If you’re stumped on those last few Christmas gifts, the answer may be at the nearest bookstore.

Subjects for coffee-table books run the gamut from dogs to decor, maps to music, television to travel. If the gift recipient has a hobby or special interest, chances are there’s a coffee-table book for that.

Here are a few suggestions:

La Fleur de Lis: Histories, Mysteries, Recipes and Mixologies of the World’s Most Enduring Symbol” by Morgan McCall Molthrop and Casey Delmont Johnson, Barataria Communications, $12.95

Small by coffee-table book standards (6½-by- 6¾ inches ) but full of beautiful photos, the book traces this ubiquitous symbol of Louisiana back to France, Italy and even ancient Egypt. The French term translates to “lily flower,” as the three upper and three lower portions resemble that bloom.

With the symbol turning up many places throughout history, its use as a branding symbol for slaves has brought recent controversy to the fleur, especially in New Orleans, where it came to represent a symbol of hope after Hurricane Katrina. No matter what, if any, side you take in this debate, chances are you’ll learn more about the fleur and its origins inside the pages of this little book.

On the lighter side, it also features a recipe for Muriel’s Fleur de Lis Cocktail, and others for gumbo and red beans.

— Judy Bergeron,

Features assistant editor

Old Faithful: Dogs of a Certain Age” by Pete Thorne, Harper Design (An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers), 144 pages, $19.99

Is your dog’s muzzle increasingly gray? Would she rather sleep on the couch than chase her ball?

If so, count your blessings. Dogs in their old age give their human friends different gifts than they did as puppies or mature dogs. Instead of energy and unbridled affection, protection and territoriality, old dogs share peace, deep love and contentment.

It is these qualities which “Old Faithful” celebrates.

Pete Thorne, a Canadian photographer, got the idea for the book as he snapped pictures at his grandmother’s 100th birthday party.

The formal headshots leave no detail of the dogs’ faces hidden. Such clarity reveals many of the miracles these dogs represent. Brief — but telling — descriptions of the dogs are written by their humans.

If the second photo hadn’t been a dead ringer of my own soul-dog, my merle border collie Salt, I would have been able to be a more objective reader. But once you’re wandering in love, the words “old,” “blind” and “scarred” no longer apply. These dogs are “wise,” “sweet” and “grateful.” And that’s the point of the book.

Two of the dogs have no eyes due to previous medical conditions. But their people say they’re not impaired and get around just fine. Al Poochino, a mix, was a feral dog who’d been fed by neighbors but never had a home until he was 14. His body and head are a mass of scars. He had heartworms, but he survived the difficult treatment and now loves to lie on the coffee table and survey the prize for his survival — a real home.

A 16-year-old pug puppy-mill veteran has five identifying microchips — one for each puppy mill she’d been jailed in before she was adopted when she was about 7. A miniature pinscher was born with a debilitating bone disease. Now, at 13, her front paws are crippled with arthritis and her back legs are nearly useless, but she pulls herself around her home with enthusiasm.

One interesting aspect of the book is that many of the dogs are mixes. It’s easy to find photos of regular breeds, even unusual ones such as Chinese cresteds. But not many of us know what a Bernese mountain dog-border collie cross looks like (beautiful). Or a doberman-kelpie mix or a Chihuahua-toy poodle mix (adorable!).

A book of photos may seem like a one-look-that’s-all experience, but the depth of these portraits means each time you look at one you see more — something deeper, more meaningful and more moving.

Thorne’s introduction reveals that he has a real understanding of what a relationship with a dog provides without being gooey or sentimental. As he says, “If there is one message that resonated with everyone involved in this project, it’s that despite everything we’re told, faces, like companionship, just get better with age.” That works for dogs — and humans, too.

— Joël Levy, Baton Rouge


“Home” by Ellen DeGeneres, Grand Central Life and Style, $35

This is a handsome portrayal of the comedienne’s passion for architecture and design.

There are generous photo spreads of homes she and wife Portia de Rossi have shared as well as those of their friends.

Also, such bits of sage advice as “You can hoist anything over a balcony if you just believe.”

— Susan Larson, New Orleans

“Revolution: Mapping the Road to American Independence, 1755-1783” by Richard H. Brown and Paul E. Cohen, W.W. Norton & Company, $75

Sixty detailed, full-color maps tell the story of the American Revolution.

Many document decisive battles, accompanied by essays putting them into context. Geeks of the period will revel.

— Leanne Italie,

The Associated Press

“Days of Our Lives: 50 Years” by Greg Meng, Sourcebooks Inc., $34.99

It’s fitting in this anniversary retrospective that the first photo inside is of the interior of Dr. Tom and Alice Horton’s home. The couple was the daytime drama’s matriarch and patriarch for many of its 50 years. Countless family events, celebratory and tragic, took place inside the walls of this Burbank, California, studio set. But for the 1984 wedding of Hope and Bo, the cast ventured down to Louisiana, with Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie as the backdrop for the ceremony. The book is packed with black-and-white and color photos for fans to reminisce over, divided into categories rather than by years, with explanatory text. There’s “Young Love,” “Spies and Cops” and, of course, “Shocking Twists.” A must-have for any “Days” fan.

— Judy Bergeron,

Features assistant editor

“New Orleans: Life and Death in the Big Easy” by Cheryl Gerber, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, $24.95, paperback

This vibrant collection of photos is by a New Orleans native and an award-winning documentary photographer.

It traces the ways joy and tragedy coexist in the complicated city. Artful, often hilarious juxtapositions and a visual storyline make this book one to view again and again.

The photos are accompanied by wonderful essays by Lolis Eric Elie and Chris Rose.

— Susan Larson, New Orleans

“Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting,” by Eilon Paz, Ten Speed Press, $50

One need not be a vinyl head to appreciate this book, but one does need a healthy appreciation of music.

This gem reads like “Humans of New York” of the crate-digging scene. Paz first self-published his ode to vinyl collectors, beginning in New York but spreading to collectors from Portugal to Japan to his native Israel and back again to Brooklyn.

In all, he tells the stories and lovingly photographs the collections of more than 130 people, including Acid Jazz record label co-founder Gilles Peterson, among other notables.

— Leanne Italie,

The Associated Press