"MONUMENTAL PARIS" by Hervé Champollion and Aude de Tocqueville (218 color photos and six gatefolds, Vendome, $150)

Redesign your coffee table for this extraordinary tribute to the gardens, rooftops, shops, restaurants, churches, waterways and neoclassical architecture of the world's most beautiful city. Opening to more than 3 feet wide with six gatefolds, the book celebrates the moody beauty and grandeur of a city that has retained its human scale into the modern age. Paris is amazingly rich in ornament, statuary and grand vistas, all expertly photographed in perfect light in myriad seasons and times of day. De Tocqueville's excellent captions are wisely grouped at the end, leaving Champollion's pictures free to seduce the heart.


For the first half of the book, Matt Kish says, he identified with Ahab; for the second half, the whale. He first read "Moby-Dick" in an abridged, illustrated version as a child and it stuck with him; since then he has read the book a dozen times, and in 2009 he took on the monumental task of illustrating it. He chose one passage from each page and produced an accompanying illustration -- 552 of them, mostly ink and acrylic on found paper, because the type and diagrams of the found paper bleed through, hinting at "a greater complexity and hidden structure," like the novel itself. The result is a rather fascinating compendium -- not literal illustrations, but impressionistic collages and paintings that stir the imagination.

"THE CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS" by Peter Sís (Penguin Press, $27.95)

In his first book for adults, Czech artist and writer Peter Sís has adapted and illustrated a 12th-century Sufi poem about a flock of birds searching for their king. Sís, a Caldecott medalist and a winner of the MacArthur Genius Award (among many honors), has produced an exquisite book with magical illustrations and a powerful message.

"PERSUASION, AN ANNOTATED EDITION" by Jane Austen, edited by Robert Morrison (Belknap Harvard, $35)

Does "Persuasion" need annotation? You'd think the legions of loyal Jane Austen fans could annotate all of her books in their sleep. But this is a lovely book, in which Morrison, of Queen's University, Ontario, gives us context, geography and history; defines some terms (sedan chair, dab-chick, blain), and admits what he doesn't know. ("Why does Mrs. Clay send Mr. Elliot to Union Street ... and what does this tell us about their relationship? Austen does not explain it.") This book is lavishly illustrated and includes, in an appendix, Austen's original ending. (When you read it, you'll be glad she rewrote it.)

"THE ANNOTATED PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH" by Norton Juster, illustrated by Jules Feiffer, annotated by Leonard S. Marcus (Alfred A. Knopf, $29.99)

Norton Juster's "The Phantom Tollbooth" is a remarkable, endearing story about bored young Milo who climbs into his toy car, drives through an enchanted tollbooth, and sets off to explore Dictionopolis, the Valley of Sound, the dreaded Doldroms, and other lands beyond, accompanied by a watchdog named Tock. It's a marvelous book, filled with delicious puns, plays on words and clever jokes, and fortunately this handsome annotated edition does not ruin the fun, but adds context, reveals influences ("The Wind in the Willows" and "Candide," among others), and shows us unpublished illustrations and characters that never made it into the text.

"WOLF KAHN" by Justin Spring et al. (131 color illustrations, Abrams, $55)

Known for the lush colors of his abstracted landscapes, German-born Kahn, 84, is one of the most influential and accomplished of contemporary American artists. This updated edition of a 1996 volume is a treasure, its engaging biographical essays and fresh critical comment enlivened with beautiful reproductions of paintings perfectly poised between abstraction and representation.

"The Louvre: All the Paintings" by Vincent Pomarède and Erich Lessing (3,022 color illustrations and DVD-ROM, Black Dog & Leventhal, $75)

Slipcased in a close-up of the Mona Lisa, this is the ultimate reference to all 3,022 paintings on display in one of the world's most sumptuous museums. The Louvre's jewels, sculptures, antiquities and decorative treasures are omitted, but these 766 pages are already crammed with pictures reproduced at Post-it note size. Lively essays detail the museum's royal history (who knew that the Duke de Richelieu forfeited 25 paintings to Louis XIV after losing at tennis?), and large spreads spotlight 400 key paintings by Leonardo, Raphael, Mantegna, Canaletto, Rembrandt, Rubens, Delacroix, Géricault, Goya and other stars.

"EYEWITNESS: HUNGARIAN PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY" by Peter Baki et al. (200 photographs, Royal Academy Publications, distributed by Abrams, $65)

"It's not enough to have talent -- you also have to be Hungarian," photographer Robert Capa once joked about the influence of his countrymen over 20th-century photography. With their keen eyes and dramatic compositions, Capa, Brassaï, Andre Kertész, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Martin Munkasci and 45 of their less famous contemporaries put an indelible stamp on journalism, fashion and war photography. Their rich black-and-white images are elegantly reproduced in this arresting book.