branch on a Serengeti morning, a lowland gorilla in a cloud of butterflies—these visions should be warning enough to tread lightly on the planet.

And then there’s the jaw-dropping Birds & People (Jonathan Cape), by Mark Cocker and photographer David Tipling. The world already has countless catalogues of birds, but this deeply researched, beautifully made work stands out as a survey of how the many, wildly various species have inspired and engaged human cultures since ancient times, acting as everything from hunting partners to Hitchcock movie stars. This is what books were invented to do.

QUICK IDEAS FOR WHEN YOU’RE ALL OUT OF IDEAS

Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City (By Bradley L. Garrett. Verso)  An illustrated manifesto on the high-risk underground pursuit of venturing without permission into off-limits urban sites like sewer systems, skyscraper rooftops, and derelict factories. Arguably a good source of adventure ideas for someone you’d like to be rid of in the new year.

The Best American Comics 2013 (Edited by Jeff Smith. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)  With samples of work by more than 30 author-artists ranging from Alison Bechdel to Sophie Goldstein, and crowded with space travellers, celestial beings, and talking dogs, this smart hardcover will grab hard-core fans and newbies alike.

Toy Time! (By Christopher Byrne. Three Rivers)  Remember Lite-Brite? Stretch Armstrong? The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine? Check out this full-colour look back at mass-produced toys from the 1940s to the ’80s. Guaranteed to provoke plenty of “Omigod!” bursts of nostalgia from folks in the right age range.

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