ONE FOR THE BOOKS: Gift books for display or inspiration

By Mary Louise RUehr | Books Editor Published:

These are some of the wonderful gift books I've found recently. They're so nice, you may want to give one to yourself! They will also look great on your coffee table.

Time Life Books, known for its gorgeous pictures, has published "World War II in 500 Photographs." This book is impressive, great for history buffs or anyone who appreciates great photography.

From 1939 to 1945, almost 60 million people were killed in the second world war. "It is impossible to overstate the bravery of the photographers who chronicled the war from its beginning to the end," write the editors. Some of the photos included were shot by professionals, others by soldiers who took snapshots of their friends or local citizens they encountered. Some "recorded the horrors inflicted upon the elderly and children or a pile of dead enemy soldiers along a sunken road."

The book opens with an image of Nazi soldiers at a rally in 1936 and closes with photos of modern Tokyo and the fall of the Berlin wall. This collection of memorable photographs offers a panoramic view of the entire war. Of course, most of the photographs are black and white, but there's a surprising amount of color. Time Life, paperback, 272 pages, 7.8 x 9.7 inches, $17.95.

Time Life Books also offers "Everything You Need to Know About the Bible: From Genesis to Revelation, Your Illustrated Guide." This volume is the same size and price as the World War II book, but this one has absolutely beautiful color illustrations, mostly of famous paintings based on Bible stories, as well as color maps of the Holy Land.

The guide takes a look at the Bible itself, the stories and the history, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the sites and events of the Old Testament, the life of Jesus and his ministry, the spreading of the gospel, and the prophecies in Revelation.

This is not the text of the Bible, but rather an overview. Just opening the book assures that the reader will be fascinated, if only by the wonderful color prints.

If you're looking for inspiration, check out "Questions for the Dalai Lama: Answers on Love, Success, Happiness & the Meaning of Life" edited by Dede Cummings and Travis Hellstrom. His Holiness the XIV ­Dalai Lama of Tibet, who has been in exile from his country since 1959, "tirelessly dedicates his efforts to promote inner peace and global understanding," write the editors, who describe him as "an unwavering advocate for world peace."

This little gift book is divided into five parts: love, compassion, success, life's challenges, and happiness, found in short excerpts quoted from the Dalai Lama's many published books, articles and speeches. The foreword suggests they be read "during life's challenges, when contemplating happiness, or simply when seeking an inspiration for the day." Some of the great sage's insights: "We can never obtain peace in our outer world until we make peace with ourselves"; "Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it"; "Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck."

Hatherleigh Press, hardcover, 92 pages, 4-7/8 x 7-5/8 inches, $12.50.

"Dining at the White House: From the President's Table to Yours" by John Moeller with Mike Lovell just won two Gold Medal Benjamin Franklin Awards, for Best Cookbook of the Year and Best Celebrity Memoir of the Year, from the Independent Publishers Association. Chef John Moeller cooked at the White House for more than 13 years, for three presidents (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush) and for such special guests as Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela, Julia Child and Sophia Loren. "I was privileged to see history made, but from a very personal, intimate point of view," he writes.

This volume is half memoir/history book and half cookbook, containing more than 100 full color illustrations and more than 100 recipes personally created by Chef Moeller and served at the White House. The chef tells us he likes to use fresh, seasonal ingredients inspired by his classical French training with an American twist.

The book is very readable and full of interesting anecdotes. Moeller relates what goes on behind the scenes of official state dinners as well as casual lunches with the first family. He includes some of the menus for state dinners, with photographs of the place settings. Some of his recipes are Warm Tamale Salad with Avocado, Tomato and Black Beans and Citrus Dressing, Lobster Bisque with Pesto Galettes, Florida Yellowtail Snapper and Sauteed Leeks with Saffron Corn Sauce, and Warm Flourless Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce and Almond Tuile.

LifeReloaded Specialty Publishing, hardcover, 416 pages, 7.5 x 9.125 inches, $35.

Let's not forget the kids. "Time for Kids Big Book of When" has "801 facts kids want to know." This is a pretty, full-color hardcover book, chock full of photos and illustrations, and good for kids of just about any age.

Despite the title, facts are not presented in timelines, but are divided into categories such as time, animals, communications, flight, energy, the solar system, the digital age, food, transportation, civilizations, and sports. Questions include When did people begin using water as a source of power? When was the first hot-air balloon launched? When do birds migrate? When does a curveball curve? When did people start eating peanut butter?

It takes the reader from the beginning of language to today's smartphones; from the pyramids to space travel; from the Pony Express to high-speed commuter trains. It also includes several make-it-yourself projects for kids, such as building a sundial, using Morse code, and creating a digital image. It even has a glossary. Anybody with a curiosity will have a hard time putting this book down.

Time for Kids, hardcover, 192 pages, 8.2 x 9.3 inches, $19.95.

Copyright © 2014 by Mary Louise Ruehr.

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