Art books that make good holiday gifts

Looking for holiday gift ideas? Books of art can be thoughtful and unique options for readers and artists alike. Printers Row Journal Editor Jennifer Day outlines some of the best art books of 2013. 

"Much Loved" by Mark Nixon (Abrams, $17.95) What's more evocative than a first teddy bear? Photographer Mark Nixon captures all the emotion bound up in these simple portraits of worn stuffed animals, transformed into a sort of art by the fierce love of children. Each photo is accompanied by the doll's name, age, height and owner along with a short story about its origins. It's a simple idea, perfectly executed.

This piece first ran in Printers Row Journal, delivered to Printers Row members with the Sunday Chicago Tribune and by digital edition via email. Click here to learn about joining Printers Row.

"Art & Place" (Phaidon, $79.95) This year, when the bankrupt city of Detroit announced it would invite an auction house to assess the value of the art in the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of its signature works came to mind: Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry" fresco cycle painted specifically for the museum. How do you even consider Rivera's work outside the context of its surroundings? "Art & Place" is dedicated to this question: What is the relationship between art and environment in site-specific pieces? It's a fascinating subject thoughtfully — and beautifully — explored here.

"Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning" by Elizabeth Partridge (Chronicle, $50) "Migrant Mother," Dorothea Lange's most famous photo, has become an indelible piece of Americana, a piece of art that distills Dustbowl-era history in a single image. Her work, though, extends far beyond that iconic image. This new collection, published to coincide with an upcoming episode of "American Masters," chronicles the photography that defined her career — images that captured her subjects' dignity even in the harshest circumstances — as well as lesser-known photos taken overseas in Egypt, Indonesia and beyond.

"Miles Davis: The Collected Artwork" (Insight Editions, $50) For the last 11 years of Miles Davis' life, from 1980 on, he sketched and painted, developing a distinct style in works that incorporate a range of influences, including Wassily Kandinsky and African tribal masks. The paintings presented here seem to reflect his music, particularly those inspired by the Memphis design movement, which Scott Gutterman describes in his introduction as "based on an aesthetic of hot colors and clashing shapes." Quotes from Davis are scattered throughout, revealing an artist with a visceral sense of style.

"The Art of Rube Goldberg," selected by Jennifer George, introduction by Adam Gopnik(Abrams, $60) The cover of "The Art of Rube Goldberg" features a movable version of a 1939 installment of "Rube Goldberg's Side Show," a "Simple Way to Get Fresh Orange Juice Upon Awakening," which involves the sun, a magnifying glass, a hot water bag, a pet Albanian "ook," a "jumping jack" band leader, a pair of cymbals and, of course, orange juice. As you'd expect, this is a rabbit hole of a book about the 72-year career of the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist/inventor. Edited by Jennifer George, Goldberg's granddaughter, the book offers an engaging portrait — both personal and professional — of an American icon.

Jennifer Day is editor of Printers Row Journal.


Also recommended

"The Gorgeous Nothings" edited by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner (New Directions/Christine Burgin, $39.95)

Images of Emily Dickinson's handwritten poetry on scraps of envelopes.

"Sylvia Plath: Drawings" (Harper, $25.99)

With an introduction by Frieda Hughes, Plath's daughter, the book features pen-and-ink drawings along with letters and diary entries from the early years of Plath's marriage to Ted Hughes.

"A Prayer Journal" by Flannery O'Connor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18)

It's not strictly an art book, but the back of the book features reproductions of the original journal O'Connor used — a chance to see the author's thinking on paper.

"Smithsonian Civil War," edited by Neil Kagan and Stephen G. Hyslop (Smithsonian, $40)

"The Great War" by Joe Sacco (Norton, $35)

The cartoonist-journalist's take on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

"The Daniel Clowes Reader," edited by Ken Parille (Fantagraphics, $35)

A collection of Clowes' work along with critical analysis, essays, a short biography and more.

"The Wes Anderson Collection" by Matt Zoller Seitz (Abrams, $40)

Michael Chabon writes the introduction to this book examining the works and influences of director Wes Anderson (and yes, the children's books from "Moonrise Kingdom" get their due).

"The Best American Infographics 2013," edited by Gareth Cook (Mariner, $20)

An absorbing look at the year's best visual storytelling.

"Art Made From Books" by Laura Heyenga (Chronicle, $27.50)

A look at intricate and often evocative sculpture made from discarded books.

"Diehards" by Erin Feinberg (Anthropy, $50)

Photos capture the raw experience of people surrendering themselves emotionally at concerts.

"Heartland" by David Plowden (Norton, $75)

More striking landscape photography from Plowden (who lives in Winnetka).

"Humans of New York" by Brandon Stanton (St. Martin's, $29.99)

A best-selling collection of street photography by Stanton, a former Chicago-based bond trader

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