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Posted: December 05, 2012

Coffee-table books feed pop culture obsessions


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            Coffee-table books feed pop culture obsessions
Fans of movies about the British superspy might appreciate “50 Years of James Bond.” Credit: Life Books.

            Coffee-table books feed pop culture obsessions
“The Rolling Stones 50” has more than 1,000 photographs from the stage, studio and behind the scenes. Credit: Hyperion Books

By Suzanne Van Atten

If you’re stumped for a gift-giving idea, the solution may be found in the pop culture obsessions of those on your naughty or not list. Chances are there is a corresponding book on the market to feed their fascination.

Fifty is such a nice, round number, and it is the peg on which two new books are hung. “The Rolling Stones 50” (Hyperion Books, $60) celebrates the 50th year of the world’s oldest rock band with a hernia-inducing tome filled with more than 1,000 photographs from the stage, studio and behind the scenes. Stitching the images together are bits of commentary from band members, including this observation from Keith Richards about a fire at his Redlands mansion in 1973: “I’ve had two or three houses burn down.”

“50 Years of James Bond” (Life Books, $27.95) is something of a misnomer because while the Bond movies have been around for a half century, Ian Fleming’s books date back 59 years. Rightly so, the book devotes the opening chapters to Fleming, his books and the intricacies of the British military intelligence agencies, which inspired many of Bond’s storylines. The rest of the book focuses on the movies and the actors who played the tuxedo-clad hero.

Just in time for the Jan. 6 debut of Season 3, “The Chronicles of Downton Abbey” (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) offers a deeper dive into the PBS series about the inhabitants and employees of the Crawley estate. Each chapter is devoted to a key character and includes recaps of the story thus far, photos from the set and close-ups of the authentic props. For instance, you can get a gander at Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen bible, a 1913 edition of “All About Cookery,” featuring recipes for such delicacies as “Mayonnaise of Salmon.”

Four pop icons are memorialized with worshipful photography books that will appeal to devoted fans. Cindy De La Hoz’s “Elizabeth Taylor: A Shining Legacy on Film” (Running Press, $30) is chock-full of cast lists, plot summaries and snippets of reviews from all of Taylor’s movies from “There’s One Born Every Minute” (1942) to “These Old Broads” (2001). Except for a brief introduction by record executive Clive Davis and an equally brief afterword by manager Pat Houston, “Whitney: Tribute to an Icon” (Atria Books, $39.99) is just picture after picture of singing star Whitney Houston. It Books supplements its slick photos in “Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis” and “Audrey: The 60s” (as in Hepburn; $40 each) with short quotes from the actresses and people who worked with them.

For an entree into what makes a Hollywood movie star tick, “Fragments” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17) compiles poems, notes, lists, letters and diary entries by Marilyn Monroe. Each entry appears in the actress’s own handwriting and is accompanied by a neatly typed copy that’s easier to read. As one would expect, her writings run the gamut from saucy (“On Hospital Gowns: My bare derriere is out in the air when I’m not aware.) to despondent (“Alone!!!!!! I am alone — I am always alone no matter what.”). Appropriate to the material, most of the photos capture the beauty in the act of reading.


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