Leonardo da Vinci By Walter Isaacson
Simon & Schuster, $35
Let’s be honest. Books about really dead guys are rarely engaging, often overworked, and so lengthy that they’re better served as doorstops. Isaacson has masterfully pulled off a fresh biography of the ultimate Renaissance Man. It’s so intriguing you’ll find yourself saying, “Just one more chapter…” before bed like you’re reading the latest Grisham thriller. Weighing in at just under three pounds, it may seem like a good candidate for an e-book purchase, but part of the experience with this gem is reading the print version. The design is beautifully done and it’s loaded with 144 color photos of da Vinci’s notebook pages, cartoons and paintings. With our world’s current climate, we can all use a history lesson. —Emily Gatlin
Kink By Howard Schatz
Lawrence Richard Publishing, $40
Howard Schatz is one of the world’s best and most celebrated photographers, who has photographed everyone (as the saying lazily goes), published 21 stunning books, but eschewed the fame-seeking of a Dave LaChapelle or Annie Leibowitz. Kink is his 22nd, born from discovering, 25 years ago and by accident, the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, an ecstatic festival extolling kinkiness and bondage/sadomasochism. This is not a small event, up to half a million people participate or attend. Almost every year since then, Schatz has gone to the Fair, set up an outdoor studio, and photographed attendees in their expressive and sexually confrontational costumes. He sent his subjects their photograph and a questionnaire, promising a second photo if they filled it out. Many did, giving Howard a starkly frank sense of who they were and who they wanted to be. In today’s gender fluid and sometimes gender and sexually confused times, these pictures and self identities particularly and unambiguously resonate. It’s a beautiful coffee table book. It’s not for kids, and it’s not for squares. —Bob Guccione, Jr.
(Available for pre-orders on Amazon and published in Spring 2018 in bookstores.)
Jewish Comedy: A Serious History By Jeremy Dauber
W.W. Norton & Company, $29
Jews and comedy go together like bagels and lox. Whether it’s Larry David’s awkwardness, Mel Brooks’ play about Nazis, or Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song”, we’ve all laughed at Jews telling jokes. But author and Columbia University professor Jeremy Dauber dives deep into the vital and massive role Jewish humor has played throughout history with his seven strands of Jewish comedy: response to persecution, satire, wordplay, vulgar and raunchy, irony, the everyday Jew and “blurred and ambiguous nature of Jewishness itself.” Legend has it, the first Jewish joke was told by the Burning Bush. —Jason Stahl
IGNI By Aaron Turner
Hardie Grant Books, $45
Australian wunderkind chef Aaron Turner, after whose extraordinary restaurant outside Melbourne this book is named, has written more of a memoir, art book and unfiltered therapy session than a cookbook. A natural culinary genius, he turned his back on his hugely successful Australian restaurant Loam in 2012, after discovering his wife was having an affair with his chef, and went to America, where, among other things, he discovered Nashville Hot Chicken and rediscovered himself. He returned to Oz in 2015, opened the even more celebrated IGNI near Melbourne, and this beautifully photographed and poetically and brutally honestly written book chronicles the first year of the restaurant from opening day January 20, 2016 to January 2017. It also has some mind-blowing recipes. –Bob Guccione, Jr.
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel By Jesmyn Ward
The recently crowned winner of this year’s National Book Award for Fiction is a modern American literary masterpiece, and there is no question as to why it’s Ward’s second NBA winner. With hints of Toni Morrison, ol’ Bill Faulkner, and even Homer, Ward takes us on a journey through Mississippi’s past and present, as a family makes their way to Parchman Farm, Mississippi’s State Penitentiary, to pick up their recently released father from prison. Shifting perspectives and the voice of a ghost provide insight into everyday life for an often forgotten and underrepresented part of our country. Ward’s writing is a precious gift we should all treasure, and I assure you, we aren’t worthy of receiving it. —Emily Gatlin