It is likely that your coffee table will see more action this time of year than any other.  Between the holiday napkins, egg nog, gingerbread people and all the rest, the coffee table is the hub of activity right about now.  Here are some nice volumes to add weight, depth, color and art to your surface.

Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933

BOOK
Yale University Press
In shops now / $60

In case you thought that the mobile your kid made for class was cool, you were wrong. Here’s a look at Calder’s work when he moved from New York to Paris.  The book accompanies the exhibit which is currently at the Whitney (http://www.whitney.org/www/calder/index.jsp) through 15 February.

The American House

BOOK
Phaidon
In shops now / $19.95

Not the largest of coffee table books, but here you’ll find 100 of the most iconic homes in throughout the United States.  There are some key players in here, such as Monticello, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Philip Johnson’s Glass House.  A good choice for architecture or history buffs…

The Art Atlas

BOOK
Abbeville Press
In shops now / $55

Boy, we could have used this thing back in college.  The title says it all, and these maps were specially commissioned to show the history of painting, sculpture and architecture in terms of geography. 300 maps, 40,000 years of art from around the globe.  Nerdy hot.

Baroque Architecture 1600-1750

BOOK
Flammarion
In shops now / $95

Here’s a whole other kind of architecture volume for you.   The research that has gone into this book (which is a luscious feat of publishing) is completely astounding.  In case you weren’t paying attention for those survey of western art classes, here comes the guide to style, history and urban development of Baroque architecture in all its curvacious beauty.

James Castle: A Retrospective

BOOK
Yale University Press
In shops now / $60

James Castle never learned to speak, read, or write.  Despite all that, his use of found materials as a self-taught artist brought him to light in the ’50s and ’60s.  Now the Philadelphia Museum of Art (http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/328.html) has put up the artist’s first major retrospective.  It’s on through 4 January should you be in-town.  Otherwise, slap this on the coffee table and let the chit-chat begin.

Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs

BOOK
Amistad
In shops now / $26.95

There are plenty of places online to see some of the coolest images of President-Elect Obama (like this assembly on Boston.com – http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/11/the_next_president_of_the_unit.html), but it’s always nice to have it in your hand as well.

Over: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point

BOOK
Abrams
In shops now / $45

Most films that are set in Los Angeles like to use the same establishing shot to tell us in one glance exactly where we are.  It’s that aerial image of a gabillion highways criss-crossing one another.  Well, there are quite a few places in America where you can see that.  In OVER, we get a bird’s eye view of American splendor and excess at its finest.