Psst! We know it’s a holiday here in the US, and you are all caught up in a frantic web of misguided notions about how ounces go into a cup (8) or how many beers Uncle Fergeson will drink before someone is brave enough to drop the turkey in the deep fryer out in the garage (also 8). We don’t want to distract you too much from all of that, and so we’re going to offer a quieter newsletter this week. Less words, more pictures.
Well, more pictures in the books we’re talking about, that is. That’s right! It’s coffee table book time! So, clear some space. We’ve got pretty books that will help while away the hours until it’s time for dessert.
We’ll start with Betsy Mason & Greg Miller’s All Over the Map, a marvelous book put out by National Geographic, which is an endlessly delightful stroll through a wide ranging variety of maps. How wide ranging? Well, let’s just say that many Bothans needn’t have died if someone had just bothered to read this book.
To be fair, all of that happened a long, long time ago, and so that joke might not work, but eh, you’re probably trapped on the couch in a tryptophan haze anyway, so we think we’ll skate on this one.
Anyway, All Over the Map is filled with so many maps and so many discussions of maps that even if you’re lost, you’ll find your way to some interesting destination.
Naturally, National Geographic also has a new collection of rare and astonishing photos in a book called—wait for it—Spectacle. What kinds of spectacle you ask? Well, as a matter of fact, the book is laid out in four sections: Chaos, Surprise, Beauty, and Awe. Which tracks along with your natural emotional state leading up to the Great Unboxening of All Things that is Zero Hour.
That last bit is a reference to Rudolph! He is the Reason for the Season, a book which we are contractually obliged to talk up every year between now and the first of January. Not just because it’s an awesome book—which it is—but because it’s almost as much a Christmas tradition as watching Die Hard.
Oh, you want to argue about Die Hard being a holiday classic? Fine. We’ll just posit that “You ask for miracles, Theo, I give you the FBI” is a much better quote to trot out at the holidays than “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”
And yes, Doogie Horner and JJ Harrison have put together the definite text of how Die Hard fits the Christmas mold, i.e., rewrote the movie to fit the holiday classic, "Twas the Night Before Christmas." With age-appropriate language too!
Anyway, National Geographic coffee table books. Here’s a third one: Journeys of a Lifetime. Now completely revised and updated with brand new destinations. Five hundred in all. Since you’re trapped on the couch in a mashed potato-induced stupor, this is a much easier way to see the world than actually, you know, seeing the world.
Though, while we appreciate National Geographic getting on the whirlwind world tour bandwagon, we’re a little partial to Atlas Obscura’s guidebook to the world’s weirdest weird sh*t. Naturally, they have a 2019 wall calendar, which picks twelve of the weirdest destinations and does them up as an awesome retro-futuroso style travel poster.
Also, earlier this year, the Atlas Obscura gang put out The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid. That’s right. Train ‘em when they’re young to seek out wonder. Everything else will fall into place.
Unless it’s a hidden temple made of frogs or something. That’s never going to work out.
Speaking of quirky illustrations and marvelous set pieces, Torben Kuhlmann has been consistently been putting out stunningly illustrated books about small creatures doing great feats of aeronautics and electric engineering. Most recently, it’s been Edison, the story of two mice who create a to-scale submersible in order to search for a sunken treasure.
That’s right. A mouse-driven submarine adventure. Equal parts fuzzy and shiny, in all ways.
And speaking of small things and tiny attention to detail, we’ve got Gingko Press’s Terrariums, which while not presented in that grand coffee table style format, is still a book with fabulous pictures of small worlds enclosed in glass bowls. The bonus here is that you can make these yourself. Cacti farms! Bonsai forests! Primeval alluvial ranges, thumbnail style!
And for those who want something a little larger, how about a copy of Taschen’s Nomadic Homes: Architecture on the Move. Done in the same lavish format at Tree Houses from a few years ago, Nomadic Homes is a nod toward the modern trend of living in domiciles that aren’t nailed down. Why? Because we can, apparently, but we still want to look clever while we’re doing it.
Especially if your block of apartments look like something out of Phaidon’s This Brutal World, which is the sort of coffee table book you want to leave out when you want to send confusing messages about your aesthetic. Right next to your newly sprouted Pop Up Park terrarium, of course. (And yes, St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma is in this book, in case you were wondering.)
Anyway, somewhere in between these two extremes is Taschen’s Prefab Houses, which is a compendium of all the weird senior project architectural designs that somehow got local city funding.
Also, apparently the Nakagin Capsule Tower, located in Tokyo, is still standing, and, in fact, you can rent rooms by the month. What? National Geographic has a great essay on the strange capsule hotel, and Altas Obscura has a page for it as well. Because, it’s proto-futuristic and surrealisticalidocious, that's why.
And speaking of things surreal and expialidocious, we have copies of Tony Sandoval's absolutely bonkers graphic novel, Watersnakes. It's the story of a lonely girl who meets a ghost in the woods, adopts her, and then finds reality unraveling at an exponential rate. There are fox masks, talking octopuses, armies of skeletons, and vast kingdoms beneath the sea. Of course, it may all be a metaphor for fighting loneliness, finding your place in the world, and the trials of being small in a very big world. Regardless, it's filled with gorgeous heartbreak and images that will haunt you for days and days and days.
And we’re going to wind this all back around to something more grounded—something more familiar. Rick Schafer’s Washington: The Evergreen State is a lovely book published by Familius, and it is fully qualified to be a suitable stand-in for reality once the winter fog settles in and we can’t see the mountains any more.
And speaking of not being able to see the mountains, the gang from Joe Beef is back without another quirky and yet delicious cookbook. Surviving the Apocalypse is a collection of more than a hundred idiosyncratic recipes from the menus of the aforementioned Joe Beef restaurants in Montreal and environs. This time around, though, they are offering helpful suggestions on how to stock your bunker with essentials for when you need to hunker down through an especially disastrous winter.
Like, an epic foldout sort of chart of essentials. It's not a survival guide so much as it is a guide to surviving well, as it were. For when, you know, the gang from Vault 76 come over for dinner or something . . .
In the meantime, don’t forget that Saturday is our annual Small Business Saturday madness. Come down and help us smash all retail records ever for our store. It’s been a good year of growth for us, and we are delighted to be your local book destination and we hope to be so for many years to come.