Bound to Be Wrapped

Cartoons, boobs, Pythons, and moredo we need a holiday theme to recommend these books?

Gift Guide 3: Books, Music, & DVDs Bound to Be Wrapped Cartoons, boobs, Pythons, and moredo we need a holiday theme to recommend these books? You want cheap? We've got that, and we've got expensive titles, too. You can decide for yourself whether to give miserly stocking stuffers or pricier bottom-of-the tree books from among these picks.

Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit (Atria, $29.95)

No matter how much Jennifer Love Hewitt pouts or Angelina Jolie starves herself in the name of the world's children, there will never be another Audrey Hepburn; she was such a confectionary fantasy, it was hard to believe she existed in the first place. Here, her son, Sean Hepburn Ferrer, recalls the things that made his mother very real to him, including the longtime UNICEF spokeswoman's devotion to the idea "that love could heal, fix, mend, and make everything fine and good in the end." This coffee-table memoir isn't terrifically deep, but it's short, sweet, and filled with a plethora of surpassingly gorgeous photos of a woman who was a class act until the end. Proceeds go to the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund. The scrumptious color cover shot alone is worth the price. STEVE WIECKING

Playboy: 50 Years: The Photographs (Chronicle, $50)

The models pop off the page much more vividly in this big book than they do in the magazine, and it's printed on such heavy paper that when I opened the centerfoldwhich depicts the protuberant front of Nancy Cameron circa 1974 on one side and her callipygian backside on the backthe thick edge cut my finger and drew blood. Who says you can't buy a thrill? To flip (carefully!) through the book is to see fashions and beauty standards evolve: The first model, Marilyn Monroe, looks thunder-thighed and saggy-topped compared to her successors. Even in later years, stars can get away with looking way less stunning than anonymous playmates-next-door-with-no-standards: Kim Basinger has a zit or hickey on her tit; Farrah Fawcett in 1995 looks like a mad hag; and Pamela Anderson, a knockout in her no-name 1990 debut, looks ghastly with what appears to be 10 pounds of implants in 1999. Catherine Deneuve is the prettiest girl in the book; her pensive look suggests she might be thinking of the cleverest quote ever attributed to her: "Eventually, a woman has to make a choice: her ass or her face." TIM APPELO

Ex Libris Anonymous Vintage Journals (www.exlibrisanonymous.com, $11)

Here's a genius book gift idea: journals made from recycled vintage books. Jasmine Deatherage had too many vin-tage books crowd-ing her Olympia home. She needed to downsize. So she and her husband, Jacob, decided to salvage the best parts of the old tomesthe hardcoversreplace the inner pages with blank ones, add a spiral binding, and sell them as journals. The results are fun and one-of-a-kind: My favorite is made from a musty self-help book, How to Improve Your Personality. Inside, between the blanks, are a few choice original pages with tips for women on how to conceal their "figure problems" and notes for men on how to appear more masculine. The journals are sold at Elliott Bay, Bailey-Coy, and Whole Foods. KATIE MILLBAUER

Forever Changes (Continuum, $9.95)

I love a critic who doesn't profess to be infallible, so Andrew Hultkrans immediately won me over by admitting he was previously "absolutely, laughably wrong" about Love's 1967 Forever Changes album. His reassessment of its musical genius and curious lyrical acumen also required of me more than one casual listen to come around to his opinion. (It's part of the 331/3 series of pocket-sized album appreciations by diverse critics that will include in February Seattle Weekly's Michaelangelo Matos, writing on Prince's Sign 'O' the Times.) Hultkrans goes deep into the L.A. milieu of the radical late '60s, just as Love's chief songwriter, Arthur Lee, went deep into his environment to compose these tracks. The album is a paranoid, psychedelic, heavily philosophical reaction to that period, and Hultkrans' examination of it respects that paranoia. Often citing Lee's lyrics and excerpting interviews and statements made by Lee's contemporaries, Hultkrans takes the record very, very seriously; accordingly, his book is a reverential, fastidious tome. LAURA CASSIDY

The Complete Far Side (Andrews McNeel, $135)

Complete. As in about 50 pounds of complete. Meaning all the cows, all the dogs, all the lab animals, fat people, oversize bugs, and harridans in their harlequin glasses. Covering the years 1980-94, this luxe two-volume set pulls out of its box like the OED. And, like the OED, the science-saturated brain of Gary Larson is packed with useful information. For instance: Cows can fly; dogs are smarter than people; Satan has a great sense of humor; spacemen do not mean to destroy usthey only want to be our friends (until we mightily piss them off). Between the heavy leaves, many of them in color, 98115 resident Larson shares some childhood recollections and reflections on his working methods. (He also shamefully recalls the day he wore a T-shirt bearing one of his own panels to the grocery store, always a faux pas for cartoonists.) Is he ever going to resume his strip? Not likely, but cows can still fly. BRIAN MILLER

The Pythons: Autobiography of the Pythons (Thomas Dunne/St. Martins, $60)

The photos are enough. In fact, what leaps out most from this coffee-table-scaled 350-page oral history of Monty Python is the brilliant costumingfrom Michael Palin's sparkly leopard-skin blazer in the "Blackmail" sketch to the hilarious croquet-wear in "Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days." And then there's the endless, endless mugging. As well as some choice slices (not enough, really) from Terry Gilliam's animations. If you dig into the fine print, there's plenty to enjoy beyond the laughs: Eric Idle's story of growing up without a father is quite touching, and the book is especially good at conveying how the Pythons did not emerge out of thin air, but evolved their style from many prior projects and influences. The level of detail is pretty thick, better suited to the serious Python freak, not just the casual fan. How do you tell the difference? Minimum system requirements: the ability to declaim, from memory, the travel agency sketch and the Piranha brothers sketch. MARK D. FEFER

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