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Are snazzy art books your go-to for tricky folks on your gift list? Here are a few fine titles to put under the tree:

"Van Gogh in Auvers-Sur-Oise" (Thames & Hudson, $60) — The paintings are stunning, of course, with reproductions of dozens of biggies painted near the end of Vincent van Gogh's life, including "Portrait of Dr. Gachet." But this fascinating book is much more than that. It's an art-ography, with essays about what was going on in Van Gogh's mind, as illustrated by the paintings. There's a chronology, showing the works next to letters between Vincent and brother Theo, and thoughtful essays that explore the connection between an artist's feelings and how they're expressed. This isn't a book that will sit on a shelf collecting dust but an absorbing work you'll go back to again and again.

"Art Unpacked," Matthew Wilson (Thames & Hudson, $39.95) — Another stunner, it reproduces artworks — some famous (Vermeer) and some not — and then annotates them. The text tells us about the materials used, constraints under which each piece was produced and differences between how they were originally appreciated and how they are now. What appears to be a deeply hued blanket by Aboriginal artist Anatjari Tjakamarra, we learn, tells a story about female workers, and the 1973 painting connects to cultural traditions from 50,000 years ago.

"Energy Follows Thought: The Stories Behind My Songs," Willie Nelson, David Ritz and Mickey Raphael (William Morrow, $50) — Nelson fans with a poetic bent should eat up this collection of stories about where his songs came from. Nelson leans toward free association ("Heaven is the past. Hell is the present. The future is a clash between the two," he writes of song "Heaven and Hell"). But it's fun to eavesdrop on his creative process, as with "On the Road Again," about which he writes, "Without knowing or trying, in a few little lines I'd written the story of my life."

"Bring Warm Clothes: Letters and Photos from Minnesota's Past," Peg Meier (Minnesota Historical Society Press, $29.95) — The former Star Tribune reporter has updated her beloved 1981 book and written a new introduction. But "Warm Clothes" is still packed with photographs, excerpts from letters and articles that tell the story of Minnesota from 1800 to the 1940s. Leafing through it, you'll encounter gems such as the memories of Horace Glen, who worked at a Two Harbors lumber camp in the early 1900s and was apparently a tad more refined than his colleagues: "I am looked upon as a sort of stuck-up dude because I wash my feet once a week and use a handkerchief."

"The Funk Queen," Dawn Silva (New Rising, $99.95) — You could think of Silva's generously-illustrated, limited-edition book as a corrective to Sly Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)," but Silva's singing career extends to the present, long after her work with Sly and the Family Stone. She offers a sense of what it was like to work with Stone (not easy), while making some of the most durable music of the last 60 years. Brash, thoughtful and funny, Silva is great company.

"Doug Argue: Letters to the Future" (Skira, $70) — If you left this summer's Argue exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum wishing you could bring home the painter's vibrant works, now you can. There's a Q&A but, mostly, "Letters" is one stunning, large painting after another (the book is 10 by 13, but many reproductions spill onto two pages). You can study them as long as you want and, best of all, no chalk line on the floor will keep you from getting as close as you want.