The economy may be circling the bowl, but gift books are a great way to lead your giftees away from the news. This time of year, bookstore shelves offer a strong selection of smart, often beautiful doorstops, um, gift books. Here are some we found particularly creative or gorgeous. Remember, too, most bookstores also have a good selection of bargain-priced gift books. So, here are our picks. Happy book shopping!
• Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People by Amy Sedaris (Grand Central, 304 pages, $27.99). In this follow-up to her best-selling I Like You, brilliant goofball Sedaris shows readers how to make off-the-wall arts and crafts, such as a bean-and-leaf James Brown mosaic or a wizard duck costume. Don't miss Sedaris' advice on lovemaking (or "fornicrafting").
• Bird Songs Bible edited by Les Beletsky (Chronicle Books, 525 pages, with digital player, $125). From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which previously published smaller birdsong books/MP3 players, here is the complete collection of information, lavish illustrations, and actual sounds of every single kind of breeding bird in North America — about 750 total. If this doesn't take your giftee away from the everyday world, then, frankly, he or she is too hard to please.
• Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead edited by Rick Meyerowitz (Abrams, 320 pages, $40). A welcome, hysterical look at, as the subtitle puts it, "the writers and artists who made National Lampoon insanely great." Meyerowitz is the perfect guide to the nuts who made NL, at its peak, the funniest magazine in history, period.
• The Tattoo Chronicles by Kat Van D (CollinsDesign, 242 pages, $29.99). The star of TLC's LA Ink, Kat Van D, offers an illustrated diary of a crucial year in her life. The real treat here is the eye-popping collection of Kat Van D's images, from sketches to complex finished works.
• DC Comics Superheroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book by Matthew Reinhart (Little Brown, 12 pages, $29.99). The book may say it's for ages 4-8, but I can see comics fans of all generations going nuts over this spectacular pop-up book. The Batman pages even feature a light-up Bat Signal — what more do you want?
• A Doonesbury Retrospective by Gary B. Trudeau (Andrews McMeel Publishers, 696 pages, $100). Pretty pricey for a non-complete collection, but this book is still a fantastic overview of Doonesbury, its history and its impact on both politics and newspaper comics. The strip's significant story arcs are included.