New & Noteworthy Visual Books, From Extraordinary Women to Van Gogh’s Letters

Recent visual books of interest:

VINCENT VAN GOGH: A Life in Letters, edited by Nienke Bakker, Leo Jansen and Hans Luijten. (Thames & Hudson, $39.95.) Three curators at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam compile the artist’s correspondence to shed light on his creative process and personal life.

THE ART OF NASA: The Illustrations That Sold the Missions, by Piers Bizony. (Motorbooks, $50.) Blending a history of space exploration with a survey of illustration technology over six decades, these 200 large-format images from NASA detail such landmarks as the Space Shuttle, the I.S.S. and the mission to Mars.

THE PEOPLE: Nimiipuu, Nez Perce Tribe, by Hunter Barnes. (Reel Art, $39.95.) Barnes, a photographer, was welcomed into the close-knit Lapwai Idaho reservation from 2004 to 2008 to document its ways. These black-and-white portraits and other images capture lives at the intersection of tradition and modernity.

WINE AND THE WHITE HOUSE: A History, by Frederick J. Ryan Jr. (White House Historical Association, $55.) The Washington Post publisher tells a comprehensive story of the American presidents through the grapes and glasses they drank from.

EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN: Images of Courage, Endurance and Defiance, by Tom Stoddart. (ACC Art, $45.) With a foreword by Angelina Jolie, the photojournalist shows women in war zones from Bangladesh to Mozambique.

What we’re reading:

Even if we were not living in a divisive, pandemic-ridden timeline, the metaphor of bursting into flames when frustrated or angry is a relatable one. Kevin Wilson’s NOTHING TO SEE HERE crackles with dark humor and dysfunctional family dynamics as it tells the story of Lillian, who is living a life of squandered promise until she is asked by her old friend Madison to be the governess to her two, unloved stepchildren. When agitated, these children spontaneously combust (they are not harmed), and it is Lillian’s job to keep them calm and hidden, so that they do not disrupt the squeaky-clean image of their politically connected father’s life. As Lillian and the children bond, she transforms from depressed, reluctant caretaker to fierce protector of these “fire children,” and discovers that she needs them just as much as they need her. One of the few books I would reread, just to absorb everything I can.

—Deb Amlen, “Wordplay” crossword columnist
and senior editor

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