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The Green Life: Book Review Wednesday: Nature-Themed Coffee-Table Books

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December 08, 2010

Book Review Wednesday: Nature-Themed Coffee-Table Books

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week, we're recommending nature-themed books that'd be fit for the most sophisticated of coffee tables.

Earth From Above: 10th Anniversary Edition (by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, $60, Abrams, Oct. 2010): If you invest in any oversized art book, make it this one. Few, if anyone, can match Bertrand's arresting bird's-eye photography, a fact embodied in this gorgeous volume by photo spreads, such as the ones depicting a mass of countless pink flamingos, huge crystalline icebergs, or agriculture's sweeping ravages. This edition updates the classic with 100 new photos, plus nine new writings, many of which are about time-critical environmental issues.

Galen Rowell's Sierra Nevada (by Galen Rowell, $40, Sierra Club Books, Nov. 2010): Both the tranquility and tumult inherent to the majestic Sierra Nevada range comes through in crisp clarity in this, one of the last productions featuring the works of the late, great adventure photographer. You can almost inhale the mountain air, feel the rock's grit on your hands, as you flip through its light-infused pages.

Alexandre Hogue: An American Visionary (by Susie Kalil, $35, Texas A&M University Press, early 2011): Alexandre Hogue was a painter of the American Southwest whose evocative style was much his own, but also echoed heavily that of Georgia O'Keeffe's. This retrospective of his life and work shows and discusses his iconic pieces, such as Mother Earth Laid Bare, a depiction of earthen land as a female form. Agricultural and historical themes, curvy lines, smoothed surfaces, and deeply saturated colors pervade the book.

Wild Wonders of Europe (by Peter Cairns, Florian Nollers, Staffan Widstrand, and Bridget Wijnberg, $50, Abrams, Oct. 2010): When we think of Europe, we often envision imposing architecture, enchanting cities and villages, and vast human histories. What doesn't often jump to mind is spectacular wilderness — which exists there in great quantity. This book serves as an entry point by which to start thinking of the cultured continent less as a human creation and more of a wonderland of plant, animal, and geologic life. The beautiful works of 68 photographers converge to take us through all of Europe's 48 countries. We go up close to the tiniest of mushrooms, zoom out to behold the glory of the Northern Lights, and go aloft to grasp the grandness of the Alps.

The Tulip Anthology (by Ron van Dongen and Anna Pavord, $60, Chronicle Books, Nov. 2010): Capturing even the delicate glisten that comes off these much-celebrated flowers, van Dongen's seductive photography transports us into a world of color, texture, shape. We learn, via Pavord's engaging text, the species' historical legacy, from its unlikely Central Asian origins to the global veneration it still receives today. Peppered into the pages are memorable quotes from the likes of Sylvia Plath and Victor Borge about their reverence for the flower.

--Avital Binshtock

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