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Top 10 Books To Gift In 2014


What books make good gifts? According to Boswell Book Company's Daniel Goldin, the book must have a visual component.

"Sometimes there’s a through story line, but in many cases, it’s going to be browsed," Goldin says. "And for the most part, it should be an attractive package."

Here are Boswell Book's top picks:

Before After

By Anne-Margot Ramstein and Mathias Arégui

This book is everything I hoped it would be, and many of our customers are just as enthusiastic. It’s a series of beautiful no-word panels of before and after scenarios of every type. Coffee beans become coffee, wheat becomes bread, an apple become food for worms. It’s a book that’s happy, sad and often funny, just the way life is. And don’t listen to the children’s publisher who labeled it for ages four to eight, as if it were a picture book. This is a book that’s suitable for any age with its philosophical tone and wonderful artwork. For little kids, it will unleash possibilities, while for senior, it will unlock memories.



American Cornball: A Laffopedic Guide to the Formerly Funny

By Christopher Miller

Miller collects information, through about 1966, using everything from comic strips and comic books to magazine cartoons, form old sitcoms and movies. Why are some things no longer funny? Sometimes it’s because they no longer exist, and often it’s because mores have changed and what we thought about that subject might be not just distasteful, but offensive. It’s the perfect intersection of pop culture, sociology and psychology. I love this book!



The Best American Infographics 2014

Edited by Gareth Cook, Introduction by Nate Silver

This is the second year of publication for this addition to the Best American series. This book includes everything from food and wine pairings, cosmetic procedures, 2009 vs 2013 Justin Bieber to the size of major league baseball parks. The infographics are a combination of graph, map and artwork and probably half of them could be sold as posters. My only complaint is that some wind up being to small to read the fine details.



World War I in 100 Objects

By Peter Doyle

This craze of documenting history in images, whether through maps, stamps or general objects, has been a craze for about five years. It’s the 100th anniversary of World War I’s beginning, so there have been a lot of publications this year on this centenary. Also interesting is that this book is published by The History Press in the UK, which publishes a lot of the Milwaukee regional books.



Animalium (Welcome to the Museum)

Illustrated by Jenny Broom, Written by Katie Scott

This huge book (the trim size is 11x15) is like a keepsake from a public museum. From invertebrates to fish to reptiles up to primates, each page has a beautiful spread. Despite being stylized to look like old scientific drawings, the images and animals are compelling. I think part of the beauty of this book is the way Katie Scott plays with color and placement. On the spread of flamingos, storks, ibises, and herons, each bird is in a delicate dance with the others. It gives the illustrations a fascinating sort of energy. And of course the text has lots of delicious detail, but not too much for a kid to be overwhelmed.



Great Maps: The World’s Masterpieces Explored and Explained

By Jerry Brotton

The book is packaged by the Smithsonian, the federal collection of American museums, but the book is by a London professor. The maps in this book are not just any maps, but things like the famous Chinese “Map of the Tracks of Yu” from the Song dynasty, Fra Mauro’s MappaMundi, a medieval celestial map created on an island outside Venice that reflected Biblical teaching, and Abraham Bar-Jacob’s Map of the Holy Land, one of the earliest maps created in Hebrew. While there’s a section for modern maps, this collection is very heavy on the historical.



This is the World: A Global Treasury

by Miroslav Sasek

I was obsessed with the individual books in this series, with volumes set in New York, London, Rome, Munich, Texas and more. 17 of these books are abridged and collected in this beautiful volume, originally published between 1959 and 1974. It’s got a swinging 1960s style, and the illustrations seem to play with texture and white space, almost as if they were collages. Dated? Sure, many of the cars in the Rome section look like they were built in the 1940s and the Tube is filled with folks reading newspapers, plus there might be a little too much native costume in some of the foreign volumes. But it’s all clearly done with love and respect, and it’s truly a gem.



The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft

By H.P. Lovecraft, Edited with a foreward and notes by Leslie S. Klinger, Introduction by Alan Moore

So many of these annotated volumes tend towards the upstanding classics, like Huck Finn and Pride and Prejudice. So I was fascinated by this H. P. Lovecraft collection, not just because it is more than 800 pages, but because we’re talking about the father of modern horror and dark fantasy. His work was published in pulp magazines, and his life was that of close to pauperdom. Now, he’s called the 20th century Edgar Allan Poe by folks like Joyce Carol Oates.



At Home with Jane Austen

By Kim Wilson, Foreword by Mary Guyatt

Waukesha resident and devoted member of  The Jane Austen Society of North America, Kim Wilson offers a tour of Jane Austen’s world through photos, historic images and collected histories with, of course, special emphasis on the Jane Austen House, Chawton Cottage. Visit a country rectory in Hampshire, the fashionable spa town of bath, the seaport of Southampton and London, where she was a frequent visitor. 



Pabst Farms: The History of a Model Farm

By John Eastberg

Eastberg, curator of the Pabst Mansion has written a history of the mansion and co-wrote a book on the Layton Gallery and collection that formed one of the building blocks of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Now he turns his attention to the family farm in Oconomowoc, which really was a working farm with a large and well-regarded dairy. The book details everything from herd acquisition to building construction. It’s a fascinating keepsake of a time gone by, in a very attractive package.

Michelle was named WUWM's digital manager in August of 2021.