ABC’s Gift Ideas: Ancient History/Mythology, Animals, Art

The gift-giving season is upon us – hooray!

The ABC Staff has rummaged through their sections and order lists, and come up with another year’s worth of wonderful gift ideas for you: from fiction to history to cookbooks to children’s books to travel to non-books and onwards.

In a series of blog posts and recommendation lists throughout the coming month, you will find what we think will make great gifts, whether you celebrate Sinterklaas, Christmas or just like giving books to people.  And since we’re a bookstore, these posts will be alphabetical by subject.  🙂

Today you’ll find gift ideas for Ancient History/Mythology, Animals, and Art, as picked out by section buyers Jouke, Sigrid, Ester, Jesse, and Martijn. Bear in mind that this is just the tip of the iceberg – come to either one of our stores to browse many, many more titles in any of these subjects.

We are ready as ever to be your personal shoppers again this year, and hope you will find our selections useful and inspiring!

You can find our gift ideas from previous years here, and be sure to have a look at our ABC Favorites, too.

Ancient History & Mythology

The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean – David Abulafia

Situated at the intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa, the Mediterranean Sea has been for millenia the place where religions, economies, and political systems met, clashed, influenced and absorbed one another. David Abulafia offers a fresh perspective by focusing on the sea itself: its practical importance for transport and sustenance; its dynamic role in the rise and fall of empires; and the remarkable cast of characters–sailors, merchants, migrants, pirates, pilgrims–who have crossed and recrossed it.

Ebook available here.

A History of the World in Twelve Maps – Jerry Brotton

Throughout history, maps have been fundamental in shaping our view of the world, and our place in it. But far from being purely scientific objects, world maps are unavoidably ideological and subjective, intimately bound up with the systems of power and authority of particular times and places. Mapmakers do not simply represent the world, they construct it out of the ideas of their age.

In this scintillating book, Jerry Brotton examines the significance of 12 maps – from the mystical representations of ancient history to the satellite-derived imagery of today. He vividly recreates the environments and circumstances in which each of the maps was made, showing how each conveys a highly individual view of the world – whether the Jerusalem-centred Christian perspective of the 14th century Hereford Mappa Mundi or the Peters projection of the 1970s which aimed to give due weight to ‘the third world’.

Ebook available here.

Aesop’s Illustrated Fables

As legend has it, the storyteller Aesop was a slave who lived in ancient Greece during the sixth century B.C. His memorable, recountable fables have brought amusing characters to life and driven home thought-provoking morals for generations of listeners and modern-day readers. Translated into countless languages and familiar to people around the world, Aesop’s fables never tarnish despite being told again and again. Full of humor, insight, and wit, the tales in Aesop’s Fables champion the value of hard work and perseverance, compassion for others, and honesty. They are age-old wisdom in a delicious form, for the consumption of adults and children alike.


Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed – John Bradshaw

Cats have been popular household pets for thousands of years, and their numbers only continue to rise. Today there are three cats for every dog on the planet, and yet cats remain more mysterious, even to their most adoring owners. Unlike dogs, cats evolved as solitary hunters, and, while many have learned to live alongside humans and even feel affection for us, they still don’t quite ‘get us” the way dogs do, and perhaps they never will. But cats have rich emotional lives that we need to respect and understand if they are to thrive in our company.

A must-read for any cat lover, Cat Sense offers humane, penetrating insights about the domestic cat that challenge our most basic assumptions and promise to dramatically improve our pets’ lives—and ours.

Ebook available here.

A Sting in the Tale – Dave Goulson

Shortlisted for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize.

Dave Goulson has always been obsessed with wildlife, from his childhood menagerie of exotic pets and dabbling in experimental taxidermy to his groundbreaking research into the mysterious ways of the bumblebee and his mission to protect our rarest bees.

Once commonly found in the marshes of Kent, the short-haired bumblebee now only exists in the wilds of New Zealand, the descendants of a few queen bees shipped over in the nineteenth century. Dave Goulson’s passionate drive to reintroduce it to its native land is one of the highlights of a book that includes exclusive research into these curious creatures, history’s relationship with the bumblebee and advice on how to protect it for all time.

Ebook available here.

The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild – Lyanda Lynn Haupt

Sigrid:  For all fans of Dutch radio and TV program Vroege Vogels, wonderfully written.  The author also has a blog:

In this wholly original blend of science, story, myth, and memoir, Haupt draws us into the secret world of the wild creatures that dwell among us in our urban neighborhoods, whether we are aware of them or not. With beautiful illustrations and practical sidebars on everything from animal tracking to opossum removal, The Urban Bestiary is a lyrical book that awakens wonder, delight, and respect for the urban wild, and our place within it.

Underwater Dogs – Seth Casteel

Ester: Ever wondered what your favorite canine looks like under water? Here is your answer. Don’t be scared, but you will not recognize your little mutt when he/she is turned into an underwater monster!

In more than eighty portraits, award-winning pet photographer and animal rights activist Seth Casteel captures new sides of our old friends with underwater photography. Each image bubbles with exuberance and life, a striking reminder that even in the most loveable and domesticated dog, there are more primal forces at work.

Unlikely Loves: 43 Heartwarming True Stories from the Animal Kingdom – Jennifer S. Holland

Ester:  The sequel to the ever-popular Unlikely Friendships, with more beautiful and heartwarming stories and photographs of some lovely and loving animals.

Packed with beautiful, breathtaking full-color photographs, Unlikely Loves is a celebration of love between species. Here are stories of parental love, like the Dalmatian who mothers a newborn lamb – a lamb that just happens to be white with black spots! Stories of playful love, including the fox and the hound who become inseparable. And stories of orphaned animals who have found family-like ties in unexpected combinations, like the elephant who bonded with sea lions, goats, and other animals in her walks around the Oregon Zoo.

Ebook available here.

A Street Cat Named Bob : How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets – James Bowen

Ester: The book that brought tears to the eyes of some of our customers. Why not try this true story of a man and a cat who found each other roaming the London streets yourself and see how many boxes of Kleenex you’ll need.

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand-to-mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet. Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas…

Ebook available here.


In the City: Drawings by Nigel Peake – Nigel Peake

Jesse: This is the follow-up to Nigel Peake’s In The Wilds, where instead of illustrating the countryside, Peake investigates several urban landscapes like New York, Antwerp, Shanghai and Oslo to name a few.

These new drawings and paintings document the sights, sounds, shapes, and textures he absorbs as he wanders the streets without a map or sits in a cafe while waiting for a train. Peake’s hand-drawn observations capture the colors, grids, surfaces, paths, reflections, rooftops, and other details-from reflections on windows and cracks in the pavement to the frayed posters on building walls. What emerges is a personal and universal portrait of a city in all its beautiful and intricate forms, structures, and patterns.

Marcel Dzama: Sower of Discord – Marcel Dzama

Jesse: A beautiful monograph of Canadian artist Marcel Dzama, covers his work (he’s mostly known for his drawings but also makes sculptures, films and paintings) from the late 90’s up until now.  Please note that this title will be published in November!

Characterized by an immediately recognizable cast of fanciful and frightening characters, Dzama’s work draws from a diverse range of influences, including Dada and Marcel Duchamp. While the artist is best known for his delicate psychosexual drawings, his work also includes sculpture, painting, and film. More than 500 color images from the late 1990s through the present trace the artistic evolution and tremendous talent of this highly acclaimed young artist.

Toilet Paper Issue 8 and Toilet Paper Issue 9

Jesse: Toilet Paper is a magazine that consists of images only (no text). Created by artists Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrar.

Since the first issue, in June 2010, Toilet Paper has created a world that displays ambiguous narratives and a troubling imagination. It combines the vernacular of commercial photography with twisted narrative tableaux and surrealistic imagery. The result is a publication that is itself a work of art which, through its accessible form as a magazine, and through its wide distribution, challenges the limits of the contemporary art economy.

Art as Therapy – Alain de Botton and John Armstrong

Jesse:  Philosopher Alain de Botton and art-historian John Armstrong collaborate in this book, and ask what art is for. They give examples of famous artworks and propose a new perspective in which these works can be found therapeutic to the viewer.  De Botton will be a guest curator at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam next year.

De Botton argues that certain great works offer clues on managing the tensions and confusions of everyday life. Chapters on Love, Nature, Money, and Politics outline how art can help with these common difficulties – for example, Vermeer’s ‘Girl Reading a Letter’ helps us focus on what we want to be loved for; Serra’s ‘Fernando Pessoa’ reminds us of the importance of dignity in suffering; and Manet’s ‘Bunch of Asparagus’ teaches us how to preserve and value our long-term partners. Art as Therapy offers an unconventional perspective, demonstrating how art can guide us, console us, and help us better understand ourselves.

Van Gogh, The Life – Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith

Vincent van Gogh created some of the best loved – and most expensive – works of art ever made, from the early ‘The Potato Eaters’ to his late masterpieces ‘Sunflowers’ and ‘The Starry Night’. This biography draws on all of his (and his family’s) letters, which offer written glimpses into his thoughts and feelings.

Ebook available here.

Big Appetites: Tiny People in a World of Big Food – Christopher Boffoli

Welcome to a world where little people have big personalities. A world that’s upside down and yet weirdly, wonderfully real. A world where Lilliputian thieves poach strawberry seeds. Where it takes a guy with a jackhammer to pop open pistachios. Where skaters fall into a crack in the crème brûlée, and teddy bear cookies congregate with evil intent.

Marrying inspired photographs of real food and tiny people with equally inspired captions, photographer Christopher Boffoli creates a smart, funny, quirky vision of what it means to play with your food.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative – Austin Kleon

You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.