What'll ya give? 

A delicious buffet of holiday gift books

Pigeonholing. That's what the holidays are all about -- putting our friends and loved ones into neatly defined categories. Aunt Ida, she's a health nut. Uncle Dave, an alcoholic. How about a blender for both of them?

But the best -- and easiest -- bet for nailing those personality types has to be the old stand-by, books. Who doesn't love opening an uncracked hardback come Kwanzaa-time, because the books we receive show exactly how the giver likes to categorize us.

The CL staff has selected a handful of standout holiday gift books for a variety of the personality types on your "nice" list. For the Atlanta native: What could be more Atlanta centric than a coffee-table book about The Varsity? Such is the case with WHAT'LL YA HAVE: A HISTORY OF THE VARSITY (Looking Glass Books, $24.99), a glossy retrospective on Frank Gordy's quintessential hamburger stand. Fast food and even faster service aren't necessarily American virtues, but Dick Parker writes the Varsity's success story with admiration as plain as, in the restaurant's own lingo, a naked dog walking. Still, the Varsity qualifies as a genuine institution in a city with little regard for its own history, and What'll Ya Have includes enough colorful details, nostalgic reminiscences and scrapbook-style mementos to make it an appetizing present to any longtime Atlantan on your list.

For the overgrown child: If you don't know Gregory Maguire, you will. His first book, Wicked, created a captivating back story for the oft-maligned Wicked Witch of the West, and has just been converted to a Broadway musical. His latest, MIRROR, MIRROR (Regan Books, $24.95) takes similar liberties with the Snow White legend. He places the ivory-skinned apple-eater in 16th-century Tuscany, where her land-holding noble father discovers a magical looking glass and gets caught in the impossible snare of Lucrezia Borgia, a new take on the evil stepmother. Even more interesting: the discovery of an eighth dwarf. Though the language can be flowery to a fault, Maguire thrills with his ability to update the fairy tales we think we know by heart.

For the blocked artist: Danny Gregory's sublime EVERYDAY MATTERS (Princeton Architectural Press, $14.95) defies classification. Not quite a graphic novel, but more than mere art book, Gregory's illustrated journal traces his personal growth in the aftermath of a family tragedy. He and wife Patti were an overextended New York City yuppie couple, with dog and infant, until Patti was paralyzed in a freak subway accident. Gregory pulls himself out of depression and finds a new Zen approach to life thanks to his drawing. At times heartbreaking, but more often uplifting, Everyday Matters is a must for anyone searching to reconnect with a lost inner artist.

For the bleeding heart: While films like Bowling for Columbine established Michael Moore as a wickedly pointed polemicist, his latest book DUDE, WHERE'S MY COUNTRY? (Warner Books, $24.95) finds him slightly less effective on the page. He still gets in his leftist licks, amassing angry arguments against the Bush administration following Sept. 11. Compared to Al Franken's dry wit on similar subjects, Moore's humor feels more forced, with a section on Iraq War "whoppers" relying on predictable hamburger jokes. Still, Dude's chapter "How To Talk To Your Conservative Brother-in-Law" (in a nutshell, own up to the left-wing's dumb ideas while showing how liberal policies will actually save money) make the book a surprisingly useful resource for family reunions over the holidays.

For the novice filmophile: You have to envy the burgeoning young film geek. Oh, to experience the wicked thrill of All About Eve or the heartbreaking simplicity of The Bicycle Thief for the first time. Venerable film critic Roger Ebert has written the perfect primer for those new to the joys of classic film. THE GREAT MOVIES (Broadway Books, $15.95) features short, three- and four-page essays on 100 movies, ranging from lesser-known silents like Broken Blossoms to more recent Oscar winners like Pulp Fiction and Fargo. Seasoned film-goers probably won't find much new insight in Rog's writings, but newbies looking to educate themselves on the history of great film can glean plenty of inspiration for many video nights to come.

For the art insider: So much has been written by and about Andy Warhol, it's hard to imagine anything new to say. But Warhol freaks and '60s nostalgics alike will find plenty to plumb in Steven Watson's FACTORY MADE: WARHOL AND THE SIXTIES (Pantheon Books, $41.95). Instead of another account of Warhol's penny-pinching, image-obsessed, art-making ways, Watson zeros in on the Factory years between 1963 and 1968. Fueled by drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll, the foil-walled Factory was an incubator for fledgling actors, models, filmmakers, artists, musicians and scenemakers, and Watson captures the scene with exhaustive detail. By focusing on Warhol superstars like Edie Sedgwick, Candy Darling, Ondine, Billy Name, et al, Watson fleshes out the wacky world of Warhol.



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