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Gift Books With Weight in Size and Subject

gift books

There’s something comforting about the weight of a gift book. They are larger books with a nice, decent heft to them. Perfect for lifting off the coffee table and settling over your entire lap. But gift books can have depth too. Exploring law enforcers and art, these books dive deep to give the book on your lap magnitude — in more ways than one. In the eight gift books reviewed in our March/April issue, the subject matter has some weight too.

The Protectors

A Photographic History of Police Departments in the United States

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James A. Bultema
P.D. Publishing
Hardcover $39.95 (320pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Law and order, peace and prosperity, these are key elements of that fragile thing called civilization. Here in the US of A, few among us have experienced anything but, and most of the heavy lifting of a functioning society is borne by cops. Raise your glasses, please.

Strikingly, organized law enforcement arrived in the States on the streets of New York City (1845) within the same decade as the daguerreotype process of photography was invented (1839), and the earliest photos in this collection of three hundred are mesmerizing. The accompanying captions and text provide all the needed context, as well as an unexpectedly high level of entertainment.

MATT SUTHERLAND (March 2, 2017)

Bad Guys, Bullets, and Boat Chases

True Stories of Florida Game Wardens

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Bob H. Lee
University Press of Florida
Hardcover $24.95 (240pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Gator poachers, timber thieves, illegal dumpers, and other backwoods bad guys may not end up on the America’s Most Wanted list, but they cause inestimable damage to the environment. Surprisingly, they also pose grave danger to wildlife officers due to the remoteness of their crimes, firearm ubiquity in rural America, and the fact that the officers often work alone. Florida’s vast backcountry, from the Everglades up to the cattle ranches near Georgia, seems to attract an extra bat-crazy level of criminal, and ex-water patrol officer Bob H. Lee has both chased some doozies and heard tales of plenty more in his thirty-plus years of duty in the Sunshine State. This riveting book compiles nearly twenty stories.

MATT SUTHERLAND (March 2, 2017)

Explorers’ Sketchbooks

The Art of Discovery & Adventure

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Kari Herbert
Huw Lewis-Jones
Chronicle Books
Hardcover $40.00 (320pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Antarctic adventurer Ernest Shackleton believed “it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown,” and few of us with a pulse would disagree. But Shackleton was living at a time when satellite phones didn’t exist and search planes weren’t available to airdrop Chinese takeout if supplies ran low. Shackleton was fully prepared to die in Antarctica, and several of the world’s top explorers over the past four hundred years did die cruel deaths in the wilderness. But what they left behind—journals and sketchbooks—changed our understanding of the universe. This staggeringly beautiful project showcases photographs of sketches and notes from seventy prominent explorers, eleven of them women. The accompanying essays, by Kari Herbert and Huw Lewis-Jones, two of the UK’s top nature/exploration writers, slide the bar even further towards publishing perfection.

MATT SUTHERLAND (March 2, 2017)

The Art of Selling Movies

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John McElwee
GoodKnight Books
Hardcover (300pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Let’s say you bought yourself a fancy movie theater back in the 1930s. You probably knew how to make popcorn and tear tickets, but you might not have been prepared to design newspaper ads, often on a daily basis, to get butts into the seats. One day Greta Garbo is on your big screen, followed by the Marx Brothers, with Charlie Chaplin headlining your weekend ahead—get busy, Don Draper; write some compelling ad copy.

Indeed, you and thousands of other theater owners did just that during Hollywood’s Golden Age (silent era through the mid 1960s). The Art of Selling Movies represents the King-Kong-sized collection of hundreds of images and clippings gathered by John McElwee and reproduced through the use of innovative restoration technology. The three-hundred-plus pages of old newspaper ads, along with witty captions, effectively opens a velvety curtain into movie Americana.

MATT SUTHERLAND (March 2, 2017)

Compassionate Soldier

Remarkable True Stories of Mercy, Heroism, and Honor from the Battlefield

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Jerry Borrowman
Shadow Mountain
Hardcover $19.99 (208pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Fame and fortune has appeal, but who among us wouldn’t like to be a genuine hero? Why don’t they rise out of the mass of humanity more often? Perhaps it’s that part about risking life and limb. And while military training has proven to be excellent breeding ground for bravery and sacrifice, the annals of battlefield exploits don’t often include acts of sympathy and compassion. War is hell, generally.

Compassionate Soldier brings to light fifteen extraordinary stories of mercy during wartime, from the American Revolution to the Iraq War. An experienced hand at compelling war history, Jerry Borrowman has a keen sense of honor and ethics on the battlefield, which serves to provide crucial context—we come to realize a better, rarer definition of hero.

MATT SUTHERLAND (March 2, 2017)

The Usefulness of the Useless

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Nuccio Ordine
Alastair McEwen, translator
Paul Dry Books
Softcover $16.00 (175pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Happiness studies have shown repeatedly that people with accumulated wealth are less fulfilled than those with little money. How, then, to explain the glorification of profit and the insatiable quest for riches that pervades our culture? What gives?

From Hippocrates, Plato, and Seneca to Montaigne and Cervantes, countless great minds have viewed the love of money as a soul-withering sickness. And it’s not just material things. The constant study of useful, utilitarian knowledge seems to crush the creative spirit as well.

This small, brilliantly argued work champions frivolousness and the enjoyable activities that serve no useful purpose as imperative if one hopes to understand art, love, truth, and human dignity.

MATT SUTHERLAND (March 2, 2017)

Out of Wonder

Poems Celebrating Poets

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Kwame Alexander
Ekua Holmes, illustrator
Hardcover $16.99 (56pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

Like any artform or creative pursuit, the great poets developed subtle, incredibly effective personal styles. In their unique use of words and ideas, they performed a type of magic that repeatedly delivered aha moments to thousands of readers. By way of introduction, and as tribute to twenty favorite poets, Kwame Alexander (and his coauthors) penned this delightful collection while “adopting their style, extending their ideas, and offering gratitude to their wisdom and inspiration.” These poems, like all poetry, didn’t come about through a studied formulaic process, they came out of wonder.

MATT SUTHERLAND (March 2, 2017)

Bibliotheca Salmo Salar

A Selection of Rare Books, Manuscripts, Journals, Diaries, Photograph Albums, & Ephemera on the Subject of Atlantic Salmon Fishing from the Collection of Charles B. Wood III

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Charles B. Wood
David R. Godine Publisher
Hardcover $75.00 (248pp)
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Amazon

With a certain, high level of fanaticism in mind, to call salmon fishing a sport, chess a board game, landscape painting a hobby, mountain climbing a hike, just doesn’t quite capture the spirit of the thing. And when the sought prize is Atlantic salmon, all bets are off because commercial fishing, dams, and pollution have so decimated the population, they spawn in only a few remote and guarded rivers of Scandinavia, Great Britain, Iceland, and Canada.

More accessible are the books about Salmo Salar (Atlantic salmon). What exists is a fascinating, esoteric canon of adventure, lore, treatises on flies, descriptions of clubs, photo albums, and fantastically rare accounts of grand ol’ fishing exploits. Antiquarian bookseller and passionate salmon fisher, Charles Wood has amassed the world’s greatest collection of Atlantic salmon works, and this beautiful coffee-tabler, much of it possessing a high level of historical value, showcases 230 of the most interesting.

MATT SUTHERLAND (March 2, 2017)

Matt Sutherland

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