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Book Recommendations | 2001

Admit it—you've always wanted to ditch your job for a simpler life in the Italian countryside. Crack open La Dolce Vita (Bulfinch Press, $50), Catherine Fairweather's lush catalogue of fantasy houses, and live the escapist dream without giving two weeks' notice. You'll swoon over a villa in southern Italy, whose modest stone exteriors hide brilliant scarlet rooms, and crave a night in the 13th-century tower outside Florence where the Medici once lived. Urbanites won't be disappointed, either: one dramatic Roman flat is crowded with stark, modern portraits and exquisite mahogany antiques.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (Gabrius, $85) is an intimate retrospective of the portrait work of this renowned photographer, whose images of the Croatian coast appeared in our July issue. Artists and celebrities of every stripe are revealed, from an unmasked Cindy Sherman (captured in a single shot) to a young and vulnerable Nicole Kidman.

The eerily inspiring Havana (Steidl, $75) is photographer Robert Polidori's look at Cuba's former glory, as seen through its architecture and its people. Peeling paint can't diminish the defiant spirit of Jorge Ortiz Arbella, whose grand house once belonged to a countess, while the pink living room of the Alonso family still appears ready for an elegant party, despite the decaying ceiling.

Frank Gehry was designing surprising structures long before the visionary titanium swirls of the Guggenheim Bilbao made him a household name. Frank Gehry, Architect (Guggenheim Museum, $85) traces his career from audacious early projects (the binocular-shaped Chiat Day building in California) to recent works in progress, such as a cluster of MIT buildings that saw its genesis in crumpled balls of paper.

"There are places where spirits live trapped among stones," writes Isabel Allende in the prologue to Machu Picchu (Bulfinch Press, $40), a gorgeous love letter to the ruined Incan citadel. At the call of these ancient voices, Pablo Neruda visited the sacred site more than 50 years ago and described his trek through the ruins in luminous poetry. Photographer Barry Brukoff, who recently made his own trip to the Andes, pairs those poems with shots of misty mountain passes, sun-dappled boulders, and sunsets that blaze with almost heavenly fire.

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