Since the economy’s in the toilet, many of us will be staying put for the immediate future. But while we sit at home and watch too much TV, there’s a few new books to keep us thinking about that next big trip…or, quite frankly, to keep us thinking about why we shouldn’t even pull out of the driveway…

The Almanac of New York City

Edited by Kenneth T. Jackson and Fred Kameny
BOOK
Columbia University Press / $19.95

If you’ve got a true New Yorker or lover of numbers and stats in your life, then perhaps this is the item to toss in your cart. With barely a full sentence to be found, this is a cornucopia of figures and cocktail party tidbits. You can find a list of the longest-running Broadway shows (“The Phantom of the Opera” tops it at 8400+ performances), population estimates by borough and year, employment and housing numbers, Mets season records, and more. There’s even the average weekday traffic numbers for all the bridges and tunnels. Gross.

Our Dumb World: Atlas of the Planet Earth – 73rd Edition

BOOK
Back Bay Books / $17.99
In shops now

First off, you need to ignore the stamp that says “FREE GLOBE INSIDE.” There isn’t one. We looked. The staff of ‘The Onion’ has given us this new volume to remind us just how stupid we are. It’s both disconcerting and satisfying all at the same time. Beyond the first few pages (wherein Barnes and Noble browsers are called out with expletives), we go continent by continent, country by country to have a look at all those nations we didn’t even know about until last summer’s Olympics. There are maps, factoids, snide remarks aplenty and just enough of a blend between fact and fiction to make you say “Wait a minute!” Otherwise known as, the gift you get for that guy that you don’t really know and don’t want to get a gift for. Let him do the head-scratching.

The Places We Live

Photographs by Magnum Photographer Jonas Beniksen
Aperture / $40
In shops now

Here’s a book of amazing photographs that may entice you to bend down and kiss the soil of the United States. Jonas Bendiksen’s images transport us to some of the most horrific slums on the planet: within the borders of Caracas, Nairobi, Mumbai and Jakarta. Into the living rooms we go, observing cramped spaces and children yearning for just a little more. You may think this is a Debbie Downer idea for a gift guide, but the images are nothing short of exquisite (and, yes, horrifying). The prints are on exhibit at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway through January, but sadly there are no plans for further museum stops. In the interim, check out the book and the site.

Planet Earth: An Illustrated History

BOOK
Time Books / $29.95
In shops now

After seeing a series like BBC’s ‘Planet Earth,’ it’s pretty tough to be in awe of nature photography anymore. But Time’s “Planet Earth” has some cool gems in store as well. Like Crescent Lake, or Yueyaquan – it’s an actual oasis, nourished by an underground aquifer in northwest China. That’s pretty awesome. You can also look at some creepy reptile pics (one creature looks a little too much like a velociraptor for our liking…) and red pandas (cute cute cute) and, of course, the obligatory deep sea monsters. Nature lovers, check.


Wallpaper City Guides

BOOKS
Phaidon / $9.95 each
In shops now

Talk about stocking stuffers…these adorable little books will be pawed by every guest you entertain. Part of the appeal is their bold colors, especially when you stack them up, but these guides really have a lot of juicy stuff once you open them, too. With fold-out maps, tabbed sections on Landmarks, Hotels, 24 Hours, Urban Life, Architecture, Shopping, Sports and Escapes…well, it may just be the only guide book you need for any given city. The new selections this year include some first-time cities: Antwerp, Bologna, Dublin, Edinburgh, Frankfurt and Vancouver. Then there are 2009 editions of previously published guides: Barcelona, Istanbul, Milan, Rome and Shanghai.

Acoustic France

CD
Putumayo World Music
In shops now
www.putumayo.com

Many a coffee shop features a bevy of acoustic discs for your listening pleasure. Putumayo Music has put out a few nice collections of contemporary fare that is fit for all the dinner parties you can muster. On ‘Acoustic France,’ tracks include the phenomenal, Carla Bruni, plus Thomas Dutronc and Rupa & The April Fishes. You can cook, drink wine and have a listen. Then you can graduate to other volumes like “Cafe Cubano” and “Acoustic Arabia.” The liner notes have healthy comments on all the artists in English, French and Spanish, so you don’t have to be a complete globe-trotter to know who you’re listening to and why you want to hear more.