A couple of weeks ago, my colleague Olivia Rutigliano created a fabulous list of gift items perfect for the mystery fan, and now we’re back with part two of the CrimeReads gift guide: coffee table books! Below you’ll see a host of intriguing reads, both large and small, that each bring their own particular attributes to the table. What makes a book a gift item? Well, usually, it has really nice paper. But beyond that, these works are distinguished by design, presentation, and a unique appeal to the dark-hearted loved one.
Paul Gambino, Killer Collections: Dark Artifacts from True Crime
What a fascinating book. Paul Gambino interviews a number of true crime collectors about their prize pieces and their complex relationship with “murderabilia”. A perfect gift for someone who is fascinated by true crime, but respectful of its disturbing nature.
T. J. English, Dangerous Rhythms: Jazz and the Underworld
In this history of the underworld and jazz, a reader will feel immediately immersed in the smoky speakeasies and back-room deals of the Jazz Age. Criminals have always needed musicians to play at their establishments, and musicians have often needed the protection of criminal enterprises from moralizing police and unruly patrons, but never have those connections been so intertwined (and for the musicians, so inextricable), than in the first half of the 20th century.
A Private Spy: The Letters of John le Carré, edited by Tim Cornwell
So, we all know that John le Carré was a great writer, but what his letters reveal is that he was also one heck of a nice guy (and a funny one, too). These letters to diplomats, spies, politicians, writers, and many more, are as humble as they are entertaining, for a fascinating look at one of the 20th century’s most fascinating figures.
Martin Edwards, The Life of Crime: Detecting the History of Mysteries and Their Creators
(Collins Crime Club)
I’d recommend this one based on the paper quality alone (archival! smooth!), but the content is just as great. Few people in the world, now or ever, have known as much about crime stories as Martin Edwards does now. In The Life of Crime, Edwards distills a lifetime of learning into one of the most engaging critical examinations of the genre to ever be written.
La Carmina, Little Book of Satanism
La Carmina’s Little Book of Satanism is a delightful (and respectful) introduction to the past, present, and future of Satanism. La Carmina is a world-traveling expert on all things gothic, and this book is the perfect gift for your dark-hearted, lace-clad loved ones.
Alaina Urquhart, The Butcher and the Wren
Morbid podcast co-host and autopsy tech Alaina Urquhart has written a gorgeous, sinister tale set in the Louisiana bayou, where a forensic pathologist tracks a serial killer with an interest in medical experiments.
Poe Knows: A Miscellany of Macabre Musings
(Union Square and Co)
Looking for a gift for that special melancholic in your life? The Poe aficionado, the Edward Gorey stan, the Tim Burton re-watcher? Then look no further than this illustrated collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s most “macabre musings”.
Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras, History of the World in Body Parts: The Stories Behind the Organs, Appendages, Digits, and the Like Attached to (or Detached from) Famous Bodies (Chronicle Books)
Anne Boleyn’s heart. Cleopatra’s nose. George Washington’s teeth. In an anthropology class I took in college, we would examine any object for the larger story it told, for you can extrapolate a fairly complete world history through examining virtually anything. And if we’re going to do something like that, I’d rather it be body parts than salt or cod (sorry, commodity histories!).
Mario Puzo, The Godfather: Deluxe Edition
Last year, I recommended the 50th anniversary edition of this bad boy, but now I’m back with a deluxe edition that may be even prettier. And a fan of The Godfather can never have too many editions (or watch the movies too many times).
Todd Harra, Last Rites: The Evolution of the American Funeral
Perfect for the fan of Six Feet Under, or really, for anyone with a healthy relationship with death and mourning (not typical American traits in our youth- and future-obsessed nation). From George Washington’s memorialization, to Lincoln’s funeral train, to a host of grave-robbing stories, you’ll find much to think about in Last Rites.
Lily Anderson, Big Bad
The perfect gift for the Buffy fan in your life! Big Bad is told from the perspective of the Buffyverse’s villains in an alternative Sunnydale dubbed “Demondale” where the sun no longer shines and vampires rule the town. There’s only one thing disrupting this universe: the Slayer, transported from another reality, and hell-bent on destroying this one. Can Jonathan, Anya, and Evil Angel team up to stop her?