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Lucia Silva, Portrait Of A Bookstore

Recommendations from Lucia Silva, the book buyer at Portrait of a Bookstorein Studio City, Calif.

The Paris Review Interviews

The Paris Review Interviews, Volumes I-IV (Boxed Set), edited by Philip Gourevitch, paperback, 1982 pages, Picador, list price: $65

If I were rich, I would give a set of The Paris Review Interviews to every one of my friends this holiday season. This stellar collection presents interviews with more than 60 literary luminaries from the past half-century by one of the most revered and beloved literary magazines in the world. Truman Capote, Jorge Luis Borges, Joan Didion, Stephen King, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, Elizabeth Bishop, T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner ... the list goes on and on. For writers, it's like an MFA program in a box. For readers, it's as close as you'll ever get to the literary dinner party of your dreams. (Read Raymond Carver's thoughts about the relationship between alcohol and writers.)


Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire

Vanity Fair's Proust Questionnaire: 101 Luminaries Ponder Love, Death, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life, edited by Graydon Carter, illustrated by Risko, hardcover, 224 pages, Rodale Books, list price: $23.99

Who doesn't love a questionnaire? Popularized by Proust and his contemporaries as a parlor game in the 19th century, this one, recognizable from the back pages of Vanity Fair, is filled with dozens of provocative questions answered by actors, directors, musicians, writers and other celebrities. Who is David Bowie's hero? What was Johnny Cash's greatest regret? Jane Goodall's greatest fear? Paul Newman's favorite quality in a woman?

Answers range from serious to silly, pithy to reflective — and many of them completely surprising. This is a wonderfully entertaining book, perfect for reading aloud at cocktail parties, idly flipping through after dinner, and a provocative parlor game in itself. There's a complete blank quiz at the back for you and your friends to fill out. (Read Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter's history of the Proust Questionnaire.)


The Pattern in the Carpet

The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History With Jigsaws, by Margaret Drabble, hardcover, 368 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, list price: $25

Don't worry, you don't have to like jigsaws to love this book. It's about jigsaws, certainly, but also about history, philosophy, cartography, literature, depression and the delight of the digression.

By her own admission "not a tidy writer," Drabble's "personal history with jigsaws" is a memoir for readers who are willing to stray from the path and possibly never return. Fond memories of curmudgeonly old Aunt Phil, journeys in rare book rooms, reminiscences of a mad affair with an antiquarian book dealer — these are only a few of the pieces that make up the jigsaw puzzle of this writer's mind. (Read Drabble's account of how jigsaws saved her when reading, television and cooking couldn't.)

The Contact Sheet

The Contact Sheet, edited by Steve Crist, hardcover, 192 pages, AMMO Books, list price: $39.95

What makes a photograph art? How does a photographer know when he or she has gotten the perfect image? Here, Crist presents iconic photographs from some of the world's most famous photographers, along with their contact sheets — the photographer's print of all of the successive negatives on a roll — to reveal the magic that happens when you see "the one" that stands out from all the rest. From Elliott Erwitt's photo session with Marilyn Monroe, to Doisneau's famous "kiss," to Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother," Christ offers brief back stories to each photo, complete with reflections from the photographers. As we move rapidly away from film to digital, these artifacts reveal the art behind a nearly extinct process. (Read Chuck Close's memory of the moment when he turned the camera on himself and created one of his key works.)


Wallace Stevens: Selected Poems

Selected Poems, by Wallace Stevens, edited by John N. Serio, hardcover, 352 pages, Knopf, list price: $30

Fans of Stevens will surely rejoice over this lovely new large-format collection. But for those of you who were forced to coax meaning from "The Emperor of Ice Cream" in dull classrooms, the poetry of Stevens may not be cause for celebration at all. So I beg you to leave any stale memories behind, and discover Stevens anew; I promise you'll find a very different poet from the one you read reluctantly all those years ago. Full of a passionate sensibility that captures the music of the English language and humble reckoning with the world, these poems are a thrill to read aloud and a welcome challenge to ponder. (Read editor John N. Serio's appreciation of Stevens, plus selections from some of the poet's most famous works.)

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