Great gift books for particular passions

Published Dec. 1, 2014

Does someone on your holiday gift list have a grand passion, a subject he or she is utterly fascinated by?

There's a book for that, no matter what the subject. Indeed, there is probably a large-format, richly illustrated book that will make the perfect present — although don't try to stuff most of these books in a stocking or they might crash right through the toe. Here are a few choices from this year's crop of gift books. Happy shopping!

Colette Bancroft, Times book editor

Ed Sheeran: A Visual Journey (Running Press, $25) by Ed Sheeran and Phillip Butah is a collaboration between earnestly hip British singer-songwriter Sheeran and artist Butah, his childhood friend. This memoir, filled with photos and Butah's evocative illustrations, will delight any of Sheeran's gazillion young fans.

Civil War in 3D: The Life and Death of the Soldier (Smithsonian/Black Dog & Leventhal, $34.95) by Michael Stephenson is just the thing for the military history buff on your list. It packages a book of illustrated history of the Civil War, focusing on the troops' experiences, with a set of 3-D photo cards and a stereoscopic viewer that create vividly lifelike scenes from the war.

Everglades: America's Wetland (University Press of Florida, $45) by Mac Stone, an award-winning photographer and naturalist, is a perfect book for anyone who loves Florida's natural beauty. It's packed with stunning photos, from aerial vistas to closeup details of flora and fauna, and lots of information about the critically imperiled Everglades.

A Painter's Progress: A Portrait of Lucian Freud (Knopf, $65) by David Dawson, Freud's longtime assistant and companion, is a fascinating and intimate look at the methods and habitats of one of the great contemporary artists, as well as a survey of his own art collection, that will intrigue art lovers.

Lego Architecture: The Visual Guide (DK, $40) by Philip Wilkinson and Adam Reed Tucker will bring joy to the blockhead on your list with its history of Lego's architectural models, complete with schematics of the models and lavish photos of the originals, from Tokyo's Imperial Hotel to Seattle's Space Needle.

The Planets: The Definitive Visual Guide to Our Solar System (Smithsonian/DK, $30), by Heather Couper and eight other authors, would be just the thing for the science student on your list, with its encyclopedic information about the planets, history of space travel and trove of photographs, maps and illustrations.

Dark Girls (Amistad, $35) by Bill Duke, Shelia P. Moses and Barron Claiborne is based on the documentary of the same name, in which dark-skinned women talked about their experiences with "colorism" within the African-American community. The book gathers compelling portraits and hard-hitting interviews about race and beauty with women famous — Lupita Nyong'o, Loretta Devine — and not.

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Vogue & the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute: Parties Exhibitions People (Abrams, $50) by Hamish Bowles is just the kind of sumptuous, star-studded, gorgeously photographed and fascinating extravaganza its title suggests — a fashionista's dream book.

Martin Scorsese: A Retrospective (Abrams, $45) by Tom Shone is a film critic's insightful look at the career of one of the great American directors, with essays on his 23 feature films, from Who's That Knocking on My Door in 1967 to The Wolf of Wall Street in 2013, and hundreds of behind-the-scenes photos for film fans to pore over.

A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy (Penguin, $18) by Sarah Lazarovic is something of a tonic for the season of shopping madness, a charming and thoughtful little book that grew out of an illustrated essay Lazarovic wrote about the Slow Shopping movement. It might be just the antidote for someone who overdoes retail therapy.

The Strange Library (Knopf, $18) by Haruki Murakami is a haunting, enigmatic short story by the acclaimed Japanese novelist, given lovely illustrated form by book designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd. Literati on your list will find it a treat.