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Lena Tabori

Lena Tabori

Posted: December 4, 2009 11:46 AM

Christmas Gifts 2009: The Most Beautiful Books Of The Year

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"Here is my secret...what is essential is invisible to the naked eye"
--The Little Prince

I grew up with a Swedish mother and a Hungarian stepfather both of whom had a powerful aesthetic. She was emotional, raw, and dramatic -- she was an actress, after all. He was still, like a stream of water, intellectual, political and funny. I was always in love with art and drama and it is no surprise I became a publisher of visual books. It is equally of no surprise that I am relentlessly interested in what is behind EVERYTHING.

The idea that people cannot be put in little boxes was validated for me when I was Publicity Director at Abrams almost thirty years ago, touring John Walker (we were publishing The National Gallery book where he had been Director before Carter Brown). His favorite show was "Kojak". He had a passion for wine. He told great jokes. He was a whole person. Astonishing.
And, yet I know categories help when we are trying to make good decisions for someone we love (even ourselves). So, although the books in this piece are never just one thing, I have listed some of the things they are. All are exquisitely made -- designed and produced with passion and creativity. None are boring, nothing to pick up and put down. Each will leave you different than you were before.

(Scroll down for captions to each choice)

When I was twelve I spent my Saturdays at Leo Lerman’s house in New York. He consulted for Sy Newhouse who owns Conde Nast and was a cozy bear of a guy with an extraordinary art book library. I spent hours on the floor with a three-volume set of letters between Vincent Van Gogh and his brother, Theo. Even then, I wanted to understand the relationship between life and work. Now, you can buy "Vincent Van Gogh-The Letters" for the ungodly price of $600. The six-volume set (Thames & Hudson) is beyond beautiful and done just the way I would have done it – if I had been smart enough. There are thousands of illustrations annotating the letters, including 2,000 paintings, supporting and enhancing every word. Why did it matter when I was a child and why does it matter now? The relationship between art and the artist who creates the art, the why and the how of it? It obsessed me then and I rarely publish a book or love one where context is not critical. When you understand why something is as it is, you emerge changed, empowered. Something significant has shifted. You have been fed and you know it. Nutrition has arrived and, all of a sudden, you have something to give. You have put two and two together!
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