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Holiday Gift Books: December 2008 


The Hudson River: A Great American Treasure
Greg Miller, foreword by Bill McKibben, introduction by Ned Sullivan
Rizzoli, 2008, $50

Next year will mark the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s historic voyage up the river that bears his name. What better gift for a Hudson Valley resident or enthusiast than this magnificent tribute, filled with panoramic photos of the mighty river in its many moods? Proceeds benefit the invaluable nonprofit Scenic Hudson in its efforts to preserve and protect the river.

Time Wearing Out Memory: Schoharie County
Steve Gross & Susan Daley, introduction by Jeffrey Lent
W. W. Norton & Company, 2008, $49.95

One hundred and eight beautifully composed black-and-white photographs bear witness to the faded beauty of a once-prosperous farming region. Architectural photographers Gross and Daley offer stark, majestic portraits of dilapidated barns, rusting pickup trucks, and Greek Revival grange halls; Lent’s eloquent introduction muses on the human stories that haunt them––and us.

Great Gardens of the Berkshires
Virginia Small, photographs by Rich Pomerantz
Down East Books, 2008, $35

When snowdrifts cover all but trellises and stonework, gardeners yearn for a whiff of spring. This lavishly photographed book showcases five public gardens, including Edith Wharton’s The Mount, Chesterwood, and Naumkeag, plus a dozen “Inspiring Private Gardens” in various styles. Indexes include visiting information, community resources, and regional nurseries for those inspired to plant.

The Color of Loss: An Intimate Portrait of New Orleans after Katrina,

photographs and introduction by Dan Burkholder, foreword by Andrei Codrescu
University of Texas Press, 2008, $50

Palenville photographer Burkholder uses high dynamic range (HDR) digital imaging techniques to provide a startling, highly aestheticized vision of post-Katrina interiors, detailing objects left in the wake of the flood and rendering the textures of mold and cracked mud in surreal pastels. New Orleans resident Codrescu likens the eerie results to Victorian funerary photography.

Samuel G. White & Elizabeth White,
photographs by Jonathan Wallen
Rizzoli, 2008, $75

Much of the Gilded Age’s gilt was provided by Stanford White, and this weighty book is every bit as opulent as the mansions he designed. Rhinebeck’s Ferncliff Casino, a “playhouse” for the Astors (including a marble swimming pool and vaulted indoor tennis court), is featured alongside White’s own homes in Box Hill and Gramercy Park, and commissions throughout the northeast.


The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea
Michael Harney
Penguin Press, 2008, $25.95

Don’t know your Assam from your oolong? The master tea blender behind Millerton’s Tea Shop and Tasting Room offers an in-depth tutorial to tea connoisseurs, describing the brewing specifications, leaves, liquor, aroma, body, and flavors of 54 premium teas, with information about their history and cultivation. Feed your head!

The Castle Street Café Cookbook
Michael Ballon
Gadd & Company Publishers, 2008, $22.50

Berkshires restauranteur and WAMC Roundtable Chef Ballon is a firm believer in unpretentious, elegant food, simply prepared with fresh local ingredients. Warm your holiday spirits with Tuscan Bean Soup, Pork Loin Stuffed with Apricots, Slow-Roasted Vegetables, and Chocolate Hazelnut Dacquoise.


Don’t Mind Me and Other Jewish Lies
Esther Cohen, illustrated by Roz Chast
Hyperion, 2008, $16.95

If anyone in your mishpocheh has perfected the art of saying one thing while meaning exactly the opposite (“Not to worry”; “I just want a taste”), this irresistible little book by Catskills Book Doctor author Cohen and the divinely demented Roz Chast might just be the perfect Hanukkah gift. (“I love the holidays.”)


Descending the Dragon: My Journey Down the Coast of Vietnam
Jon Bowermaster, photographs by Rob Howard
National Geographic, 2008, $21.95

Intercontinental adventurer and occasional Stone Ridger Bowermaster kayaked 800 miles of Vietnam’s extraordinary seacoast with a team including a gifted photographer and a Vietnamese-American woman who’d fled Saigon as a child. In prose that glistens with detail, he describes the sights, flavors, sounds, and especially the people they met along the way.

Berkshire & Taconic Trails: A Ranger’s Guide
Edward G. Henry
Black Dome, 2008, $14.95

The refuge manager for the Wallkill River and Shawangunk Grasslands turns his eye to the northeast, providing hikers with topo maps, GPS coordinates, and detailed trail routes. If you’re not quite ready to strap on your snowshoes and head for the hills, you can enjoy them vicariously through black-and-white photos and evocative, lively descriptions.

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