By Sarah Guan
The holidays are almost upon us; that means Christmas shopping. If finals are draining your brainpower and Amazon recommendations are letting you down, fear not–Book Critiqua has something for everyone on your list:
“Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” Metropolitan Museum of Art
For your chic friend who couldn’t make it to New York, this is the next best thing. The book, which illuminates the entirety of McQueen’s career, includes essays and commentary by Andrew Bolton, curator of the designer’s posthumous exhibition at the Met, Sarah Burton, McQueen’s creative director and several fashion editors. It also features, of course, pages upon pages of stunning photography.
“Steve Jobs,” by Walter Isaacson
Of the famous people who died this year, the most influential is undoubtedly Steve Jobs. This book is a comprehensive, uncut biography of the man behind Apple. In writing it, Isaacson conducted over 40 interviews with Jobs in the last years of his life, and over 100 with his kin, colleagues and competitors. For the CS major who dreams of making it big in the Valley, this is the story of one man who did.
“Lucking Out,” by James Wolcott
For the friend who exudes “vintage” from every pore, who wishes he’d been alive when punk rock was making its downtown debut and literary legends like Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal roamed the earth, this memoir is a rich portrait of 1970s New York in all its degenerate glory. Wolcott’s eyewitness perspective, by turns affectionate and critical, captures the spirit of the city and the era–almost like stepping into a time machine.
The History Buff
“Inferno,” by Max Hastings
For the friend who knows–or thinks she knows–everything about World War II, “Inferno” offers a unique glimpse of the human lives behind the numbers. At once a sweeping, all-encompassing history of the war and an intimate tale of the people involved, this meticulously researched book delves into the lives of soldiers, housewives and statesmen around the world. Hastings, a journalist and prolific historian, pays special attention to the lesser-known theaters of conflict, such as Finland and Bangladesh.
The Movie Buff
“The Age of Movies,” by Pauline Kael, ed. Sanford Schwartz
Kael was, for over 20 years, a much-beloved film critic at The New Yorker known for her biting wit and laser-like focus, as well as her beautiful prose. It is said, in certain circles, that her writing shaped an entire generation’s taste in film. “The Age of Movies” is a collection of Kael’s reviews of her era’s most influential films, curated by Sanford Schwartz of The New York Review of Books.
“Visions of Earth,” National Geographic
If you’re searching for a beautiful coffee-table book for a nature-lover, look no further. This spellbinding volume features hundreds of pages of lush, high-quality images, many of them from the unpublished portfolios of world-famous photographers. Ranging from landscapes to wildlife to little-known cultures around the globe, this book is a veritable feast for the eyes.
“The Art of Fielding,” by Chad Harbach
Harbach’s debut novel is both a classic baseball story–a small-town athlete making it in the big leagues–and an introspective, literary work. Preternaturally talented shortstop Henry Skrimshander and several major players in his life confront the skeletons in their respective closets as the biggest game of the season draws steadily closer. Harbach deftly handles ambition, commitment, doubt and desire, and he spins a lovely yarn.
“The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Vol. 1,” ed. Sandra Spanier and Robert W. Trogdon
For your most well-read friend, not just any book will do. There’s a good chance he already owns all of the infallible classics you were thinking of getting him. This newly-published (Sept. 2011) volume, however, should right up his alley, revealing a softer side to the famous, testosterone-oozing author that the world has never before seen. Hemingway’s surprisingly affectionate letters to his family and friends grants readers a glimpse of his creative process, his take on the literati of his day and the people and events that shaped his work.