This spring come two notable books that depict one of our favorite pastimes (drinking whiskey) and one of our least favorite (searching for wayward golf shots). The first, Whiskey (DK, $40), by spirits expert Michael Jackson, is instantly the definitive text on the topic. Eleven years after his Malt Whiskey Companion became a landmark tasting guide, Jackson has returned to further educate those who covet the "water of life." Exquisite photography accompanies his reports from 130 distilleries around the world, which include history, production methods, tasting notes and local insights gleaned by Jackson in his travels. Our initial reaction to the size and heft of the volume was to clear room on the coffee table, but the depth of information keeps putting it back on our laps—one hand turning the pages, the other holding a dram. While passages on "Yeast and Fermentation" can be skimmed in any spirits book, Jackson makes the minutiae of whiskey production go down as easy as a sip of ten-year-old Glenkinchie.
Lost Balls (Bulfinch Press, $30), a beautiful book of photography by Charles Lindsay, reminds us why we drink. With both elegance and humor—and a charming foreword by John Updike—Lindsay captures the frustration of another lost Titleist like no other photographer. In shooting Lost Balls, he visited courses throughout America, Great Britain and Ireland, focusing not on the fairways and greens but on the tall grass, sand, woods and water hazards. He is especially fond of unplayable lies created by wildlife, including a gator, a rattlesnake, a raccoon and even a mouth-agape grizzly bear invading a green at the Yellowstone Club in Big Sky, Montana. Some shots—e.g., an Irish priest in a bunker looking up to the sky for help—seem overtly staged, but Lindsay's capture of a pack of wolves darting across Yellowstone's third green will make you pause, then rethink the phrase "Let the big dog eat!"