These are the final installments in our series on gift books and music. The darker and colder it gets outside, the more I want to cuddle up in some cozy spot with a cup of hot...

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These are the final installments in our series on gift books and music.

The darker and colder it gets outside, the more I want to cuddle up in some cozy spot with a cup of hot chocolate and read. But in this season of excess — too much shopping, too many parties, too much food and way too many glitzy gift books being churned out by publishers — figuring out what’s worth reading in the mountains of new art books is no easy task.

Here are a few from the top of my list:

“On the Way to The Gates: Central Park, New York City” (Yale University Press and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, $65). They wrapped the Reichstag in Germany. They wrapped a million square feet of the Australian coastline. Now, Christo and Jeanne-Claude take on the latest in a 40-year series of extravagant landscape installations — a megaproject for New York’s Central Park. If all goes as planned, 7,500 saffron-colored fabric panels will be suspended from 16-foot-tall gates spaced throughout 23 miles of Central Park’s walkways by a small army of volunteers. “The Gates” will remain in place for just 16 days, beginning Feb. 12. This excellent book explains what’s behind the unique artist team whose work has inspired wonder — and jokes — around the world. (Did you see the New Yorker cartoon of “Christo’s last stand” showing our whole planet wrapped up like a giant parcel?)

“Journey Without Borders: The Life of Isamu Noguchi” by Masayo Duus, translated by Peter Duus (Princeton University Press, $29.95) and “Isamu Noguchi: A Sculptor’s World” by Isamu Noguchi (Steidl, $65). It’s the 100th anniversary of Noguchi’s birth, and the illustrious Japanese-American artist’s work has been the subject of a series of postage stamps, retrospective exhibitions and a flurry of publishing. The newly translated Duus biography not only provides insight into the development of Noguchi’s artistry but his glamorous — and dangerous — love life, including affairs with Frida Kahlo (Diego threatened to shoot him), writer Anais Nin and dancer Ruth Page. “A Sculptor’s World” is a new edition of Noguchi’s musings on his life and art, originally published in 1968. Do your homework now and be ready when Seattle Art Museum opens the exhibition “Isamu Noguchi: Sculptural Design” in June.

“Retratos: 2,000 Years of Latin American Portraits” (Yale University Press, $65). The catalog of an exhibition that recently opened in New York’s Museo del Barrio, this luscious book begins in Latin America’s pre-Columbian past and then follows the faces (as artists recorded them) through the Colonial Period and right up to Frida Kahlo and beyond — the latest avante-garde portraits in DNA. A must have.

“The Great LIFE Photographers” Foreword by Gorden Parks (Bullfinch, $50). These 100 photographers produced picture after picture, year after year, that made us laugh, weep and drop our jaws in wonder. A hefty tome that is both a useful reference book and a joy, this anthology is a profound documentary of the human experience, from Marilyn Monroe’s dreamy beauty to a corpse-lined road near Bergen — Belsen concentration camp in Germany, 1945.

“Famous Jewelry Collectors” by Stefano Papi and Alexandra Rhodes (Thames & Hudson, $29.95). Who doesn’t love shiny things (particularly of the diamond, emerald and pearl variety)? And what’s more fascinating than seeing famous compendiums of jewels draped around the necks and wrists of the legendary — sometimes scandalous — beauties who commanded them, at least for a time? Read it and dream.

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“Hector Acebes: Portraits in Africa 1948-1953” by Isolde Brielmaier and Ed Marquand (Marquand Books, $40). This recently discovered horde of striking black and white images was shot a half-century ago by Colombian photographer Hector Acebes, now in his 80s. The gracefully composed photographs range from intimate individual portraits to revealing cultural documentaries shot with admiration and respect. The work was edited and compiled by Seattle art-book producer Marquand into an elegant book.

“Fine Art of the West” by B. Byron Price (Abbeville Press, $75). Whooaa, hold your horses. When this book says “fine art” it isn’t talking about glorified cowboy pictures or bronze statues. This is the real art that came out of the West: spectacularly tooled and silver-studded saddles, fabulous fringed chaps, and gold spurs and belt-buckles that would hold their own in a Tiffany’s showcase. To top it off, there’s a breathtaking array of peacock-fancy cowboy boots that could make Manolo Blahnik weep. (One pair, with silver wing-tips and inlaid President of the United States seals on the front, was custom-made for Ronald Reagan in 1980.) Eat your heart out, George W.

Leather saddle with silver filligree work from “Fine Art of the West.”

And, finally, fans of Northwest art may want to check out a couple recent titles.

“Pop Surrealism: The Rise of Underground Art,” (Ignition Publishing, $39.95), edited by Roq la Rue gallery owner Kirsten Anderson, claims to be the first survey of the “Low Brow” art movement. Most of the artists are from Los Angeles (including the popular Mark Ryden, whose current show at the Frye is stirring things up) but several Seattleites made the cut, including Charles Krafft, Scott Musgrove, Marion Peck and Lisa Petrucci.

“Helmi Dagmar Juvonen, Her Life and Work: A Chronicle” by Ulrich Fritzsche (available at University Bookstore, Wessel and Lieberman, and Davidson Galleries, $17.95 ). For those whose passion leans more for the history of Northwest art, a self-published book by medical doctor Fritzsche offers new research on an artist who spent much of her later life institutionalized for mental illness. In a narrative that’s dense and not always cohesive, Fritzsche rooted beyond the anecdotal evidence of Helmi’s mental illness in an attempt to establish how and why she was committed.

Sheila Farr: