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For chuckles this holiday season, sit down with the family and leaf through a new book called Monkey Portraits (Bulfinch Press, $24.99). Los Angeles photographer Jill Greenberg had the inspired idea of shooting character studies of monkeys as if they were human, and it's great fun to find the resemblances to friends and family members in these primates' expressive faces. Business associates may come to mind, too. "I've sat in studio meetings with guys like that," Sharon Stone told Greenberg when she saw a portrait labeled "Haughty."
Monkey Portraits is just one of many amusing, moving, and informative gift books out this season. Have a baseball fan on your list? Sports Illustrated: The Baseball Book (Sports Illustrated Books, $29.95 is packed with wonderful photos and artfully written essays on greats such as Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, and Negro Leagues' Cool Papa Bell. It also explores just about every aspect of the game, from baseball movies to the evolution of uniforms, bats, and balls.
For art lovers, Yale University Press offers two gorgeous monographs of shows at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Louis Comfort Tiffany and Laurelton Hall: An Artist's Country Estate ($65) showcases the leaded glass creations and his collections of Asian, Islamic, and Native American art once housed on Tiffany's 600-acre Long Island retreat. C?zanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde ($65) tells how Vollard, a Paris art dealer, helped create the modern art market by promoting many great late 19th and early 20th century artists. The book features reproductions of paintings by C?zanne, Picasso, and others.
Another book with a business angle and broad appeal is Advertising is Dead: Long Live Advertising! (Thames & Hudson, $60). Author Tom Himpe uses arresting images and easily digestible blurbs to explain how marketers insinuate their messages into every corner of modern life. How far will they go? Qantas Airways once put red and white ads in the center of manhole covers with the slogan "The Smarter Way Down Under." Still humorous, though decidedly less corporate, is Cartoon America: Comic Art in the Library of Congress (Abrams, $50), which documents the lighter side of the American psyche. The older material, such as the biting social commentary of 19th century caricaturist Thomas Nash, still resonates.
In Vogue: The Illustrated History of the World's Most Famous Fashion Magazine (Rizzoli, $75) chronicles the magazine's 114-year history and provides a visual history of American style. The book features startling images by such photographers as Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, and Annie Leibovitz. Speaking of Leibovitz, A Photographer's Life 1990-2005 (Random House, $75) mixes her famous celebrity portraits with intimate black-and-white shots of her family life, including the birth of her children and the deaths of her father and her companion, the writer Susan Sontag.
Joel Meyerowitz's 400 color photos in Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive (Phaidon, $75) document the post- September 11 rescue mission and cleanup over nine months, and the chatty, unpretentious commentary lends intimacy to his account. A critically acclaimed reference book is The Photobook: A History Vol. 2 (Phaidon, $75) by British photographer Martin Parr and critic Gerry Badger. It takes up where 2004's Vol. 1 left off, providing thumbnail introductions to numerous photographers via incisive essays on the books they have published.
Derek Hayes's Historical Atlas of the United States (University of California Press, $39.95) is for history buffs. The maps show everything from how explorers conceived of the continent circa 1500 to the spread of the interstate highway system in the 1950s.
Finally, we musn't forget something for golfers. Golf's Best New Destinations (Abrams, $50) is a practical guide for the globe-trotting golfer, offering the lowdown on the best new courses around the world. For each locale, there are tips on where to stay and dine. As every golfer knows, being rested and well fed doesn't guarantee a low score, but it can soften the blow if you make a monkey of yourself on the course.
By Thane Peterson