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JANUARY 30, 2012
Lovely to Look At

Is it just me, or do you have days when you just can’t find anything to read? It’s on those no-read days, that I fall back on a secret guilty pleasure.  Picture books.  Those big, heavy tomes meant to sit on coffee tables, as Wikipedia says, “inspiring conversation or alleviating boredom.” David Brower, former executive director of the Sierra Club is often credited with inventing the modern coffee table book. Indeed, the Sierra Club book, In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World with text by Henry David Thoreau and photographs by Eliot Porter was one of the first books I ever purchased.

My latest coffee table book discovery is Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s based on a 2011 show at the Museum featuring items from the late fashion designer’s collection. Let’s take a leap from fashion to geology. If you ever thought of rocks as dull and boring, check out Within the Stone: Nature’s Abstract Rock Art by Bill Atkinson. After a visit to the Painted Desert, Atkins, a former Silicon-Valley whiz kid, became fascinated with the colors of the petrified rocks he found scattered on the desert floor. He purchased some polished slabs and began photographing them. This stunning book is the result.

Another stunning coffee table book that takes its inspiration from nature is Bark: An Intimate Look at the World’s Trees by Cédric Pollet. Just as the title implies, it’s a photographic study of tree bark. After browsing the pages of this splendid book, you’ll never look at trees the same way again.

My favorite coffee table books list wouldn’t be complete without Among the Amish by Keith Bowen. Part sketchbook and part journal, this lovely book records in pastels and ink the day-to-day activities of the Amish community in Lancaster County, Penn.

What are some of your favorite picture books?

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Category: Monthly Picks



Carol 3 said, on Jan. 31 at 6:26PM
How I wish that somewhere along the way I hadn't lost my copy of In Wildness is the Preservation of the World. It was good to see it mentioned among favorites. Back in 1972 I used it as one of my reference sources for a paper on Henry David Thoreau!


said, on Jan. 31 at 8:48PM
Joyce You write the greatest, smart columns. Thanks Nancy Sipkin


Lorraine said, on Jan. 31 at 10:46PM
Loved your suggestions except for the Amish. Unfortunately, part of the day to day activities of the Amish include the horrific and greedy practice of keeping puppymills. Once you've seen behind the peaceful facade, their lives are not so lovely anymore.


Joanna said, on Feb. 1 at 9:20AM
Thanks for sharing your memory, Carol 3!


Joanna said, on Feb. 1 at 9:22AM
Thanks for your comments, Nancy and Lorraine!


Merry said, on Feb. 1 at 11:11AM
You HAVE to read the Dragon Tattoo books. The library has free copies of the Swedish films when you've finished the books. I also delayed reading them but eventually gave in and I'm so glad I did... Thanks for your column, it's good reading , too.


Briana said, on Feb. 1 at 12:46PM
That's true, Merry. JCPL has all three of the Swedish films based on Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy!

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