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Gift titles: Five holiday treasures for the coffee table
<em>Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far</em> by Stefan Sagmeiste; <em>The Big Fat Duck Cookbook </em>by Heston Blumentha, and more
 

Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far
by Stefan Sagmeister
(Abrams, $40)
This book-like boxed-set item makes a stunning first impression, said Douglas Coupland in I.D. Stefan Sagmeister is famous in the world of graphic design, but you needn’t know that when you slide the first of the collection’s 15 paperback booklets out of their die-cut slipcase. First, the act transforms the cover image of Sagmeister’s face. Next, you’re reading a message that’s been spelled out, usually in a public place, using laundry or coat hangers or inflatable monkeys. These slogans are relentlessly upbeat: They “feel a bit like Forrest Gump goes to the Rhode Island School of Design.” But the images are beautiful, and, really, they’re “all you need.”

Le Corbusier: Le Grand
(Phaidon Press, $200)
The architect known as Le Corbusier deserves a fresh look, said Robert Zaretsky in the Houston Chronicle. Often vilified because he called for razing cities to create modernist utopias, the Swiss-born polemicist left behind built works that are as astonishing in their “deep sensuality” as in their originality.Wisely, the editors have included little text in this 20-pound monument to Le Corbusier’s career, said Jonathan Meades in New Statesman. It’s more an “archive between hard covers,” a chance for readers to immerse themselves in photo­graphs, sketches, oil paintings, and doodles until they’re persuaded that Le Corbusier was a greater “plastic artist” than theoretician. The book is a feast; “every page is dense with ideas.”

The Big Fat Duck Cookbook
by Heston Blumenthal
(Bloomsbury, $250)
It’s best to think of the season’s priciest cookbook as a museum tour, said Corey Mintz in The Toronto Star. Even an obsessive home cook is unlikely to attempt ice cream flavored with “nitro-scrambled” eggs and bacon, let alone “jelly of quail with langoustine crème and parfait of foie gras.” But the Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, England, has been racking up “world’s best” accolades for some years, and it’s inspiring simply to see how chef Heston Blumenthal works his magic. “Chefs working at this level” are “communing with the idea of perfection,” said Julia Moskin in The New York Times. We’re lucky that Blumenthal’s craft and inventiveness have been captured in such a “gorgeous and breathtakingly detailed” package.

Egg & Nest
by Rosamond Purcell
(Belknap/Harvard, $40)
Here’s a volume that delivers all the “tactile, sensual, and emotive pleasures” that only a book can, said Mary Thomas in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s a testament” to the artistry of photographer Rosamond Purcell that her detailed studies of bird eggs and bird nests are both treasured by birdwatchers and exhibited in art galleries. There’s a bit of Calder, Pollock, and Miró in the work of the birds themselves, and the accompanying text only serves to enhance one’s sense of wonder. But no words, said Cornelia Dean in The New York Times, could convey as powerfully as Purcell’s images “why people have been collecting eggs and nests for centuries.”

But That’s Another Story
by Joshua Greene and Amy Greene
(powerHouse, $75)
Richard Avedon calls Milton Greene “the best photographer of women I’ve ever seen,” said Leslie Bennetts in Vanity Fair. In a season when Avedon has put out his own handsome collection of celebrity photos, this retrospective is still a standout. During the 1950s and ’60s, Greene shot hundreds of covers for Life and Look, of everyone from Frank Sinatra to Sophia Loren. His widow, Amy, was around for most of the sessions, and she shares plenty of “gossipy recollections” here. Milton Greene’s life was “the sort of life that inspires envy,” said Jared Paul Stern in GQ. Marilyn Monroe actually lived with the couple for a time. Steve McQueen and Norman Mailer were true pals, and Paul Newman a fishing buddy. “Nice work if you can get it.”

 

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