Great Reads to Wrap and Unwrap

By Merle Rubin. Merle Rubin regularly reviews literature and contemporary fiction . | The Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 1993 | Go to article overview
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Great Reads to Wrap and Unwrap


Merle Rubin. Merle Rubin regularly reviews literature and contemporary fiction ., The Christian Science Monitor


THE GARDENS OF SPAIN. Photographs by Michael George, Text by Consuelo M. Correcher Harry N. Abrams, 200 pp., $60 THE SOUTH: A TREASURY OF ART AND LITERATURE Edited by Lisa Howorth, Hugh Lauter Levin Assoc./ Macmillan, 368 pp., $75 THE PENGUIN BOOK OF TWENTIETH-CENTURY SPEECHES, Edited by Brian MacArthur, Viking, 488 pp., $35 HISTORY OF THE WORLD, By J. M. Roberts, Oxford University Press 952 pp., $45 MOZART: FROM CHILD PRODIGY TO TRAGIC HERO, By Michel Parouty Discoveries/Harry N. Abrams, 191 pp., $12.95 paper THE AGE OF SHAKESPEARE, By Francois Laroque, Discoveries/Harry N. Abrams, 191 pp., $12.95 paper WHAT JANE AUSTEN ATE AND CHARLES DICKENS KNEW: FROM FOX HUNTING TO WHIST - THE FACTS OF DAILY LIFE IN NINETEEnTH-CENTURY ENGLAND, By Daniel Pool, Simon & Schuster, 416 pp., $25 PEMBERLEY: OR PRIDE AND PREJUDICE CONTINUED, By Emma Tennant St. Martin's Press, 184 pp., $18.95 PRESUPTION: AN ENTERTAINMENT, By Julia Barrett, M. Evans & Co., 238 pp., $19.95 THE OXFORD SHERLOCK HOLMES, By Arthur Conan Doyle, 9 volumes, $99 LUCREZIA FLORIANI, By George Sand, Translated by Julius Eker Academy Chicago 230 pp. $20 cloth, $11 paper ELIZABETH GASKELL: A HABIT OF STORIES, By Jenny Uglow, Farrar Straus Giroux 690 pp., $35 AUDUBON: LIFE AND ART IN THE AMERICAN WILDERNESS, By Shirley Streshinsky, Villard, 407 pp., $25 MONTANA 1948, By Larry Watson, Milkweed Editions 175 pp., $17.95 TWENTIETH CENTURY RUSSIAN POETRY: SILVER AND STEEL, Selected by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Edited by Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday 1078 pp., $40 JAPANESE NO DRAMAS, Edited and translated by Royall Tyler, Penguin, 360 pp., $12.95 paper THE Christmas season always brings piles of gift books heaped in eye-catching displays. But not all books suitable for giving need be lavish objects of the bookmaker's art. Many categories of books, from gorgeously illustrated outsize tomes and boxed editions of the classics to well-chosen anthologies, absorbing biographies and histories, and finely written fiction, may prove perfect gifts.

Some coffee-table books are more substantive and sustaining than others. In The Gardens of Spain, landscape architect and author Consuelo Correcher describes the richly various legacies - from Greco-Roman to Islamic - that have nourished Spanish horticulture, with its patios, fountains, pools, terraces, and appetite for cultivating rare and exotic plants.

Beautiful color photographs amply illustrate the horticulture and architectural delights of the Iberian peninsula, from the magnificent palace gardens of La Alhambra to the misty vales of Galicia and the sun-drenched patios of Cordoba. Settings for spiritual mediation, botanical experimentation, private recreation, or public display, these gardens are things of beauty in themselves and may also furnish ideas to gardeners far beyond the borders of Spain.

Many born in the American South - and many who've never set foot below the Mason-Dixon line - are fascinated by the region. Whether or not one shares this fascination, one cannot fail to be impressed by the thoughtfully selected writings, painting, and photographs assembled by Lisa Howorth in The South: A Treasury of Art and Literature.

From pre-colonial explorers to present-day humorist, the voices and visions in these pages represent an astonishing range of viewpoints and experiences: Alexis de Tocqueville's horrified account of trigger-happy "Southern justice," Frederick Douglass's scathing portrait of his degenerate former "master," song lyrics like "Train Whistle Blues" and "I'll Fly Away," fiction by William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Eudora Welty, and Richard Wright, plus memoirs, speeches, diaries, cartoons, and quilts. There's enough humor, sadness, passion, ugliness, and beauty here to interest even a Yankee.

In an age of photo-ops and sound bites, the live spoken word still has power to change minds, hearts, and history.

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