The best coffee table worthy gift books: kaleidoscopes of beautiful imagery and intriguing text

Why am I passionate about this?

After flirting with careers as an archaeologist, pilot, concert pianist, and diplomat, I settled on photographer after just a few month’s residence in Heidelberg, Germany, while studying for my Masters in Comparative Literature. The camera provided close personal interaction with people, while hearing their stories from a wide variety of cultural perspectives and social environments. Introduced by parents, I formed an obsession with opera, Native American drum music, vinyl recordings, and historic places, particularly Georgia O’Keeffe country, “south of the border” from our Colorado base. My family of musicians and artists stopped, listened, and loved the light and land of the Four Corners. I self-define as a photojournalist-poet, a griot.

I wrote...

Unplugged Voices: 125 Tales of Art and Life from Northern New Mexico, the Four Corners and the West

By Sara Frances,

Book cover of Unplugged Voices: 125 Tales of Art and Life from Northern New Mexico, the Four Corners and the West

What is my book about?

Make a connection to 125 unique Western personas, each in a five-minute read. Unique threads of independence, resilience, creativity, nature, and beauty: little oral histories with luxe, 4-color illustrations, told as if the taleteller were sitting in front of you, across the kitchen table, around the campfire, on the front porch, or under the stars.

Authentic and diverse, the storytellers and artists, people of letters, survivors, historians, seers, teachers, entrepreneurs, musicians, scientists, and advocates. Some are famous, others unknown experts and inquiring travelers. A must-read collection with a plot line that eventually reveals if chocolate is a sin. Formidable custodians of memory and adventure, significant observers that enlighten, illuminate, and animate the Western heritage that matters.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Jim Wagner, Taos: An American Artist

Sara Frances Why did I love this book?

The only “non-stuffy” art book I know!

Up close and personal acquaintance with the late irreverent, prolific, and totally charming painter, who also sculpted and worked in wood and silver. No art-speak, just an amazing character, extolled by a master of pictures in words. Wealth of reproductions.

You’ll want to buy a painting once you’ve read the book.

By Stephen M Parks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jim Wagner, Taos as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Book cover of Colorado Black on White

Sara Frances Why did I love this book?

Of prolific nature photographer Fielder’s many books, this is my fav.

It commands attention, a gift to be treasured, big, bold, luxurious. You’ll drown in the luscious reproductions, as though you were on the trail with him!

The unexpected bonus: his commentary tells you about his experiences loose in the wild, how chance weather patterns and animals made for dramatic imagery, his devotion to craft, and sheer delight in tramping the land of the West.

By John Fielder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Colorado Black on White as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

John Fielder is Colorado's preeminent nature photographer. Colorado Black on White is his 50th Colorado book. In the mold of Colorado's best-selling book of all time, Colorado 1870-2000, Fielder represents his state exclusively in black and white. He edited 230 color images from his life's work in Colorado over the past 40 years, and rendered each in blacks, whites, and subtle tones of gray. Without the distraction of color, the viewer engages the shapes, textures, lines, and edges of this most scenic of states as never before.

Divided into eight chapters, Fielder spares no subject endemic to his adopted state.…

Book cover of Stephen Wilkes. Day to Night

Sara Frances Why did I love this book?

It’s a huge book! Huge in size, huge in the image reproductions, huge in the photographic artist’s effort to construct composite images of dramatic international scenes from many iconic places, such as Times Square, Paris, Rome, National Parks of the World, that transform from day to night.

Yes, all in the same image! One side is night that slowly across the image melds into day. Technological marvel, but no kitsch here. Hundreds of hours, thousands of images layered together to create an entirely new art form. 

By Stephen Wilkes (photographer), Lyle Rexer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stephen Wilkes. Day to Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you were to stand in one spot at an iconic location for 30 hours and simply observe, never closing your eyes, you still wouldn't be able to take in all the detail and emotion found in a Stephen Wilkes panoramic photograph. Not only does Wilkes shoot over 1,500 exposures from a fixed angle, he also distills this visual information afterward in his studio, painstakingly composing selected frames into a single image.

Day to Night presents 60 epic panoramas created between 2009 and 2018, shot everywhere from Africa's Serengeti to the Champs-Elysees in Paris, from the Grand Canyon to Coney…

Book cover of Beneath the Roses

Sara Frances Why did I love this book?

Quirky, outrageous, magnificent, shocking, mysterious.

Crewdson’s huge imagery (and huge book) is extreme storytelling, a life history of the characters who people his cinematic productions. From concept to final image requires a full movie set production. The result is a vision of a strange, enigmatic event or situation, like a window suddenly opened to an alternative life.

I find that each image requires many minutes of concentration to see details and allow one’s imagination to work, unwinding the mystery to which we are unexpectedly privy.

By Gregory Crewdson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beneath the Roses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Best known for his elaborately choreographed, large-scale photographs, Gregory Crewdson is one of the most exciting and important artists working today. The images that comprise Crewdson's new series, "Beneath the Roses," take place in the homes, streets, and forests of unnamed small towns. The photographs portray emotionally charged moments of seemingly ordinary individuals caught in ambiguous and often disquieting circumstances. Both epic in scale and intimate in scope, these visually breathtaking photographs blur the distinctions between cinema and photography, reality and fantasy, what has happened and what is to come.Beneath the Roses features an essay by acclaimed fiction writer Russell…

Book cover of Vasily Klyukin: Live Sculpture

Sara Frances Why did I love this book?

I first met Klyukin’s huge, foldable-section metal sculptures at the Venice Biennale.

I had heard of him, but was overwhelmed by the size and quantity—plus his writings that appeared on ceiling-height, painted fabric banners. Particularly of note: the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and his collection called In Dante Veritas, which pulls the characters and their sins out of Dante’s Inferno, and updates them in sculpture and words to the 21st Century.

By Vasily Klyukin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Vasily Klyukin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book presents the extraordinary three-dimensional “live sculptures” by the Russian architect, designer, writer and artist.

Having some engineering experience, Klyukin was able to experiment and derive a concept of connecting steel sheets on a non-existent, speculative axis without any actual fasteners. The principle of mobility of each individual piece was the basis for this technological innovation. Each sculpture created without physical fasteners is easily assembled and disassembled. This new experience brought new satisfaction. One of the statuettes done using the “live sculpture” technique, the Golden Madonnina, was used as the official award during Milan Design Week in 2017, a…

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Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

By Kathleen DuVal,

Book cover of Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

Kathleen DuVal Author Of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professional historian and life-long lover of early American history. My fascination with the American Revolution began during the bicentennial in 1976, when my family traveled across the country for celebrations in Williamsburg and Philadelphia. That history, though, seemed disconnected to the place I grew up—Arkansas—so when I went to graduate school in history, I researched in French and Spanish archives to learn about their eighteenth-century interactions with Arkansas’s Native nations, the Osages and Quapaws. Now I teach early American history and Native American history at UNC-Chapel Hill and have written several books on how Native American, European, and African people interacted across North America.

Kathleen's book list on the American Revolution beyond the Founding Fathers

What is my book about?

A magisterial history of Indigenous North America that places the power of Native nations at its center, telling their story from the rise of ancient cities more than a thousand years ago to fights for sovereignty that continue today

Native Nations: A Millennium in North America

By Kathleen DuVal,

What is this book about?

Long before the colonization of North America, Indigenous Americans built diverse civilizations and adapted to a changing world in ways that reverberated globally. And, as award-winning historian Kathleen DuVal vividly recounts, when Europeans did arrive, no civilization came to a halt because of a few wandering explorers, even when the strangers came well armed.

A millennium ago, North American cities rivaled urban centers around the world in size. Then, following a period of climate change and instability, numerous smaller nations emerged, moving away from rather than toward urbanization. From this urban past, egalitarian government structures, diplomacy, and complex economies spread…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in fine art photography, Colorado, and romantic love?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about fine art photography, Colorado, and romantic love.

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