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> Coffee Table Books, sharing the experience
post Oct 14 06, 23:03
Post #1


I seem to have a slight love for coffee table books. Not an all consuming love but I do tend to collect a lot of them. Most of mine hold more graphics than text but I find joy in picking one up now and then. I thought I would share a few of mine here and I hope others might do the same. Perhaps we’ll all find something new to spark our creativity. I think the first one I received was a gift and can’t remember for the life of me which one it was, but I do have a few favorites and some I would like to return to the sender. Here are just a few I actually keep on my coffee table.

“Dinotopia – The World Beneath” by James Gurney”: I have more of a visual art background than one in writing and this was the first book I bought for the sheer joy of looking through the pages. Some of you may remember the movie that came out a few years ago based on the Dinotopia stories. The book is filled with images of fanciful creatures and imaginative diagrams. There is a wonderful story as well but I’ve always been too distracted by the extraordinary illustrations to ever read it completely through. This is one older children will enjoy as well as the child within all of us.

“The Art of James Christensen: A Journey of the Imagination”: This book is filled with the most colorful and detailed illustrations I have ever seen and is still one of my favorites. Mr. Christensen has created hundreds of humorous characters who mostly look like they could stand going on a diet yet each have a personality of their own. The full paintings are very surrealistic yet filled with fanciful images. The pages include many simple sketches of characters but most are colorful candy for the eye. I haven’t detected a real story within the pages but he often describes a character or scene and delves into their creation. This is another book for the family to enjoy. I also found it one to spark my own creativity from time to time.

“King Arthur – Dark Age Warrior and Mythic Hero” by John Matthews: Though not as impressive image wise as my first two choices the illustrations in this book are enjoyable to view. A few of the graphics come from popular movies based on Arthurian tales. The contents expand on the facts and tales of this legend. I have not read it all the way through but enjoy picking it up from time to time to read some of the renditions from Mr. Matthew’s research. Being a fan of the King Arthur tales one of my daughter-in-laws gave me this copy for Christmas.

“The Way to Eternity – Egyptian Myth” by Fergus Fleming, Alan Lothian with consultation from Dr. Joann Fletcher: I developed a love for anything Egyptian after researching their art for a unit to teach my students. I have no desire to visit such a hot and barren place as Egypt but sometimes find myself living vicariously through the many tales of royalty and gods. The images shared are much the same as you would see in any Egyptian website with photographs of places, paintings and objects that have appeared a thousand times but nicely laid out in a form that you can curl up on your sofa with. As indicated by the title the text renders information on Egyptian myth and Gods.

“The Queen’s Progress – An Elizabethan Alphabet” by Celeste Davidson Mannis – illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline: I was one of those kids who hated history. I flunked the subject once in high school and barely got through it the second time I was forced to take the class. It made no sense to me. My only connection with history back then was the pleasure in watching Errol Flynn swing across the screen and cut down candles with his sword. Perhaps even another black and white flick with the Hunchback of Notre Dane ringing bells in a tower. Several years ago I became part of a group called the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms), a medieval reenactment group that gave demonstrations for several organizations and lived out their dreams at social events designed to reflect the times. I fell in love with the era and the extent to which the members shared their love and research for the times. The cultural frame actually extended from Early Rome to the late Renaissance. Having researched the Renaissance Masters to teach in my field I was moved to take on an early Renaissance persona. My actual SCA name was Lady Agostina Castiglione de Vitry. (I had to earn the title of lady.) I was also fascinated by the intricate garb of the time and that which followed into the following centuries. I’m no longer active with this group but still appreciate all I learned from them, including a love for history. After watching Betty Davis in “The Virgin Queen” I took a fancy to that era and the lush trappings of that time. This book is more of a children’s book but I admire the patience Mr. Ibatoulline must have had in defining the intricate details of each graphic within. The pages are filled with colorful imagery, including the large letters of the alphabet throughout. Each letter is accompanied by a short poem about the scene. There are many sections that go into more detail about the Queen’s progress, which is the progression of her entourage of hundreds that accompanied her on vacation. More great candy for the eye.

“Atlas of Indians – of North America” by Gilbert Legay: I was born on a reservation in upstate New York, not that I have any Indian blood in me. The small city was once the only one that rested totally within the boundaries of the reservation and the hospital (long gone now) the nearest to where my folks lived. I found it odd that I ended up in Nebraska after graduation to attend college, which was not that far from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. I wouldn’t want to live as they did a few hundred years ago but I have always been fascinated by their culture. I studied the Iroquois nation in high school, traveled through the southwest a couple of times and helped my sons study the history of the Native Americans of the west. I couldn’t resist buying this book from one of the museums I visited. It is nicely sectioned into the various regions with a large photograph depicted the land where each group of tribes resided. It contains simple illustrations of how they dressed, worked, played, hunted and fought. There are also small graphics showing what they lived in, some of the wild life of the region and important plants. I was surprised at how varied most of the tribes were and far from the portrayed in the older Hollywood movies. This is a most educational and enjoyable book to read.

“Pirates of the Caribbean – the Visual guide” by Jerry Bruckheimer: By now it should be no surprise that I get off on stories that intertwine with the past and movies. I love words but give me an impressive image and I can get lost in it for hours. I love and perhaps need this escape from my mundane world. I came across this book in Wal-mart last spring and bought it even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to do more than skim through it now and then. It is chock full of photographs from the first two movies of this trilogy including a large fold out poster of the ‘Black Pearl’. If you like looking at Jack Sparrow (AKA Johnny Depp) you’ll love looking at his image popping up throughout the book. Most of the text includes the story in brief form and there are bits here and there that give details on the graphics of several props and costumes used. Much of the contents are focused on individual characters, both high profile and secondary, right down to the monkey ‘Jack’. This isn’t a book that one would tend to sit down and read from cover to cover but a delightful treat when one wants a break from their routine.

“The Haunted Mansion – From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies” by Jason Surell: This book also contains mostly photographs but does hold a few illustrations as well. My favorite holiday is Halloween and I once won a trip to Disneyland which was the highlight of my young adulthood. Thus I couldn’t resist snatching this up from the bargain bin at a local grocery store. Despite the odd looks from the cashier I kept thumbing through it in the checkout line. This journal spans the journey of the house from its conception, construction in the Disney theme park, and deliverance onto the wide screen. There are details on how many of the special effects were done on both the park location and for the film. Trivia and special effects junkies will love this book as would anyone who has a fondness for the humorous side of scary.

These are the large and most graphic books in my collection. I am more partial to them because of the imagery. While writing this list I began thinking in another direction. I have always been curious as to why we favor the foods we do or buy the clothes we wear. What prompts us to be drawn to one subject matter over another and why some things bring more joy to us than it might someone else. It made me curious as to how we come about obtaining the coffee table books that we do, the little stories behind the purchase or gift. Hopefully some of you will share these stories in response.
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post Oct 15 06, 11:14
Post #2

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Real Name: Lori Kanter
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Thanks Jackie for posting these recommendations! cheer.gif cloud9.gif

I have two coffee table books to recommend as well:

National Parks of North America by National Geographic


In Search of America by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster. This book explores the basic ideals that drive and define the American characters. To quote a review by the Library Journal:
In this companion to an ABC series that aired in September, authors Jennings and Brewster, who teamed up so successfully to write The Century and The Century for Young People, take the reader on a journey through contemporary America. Examining challenges to the nation's founding ideals, they focus on six cases from widely scattered locations, first as a contemporary problem and then in historical context. In South Carolina the creation vs. evolution debate becomes a discussion of the separation of church and state. A conference in Washington, DC, becomes a stage for the perennial argument between a strong federal government and states' rights. Gary, IN, is a city that reminds us of the inequality that still exists among the races. In Plano, TX, modern business practices are juxtaposed against early American entrepreneurs. In Boulder, CO, a high school production of the musical Hair provides a backdrop for a look at popular culture and Americans' methods of raising their children. Finally, Salt Lake City is the setting for America's historical stand on immigration and its effect on our population. With a number of sidebars, this journalistic account raises thought-provoking questions. The authors believe that the Founding Fathers' structure has endured and that it will serve us well in the future. Recommended for most public libraries.

I look forward to putting a few of your recommendations on my holiday wish list... stocking.gif

~Cleo xmas.gif


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post Oct 29 06, 21:19
Post #3


Thanks for sharing your selections, Lori. These sound like one's my father would love. He also wrote poetry inspired by scenic images. I may have to get him one of these for his birthday.

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