Christmas is fast approaching, and time is running out. Fortunately, the culture lover in your life is just about the easiest person to buy for. As the avid culture-loving Dr Suess once said, “Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” That’s a mantra that many of us live by, thus, with a trusty tome, you can’t help but succeed.
However, sometimes a conventional novel can be the gift equivalent of being sent a twenty-minute video and all the ‘watch this and tell me what you think’ pressure that comes along with it. After all, one person’s page-turner is another’s phonebook. Thankfully, when it comes to culture books brimming with photos and titbits the pages turn themselves and the publications we have curated below are even beautiful to look at to boot.
Thus, fear not my fellow stressed-out last-minute brethren, we have you covered. Whether it’s a stunning photographic collection for a big David Bowie fan, or a leaf through some of Jean-Michael Basquiat’s best work for that art lover you’re buying for, these books are guaranteed to go down a storm on Christmas morning, and best of all, as always with a book, the joy of the gift will live on forevermore.
10 perfect books for culture lovers to gift this Christmas:
Mick Rock: The Rise of David Bowie – 1972-1973
In 1972, when David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust first appeared on TV, he looked down the camera in his androgynous otherworldly guise and he seemed to impart a new way of life on the youth watching with slack jaws, bulging eyes and addled minds. The rest was history, but as is always the case it unfurled slower than anyone thought. By no means was Bowie an overnight hero like Elvis Presley before him. Nevertheless, something a creative pandora’s box moment had occurred and the wormhole that Ziggy burst through could never be sutured closed.
The unique collection of images from the Taschen novel The Rise of David Bowie 1972-1973, exhibit a glorious collection of Bowie finally coming to the fore after fallow years where he had considered quitting. The same can also be said of Mick Rock himself, who found himself swept into the eternal inspiration of his subject and basked in the bohemian world presented. As Rock once said: “I do not use the word genius lightly, but if David Bowie is not a genius, then there is no such thing.”
Dalí: Les dîners de Gala
When Salvador Dalí was a boy, he was caring for a wounded bat. One morning he saw that it had been swarmed by ants, thus, knowing the end was neigh for his mammalian friend, he unthinkingly picked it up and simply bit its head off. This. might not have quite been the start of his surrealist fine dining craze, but it is certainly an indication of the treasure trove of oddities that lay behind his twirled moustache.
As the listing explains: “With recipes from such leading Paris restaurants as La Tour d’Argent and Maxim’s, a special section on aphrodisia, and bespoke illustrations from Dalí himself, this book is at once an artwork, a practical cookbook and a delicious morsel of multisensory pleasure.” Nothing Dalí did was ever dull, and this luscious book is a collection of his most palatable imaginings and musings.
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Andy Warhol: Polaroids 1958-1987
There is no name in art quite as synonymous with the rise of pop culture as Andy Warhol. He launched the underground world towards the mainstream with daring creative projects including The Velvet Underground and his extraordinary loft parties where the zeitgeist was fuelled.
So, when you’re rubbing shoulders with every star and interesting face that an entire era has to offer, you’re going to snap some noteworthy shots along the way. This unique Taschen collection displays the best of them. In fact, this stunning New York insight has even been dubbed the greatest photographic coffee table collection around.
The Stanley Kubrick Archives
Stanley Kubrick was so particular about his work that Harvey Keitel once quit Eyes Wide Shut after he was simply asked to walk through a door over 50 times. Therefore, officially licensed material is pretty hard to come by as his estate have been keen to continue his meticulous legacy. However, for The Stanley Kubrick Archives, Christiane Kubrick, Jan Harlan and Kubrick’s estate teamed up with Taschen for the ultimate cinematic collection from a masterful auteur.
As the description states: “Accompanying the visual and archival material are essays by noted Kubrick scholars, articles written by and about Kubrick, and a selection of Kubrick’s best interviews. The result is a visual, archival, and scholarly journey through masterworks of 20th-century cinema and the meticulous mind of the director behind them.”
Art Record Covers
Record covers can be a piece of beguiling advertising as Bruce Springsteen says: “I do a lot of curiosity buying; I buy it if I like the album cover, I buy it if I like the name of the band, anything that sparks my imagination. I still like to go to record stores, I like to just wander around and I’ll buy whatever catches my attention.” But they can also be a snapshot of time and a window to the record contained within.
As the official listing for the collection reads: “Since the dawn of modernism, visual and music production have had a particularly intimate relationship. From Luigi Russolo’s 1913 Futurist manifesto L’Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noise) to Marcel Duchamp’s 1925 double-sided discs Rotoreliefs, the 20th century saw ever more fertile exchange between sounds and shapes, marks and melodies, and different fields of composition and performance.”
Photo Icons: 50 Landmark Photographs and Their Stories
As any fan of photography will tell you, it is not just a matter of preserving a moment, it’s also about containing a story within. A mark of this is how some images have ingrained themselves into the tapestry of modern history. Some shots are simply so evocative that they are ubiquitous in culture as touchstones to the story they tell. With Photo Icon, Taschen have collated these images and unearthed the secrets behind them.
From the harrowing story behind the famous ‘Napalm Girl’ image that now forms part of the iconography of the Vietnam War to theories, thoughts and musings on Marilyn Monroe’s most famous pose, not only is this book visually stunning, but it is also certain to make the recipient that most interesting storyteller in the bar for at least a couple of weeks.
Linda McCartney: The Polaroid Diaries
Life as a McCartney is an open book. It would seem that Paul and Linda McCartney’s relationship has been so heavily publicised that there is no stone left to overturn. However, the life we thought we had seen and the candid one presented in The Polaroid Diaries are worlds apart.
Over a 20 year period, these intimate images display the everyday beauty of family life in what would be a fascinating collection no matter who it depicted. The fact that it charts the home life of some of culture’s most prominent people is an added allure. As ‘Macca’ says in the introduction: “She would just see things. Many of her photos, it’s just that one click. You’ve got to recognise when a great photo is happening in front of you. And then you’ve got to snap it at exactly the right moment… And she did that so many times that it always impressed me.”
Los Angeles: Portrait of a City
Los Angeles is a city built on gold and movies. In fact, for billions around LAX is seen as the touchdown to stardom. The nitty-gritty workings might be a world away from that, but the lifestyle of the city remains. As Frank Lloyd Wright once wrote: “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.”
This 572 page collection explores the history of the town through a series of stunning photographs. From the frontier days of old, through to the erection of the Hollywood sign and all the cultural landmarks and movements along the way. Whether its for an L.A.-phile, an avid tourist or someone who simply has an eye for cultural history and the ways of the world, this book is endlessly fascinating and always good for a quick glance.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: 40th Ed.
In his tragically short life Jean-Michel Basquiat established himself as one of the most influential artists of our time. Adored by the likes of David Bowie and Debbie Harry, his radical new style was a bold revolution where the streets finally infiltrated the galleries and reinvigorated the canvas as a pop culture means of expression. Since then, his artwork has featured on album covers for The Strokes and woven its way into the aesthetic of the modern world.
This gorgeously illustrated “year-by-year chapter breaks follow the artist’s life and quote from his own statements and contemporary reviews to provide both personal background and historical context.” Spread over 512 pages, this is the ultimate affordable collection for anyone interested in modern art on any level.
Annie Leibovitz: The Early Years. 1970–1983
Read the memoir of any eminent celebrity and the name Annie Leibovitz is likely to crop up at one point in a tale about some photo shoot. She captured the final images of John Lennon on the day he died and even snapped the final days of Richard Nixon’s presidency as she rose to the top of the tree when it comes to post-1960s photography.
As the collection poetically states: “Throughout the book, the portraits and reportage are linked to images of cars, driving, and even a series on California highway patrolmen. In many ways, it’s a celebration of life on the road—the frenetic rhythms, the chance encounters, the meditative opportunities. And with its rich archival aspects, it is also a tribute to an earlier time and a young photographer enmeshed in a culture that was itself in transition.”