Next Sunday brings our annual holiday selection of books — more than 50 titles for adults and children. Today, though, I have other recommendations — gift books, big and lavish, hopefully something for everyone.
“Paying the Land,” by Joe Sacco. (Metropolitan Books, $29.99.)
Dedicated to “the people of the land,” this masterful book by Joe Sacco — artist, journalist, storyteller — lays out the history of the Dené Indians of Canada in a story told by elders.
Sacco covers a lot of ground, beginning with the traditional Dené way of life — getting up early to greet the sun, traveling through the forest, walking behind the dog sleds, building boats of moose skin and tree sap. A life “dictated by the environment,” and with “very, very little contact with the outside world.” But the outside world finds them, wants their land, sends their children to boarding schools, does all of the greedy and harmful things that the outside world does. Sacco spent years researching and drawing this amazing and empathetic history.
“The Art of Ramona Quimby,” by Anna Katz. (Chronicle Books, $40.)
Which Ramona Quimby did you grow up with? The Ramona of my youth had round cheeks and leaned forward into her tricycle; she was drawn by Louis Darling. Later books were illustrated by Alan Tiegreen, who gave her angular lines and choppy hair. Later still, Jacqueline Rogers drew her in soft pencil, with a snub nose; Tracy Dockray’s Ramona was a bit more cartoonlike.
This fascinating book presents scenes from the Beezus and Ramona books and then shows how each artist interpreted them. With this book you can relive your favorite Ramona moments and get a lesson in art appreciation at the same time.
“Pride and Prejudice,” by Jane Austen. (Curated by Barbara Heller, Chronicle Books, $40.)
Letters figure heavily in Jane Austen’s novels, and in this lovely volume you can pull out, unfold and read facsimiles of all of the letters that appear in “Pride and Prejudice,” handwritten in graceful calligraphy in what looks like time-faded ink. They’re all here — letters from Caroline Bingley and Jane Bennet to Lizzie, from Lizzie to her aunt, and, of course, the all-important letter from Mr. Darcy to Lizzie that changed everything.
“The Folio Book of Humor” (Folio Society, $64.95.)
It might seem odd for a book of humor to be packaged in such a serious and buttoned-down way — cloth bound, with a slipcase, no illustrations to speak of. But the design fits the content beautifully. This is no collection of jokes, but an anthology of delightful oddities, excerpts from Thackeray and Evelyn Waugh and Dorothy Parker and James Thurber and more. It’s heavily weighted toward the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the excerpts are more witty and wry than side-splittingly funny. A great book for a discerning reader.
“The Neil Gaiman Reader,” foreword by Marlon James. (William Morrow, $40.)
The stories and excerpts in this anthology show us “what keeps Gaiman awake at night,” says Marlon James in his introduction. Here you’ll find 52 excerpts and stories populated with beasts and people with strange powers, set in this world and other worlds, with death lurking at the end of the road. The stories were chosen not by Gaiman, but by his readers.
“This meant that I didn’t have to try and choose favorites,” he writes — except for one, a fable called “Monkey and the Lady,” which Gaiman slipped in because “It’s a story I love, very much, although I could not tell you why.” So read it, and figure out why.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. email@example.com.