There's a big difference between simply pouring someone a bourbon and coke, and carefully crafting the perfect Old Fashioned. Skill, patience, ingredients — all these things go into making a cocktail memorable and delicious. In The Curious Bartender: The Artistry and Alchemy of Creating the Perfect Cocktail ($20), they dive deep into the art of mixing drinks, spotlighting an assortment of classic drinks, discussing where they came from, and exploring who invented them. Finally, they take these cocktails and reinvent them, adding new variations to bring some of these classics back to life.
If one of the things you want to be more knowledgeable about just happens to be America's favorite spirit, then American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye ($15) is a book you need to seek out. It's a handy hardcover book featuring a basic introduction to Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye made in the USA and has over 200 whiskey reviews as well, so you know what is worth tracking down. In addition to a bottle of bourbon this year, we know what we are asking for in our stocking.
For those not lucky enough to have seen every corner of the globe first-hand, National Geographic Magazine has been our window to the world through its incredible photographs covering every locale from Timbuktu to Tuvalu. And now many of the greatest photos from over a century of reporting have been reproduced in the form of National Geographic: Around The World In 125 Years ($500). This three-volume, nearly-1,500 page photographic anthology contains photos ranging from their earliest work in black-and-white autochrome to their most recent digital photography, spanning each continent. Each photo creates a portrait of life, culture, wildlife, and scenery documenting every facet of our planet, in a way only National Geographic photographers can.
Rarely do incredible performance and iconic design go hand-in-hand — but throughout its years, the British carmaker has managed to combine powerful cars with stunning aesthetics in a way that few have been able to match. Bentley: The Book ($90) chronicles nearly a century of their efforts at building unmistakeable cars, from James Bond's first, the Bentley 4½ Litre, to the modern-day marvel, the Bentley Continental GT. With beautiful photographs accompanied by detailed essays on the history of the cars, this hardcover book will be the perfect complement to any British car enthusiast's coffee table.
So maybe you own a bike — even a couple — and if you're lucky, you might have yourself a small collection of bikes. But odds are, you'll never own a complete collection of the 100 most-desired bikes of the last 100 or so years. That said, you can at least ogle them in book form with the Impossible Collection of Motorcycles: The 100 Most Coveted Motorcycles of the Twentieth Century ($600). It covers everything from the 1903 Harley-Davidson Serial #1 to the 1999 Honda NSR500 GP, with gorgeous photographs and information on each model. While it may not be as good as riding the real things, it's a pretty decent place to start.
People say laughter is the best medicine, and in the case of Comic Genius: Portraits of Funny People ($29), that's certainly true. Featuring portraits and first-person essays from comedic legends including Steve Martin, Steve Carrell, Eddie Murphy, and Tina Fey, this book is a work of photographic art, providing a first-hand study into what makes these comedians the people they are. Proceeds from the sales of each book go to Save the Children, an organization helping provide Syria's children the basic needs of food, care, and protection. And if you're feeling particularly in the giving spirit, check out the benefit auction for prints of the artwork featured on these pages.
There are sports memoirs, and then there's Undisputed Truth ($18), Mike Tyson's tell-all autobiography charting his journey from poor Brooklyn kid, to millionaire heavyweight champion of the world, to bankrupt addict, to today. Whether admitting to being high on cocaine and marijuana during his fight with Lou Savarese in Hampden Park (whom he beat in an incredible 38 seconds), or describing how he misplaced $1m in a Louis Vuitton bag after a wild night in Vegas, you've never experienced a window into the life of a troubled athlete quite like this. Learn everything there is to know about how he rose and fell, and then climbed back up to where he is today: philosopher, broadway headliner, hollywood actor, family man, and addict.
Before the cold weather sets in completely step up your cocktail game and stock up your bar with Winter Cocktails: Mulled Ciders, Hot Toddies, Punches, Pitchers, and Cocktail Party Snacks ($15). Winter cocktails — whether mulled wine, spiced cider, eggnog, hot buttered rum, or hot chocolate — are the perfect way to get you through the chill, and a great way to bring friends together once the days get shorter. More than just a simple drink recipe guide, this book covers everything a budding bartender needs to know to assemble a well-stocked winter bar, prepare garnishes, procure proper glassware, and of course, make drinks.
In the unlikely case you find yourself responsible for planning a city, or, perhaps more plausibly, you decide it's time to up and move to a new place, or, even more likely, you're just looking to learn something new about food — The Monocle Guide to Better Living ($50) should be your go-to reference. Brought to you by the same people who write Monocole Magazine, this book is a guide to everything from diplomacy and design, to culture and travel. Broken down into sections on the city, culture, food, travel, and work, it provides in-depth essays on subjects as broad as the most livable cities in the world, to topics as narrow as how to build a good school, all accompanied by beautiful photography, design, and illustration.
Colonel Chris Hadfield is, by all accounts, a modern-day hero — whether he's exposing the wonders of space to an entire generation through social media, becoming the first Canadian to command the International Space Station, or playing the first music ever recorded in space. Now, you can get an even deeper look into the life of this remarkable man in his autobiography An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything ($17). Learn the details of his unique outlook on life, experience firsthand accounts of spacewalks, understand how he handled crises, and perhaps change the way you look at the entire world.
Attention grammarians, English majors, writers (or pretty much anyone who has ever been called a "grammar nazi"), this one's for you. Highlighting the myriad cases of the misuse of the humble quotation mark, The Book of 'Unnecessary' Quotation Marks: A Celebration of Creative Punctuation ($14) features photos of menus, signs, posters, and more, all using this somehow-misunderstood bit of punctuation for everything except actually quoting words someone said. At times hilarious, and at others disturbing, this book will leave you wondering just what exactly people had in mind when employing quotes. Is it sarcasm? Is it a euphemism? Is it an actual quotation? Or is it just a complete misappropriation of one of the most straightforward marks in our otherwise complex language? We may never know, but at least we can laugh.
Whether you're an aspiring woodsman, the kind of guy who appreciates the simple beauty of nature in its rawest form, or you're just cultivating a lumberjack aesthetic in your apartment, Woodcut ($20) is the coffee table book for you. This book highlights the intricate, painstaking work of artist Bryan Nash Gill, featuring relief prints of cross sections of trees. With prints of a range of trees found near his Connecticut studio (including ash, maple, oak, spruce, and willow), it clearly displays age marks, cuts, scuffs, animal burrows, knots, and branches like no photograph ever could. Find also a detailed interview covering his process, from cutting the blocks with chainsaws, sanding, burning, and sealing, to the careful application of ink.