Pleasing The Eye As Well As The Brain

A book, the saying goes, is a present that can be opened again and again--but will be only if it's well-chosen. The best coffee-table books go beyond being beautiful. They entertain and engage, too. National Geographic: The Photographs (National Geographic, $50) certainly does. It goes on assignment with award-winning photographers to the salt flats of Djibouti, the snows of Siberia, the mosques of Mecca. It shows how popcorn pops, how Santas get to work (on New York's subway), how whales are butchered. These arresting images are photography at its best.

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