Give friends a literary Christmas


November 29, 1992|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Staff Writer

Books, if you'll let me state the obvious, can be the most treasured gifts you can give. Each year before Christmas, gorgeous coffee-table books on interior design and landscaping appear in the stores. They make wonderful presents, but not all of us can afford to spend $50 or $75 on something so beautiful but impractical.

What sometimes get overlooked in gift-book round-ups like this are the less expensive how-to volumes. They can be beautiful, too, and they bring added pleasure to the recipient: advice on how to design a garden, perhaps, or suggestions for arts and crafts projects. Here, then, is a look at some of the best practical books to come our way this season.

Any host or hostess would be delighted with one of the several Christmas how-to books on the market. Christmas Naturals by Carol Taylor (Sterling, $14.95) has simple instructions for more than 100 holiday projects using fresh and dried flowers, evergreens, herbs and spices. The Holiday Wreath Book by Eric Carlson (Sterling, $21.95) focuses just on wreaths. The beautiful color photographs on each page and detailed directions are Christmas-oriented, but there are also suggestions for birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations. Malcolm Hillier's Christmas (Dorling Kindersley, $22.95) reveals the internationally known designer's ideas for decorations and holiday cooking. Here are how-tos for everything from scented candles to tree ornaments to chocolate truffles.

While a few recipes for aromatic holiday ornaments and fragrant wreaths are included in Potpourri Crafts by Dawn Cusick (Sterling, $29.95), this isn't primarily a Christmas book. It gives instructions on mixing all sorts of potpourris and shows creative ways to display them.

All of the above are pretty as well as useful books. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and someone on your holiday gift list may prefer the plain but eminently practical Ideas for Great Wall Systems (Sunset, $8.99), with detailed advice on solving your storage and organization needs. Like other books in this excellent how-to series, it's a comprehensive look at all aspects of the subject.

But perhaps your do-it-yourselfer tackles projects way beyond shelving. For him or her, Period Details by Martin and Judith Miller (Crown, $25.95) combines the virtues of a beautiful coffee-table book and a how-to on restoration. Here's advice on restoring a period home and an invaluable resource directory.

If the person on your gift list is better with a sewing machine than a hammer, consider Slipcover Chic by Carol Cooper Garey and Catherine Revland (Hearst, $23). This is the Year of the Slipcover. The book gives instructions for designing and sewing elegant slipcovers and accompanies them with charming illustrations.

For the gardeners on your list, Annuals for Connoisseurs by Wayne Winterrowd (Prentice Hall, $25) introduces readers to the author's favorite annuals with lovely color photographs and then follows with detailed advice on gardening techniques. Allen Patterson's Designing a Garden (Katherine Archer, $19.95) and Easy Garden Design by Janet Macunovich (Storey, $14.95) will provide the receiver with many happy hours planning for the gardening season ahead.

A secretly selfish book to give might be Gifts From Your Garden by Suzanne Frutig Bales (Prentice Hall, $20). You can only hope the recipient will return the favor with some of these charming projects.

Perhaps my favorite of all these gift books for sheer inventiveness is The Zen Gardening Kit by Abd al-Hayy Moore (Running Press, $30). The book acquaints readers with the art of Japanese-style Zen rock gardening; and with it comes a kit to create your own miniature garden: a frame the size of the book, sand, rocks and tiny traditional wooden rake!

On the Home Front welcomes interesting tidbits of home and garden news -- events related to the home or garden, trends, local people with ideas on design and decorating, mail order finds, furniture styles, new products and more. Please send suggestions to Elizabeth Large, On the Home Front, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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