Gift guide: Coffee-table books with heft

Still searching for that perfect gift for your brother-in-law or a persnickety client? Coffee-table books might fit the bill, what with that suitable heft and an undeniable quotient of cool. Here we offer a few last-minute selections for those gaps on your list:


Anne Geddes

Anne Geddes Publishing, $50


The Aussie photographer was contemplating a hiatus from her studio when she came across an exhibit of birds’ nests. This unexpected encounter turned into the inspiration for her latest collection of baby photos, “Beginnings.” The transformative beauty of nature and rebirth is the theme throughout as she pairs babies snuggled in flower petals, floral bulbs and eggs next to corresponding forms from nature.

Nearly 150 of her signature baby and pregnancy shots explore the cycle of life, including one of a cocooned 107-year-old woman holding a newborn and a photograph of a young woman named Maneesha holding a preemie infant girl. Geddes photographed Maneesha in 1993 when she herself was a preemie. “Beginnings” is one of the first color illustrated books available in an e-book edition on iBookstore.

Classic Homes of Los Angeles

Douglas Woods, photography by Melba Levick, introduction by D.J. Waldie

Rizzoli, $55

Many of the homes showcased here are familiar to Angelenos, such as Greene & Greene’s Gamble House in Pasadena and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Millard House. Also featured are the lesser-known but equally grand Cecil B. DeMille Estate in Laughlin Heights and the Petitfils-Boos House in Hancock Park.

The majority of the 25 homes highlighted are situated in the Pasadena and Hancock Park/Windsor Square areas, some of L.A.'s earliest and most architecturally influential neighborhoods. These homes for the rich, famous and powerful were built between 1899 and 1938 during Southern California’s “Golden Age of Expansion” and feature a wide range of architectural styles, including Victorian, Tudor, Georgian, Spanish Colonial and Art Deco. Any sense of envy should quickly give way to local pride for these historical gems.

Franco Zeffirelli: Complete Works — Theatre, Opera, Film


Edited by Caterina Napoleone; preface by Franco Zeffirelli; foreword by Matthew Gurewitsch.

Abrams, $150

This lavish tome traces the life and works of the Italian showman Franco Zeffirelli — director and designer of film, opera and theater — and is presented in fittingly spectacular form. The recipient of this book should not be a delicate flower, as it weighs in at 11 pounds. Some 800 color and black-and-white illustrations from 80 productions are featured such as the operas “La Bohème” and “Carmen” and his films “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet,” along with Zeffirelli’s own sketches and paintings of costumes and set designs.

Leo Fuchs


Special Photographer from the Golden Age of Hollywood

Leo Fuchs, introduction by Alexandre Fuchs, essay by Bruce Weber

powerHouse Books, $65

Hired by the studios as a “special photographer,” Leo Fuchs spent decades photographing candid on-set shots of the film stars of the ‘50s and ‘60s: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Sean Connery, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Cary Grant. Fuchs was in many ways a precursor to modern paparazzi as his mission was to capture candid shots and private moments of celebrities.


Most of these images are previously unpublished and sat in storage for 35 years when Fuchs moved to Europe to produce movies. The photographer provides behind-the-scenes commentary from film sets including “The Nun’s Story,” “Cape Fear” and “Marnie.” One of the more revealing group of images is a set of photos of notoriously publicity-shy author Harper Lee on the Alabama set of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” There is also an alluring Paul Newman on location in Israel for “Exodus.”

Palm Springs 1960

Robert Doisneau

Flammarion, $34.95


French photographer Robert Doisneau came to Palm Springs in 1960 on assignment for Fortune Magazine to capture the hot travel destination of the day. Doisneau, who worked alongside Henri Cartier-Bresson and was best known for his photograph “Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville” of a couple kissing by a hotel for Life Magazine in 1950, discovered a playground for the elite in its infancy, with a mere 19 golf courses.

It was a time when golden girls dressed in mink stoles and big jewelry to dine and men golfed in jacket and tie. Midcentury modern architecture, sparkling pools, martinis, clear blue skies and silver-haired gents are showcased in 100 color photographs that define the resort town. The images are drawn from Doisneau’s archive of the shoot, which were not published with the original story. A clip of the Fortune article as well as personal correspondence from his trip are included.

Taxi Driver

Photographs by Steve Schapiro


Edited by Paul Duncan

Taschen, $1,000 (limited edition)

For the hard-core Robert De Niro or Martin Scorsese fan; Taschen commemorates the 1976 landmark film with rare set photos snapped by Steve Schapiro, though the shades of crimson blood in this large-format book may not exactly evoke that holiday spirit. It’s hard to believe the color of the blood was toned down in the film in order to garner a less strict rating. “The only way to see the original blood color is with these photos,” said Schapiro at the book’s recent launch in Beverly Hills.

Schapiro, a documentary photographer who followed Bobby Kennedy, the march on Selma and the Haight-Ashbury scene in the ‘60s, has worked as a special photographer on more than 200 film sets including " The Godfather.”


Ninety-five percent of the images have never before been published. Notable is one of a 12-year-old Jodie Foster seated next to her sister who filled in as her body double 35 years ago. The edition is limited to 1,000 copies, numbered and signed by Schapiro.

— Liesl Bradner