Our dedicated Gift Guides have returned for 2022! Designed to review and give you a nudge of inspiration from Dan here at Critical Popcorn. As well as an assortment of effortless tech for your life from Amazon with 4K UHD Streaming devices, Kindles, Cams and Echo Dots reviewed here, we’ve also got Scalextric escapism right here, plus the latest must-have soundtracks on vinyl, two outstanding collectable figures from Mondo, and other exciting gift ideas.
Today, we delve into these excellent coffee-table books that will suit all kinds of people in your life, from Lady Gaga lovers to Christopher Nolan aficionados, from The Batman admirers right through to food devotees (points at self), and especially those people who appreciate delving into all kinds of cultures and places you might be less familiar with!
by Annie Zaleski
Lady Gaga: Applause, from Palazzo, is an in-depth and astute history of Stefani Germanotta’s hardworking rise through the pop industry into one of the biggest stars in the world.
Zaleski’s researched and amalgamated the wealth of information on her career to date, but this never feels like a ‘thrown together’ coffee table book, there’s progression, there are purposeful links into her history and connections from chapter to chapter. Accompanying this is a photographic filmography of her life, her looks and the reinventions, whilst never forgetting that underneath she remains the woman who’s always wants to develop and discover.
In those early years, I didn’t truly get Gaga and assumed her approach was style over substance, and while not every song she’s recorded is on my radar, it’s become clear how wrong I was, and she’s a multi-hyphenate who deserves the admiration. Her performance in A Star is Born blew me away, and this book shows off her talent for singing, writing, and acting. It’s one of those unique relationships with her fans, where you can easily feel your know her, or could hang out for a fun time. In fact I’m sure we’d all love to buy her a pint, talk music and life.
The book encourages that view, explains all the progression and development from Gaga, from a kid to the early work, to being misunderstood, to the inspiration from the likes of David Bowie, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Blondie and beyond – plus everyone he’s worked with since, and so far, it’s remarkable and Annie Zaleski has created a coffee table book that celebrates all those elements in one place.
Buy it now: https://amzn.to/3P7N8pM
Ghetto Gastro: Black Power Kitchen, by Jone Gray, Pierre Serrao, Lester Walker and Osayi Endolyn, as well as a foreword from Dr Jessica B. Harris is a food and life book all of its own making. Unique and insightful, this is the food book for informing, learning and sharing quality food, with full flavour and fantastic encouragement for so many things I want straight into my mouth and belly – and now.
Part cookbook, part manifesto, with pure Bronx energy, it contains 75 recipes (and so many plant-based) that celebrates Black culture and the importance of keeping the conversation going loud and proud of Black history. The book also delves into food inequality, and how food not only brings people together but also can empower those who use it to develop their lives, themselves and – just as vital – those people around you in your life.
Featuring first-rate photography from Nayquan Shuler and Joshua Woods, showing us both the best of the food, and the people who bring it and live it, this is important work. And it helps that if you make it yourself, ah man the flavours!! I’d love for someone to show me the proper way to make it in the real world outside my own, but the book does bring you into that spirit.
Ghetto Gastro: Black Power Kitchen has helped to teach me about the multi-generational-cross-cultures, plus the history of New York within that – which only fuels my fire for needing to go there. It’s always fascinated me and, yeah, I know, I still haven’t got to the East coast yet, but I genuinely will one day and just delve right in.
If it wasn’t clear, this book isn’t just about the food but about the people who create a new life for themselves through amazing dishes, through each other, out of all kinds of reasons but it definitely feels (and smells) just outstanding. I’m overwhelmed by the stories and the depth of humanity, seek this one out! Knowledge IS power.
Pick up a copy now: https://amzn.to/3VU6rFd
by James Field
If there was ever a filmmaker ready to dowse us in the darkest secrets and depths of Gotham City, I had an inkling that Matt Reeves and his version of Batman would thrive within the rain-soaked, crime-ridden streets, and even more faith grew when he brought together a stellar production team. Reeves’ knows a thing or two about gritty-action-realism, especially when you consider his work on the likes of War for the Planet of the Apes and Cloverfield, those two mentioned for their knack of delving into the mire and chaos of the worlds they concocted.
Written by James Field, The Art of The Batman breaks down so many intriguing moments and decisions of the film-making process. As you’d hope. With a forward from Reeves, he mentions that although he began with the original Batman series, he was a kid and so you don’t really see the comic elements, it’s about a caped crusader fighting for justice and I can appreciate that, despite my preferred ‘Bat’ being the ones of my adulthood. He also offers an important reminder, Batman isn’t really a superhero, he’s really looking for meaning in his life, for balance, for progression and change.
Packed to the dark rafters with art and concept ideas, The Art of The Batman shows you all these factors and also offers facts regarding the epic amount of work that went into creating this film, and that’s why we’re all so satisfied with the outcome. So, it goes without saying, if you’re after behind-the-scenes goodness of every process, then this coffee table book from Abrams Books only adds to the escapism, with a fine exploration of Gotham and all the beautiful grime and hopeful protection that goes with it.
Pick it up here: https://amzn.to/3VHFYLl
by Ian Nathan
My first memory, curiously, of Christopher Nolan was the mind-bending Memento, starring Guy Pearce. A truly magnificent film and life in reverse, putting us firmly in the mind of lead character Leonard and unknowingly inviting us in to join his unravelling of the mystery he finds himself in, complete with amnesia and a murder to solve. He had me hooked. From start to finish, and back again, and with it the beginning of ‘have you seen *this* film?’ began, from friend to friend, and then to the intrigue of seeing if Nolan had further work and I’ve never stopped looking since.
With Ian Nathan’s Christopher Nolan: The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work, although unofficial, the title cuts straight to the point of the approach, we’re getting a lot more celebration and discussion over his impact on the modern film industry, alongside the ideas he brings to the big screen – as well as the trust he places in his audiences to take on high concepts and embrace them.
Working chronologically through Nolan’s films, Nathan’s book is also complete with little side sections that also discuss his short films, his work outside directing, and the actual science he regularly endeavours to implement in these huge visions, which is another part that truly captures me – especially in the worlds of Inception and Interstellar. Nolan’s work with nonlinear chronology, the question of identity, and how memory treats us all is something that fascinates me, and I also wrote a feature about the psychology within his lead characters – have a read right here.
Over a good 170 pages or so, this is a brilliantly examined book, and not just a quick guide to his films, it goes a level deeper, and I think that respect for Nolan’s work comes from Nathan probing an unfathomable number of articles to give his career the time it deserves. This is completely worth your Seasonal Sofa time to revisit his past, to enjoy what he has attained and even for what’s to come in his 12th film as director, the deeply intriguing, Oppenheimer – coming to cinemas in 2023.