It's old news now: E-books have usurped the old-fashioned bound volumes of paste and paper we once knew and still love. But try telling that to your coffee table.
Here are some of our favorite coffee-table books this year, along with a couple of smaller books that also make good gift options.
Rock and Roll Stories by Lynn Goldsmith (Abrams, $60). Goldsmith has been photographing rock stars since the early '70s and in the process became steeped in the culture. Patti Smith was a close friend, and the photographer was there to capture the musician's tumble into the orchestra pit from a Tampa, Fla., stage in 1977. Goldsmith's first assignment for Rolling Stone magazine was a 1972 session with then up-and-coming Bruce Springsteen, with whom she became romantically involved. She settles a few scores with him, too, in this 400-page collection of photographs of rock musicians through the ages. Sprinkled throughout are tidbits of memoir, gossip and hero worship.
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The Book of Jezebel, edited by Anna Holmes (Grand Central Publishing, $25). Subtitled An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things, this smart, cheeky book is for the pop culture-loving, free-thinking woman on your list. Contributors to the popular blog Jezebel.com, the female-centric offshoot of Gawker.com, are the wiseacres behind this playful book. As the subtitle suggests, it's organized like an encyclopedia, providing intel on topics spanning the alphabet from Bea Arthur to zombies. Despite the snarky tone, it's a solid compendium of information and opinion with plenty of entries devoted to a diverse range of women of note, such as Ida B. Wells, Mama Cass Elliott, Temple Grandin and Janet Reno.
The Southerner's Handbook by the editors of Garden & Gun magazine (HarperCollins, $27.99). Garden and Gun, whose mission is to preserve and propagate the habits and manners of the Southern aristocracy, has taken its campaign to the realm of book publishing. This self-professed "Guide to Living the Good Life" is a text-heavy tome, illustrated with line drawings, that provides tips on a variety of topics including the proper form and occasion for the polite "finger salute"; how to make a Ramos gin fizz; and which breed of canines makes the best sporting dogs. Among the writers are magazine regulars Roy Blount Jr., John T. Edge and Daniel Wallace.
The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories, Vol. 3 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (It Books, $14.95). This twee collection of spare, poetic observations on life and love proves two things: It is possible to say a lot with a little, and actor Gordon-Levitt (the man behind this compilation of public contributions via the website Hitrecords.org) might unseat James Franco as the Renaissance Man du jour. Accompanied by quirky line drawings of robots, animals and children are bon mots such as: "She drank in all their compliments and soon she was full of herself"; and "We could have been the greatest love story ever told. If only you'd stayed in character."
EarthArt: Colours of the Earth by Bernhard Edmaier (Phaidon, $59.95). Earth gets the prize for most colorful planet in the known universe, and this oversize volume of aerial photographs by geologist Edmaier is proof. Organized by hues, the 150-page coffee-table book features dramatic images of deserts, mountains, rivers, lakes and volcanoes from around the world. Marvel at the gradations of blue that make up Hubbard Glacier in Alaska, the streaks of bright green created by reproducing algae in Djibouti's Lake Abbe, the cardinal red shade of hot lava flowing from Pacaya volcano in Guatemala, the psychedelic yellows in John Day National Monument in Oregon. It's an ideal gift for nature lovers and armchair travelers.
Guitar Aficionado: The Collections by the editors of Guitar Aficionado magazine (Time Home Entertainment, $50). "Certain guitars, you'll pick them up and something about them will just click," said Rich Robinson. He should know. The guitarist for the Black Crowes is among the musicians who provide a peek at their most-prized instruments in this book. Designed to stoke the fires of guitar lust, specimens include Lindsey Buckingham's 1969 Martin D-18, bought when he was a teen; Robbie Robertson's 1958 Bronze Fender Stratocaster from The Last Waltz; and Duane Allman's 1957 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul, on display at The Big House Museum in Macon, Ga. This book won't turn readers into better guitar players, but it might inspire them to try harder.
Dave Berg: Five Decades of 'The Lighter Side of ...' by Dave Berg (Running Press, $30). How quaint to see a topical comic strip artist from the '50s lampoon the birth of what we now call midcentury modern designs and the advent of pizza on American soil. Despite the time-capsule quality of this look back at the popular Mad Magazine feature that skewered modern life, there is a universal quality to the satire that feels fresh today. Whether the topic was fashion, summer camp, pet ownership or parenthood, Berg was a genius at mining our human foibles for comedy and making us laugh at ourselves.