Sheila Farr's suggestions for art-book gift-giving.

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“Paintings in Proust”

By Eric Karpeles (Thames & Hudson, $45)

Fellow Proustians: How have we managed to live without this book? Karpeles has compiled a visual accompaniment to Marcel Proust’s great “In Search of Lost Time,” illustrating all the artworks referenced in it and providing examples of work by artists discussed in more general terms. There are hundreds. So, for example, when Proust has his character Bergotte, in his dying moments, muse on that ephiphanal “little patch of yellow wall” in Vermeer’s “View of Delft,” you can quickly flip to a reproduction of the painting and see what he’s talking about. Karpeles begins his book, fittingly, with this quote from Proust: “Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists. … “

“Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art”

By Danny Danziger (Penguin, $16)

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is the second-largest museum in the world (after the Louvre) and attracts more than 4 million visitors each year to see its priceless collections. But have you ever given a thought to the army of guards, cleaning and maintenance people, curators, guides, coatroom attendants, restaurant workers, trustees and assorted security people it takes to keep the place running? More than 2,000 full-time staff members report in each day, and Danziger selected 52 interviewees, transcribing their words to show us the practical, human side of the Met, from raising funds to mopping the floor. He questions many of them about their favorite artworks, what they would rescue if the place were on fire — and gets a fascinating range of answers. Only one, however, was entirely pragmatic: For senior fire safety officer William Westfield, the question was a no-brainer: “If fire were to erupt, God forbid, go ahead and grab the art — but it’s at your own peril — we’d concentrate on the fire itself.”

“Seen behind the scene: Forty years of photographing on set”

Photography by Mary Ellen Mark

(Phaidon, $59.95)

This fascinating compilation of images begins with a shot of the esteemed photographer herself in 1976 — head wrapped in a scarf, a huge snake draped around her body — on location for the filming of “Apocalypse Now.” Since the 1960s, Mark — in addition to her high-profile magazine work — has served as still photographer on more than 100 movies: capturing Fellini at play on the set of “Satyricon,” Louis Buñuel directing the gorgeous Catherine Deneuve, Dustin Hoffman as “Marathon Man,” Gregory Peck as the “Old Gringo,” Henry Miller behind the scenes of “Tropic of Cancer” — and on, and on. So, what’s not to like?

“Paper Illusions: The Art of Isabelle De Borchgrave”

By Barbara and René Stoeltie

(Abrams, $75)

Here is a rarefied field of endeavor: Belgian artist and designer Isabelle De Borchgrave uses paper and paint to create exquisite trompe l’oeil reproductions of period clothing. These opulent confections — mimicking the svelte pleats of Fortuny silks and the jewel-encrusted costumes of Marie Antoinette — also serve a practical purpose. Unlike many delicate textiles, these paper reproductions can be displayed in brightly lighted museums, conditions that would further the decay of some antique dyes and fabrics. De Borchgrave’s skills were even enlisted to re-create Jackie Kennedy’s wedding gown, whose real silks are so fragile they can’t be removed from climate-controlled storage.

“Chagall: A Biography”

By Jackie Wullschlager

(Knopf, $40)

Has anyone painted lovers more lovingly than Marc Chagall? This comprehensive new biography traces the Jewish expatriate painter’s life from his birthplace in Russia, on to the creative hotbed of early 20th-century Paris, and finally to the United States. With loads of illustrations, including dozens of black-and-white photographs and many color plates, the book paints a portrait of Chagall’s childhood; his loves and muses; and his artistic influences, which meld European modernism and Jewish mysticism.

“River of No Return: Photographs by Laura McPhee”

Foreword by Robert Hass

(Yale University Press, $60)

I don’t usually go in much for pretty landscape photographs, which come a dime a dozen. But this selection of images from central Idaho and the Sawtooth Valley (“River of No Return” is a nickname for the Salmon River) is quietly amazing. Yes, there are fabulous shots of the land, some verging on the surreal. There are also shots of an elk slaughter that bring to mind the paintings of Chaim Soutine and sockeye fingerlings that rival Morris Graves’ minnows. Here’s a woman whose camera has its own muse. As poet Robert Hass puts it in the introduction: “On the second or third time through it began to dawn on me what Laura McPhee was up to, to see that ‘River of No Return’ is organized like a long poem or a piece of music… “

Sheila Farr: sfarr@seattletimes.com