Some books paint pictures with words; others use pictures to render us speechless. No matter the method, you'll lose yourself in the best possible way leafing through the volumes in this year's list of recommended gift books. If pages were like musical notes, these titles would produce a pretty great mashup. Envision one of photographer Cindy Sherman's crones in the forest of a Brothers Grimm tale. Set one of graphic novelist Chris Ware's "building stories" inside, say, the curvaceous contours of an architectural masterwork by Frank Gehry. And perhaps only a soul-deep poet like Louise Gluck could find words to describe the jolt of recognition you'll experience in photographer Tim Flach's stunning wildlife studies.
Imagination propels each of these exceptional books; use it when you set out with your shopping list to make the season bright.