A Holiday Feast For The Eyes

This year's coffee table books offer goodies for fans of photography, Japanese art, motorcycles, and rock 'n' roll

Back in the 1960s, when the Rolling Stones were belting out Satisfaction, who would have guessed Mick Jagger & Co. would still be around today ruminating on their music. Well, they are, and According to the Rolling Stones (Chronicle Books, $40) is one of the hot gift books this year.

The Stones hope to emulate the success in 2000 of The Beatles Anthology (Chronicle Books, $60), which has sold more than 1.1 million copies so far. Like the Beatles book, the 360-page Stones tome is laden with photos. But the best things about it are the interviews with Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts, the band's surviving original members. They describe how their first hearing of African-American bluesmen and rockers such as Howlin' Wolf and Chuck Berry galvanized their musical ambitions. The book largely omits negative events, such as the 1969 Altamont (Calif.) concert at which an attendee was beaten to death, but the Stones are frank and fascinating about their music.


Another rockin' nostalgia trip is American Music (Random House, $75), a selection of portraits by celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. In it, Leibovitz, who spent her early career photographing musicians for Rolling Stone, returns to her roots. But most of the best shots in this book were taken since 2000. Among them are one of a bare-chested Iggy Pop and a lovely study of the late Johnny and June Carter Cash in 2001. There are also interesting thumbnail biographies, as well as essays by musicians such as Patti Smith and Steve Earle.

Among the other hot-selling photography books out this fall is America 24/7 (DK Publishing, $50). In May, some 25,000 photographers -- ranging from rank amateurs to Pulitzer Prize winners -- spent a week documenting American life with digital cameras, and the book collects their best work. Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes (Abrams, $55) is a collection of 295 photos of the earth, sun, Mars, and other planets taken by unmanned space probes. Photographer Michael Benson culled thousands of archived images for the ones he found most striking and awe-inspiring, then digitally rendered them into otherworldly landscapes.


A more ambitious photo study is the two-volume Diaspora: Homelands in Exile (HarperCollins, $100). French anthropologist and photographer Frédéric Brenner spent 25 years documenting the astonishing variety of Jewish cultures around the world. There are numerous surprises and ironies in images that include the Roman Jews who sell Catholic souvenirs outside the Vatican, and the Jewish barbers in Tajikistan with their Muslim customers. Volume 2 contains essays on the photos.

Diane Arbus: Revelations (Random House, $100) coincides with a major retrospective of the photographer's work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Arbus, who died in 1971, may have had a keener eye for the weird and offbeat than any other noted photographer. The book contains considerable biographical material and many of her most memorable photos, as well as many that have never been shown before. Arbus' influence on Mary Ellen Mark is evident in the fascinating Twins (Aperture, $50), a collection of portraits of identical twins taken at the annual Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. You'll study each shot trying to spot the differences between the twins.

Another excellent, if sobering, collection by a celebrated photographer is Sally Mann's What Remains (Bulfinch Press, $50). After an escaped convict shot himself in the woods near her Virginia farmhouse, Mann photographed the site of his death as well as battlefields and other sites where people have died. Shot on glass plates instead of negatives, these photos have an eerie beauty.

Among the best new art books is The Art of Romare Bearden (Abrams, $50), published in concert with a retrospective of the artist's work on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Bearden's colorful, innovative collages document jazz performances, church socials, and other elements of black culture from the 1940s though his death in 1988.

Portraits: A History (Abrams, $125) traces portraiture from 15th century masters such as Jan van Eyck and Albrecht Dürer to Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe silkscreens. The paintings are beautifully reproduced, and art historian Andreas Beyer offers a helpful text. Equally gorgeous is Hokusai (Phaidon, $95), a 520-page study of the Japanese painter and printmaker who lived from 1760 to 1849.

Less rarefied is The Art of the Chopper (Motorbooks International, $39.95). It profiles 20 motorcycle customizers and includes photos of their wildest creations. The bike lover on your list would no doubt rather have a real chopper, but those babies cost around $70,000. Maybe you should just give the book and quote the Rolling Stones on the card: "You can't always get what you want."

By Thane Peterson

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