Take a pictorial journey through a ‘coffee table book’

An eclectic sampling of new “coffee table books” is available at your neighborhood public library to borrow or browse. Whether you find a corner in the library and get yourself lost in one of the worlds open to you from the pages of a beautiful, large-format book, or you cozy down at home to page through the pictorial journey that one of these books offer, taking time to experience a wonderful oversize book. It can be a nourishing respite from normal life and an activity so engrossing that by the time you turn the back cover, you feel you have just returned from living for a time in another world or visualizing life from a new perspective.

African Beads: Jewels of a Continent

By Evelyn Simak and Karl Dreibelbis

Oversize 745.58209 Si

From 82,000-year-old shell beads discovered in Morocco to contemporary powder glass beads of the Krobo people, this is the first book about beads made by Africans. It gives an overview of African-produced beads, traces the historical journey of bead making in Africa and reveals the bead as a central component of the continent’s adornment narrative far back into African prehistory.

The book is organized by medium, including bones, teeth, claws, shells, amber, clay, plant materials, stone, metal and glass. You may also be interested in “1000 Glass Beads: Innovation and Imagination in Contemporary Glass Beadmaking” from Lark Books or any other Lark Books’ art or craft collections, such as “500 Bracelets” or “500 Ceramic Sculptures.” All come with high “wow” factors.

Art and Nature: Three Centuries of Natural History Art from Around the World

By Judith Magee

704.943 Ma

This visual record of the natural world features many of the greatest natural history artists of the last 300 years. As you might expect, the illustrations include wonderfully detailed and explicit colored or black and white drawings of flora and fauna. Organized by continent, the author draws on the unrivaled collections of the Library of the Natural History Museum of London to illustrate the development of natural history art through the centuries and its role in furthering appreciation of nature all around the world. Look also for the extraordinary photographic marvel “Butterfly” by Thomas Marent or the incomparable “The Bizarre and Incredible World of Plants” by Wolfgang Stuppy.

Cartographia: Mapping Civilizations

By Vincent Virga and the Library of Congress

912 Vi

A richly illustrated exploration of maps and mapmaking, this volume celebrates the work of those who have mapped the world from the dawn of civilization to the present. The text reveals maps that go beyond geographical facts to become visual records of human endeavor. The maps in their diverse forms are models of time, diaries of intrigue and illuminating works of art. Together, they provide a vision of how the world and our understanding of it have changed over the past centuries. Fantastic creatures often illustrate human imagination of the unknown at the edges of the mapped world. For another look at fantastical creatures, try the bilingual “Mythical Beasts of Japan: From Evil Creatures to Sacred Beings from Nihon No Zuzo.”

Discovering Caravaggio: The Art Lover’s Guide to Understanding Symbols in His Paintings

Text by Stefano Zuffi

Oversize 759.5 Ca

This art book takes readers on a journey through 51 of Caravaggio’s communicative paintings in chronological order and unravels stories and secrets hidden in his works. Luscious and magically lighted, Caravaggio’s subjects emanate a presence, a reality and profound participation. The book features unique “windows” that focus on particularly significant details in the paintings and analyze symbols in the painter’s characters, objects and scenes. Anecdotes and stories regarding the artist’s life and work provide added insight into his creative process. This is an excellent example of an art book revealing a renaissance master. From France in approximately the same time period, look into “Poussin and Nature” by Pierre Rosenberg.

Explorers: Great Tales of Adventure and Endurance

By Alasdair Macleod

Oversize 910.922 Ma

Smithsonian Press delivers this peek at the history of the human urge to explore the unknown and tells the story of some of the most intrepid people ever known. The book encompasses explorers of every type, from those chasing glory or seeking enlightenment to those driven by missionary zeal or the desire to trade and colonize new lands. You will find the personal stories of history’s most famous trailblazers, men and women whose courage opened frontiers, turned voids into maps, forged nations, connected cultures and added to humanity’s knowledge of the world. The browsable format is full of sidebars, illustrations, maps, timelines, contemporary and historic photographs. See also “Modern History: From the European Age to the New Global Era” by J. M. Roberts. Granted, the 912-page tome is primarily intended as a scholarly narrative; however, the full-color illustrations are superb and warrant a browse through history from the age of European dominance to the rise of industrial China and India and the onset of the global economy.

Glenn Brown’s History of the United States Capitol

By Glenn Brown

975.3 Br

Reproduction of the classic 1900 and 1903 two-volume set is integrated here into one volume. The original exhaustive history replete with architectural drawings, renderings and photographic documentation is set in context by an introductory essay on the author and his place in the story of the Capitol and the city of Washington. Extensive annotations provide information regarding Brown’s sources and offer perspective on his viewpoints. The book, considered a pioneering work of architectural history was also crafted by Brown to promote the restoration of our capital city’s original plan along the lines of Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 design. Brown believed that deviations from the plan and Victorian intrusions had done harm to the beauty of Washington. Through this work Brown made history a powerful force in his determination to improve the nation’s capital. For more architecture, look for the fascinating book “The Mosque: History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity” edited by Martin Frishman.

Top 100 Birding Sites of the World

By Dominic Couzens

598.07234 Co

This beautiful book describes the 100 best bird-watching sites on the planet. You get an overview of each continent or region and then each site is listed by country and ranked. Entries all include a full description, a list of key species, a map and information on the best times of year to visit. Color photographs capture rare and elusive species as well as some of the world’s best avian spectacles. For more on birds, you may also be interested in “Birds in Flight: The Art and Science of How Birds Fly” by Carrol L. Henderson.

• Carolyn Larson, head librarian at Lihu‘e Public Library, brings you the buzz on new, popular and good books available at your neighborhood library. Book annotations are culled from online publishers’ descriptions and published reviews.

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