9780062231796_p0_v8_s260x420Books do furnish a room — and they do well under a holiday tree, too! These luscious books cover everything to satisfy those who love to travel — parks, food, art, culture. And, for those who prefer to stay home, one offers a peek into places that exist only in our minds.

City Parks: Public Places, Private Thoughts, Harper Collins, $50
A snow covered bridge arches near a turquoise palace, men lounge around a boule court, and native grasses sprout between tracks, framing neighboring glass towers. These urban tableaus — of Gorky Park, Luxembourg Gardens, and the High Line, respectively — give visual impact to the equally gorgeous essays that pair writers with their favorite city parks. Travel writers Jan Morris (Trieste) and Pico Iyer (Kyoto) cover ground they’re intimately familiar with, novelists offer tours of their neighborhood green spaces (John Banville in Dublin, Nicole Krauss in Brooklyn). And in a delightful surprise, President Bill Clinton’s muses on Dumbarton Oaks.

the-food-book.inddThe Food Book: A Journey Through the Great Cuisines of the World,  Lonely Planet, $24.99
Organized by country — starting with France, proceeding to Italy, Spain and Portugal, and moving all the way through to Mozambique and Ghana — this squat little book examines 47 cultures through one purview only, their cuisine. But that’s a big arena, covering everything from feasts to essential eats, from drinks to food prep. Yum!

BookofLegendaryLands_Eco_cover(2)Imaginary Lands, Umberto Eco, Rizzoli, $45
Where exactly is “Utopia,” the ideal state described by Thomas More in 1516? Like all of the imaginary lands that Umberto Eco explores in this gorgeously printed and illustrated book, it’s (literally) a “non-place,” but Eco has fun presenting some physical interpretations of this idea, as well as those associated with biblical lands, flat earths, Atlantis, and the seven wonders.

MostBeautifulOperaUS09616J 2The Most Beautiful Opera Houses in the World, Antoine Pecqueur and Guillaume de Laubier, Abrams, $60.
Painted ceilings in Budapest, swooping modern curves in Valencia, Art Deco grandeur  in Chicago — and of course, the unparalleled opulence of Opera Garnier, La Scala, and The Met. They’re all here, enticing eye-candy for the opera buff on your list.


Murals of New York City, Glenn Palmer-Smith and Joshua McHugh, Rizzoli, $45
The title may be unassuming, but the wonders tucked away inside of the Big Apple’s corporate headquarters, museums and government buildings are anything but. Whimsical and bold, pieces by Roy Lichtenstein, Thomas Hart Benton, Marc Chagall, Keith Haring, and Ludwig Bemelmans (creator of the beloved children’s classic, “Madeline”) dance across these pages, perfect for lovers of New York City.

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