A half-dozen suggestions for the readers on your gift list

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 4, 2013 

Look for a present for the hard-to-buy for-reader? Here is an exotic assortment of worthy books for the holiday season and beyond.

For readers who like photography and nature, introduce them to “North America: A World in One Continent” (Running Press, $30) by Huw Cordey. A coffee-table book, it’s the companion to the Discovery Channel series “North America.” The photographs were shot over three years as that the television crew filmed the continent. It’s riddled with personal stories and factual nuggets (such as this accompanying a photo of snow-encased Canadian forests: “With temperatures falling to fifty below, the pines of northern Canada become stunted but still form the largest forests of the continent”).

“Asia’s Legendary Hotels: The Romance of Travel” (Tuttle, Vermont: $22.95) could be summed up as “Exquisite Western hotels in Exotic Places.” It’s aimed at those who have the money to travel luxuriously and at those with a taste for romance and history. Many of the hotels were built in the early 20th century, suffered through the world wars, and have been sumptuously rebuilt. The photographs include the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong, the Strand in Myanmar, the Hotel Majestic in Vietnam and the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

“LuxeFashion: A Tribute to the World’s Most Enduring Labels” by Caroline Cox (Running Press, $50) takes direct aim at the fashion and luxury readers. What is overlooked is that it’s also to be enjoyed by history lovers and the viewers of “Downtown Abbey” or the 2013 remake of “The Great Gatsby.” Laid out chronologically, it tells the stories behind the most storied brands: Cartier, Burberry and Gucci, as well as less-familiar ones such as Lucchese (cowboy boots), Pavlovsky Posad, and Charvet. American brands like L.L. Bean and Brooks Brothers are included.

For fans of Marvel Comics, Daniel Wallace’s “Iron Man Manual” (Insight Editions, $50) will be tops on the gift list. Marvel has profitably mined its comics titles for years, both in books and films. This is a well-put together book that uses the information from all three “Iron Man” movies as well as additional tidbits from “The Avengers” movie. With handwritten quirky notes from main character Tony Stark, photographs and sketches, it’s just fun to read.

“Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories From History Without Fairy-Tale Endings” by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie (Quirk Books, $19.95) aims towards a younger female generation. These tales of women span the globe. McRobbie strips back some of the myth — for example, that Lucrezia Borgia was a poisoner — and introduces readers to royalty less known to Westerners, like Wu Zetian of China. By the end of “Princesses,” you see that royalty is just like most of humanity — sometimes good, sometimes bad, and just as flawed.

“Roy G. Biv: An Exceedingly Surprising Book About Color” by Jude Stewart (Bloomsbury, $22) is about just that: colors. Orange, red, green, violet — you get the drift. This is a book easily overlooked for its small size, but fascinating in its contents and trivia. Stewart snatches tidbits of history and succinctly arranges them by color. For example, under yellow: “Tying yellow ribbons around tree trunks to remember fighting soldiers has a recent provenance. The practice began as early as 1917.’” And then, baby boomers, he invokes the 1973 hit by Tony Orlando & Dawn.

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