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Best Coffee Table Books for 2011

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Best Coffee Table Books for 2011

You’ve done it again – you’ve run out of time and ideas and you need those gifts now.Relax.I’ve already shared with you my list of the – but sometimes words aren’t enough. In fact, sometimes words are too much and what you really want from a great book – are great pictures.What you need then,  is that perfect coffee table book that will sweep those “hard-to-buy-for” people  off their feet – transporting them to another place, giving them hours of joy just flipping through the pictures.Click ahe
Photo Credit: Betsie Van Der Meer | Taxi | Getty Images

You’ve done it again. You’ve run out of time and ideas — and you need those gifts now!

Relax.

I’ve already shared with you my list of the Best Books for the Holidays — but sometimes words aren’t enough. In fact, sometimes words are too much and what you really want from a great book...are great pictures.

What you need, then, is that perfect coffee table book that will sweep those “hard-to-buy-for” people off their feet — transporting them to another place, giving them hours of joy just flipping through the pictures.

Click ahead to see some great ideas for that traveler, cat lover, adventurer, movie fan, nature lover, foodie, or fashionista on your list.

By Gloria McDonough-Taub
Posted 16 December 2011

"Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife"

Author: Don E. Wilson, David BurnieHardcover; 624 pages; color photographsSeries: Smithsonian InstitutionPublisher: DKSuggested Retail: $50
Photo Credit: DK

Author: Don E. Wilson, David Burnie
Hardcover; 624 pages; color photographs
Series: Smithsonian Institution
Publisher: DK
Suggested Retail: $50

This is a giant reference book of the world’s wildlife put together by the Smithsonian and a group of zoologists. But it’s much, much more than a volume of statistics. This is your at-home safari, your total visual immersion with nature.

With brilliant photographs of every imaginable type of creature — mammals and marine life, insects and birds — this book nearly has them all. About 2,000 species are profiled in all.

In this, the 10th anniversary edition, the reader will get a full introduction to the animal world, complete with major evolutionary developments, anatomy, and life cycles.

Also, as each species is profiled, there are maps and symbols that further explain the animal’s life and habitat, size, population, and conservation status.

A great gift for animal lovers of any age.

"Dior Couture"

Authors: Patrick Demarchelier (Photographer), Ingrid Sischy (Author)Hardcover; 239 pages; photographsPublisher: RizzoliSuggested Retail: $115.00 In no way should this be considered a complete record of the fashion house established by Christian Dior shortly after World War II – but it is perhaps the most gorgeous.
Photo Credit: Rizzoli

Authors: Patrick Demarchelier (Photographer), Ingrid Sischy (Author)
Hardcover; 239 pages; photographs
Publisher: Rizzoli
Suggested Retail: $115

In no way should this be considered a complete record of the fashion house established by Christian Dior shortly after World War II — but it is perhaps the most gorgeous.

Dior is one of the most revered names in fashion and Patrick Demarchelier is one of the most celebrated photographers. His fashion portraits have graced the covers and pages of Vogue,Elle,Harper’s Bazaar,Glamour, and many others.

Within the covers of "Dior Couture" is a brilliant portfolio of more than a hundred dresses and suits made by the house of Dior from 1947 to 2011. It's fashion history come to life — think of this as your personal catwalk.

In this book, the fashion and the fashion photographer treat the reader to a stunning ode to beauty — gorgeous women and gorgeous clothes.

A must-have for your fashionista.

"Monsters in the Movies"

Author: John LandisHardcover; 320 pages; color photographsPublisher: DKSuggested Retail $40
Photo Credit: DK

Author: John Landis
Hardcover; 320 pages; color photographs
Publisher: DK
Suggested Retail: $40

Long before teenagers were swooning over vampires, and dividing themselves between Team Edward and Team Jacob, monsters were scary, not sexy.

In this glorious homage to horror, John Landis celebrates the monsters that had us afraid to look under the bed!

The Hollywood filmmaker earned his monster stripes with the cult classic “An American Werewolf in London” and with the epic Michael Jackson music video “Thriller.” Now he takes us on this picturesque journey into the history of horror on film.

The book has more than 1,000 stunning movie photographs and posters of the big screen fright kings, accompanied by Landis’s commentary on the films. Chapters are devoted to vampires, werewolves, zombies, giant apes, atomic mutations, space monsters, and much more.

From B-movie bogeymen to the big-budget terrors, this book will be a monster hit with those who love all things that creep in the night.

"Mountaineers: Great Tales of Bravery and Conquest"

Authors: Ed Douglas with additional writing by Richard Gilbert, Philip Parker and Alasdair Macleod, Series: Smithsonian InstitutionHardcover; 360 pages; color photographsPublisher: DKSuggested Retail: $40
Photo Credit: DK

Authors: Ed Douglas, with additional writing by Richard Gilbert, Philip Parker and Alasdair Macleod,
Series: Smithsonian Institution
Hardcover; 360 pages; color photographs
Publisher: DK
Suggested Retail: $40

I will never know the joy of standing atop Mount Everest, Mont Blanc, Aconcagua, or McKinley — and I know I’m not alone. But there are those men and those women, those mountaineers, who are driven to stand higher than the rest of us.

In “Mountaineers: Great Tales of Bravery and Conquest,” you’ll find the stories of eighty peak pioneers who conquered our planet’s heights. The book revels in the details that separate these explorers from the rest of us — sharing stories of their bravery, their thirst for knowledge, their pursuit of glory, and, yes, even their eccentricities.

The book, published by DK, is “full of stirring tales and intriguing characters, from the Brits who insisted on hauling cases of vintage champagne up to Everest, to the Italian Duke of the Abruzzi who took 10 iron bedsteads up Alaska's Malaspina glacier.”

“Misty Mountain” may be as high as I ever climb, but this book and the stories inside will restore your faith in what we humans can do when driven by curiosity, passion, and a dream.

Great for those who inspire you or those you’re hoping to inspire.

"The French Cat"

Author: Rachael HaleHardcover; 168 pages; color photographsPublisher: Stewart, Tabori & ChangSuggested Retail $29.95
Photo Credit: Stewart, Tabori & Chang

Author: Rachael Hale
Hardcover; 168 pages; color photographs
Publisher: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
Suggested Retail $29.95

The world, I believe is generally divided into two camps: dog lovers vs. cat lovers. Dogs are our devoted, loyal, obedient best friends. Cats, well, they choose whether or not they’ll tolerate us — and those are just the American cats! Can you even imagine the attitude of, let’s say, a French feline?

Bestselling author and animal photographer Rachael Hale has put together the attitude book of the season — "The French Cat." A feline-loving Francophile, Hale’s previous books on cats have sold nearly 3 million copies.

In this book, Hale takes her readers on a beautiful journey through her newly adopted home, filling the pages with the French landscape and with those French cats — a classic combination of grace, elegance, and that French je nai sai quoi.

"Ultimate Food Journeys: The World’s Best Dishes & Where to Eat Them"

Author: DK PublishingHardcover; 336 pages; color photographsPublisher: DKSuggested Retail: $40
Photo Credit: DK

Author: DK
Hardcover; 336 pages; color photographs
Publisher: DK
Suggested Retail: $40

Two passions: food and travel in one book. It doesn't get better than this.

A culinary tour for the foodie voyeur, this book is full of stunning images of mouth-watering treats from all over the world.

This global gastronomic tour is structured by continent, so the reader is guided to the best treats of the region — be it bouillaaisse in Marseille, dim sum in Hong Kong, or clam chowder in New England. The restaurants included are chosen by the editors for their quality of cooking, as well as the experience of dining there.

For foodies, this is the ultimate visual buffet of food, travel and menus — with absolutely no calories.

"Harry Potter Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey"

Author: Bob McCabeHardcover; 540 pages; color photographsPublisher: Harper DesignSuggested Retail $75
Photo Credit: Harper Design

Author: Bob McCabe
Hardcover; 540 pages; color photographs
Publisher: Harper Design
Suggested Retail: $75

Beginning with the embossed cover photograph of Hogwarts, fans of the book series and of the movies will quickly fall under this oversized book’s spell.

Inside are pages and pages offering a magical journey for fans of the Harry Potter series. All your favorites are featured inside; there’s Albus Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione, Ron, Professor Snape, Lucius Malfoy, Professor McGonagall, Luna Lovegood, Ginny Weasley, the twins Fred and George, and of course you-know-who, he who must not be named — but can be photographed — The Dark Lord.

The book goes in depth into the filmmaking process, with interviews with the directors, actors, and the series creator, J.K. Rowling.

This is the ultimate must-have for those “muggles” who have long marveled at Rowling’s and Hollywood’s magic.

"Visions of Earth: Beauty, Majesty, Wonder"

Author: National GeographicHardcover; 512 pages, color photographsPublisher: National GeographicSuggested Retail $40
Photo Credit: National Geographic

Author: National Geographic
Hardcover; 512 pages, color photographs
Publisher: National Geographic
Suggested Retail: $40

What better way to celebrate the arrival of our seventh billion fellow human than with this glorious global photo biography of our planet?

Few can compare to the caliber of photographers at National Geographic. Through their lenses, we are treated to the wonders of the world, and our fellow man as never before. The images are rich, searing, touching, and even amusing.

The photographs are pulled from the magazine’s ever popular “Visions of Earth” feature. Some will be familiar friends to those of us who treasure that feature — other images are being shared here for the first time.

A sampling of what you’ll see: “An elephant takes a morning dip in India's Andaman Sea, while Siamese crocodiles race in Thailand, and surfers in Australia relish a perfect day. Monks in Bhutan run to dinner, and a little girl in red stands out among white-robed women in an Indonesian mosque. Spanish youth decked in colorful, oversize papier-mâché heads celebrate a festival in Catalonia, and a flower of flame blooms from a man's kerosene-filled mouth in a Sikh celebration in India.”

This is a perfect find for that traveler, daydreamer, or philosopher on your list.

"The Lego Ideas Book: Unlock Your Imagination"

Author: Daniel LipkowitzHardcover; 200 pages; color photographsPublisher: DKSuggested Retail: $24.99
Photo Credit: DK

Author: Daniel Lipkowitz
Hardcover; 200 pages; color photographs
Publisher: DK
Suggested Retail: $24.99

Anyone can make a classic Lego square house, but how do you turn that house into a castle — or a car, or a dragon, or even rocket ship?

Recommended for kids seven and up, this how-to book can easily become a family favorite.

Full of great ideas, the book is divided into six themed chapters — transportation, buildings, space, kingdoms, adventure, and useful makes — each with a basic templates and spreads to inspire you to create your own Lego masterpiece.

The "Lego Ideas Book" is a perfect gift for those who have lost their inner child or for the family — a great way to spend treasured time together during those long, winter nights.

"Illustrated Step-By-Step Baking"

Author: DK PublishingHardcover; 544 pages; color photographsPublisher: DKSuggested Retail: $35
Photo Credit: DK Publishing

Author: DK Publishing
Hardcover; 544 pages; color photographs
Publisher: DK
Suggested Retail: $35

I stand in awe of people who can bake. I can handle a soup, a stew, and can muster a mean chowder, but when it comes to the science and art of baking, i just can't measure up.

But in “Illustrated Step by Step Baking,” the pictures and directions offer a bakery breakthrough. I really believe we can bake the scrumptious treats that “Springform” from the pages.

With easy-to-read and easy-to-please pictures, this book is perfect for the beginner or experienced bakers offering recipes and tips for any occasion; that everyday cake to those over-the-top big celebrations. Dinner tarts to dessert tarts, this book will get your mouth watering.

If you master that scrumptious-looking Victoria Sponge Cake, save me a slice.

"LIFE 75 Years: The Very Best of LIFE"

Authors: Editors of LifeHardcover; 224 pages; color photographsPublisher: Life; Har/PapSuggested Retail $36.95
Photo Credit: Life; Har/Pap

Authors: Editors of Life
Hardcover; 224 pages; color photographs
Publisher: Life; Har/Pap
Suggested Retail: $36.95

Long before magazines filled their pages with features such as “Stars...They’re Just Like Us,” we used to look at photos of the famous and not-so-famous people in magazines because they weren’t just like us — they were different. And we liked that.

In 1936, Henry R. Luce published his first edition of LIFE, a magazine where interesting photographs and even more interesting stories brought the world to our living rooms. Flipping through the pages of Luce’s LIFE, we learned more about our world and ourselves — how we are similar and how we are so very different.

Now, 75 years later, the editors at LIFE have put together this amazing book that looks back on the “extraordinary legacy of the brand that captured the moments we will never forget — images that have defined and changed history.”

A great gift for any history buff, or for that person who knows how to truly celebrate life.