The gift book is a holiday tradition, but what's significant enough to merit a space on your recipient's coffee table?
Classics. Look for a book that captures people, places or things we see as enduring, indispensable, iconic: unforgettable photographs, astonishing architecture, an utterly unique musician, a hugely influential television show, a most magical children's story — and shoes.
Colette Bancroft, Times book editor
Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016
Phaidon Press, 312 pages, $89.95
This collection gathers hundreds of recent, inimitable portraits by one of the most influential contemporary photographers. Think of a famous actor, musician, athlete, artist, politician or person famous for being famous (I'm looking at you, Kim Kardashian, in a sly photo of Kanye taking a photo of Kim taking a photo), and odds are you will find them in this gorgeous book. With extraordinary detail, composition, context, depth and wit, Leibovitz's portraits can rival those of the Old Masters. Some (Donald and Melania Trump, Gloria Steinem) are startlingly telling, others (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tina Fey, above) are simply beautiful; all are intriguing.
Bridges: A History of the World's Most Spectacular Spans
By Judith Dupré
Black Dog & Leventhal, 167 pages, $29.99
This dramatically designed, large-format book focuses on the often amazing architecture of bridges. Rich with photos and maps, the book offers history, structural details and context for bridges as old as the Pont du Gard in Nimes, France, completed more than 2,000 years ago, and as new as the Chenab Bridge in the Indian Himalayas, which will be the tallest railway bridge in the world when it's finished in 2020. Look for our own Sunshine Skyway, above, on Page 95.
Fifty Years of 60 Minutes
By Jeff Fager
Simon & Schuster, 409 pages, $35
Fager, who has been the program's executive producer for 14 seasons, offers readers an illuminating backstage perspective on the longest continuously running show in prime time. Since being created almost accidentally in 1968, 60 Minutes has been a mainstay of America's Sunday evenings, earning 138 Emmy awards and 20 Peabodys for its exposes and interviews with presidents, criminals, celebrities and everyday people. Fager recounts the show's highs and lows and the friendships and fierce competition among longtime correspondents Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Ed Bradley, Diane Sawyer, Lesley Stahl, Steve Kroft, Anderson Cooper and others.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
By J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay
Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 326 pages, $39.99
Whether for longtime fans who grew up amid the Harry Potter phenomenon or kids just now enjoying the books, this new edition of the third novel in the series will bring delight. Scholastic has been releasing deluxe editions of one book a year with all-new illustrations by Jim Kay that bring Rowling's stories even more vividly to life. Prisoner of Azkaban boasts gorgeous illustrations of a hippogriff herd and the Marauders' Map and haunting visions of Dementors, not to mention a cartoon of what happens to mean Aunt Marge when Harry's temper gets the better of him.
By Rodrigo Corral, Alex French and Howie Kahn
Razorbill, 306 pages, $24.95
This is just the gift for the guy who has a separate closet for his sneaker collection. Corral, a designer, and journalists French and Kahn (who between them have written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times Magazine, GQ, Wired and Grantland) are clearly those guys, and this book is their paean to the shoes they covet and collect. It's written and illustrated in what its introduction calls an "Instagram-like, wormhole flow," and packed with interviews with people who design and market the shoes. And, of course, there are a whole lot of images of sneakers: Adidas, Nike, Reebok and brands you might never have heard of (unless you're these guys).
Willie Nelson: American Icon
By Andrew Vaughan
Sterling, 208 pages, $29.95
At age 84, Willie Nelson's red braids may be getting gray, but he's still touring, still writing songs and making albums, still an original in the sometimes cookie-cutter world of country music. Nelson has published several memoirs; this book is more of a fan's deluxe scrapbook, with chapters devoted to his Texas upbringing, his early career, his success as a songwriter and performer, his collaborations with other musicians and his political activism. Vaughan, a music journalist, salts the pages with great anecdotes: When Nelson and Merle Haggard recorded the brilliant Pancho and Lefty in 1982, they were both in the middle of a cayenne-pepper-and-lemon-juice fast. Nelson recorded most of the song and woke Haggard at 4 a.m. to sing his verse. Nelson's guitar, Trigger, an autograph-covered Martin classical he's been playing since 1969, gets its own two-page spread.
Contact Colette Bancroft at email@example.com or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.