News & Politics

Good Gift Books

The Chesapeake’s beauty, Arlington’s dignity, the excitement of space, and intimate Kennedy photos. Buy these titles for the book lover in your life this Christmas.

Place of Honor

Where Valor Rests: Arlington National Cemetery ($30) is a collection of images by photographers depicting the cemetery, its rituals, and its people—from employees to tourists to grieving families. An essay by Washington Post reporter and Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Rick Atkinson introduces the book. “Hour by hour, year by year,” Atkinson writes, “ritual and ceremony at Arlington link yesterday to today, while providing a rhythm that dignifies death and consoles the living.” Here a Marine helps plant flags at each grave as part of the annual flags-in ceremony on the Thursday before Memorial Day.

Glories of the Bay

Chesapeake, Bay of Light: An Exploration of the Chesapeake Bay’s Wild and Forgotten Places ($45) showcases photographs by Ian J. Plant of Lorton—from wildlife close-ups to landscapes. Essays about the bay’s beauty and endangerment are by Eastern Shore writer Tom Horton. Invoking Captain John Smith, who first saw the bay in 1608, Horton writes: “In restoring the Chesapeake to the health of half a century ago, when population was half of today’s . . . we are embarked on waters fully as uncharted as anything he encountered 400 years ago.” This photo shows Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs.

Exploring the Unknown

America in Space: NASA’s First Fifty Years ($50) is a colorful pictorial history of the space program with a foreword by Neil Armstrong. In this photo, teachers Christa McAuliffe and her alternate, Barbara Morgan, undergo weightlessness training in January 1986 as part of the Teacher in Space Project. McAuliffe died in the Challenger disaster later that year, and the program was discontinued. Morgan finally made it into space as a crew member of the space shuttle Endeavour, which launched successfully in August of this year.

A Sister’s Love

Richard Avedon photographed John and Jacqueline Kennedy and their children in January 1961, a few weeks before JFK’s inauguration, for Harper’s Bazaar and Look magazines. Most of the hundreds of photos—donated to the Smithsonian in 1966—have never been seen by the public until now. Collected in The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family ($29.95), the pictures include this one of three-year-old Caroline and her infant brother, John Jr.

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.