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Living Large

Just in time for the holidays, a whole wide world of large-format editions lands with a thunk.

Author Aaron Gell Photography Claire Benoist

CONSIDER THE NOT-SO-HUMBLE coffee-table book—so hefty you can barely lift the thing, and yet somehow able to transport a reader far from home.

Start your journey with the gorgeously produced Painters of Utah’s Canyons and Deserts (Gibbs Smith), which brings together a number of impressionistic images of Zion National Park and other breathtaking sites. Meanwhile, anyone who’d rather scale such peaks than paint them will love The Stone Masters: California Rock Climbers in the Seventies (Stonemaster), the story of a handful of hippies who took on some of the most dangerous climbs with little more than bandannas for protection.

Next, drop in on Charles Darwin’s favorite island getaway with Galapagos: Both Sides of the Coin (Imagine), a vivid look at the islands’ animals and humans, and how they interact (to sometimes damaging effect), and delve into China (Abbeville), a photo book nearly as overwhelming as the country itself.

Then there’s India. With its numerous castes and cultures, it’s not an easy place for outsiders to grasp, which explains why a new book simply reaches for the alphabet. Clive Limpkin’s India Exposed: The Subcontinent A-Z (Abbeville) illuminates the country in a series of pictures arranged encyclopedia-style (from astrology to zebu, a breed of cattle), and To India, With Love (Assouline) offers a collection of snapshots and memories from a passel of well-known contributors, from Adrien Brody to Zubin Mehta.

Photographer Michael Loyd Young illuminates the Mississippi River Delta region in the affecting Blues, Booze & BBQ (powerHouse), while legendary lensman William Eggleston, who made his reputation shooting the American South, ventures across the pond for a lyrical survey, William Eggleston: Paris (Steidl). And acclaimed fashion photographer Mario Testino turns his lens on Rio de Janeiro with MaRIO DE JANEIRO Testino (Taschen), sprinkling an array of humid Copacabana landscapes among his dazzling snapshots of Gisele Bundchen and other local attractions.

Somewhat more instructive is the monumental Los Angeles: Portrait of a City (Taschen), a pictorial history of the city of angels, beginning with an amazing 1891 silver print of flinty-eyed settlers on a dusty ranch in what is now Hollywood, and ending with present-day L.A.—considerably more glittering if somehow just as anxious.

Travel’s romantic past is lovingly evoked in Coast to Coast: Vintage Travel in North America (Vendome), which offers a cross-continental journey by way of vintage photographs and handpainted postcards, and in Gypset Style (Assouline), author Julia Chaplin’s breezy look at the eclectic chic of certain well-heeled global nomads.

Finally, those with a yearning to wander even farther afield will gravitate toward Michael Benson’s Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle (Abrams), which features eye-popping imagery of nebulae, galaxy clusters and other cosmic phenomena. And to think you can see it all without even leaving the earth.

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