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All Photography Coverage

Thumbing through a beautifully designed coffee-table book is a sure way to provoke a love of photography. Just in time for the holidays, here are three gorgeous photo books that are sure to please the art or nature lover on your list—and perhaps you can keep one for yourself, too.

Shop Cats of China

Cats have charmed and fascinated humans for millennia. From ancient Egypt to modern times, cats have been depicted in art, mummified in tombs and even immortalized by the popular social media account @bodegacatsofinstagram. In Shop Cats of China, Marcel Heijnen takes readers on a photographic tour of China’s many retail shops, the people who run them—and the furry loiterers who clearly know they’re the stars of the show.

Equal parts street photography, cat portraiture and whimsical poetry, Shop Cats of China is much more than cute pictures of cats. The street scenes in this book, sometimes languid and colorful, sometimes kinetic and full of city life, are lovingly punctuated with haiku and cat stories (written by Ian Row) that add a layer of sweetness and humor to each image. A man pours tea into cups while a relaxed white cat looks directly at the camera and wonders if he’s invited. Red seafood bins surround an orange cat who, ironically, doesn’t like seafood. A spotted cat sits atop a bicycle and waits for a friend. These scenes and others will delight and entertain anyone who is fascinated by the relationship between humans and their cats, while the surrounding textures and colors offer a slice of Chinese shop culture and street life.


Tim Flach is a world-class nature photographer with the heart of a painter. His new book, Birds, offers a unique and up-close view of his avant-garde wildlife photography. The glossy pages full of shockingly sharp images show many elegant and rare birds, from songbirds and parrots at rest, to raptors and birds of paradise in flight. Feathers look like landscapes, beaks glisten like gold and onyx, and the birds’ elegant postures make them all look like royalty. The bright colors are so beautiful that they seem almost unnatural, while the details look real enough that you could reach out and touch them. Full of personality and exquisite artistry, Birds will mesmerize nature lovers with its compassion and profound beauty.

Night on Earth

Though it’s normally hidden under the cover of darkness, the world can look magical at night, as photographer Art Wolfe reveals in his remarkable new book. One of the first images in Night on Earth is a stunning, almost overwhelming photograph of Mount Etna in Sicily, erupting purple ash. A perfectly round moon peeks out from behind the plumes of dangerous-looking dark smoke as pink, red and blue clouds dance around in the background of the night sky. It’s a compelling shot to start this dazzling collection, which is filled with impressive images.

To capture these cinematic nightscapes, Wolfe traveled to all seven continents and photographed starry skies, animals, humans, natural scenery and cities. The result is an assemblage of unusual sights that occur while most people are asleep—including black rhinoceroses rambling through Etosha National Park in Namibia, fishermen on stilts in Myanmar, late-night commuters in Tokyo, penguins ambling on the shores of an island in the Atlantic Ocean and an offering floating on the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. Organized into helpful chapters, such as “Stars and Shadows” and “The Creatures of the Night,” these 250 pages of vibrant color photographs will wow anyone who’s curious about the mysteries that unfold from dusk until dawn.

Find more 2021 gift recommendations from BookPage.

Thumbing through these beautifully designed coffee-table books is a sure way to inspire a love of photography.

Connect to nature through humor, embroidery and art with the three wonderful books featured in this month’s lifestyles column.

 Subpar Parks

Everyone’s a critic nowadays, and you can find a one-star online rating for even the most unassailable things—including the United States National Park Service. Finding this curiously funny, national park enthusiast Amber Share set out to apply her hand-lettering and graphic design chops to a series of art prints that poke fun at the shortsightedness of those dismissive and disappointed reviewers. First shared via Instagram, the project is now in book form, expanded with juicy facts about the parks. Subpar Parks is a clever adaptation, both playful and earnest in its appreciation for these storied landmarks. Did you know that Katmai National Park hosts an online competition called “Fat Bear Week” or that NASA has tested lunar rovers at Great Sand Dunes National Park? Share’s delightful book will make a terrific gift for anyone who loves our country’s natural wonders—and has a sense of humor about them.

Mystical Stitches

“Stitching by hand slows down the body and, over time, slows down the mind. It brings us . . . into the calmer, more restful alpha brain wave state,” writes Christi Johnson in Mystical Stitches, an embroidery guide with an emphasis on the power of symbols. Johnson first provides the fundamentals of the craft: a range of stitches and the sorts of design work they’re handy for. A treasury of symbols follows, including moon phases, Zodiac signs, animals and many other images from the natural world. The whole volume centers embroidery within spiritual practice, and if you’re already drawn to the mystical, you’ll likely reach for the floss soon after exploring these alluring pages. “By working with images and forms that correspond to the feeling and emotion we’d like to bring about in our own life, we are acting upon the idea that all things are interrelated in this tapestry of existence,” Johnson writes. “We can speak to our subconscious through the symbols in our immediate world, and get the subconscious aligned with the conscious mind.”

The Atlas of Disappearing Places

The Atlas of Disappearing Places beautifully harnesses the powers of art and metaphor to get urgent ideas across. Through maps and other works made from ink on dried seaweed, Christina Conklin illustrates the damage wrought to coastlines and what we could still lose to climate change and rising sea levels. Along with these visuals, Conklin and her collaborator, Marina Psaros, co-founder of the King Tides Project, present the stories of 20 hot spots around the globe, each ending with a “speculative vignette about the future.” Throughout, they emphasize an understanding of the ocean as a body, “so that we can more closely identify with—and possibly empathize with—the ocean, our original home.” The result is a striking and deeply researched work of art and environmental activism.

Connect to nature through humor, embroidery and art with the three wonderful books featured in this month’s lifestyles column.

Take a journey around the globe via the bookstores, recipes and fruits featured in this month’s lifestyles roundup.


For a bibliophile, it doesn’t get any better than Bookstores: A Celebration of Independent Booksellers, a coffee-table stunner featuring images by London-based photographer Horst A. Friedrichs. With every turn of the page, you’ll take a journey around the globe and through the stacks—from Spoonbill & Sugartown in Brooklyn, New York, to the curious Baldwin’s Book Barn in Pennsylvania, to idiosyncratic shops in the U.K., Germany, Austria and more. Along the way you’ll meet the owners who have made bookselling their lives’ work and art. They share how they came to the trade, what makes their shops unique and why the work—and the books themselves, of course—continues to matter so darn much in an age of, well, you know. I want to visit every single one of these bookstores, but that’s probably a tall order. Just knowing they exist, and holding this gorgeous artifact in my hands, feels like enough.

The Kitchen Without Borders

The other night my husband fixed a delicious Syrian meal: ma’areena soup, a bit like pasta Bolognese but decidedly different thanks to a seven-spice blend common to Middle Eastern cooking. We found this dish in The Kitchen Without Borders, a cookbook from Eat Offbeat, a New York City-based catering company that works with immigrant and refugee chefs. Eat Offbeat honors and shares the “special food memories our chefs have brought with them,” write Wissam Kahi and Manal Kahi, Lebanese siblings who began their careers with the simple wish to share their Syrian grandmother’s hummus. The book features dishes from Iran, Iraq, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and more. Profiles of the chefs appear between recipes for dishes such as fattoush, musabbaha (chickpea salad) and chicken shawarma. It feels like a true global community endeavor.

The Book of Difficult Fruit

Twenty-six fruits, A to Z, form the basis for poet and pie-maker Kate Lebo’s lovely, meandering essays in The Book of Difficult Fruit. Beginning with aronia, or chokeberry, Lebo weaves personal stories with facts from nature and science, resulting in a difficult-to-classify literary and culinary exploration—the best kind, in my opinion. Ever wondered what exactly a maraschino cherry is? Lebo will tell you, and then she’ll tell you about the almond flavor of stone-fruit pits, and then about cherry trees in her backyard, and about a strange brush with new neighbors, and about how to make real maraschino cherries. And on you go, through durian and elderberry, through Norton grape and Osage orange, all the way to zucchini—a curious, lyrical, alphabetical adventure.

Take a journey around the globe via the bookstores, recipes and fruits featured in this month’s lifestyles roundup.

“There is no perfect exegesis,” writes Catherine E. McKinley about the photographs in The African Lookbook: A Visual History of 100 Years of African Women, which presents just over 150 pictures of African women between the years 1870 and 1970. Any composed explanation of the photographs would be fictional since so much about them is unknowable. Many subjects are anonymous and many images undated. Rather than an exegesis, then, what McKinley offers in this compelling, quixotic book is something closer to a testament—a bold declaration of the enduring strength, beauty and power of African women, many of whom gaze at the camera with evident self-possession.

The book is a pleasure to absorb, whether you already know about the history of photography on the African continent or are new to the conversation. All the images are from McKinley’s personal collection, gathered over many years, and they seem to announce themselves with joy. From colonial-era photographs to studio portraits to postcolonial expressions of cosmopolitan poise, the collection offers a vibrant, inchoate and compelling snapshot of African women over time.

McKinley accompanies the photographs with prose, occasionally explaining an item in the picture—for example, “She wears the silver chains of the Ga people.” In response to other images, McKinley shares her wonder: “Whose room is this? Who chose the flower for my lady’s hair?” In other moments, McKinley interprets the subjects’ expressions, as when she describes the faces of three young women: “The girls have a look of expectation: an awareness that the world is large and made up of things they have the gumption for.” In all cases, McKinley helps the reader to see more, and thus think more carefully, about the image at hand. She gets close to the pictures without forcing a narrative that oversteps what can be known from the evidence.

Throughout The African Lookbook, McKinley puts African women at the center of their own stories, exploring their pictures with admiration and respect and inviting readers to look alongside her.

From colonial-era photographs to postcolonial expressions of cosmopolitan poise, The African Lookbook offers a vibrant snapshot of African women over time.

As the holidays approach, it may seem harder and harder for some of us to find the sense of easy joy we associate with this time of year. The discourse within our country feels more fraught than it’s ever been, traveling for the holidays is out of the question for many families, and sometimes in our most frustrated moments, it can seem like there’s little worth celebrating.

America the Beautiful: A Story in Photographs reminds us of the incredible landscapes and rich heritage that are more than worth holding on to. Photographs spanning decades have been pulled from National Geographic’s vast archives to honor each American state and region, while beloved citizens as diverse as Maya Rudolph, Mitt Romney, Jewel and Nick Saban share statements and stories of how their home states have shaped them. Thick, glossy spreads showcase the mountains of Colorado and the white sands of New Mexico. On other pages, the lens closes in tight on a vineyard worker gathering grapes in Oregon, Tejano elementary school students smiling brightly into the camera in Texas and a pineapple harvester in Hawaii ending her day with a cigar.

This beautiful hardcover book feels like a loving reminder of the best our nation has to offer.

This beautiful hardcover book feels like a loving reminder of the best our nation has to offer.

Four books celebrate our friends who fight for justice, the right to love, the power to tell their own stories and the possibility of a better future. They’re also the perfect gift for a budding ally who wishes to learn more.

Activist by KK Ottesen
One can’t help but feel inspired by the over 40 interviews and black-and-white portraits compiled in Activist: Portraits of Courage, written and photographed by KK Ottesen, a Washington Post contributor and author of a similarly styled book, Great Americans. Ottesen’s powerful photographs immediately draw readers in, adding to the intimacy of these highly readable first-person interviews, all introduced by a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

In content, layout and style, this is an engrossing, inviting volume, one that spotlights a wide range of figures, from age 21 to 94. There are well-known personalities like John Lewis, Ralph Nader, Angela Davis, Billie Jean King, Bernie Sanders and Marian Wright Edelman. Then there are relative newcomers to the scene, such as Jayna Zweiman, co-founder of the 2016 Pussycat Project; Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian American co-chair of the 2017 Women's March; and transgender actor Nicole Maines, the anonymous plaintiff in a Maine Supreme Judicial Court regarding gender identity and bathroom use in schools. Maines speaks of knowing from an early age, “I didn’t feel the need to hide who I was. Nobody else had to, so why should I?”

Seeing Gender by Iris Gottlieb
After reading last year’s Seeing Science and now Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression, I’ve become an incurable Iris Gottlieb fan. No matter what the topic, this graphic artist has a singular knack for presenting an imaginative array of art and text in an informative, exciting way.

Early on, this new book features a helpful spread of 24 gender terms, including agender, cisgender, gender dysphoria and intersex. “All of us are shapeshifters,” Gottlieb explains. In straightforward, vibrantly illustrated prose that is neither politicized nor reactionary, Gottlieb further explores these terms, while also discussing such varied topics as gender etiquette, gender biology, sex verification in sports, Frida Kahlo, Laverne Cox, Prince, gender violence, Stonewall, #MeToo and much, much more. Gottleib also includes her own story, noting that “she” is her pronoun of choice for the time being, that she identifies as a boy (“for now”), is asexual, has struggled with anorexia and in 2018 had both breasts removed, a surgical transformation she bravely describes with a series of “after” photos.

No matter your age or inclination, Seeing Gender presents an extraordinarily helpful discussion in a way that’s both personal and powerful. As Gottlieb concludes, “The process of learning about gender is never finished.”

Drawing Power edited by Diane Noomin
Many books have been born from the #MeToo movement, but perhaps none so comprehensively resonant as Drawing Power: Women’s Stories of Sexual Violence, Harassment, and Survival. In vastly divergent styles, 63 female cartoonists—of different races, ages, nationalities and sexual orientations—tell their immensely varied, poignant stories here, demonstrating the power of their medium.

Emil Ferris (My Favorite Thing Is Monsters) describes how she found her way back to cartoons decades after being sexually brutalized by a relative while watching a Mr. Magoo special on TV. As a result, her beloved cartoons felt suddenly poisoned, and for years she turned instead to fine art and illustrating. Finally, while working on the aforementioned graphic novel, Ferris noticed that she “found herself using a cartoonier style when I needed to talk about difficult things . . . especially those revelatory moments when a character confronts abuse, fear and shame.”

As Drawing Power so strikingly proves, cartoons do indeed provide the perfect forum for sharing these intensely intimate, painful stories. And editor Diane Noomin offers an important distinction, noting, “The artists in this collection present themselves not as victims but rather as truth tellers, shining light on the dirty secrets of abusers.”

How to Cure a Ghost by Fariha Róisín
As an Australian Canadian based in Brooklyn, Fariha Róisín knows all too well how tricky it is trying to navigate the world as a queer Muslim femme. “i was born to this sticky mess, this stark confusion.” she writes in How to Cure a Ghost, her powerful biographical collection of 50 poems, beautifully complemented by abstract illustrations from Monica Ramos.

In a sensual, evocative style reminiscent of Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, Róisín acknowledges, “i am tied to this skin, although I may not always understand it.” She chronicles her father’s challenges as an immigrant and her mother’s struggles as a Muslim woman with mental illness. Róisín remembers being 7 and briefly taking a “white name”—Felicity Hanson—to try to gain acceptance from a neighbor. She describes watching 9/11 unfold on television from her home in Sydney, Australia, saying that as a Muslim, “this world was not built for us.” Her virginity was stolen by a man who got her pregnant, telling her “it’s not a big deal.”

Despite everything, Róisín writes of hope, boldly declaring, “i am better now. i gave birth to myself, a new beginning, a robust cycle. i rewrote the scriptures of my mother’s pasts, and her mother’s pasts. i am in the throes of survival, i am lived. i am living. it’s astonishing.”

Four books celebrate our friends who fight for justice, the right to love, the power to tell their own stories and the possibility of a better future.

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