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SF* We're Desperate

Jim Jocoy

At dilapidated venues like the Mabuhay Gardens in North Beach, SF photographer Jim Jocoy shot gobs of musicians and clubgoers from 1978 to 1980, then abandoned the project after smashing his camera for malfunctioning. Twenty years later, they've been dug up like a time capsule. We're Desperateis not celebrity photography glamorizing personalities; these 250, head-to-toe, up-against-the-wall pictures, published by Powerhouse Books, are a fashion and attitude document of a brief, iconoclastic movement. Included are Sid Vicious, John Waters, and members of Dead Kennedys, The Cramps, and X. As none of the people are identified, it's hard to tell who's a performer and who's a fan, but this doesn't really work against the book. Defining what is punk is impossible, but the expressions and outfits in these portraits are a near substitute.

Central Park

Bruce Davidson

Single-subject books run the risk of becoming monotonous and repetitive, but Davidson's Central Park never comes close. These beautiful black-and-white images show the incredible range of people and places in the country's most visited park. We see tourists, lovers, bums, and children, all candidly captured with respect and often playfulness. Whether you've visited just once or are a New York transplant, this book makes you want to go back to skate or throw a snowball. Most engaging are the winter scenes, of which we Bay Area natives can hardly conceive.

Modern Amazons

Bill Dobbins

Drop that cheesecake and check out the female beefcake in Bill Dobbins' Modern Amazons, an appreciation of women bodybuilders. These mostly nude explorations of ripped ladies takes up where the muscle mags leave off, hybrids into glamour and eroticism, and challenges notions of femininity along the way. Although undoubtedly not for everyone, the subject matter is compelling and provoc-ative in its novelty. Some of the costume concepts are a bit corny, such as the Frazetta-inspired sword-and-sorcery get-ups, but most are striking studies of self-created physiques.

Motel Fetish: A Hideaway for Dreams of Desire

Chas Ray Krider

The women in Chas Ray Krider's world balance themselves on motel furniture and lounge in front of drab curtains. They smoke and drink booze from plastic cups -- visions of seamed stockings and stilettos, lit by television static or lamps with cocked shades throwing skewed shadows. But this is no exercise in exploitation. The women are in control of their powerful effect, with a calm and quiet tease.

Shambhala Pocket Classics

Who would have thought that a stocking stuffer could bring enlightenment and peace within your personal world? Shambhala Pocket Classics are miniature editions of philosophical and sacred books, and serve as introductions to the paradigms concerned or as tiny spiritual tuneups. The series includes Meditations by J. Krishnamurti, Walden, Tao Teh Ching, Dhammapada: The Sayings of the Buddha, The Book of Five Rings, The Pocket Dalai Lama, I Ching, and both Art of Warby Sun Tzu, and Art of Peace by the founder of Akido, Morihei Ueshiba. Give one to each member of your family and have a polytheistic Christmas.

The Pop-Up Book of Phobias

The Pop-Up Book of Nightmares

Greenberg, Rubess, and Reinhart

The World of Edward Gorey

Clifford Ross and Karen Wilkin

A rare find is a great children's book that's also a knockout for adults. Both Pop-Up titles are just that. Writer Greenberg, illustrator Rubess, and paper engineer Reinhart have created twisted pop-up situations of drowning, infestation, dental visits, acrophobia, test-taking, and public nakedness. Riotously comic in concept and art, ingenious in design, they make amazing pass-around books for dark amusement. Speaking of which: Illustrator of Edwardian absurdity and misfortune Edward Gorey lives on in the posthumous paperback publication of The World of Edward Gorey, the first major book to delve into the life and views of the artist himself. Good if you want to glimpse what made him tick, bad if you want it to remain a mystery.

Vintage Audio from Sourcebooks

Publisher Sourcebooks has a great concept. It fuses entertaining, historical, and educational books with accompanying CDs of vintage audio. Poetry Speaks features more than 40 great poets reading their own works, including Walt Whitman, T.S. Eliot, and Dorothy Parker. Drawing on notorious album cuts, unreleased performance tapes, and the court record, The Trials of Lenny Bruce chronicles the downfall of comedy's free-speech martyr, much of it at the hands of the SF District Attorney. The Classical Music Experience is designed for those "with little or no knowledge of classical music." In it, the novice is gently guided through 500 years of the genre by the non-intimidating narration of Kevin Kline. Jock dads and brothers will devour And the Crowd Goes Wild and And the Fans Roared as they listen to original all-time-great sports broadcast climaxes.

Sports Books

And if that hard-to-buy-for sport-o in your life also happens to be a reader, there are books available. The Gospel According to ESPN: Saints, Saviors, and Sinners is an illustrated coffee-table essay collection on sports as a secular religion. Original and enlightening, it examines the exaltation of athletes to divinity and the substitution of spectator sports for religious services. The Greatest Game Ever Played is a 500-page account of the 1913 U.S. Open between Harry Vardon and Francis Ouimet, and just might not be owned by that golfer on your list who already buys himself everything.

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