News & Politics

Great Gift Books

Remote places, exotic creatures, Broadway, Hollywood, Bob Dylan, and more.

Rare Beauty

The two-volume set The Last Place on Earth ($150) includes a book of National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols's color photos of the Central African Republic, Congo, and Gabon, taken over 12 years. The second volume documents a 456-day trek Nichols took with ecologist J. Michael Fay through rarely seen forests in those countries; excerpts from Fay's journal accompany Nichols's black-and-white photos. Shown here is a recently hatched Nile crocodile.

Wish You Were Here

Real Photo Postcards, edited by Laetitia Wolff ($19.95), is a collection of photographs from the early 20th century, when Kodak introduced a portable camera whose images could be printed on postcards and sent through the mail. The pictures range from straightforward images to photomontages such as this one.

Big Birds

Extreme Nature by zoologist and photographer Mark Carwardine ($34.95) features the world's most unusual wildlife and plants. What's the fattest carnivore? The polar bear–a female can put on four times her weight in one season. The biggest bird? The ostrich, shown here, which can grow up to nine feet and more than 350 pounds.

Double Exposure

Wide Angle: National Geographic Greatest Places ($30) is a tour of the world's landscapes, street scenes, and other vistas, many from a panoramic perspective. This image by Gerd Ludwig–from the book's cover–is of the Main-Danube Canal, near Nürnberg, Germany.

DC That Might Have Been

Capital Drawings: Architectural Designs for Washington, D.C., From the Library of Congress ($55) is a work of scholarship but also fun. The book, edited by C. Ford Peatross, looks at building designs, including some that were never built or completed–such as Robert Mills's original plan for the Washington Monument, shown at left.

Look Again

Vanishing Act ($50) by photographer Art Wolfe captures creatures, from parakeets to wolves, in the act of blending into their surroundings–a survival mechanism to evade predators or capture prey. Visually striking, the photos also provide a real-life game of "Where's Waldo?" This lion was photographed in South Africa.

Forever Young

The Bob Dylan Scrapbook 1956-1966 ($45) is a companion to Martin Scorsese's PBS documentary. In addition to the narrative and photos of Dylan's early career, the book contains pull-out reproductions of concert programs, tickets, handwritten lyrics, and other memorabilia as well as a CD of interviews.

Secret Gardens

Gardeners will like The New Garden Paradise: Great Private Gardens of the World by Dominique Browning and theeditors of House & Garden ($59.95). The spectacular–and spectacularly thick–book is full of photos and detailed articles. This "cutting garden" is on a Connecticut property that Penelope Hobhouse, the grande dame of English gardens, modeled after an Edwardian estate.

Let Me Entertain You

For Broadway and film fans, there's A Fine Romance by Darcie Denkert ($45). It tells behind-the-scenes stories, through words and pictures, of plays and musicals that were adapted to the big screen–from All About Eve to West Side Story to Chicago–as well as a couple that made the reverse transition. This photo is of Rosalind Russell filming Gypsy.

American Woman

A Day in the Life of the American Woman: How We See Ourselves ($35) is the result of an assignment in which more than 50 female photographers fanned out on April 8, 2005, to document the activities of women from all walks of life. Local photographers include Diana Walker, Susan Biddle, Carol Guzy, and Karen Ballard. Former Washington photographer Joyce Tenneson–who now lives in New York City–set up a backdrop on her street and stopped women as they passed by. This is a Fashion Institute of Technology student.

Senior Managing Editor

Bill O’Sullivan is senior managing editor; from 1999 to 2007, he was a features editor. In another lifetime, he was assistant managing editor. Somewhere in the middle, he was managing editor of Common Boundary magazine and senior editor at the Center for Public Integrity. His personal essays have been cited three times among the notable essays of the year in The Best American Essays. He teaches at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda.