Picks and Pans Main: Gift Guide

updated 12/05/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/05/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Perfect for The Life of the Party

1. CD
One Kiss Can Lead to Another: Girl Group Sounds, Lost & Found ($69.98)
Shimmy with the Supremes, the Shirelles and more on this four-disc set of '60s sweethearts.

2. BOOK
Alligators, Old Mink & New Money Alison Houtte & Melissa Houtte ($23.95)
Stylish sisters write a charming memoir about lust for vintage clothing.

3. GADGET
iPod ($299)

SPLURGE

The latest iPod lets you watch music videos and TV shows too.

4, 5. DVDs
Deluxe editions of A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall ($19.94 each)
Two of Pitt's star-making turns, showcased in all their remastered glory.

6. DVD
Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($29.98)
Hot duo Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie smolder in the sexy, funny hit thriller that brought them together.

7. DVD
Sex and the City: The Complete Series ($299.95)

SPLURGE

Missing Carrie and Co.? Revel in all 94 episodes of the HBO series.

8. CD
#1's Destiny's Child ($18.98)
This greatest-hits swan song from Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle will have you jumpin'.

9. BOOK
Latin Chic Carolina Buia & Isabel C. Gonzalez ($34.95)
Expert guidance on how to throw muy chévere parties with a vibrant Latin flavor.

10. DVD
The Brat Pack Movies and Music Collection ($39.98)
Classic '80s teen flicks including The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles (awesome '80s soundtrack included).

11. DVD
Desperate Housewives: The Complete First Season ($59.99)
Camp out on Wisteria Lane with this six-disc set.

DVD
Friends: The One with All Ten Seasons ($299.98)

SPLURGE

If Thursday nights just haven't been the same since the hit sitcom went off the air in 2004, here's a chance to really hang with the gang at Central Perk. Every single must-see episode, along with a heaping helping of extras (gag reels, cast interviews, behind-the-scenes visits), is included. And it all comes packaged in a special collector's box that alone is enough to start you humming the theme song.

BOOK
Architectural Digest: Hollywood at Home ($40)
Although readers may suffer a serious case of habitat envy, the joy derived from spying into celebrity abodes makes the anguish worth it. From Jayne Mansfield's audacious L.A. roost (featuring an office "wallpapered" in red leather) to John Travolta's retro Florida pad (complete with airplane runway), Home gives you a lookie-loo tour to remember.

BOOK
Chocolate Obsession MICHAEL RECCHIUTI & FRAN GAGE ($35)
Sensualists will swoon over this collection of recipes from San Francisco chocolatier Recchiuti, who creates such luxe treats as a double-dark chocolate soufflé, brownie ice-cream sandwiches and triple-chocolate cookies.

CD
Whatever: The '90s Pop & Culture Box ($105.98)
This seven-disc, 130-track collection is the ultimate in '90s music trivia with cuts by everyone from M.C. Hammer ("U Can't Touch This") to En Vogue ("Free Your Mind"). For a touch of Seattle grunge flavor, it all comes packed with coffee beans.

DVD
The Oprah Winfrey Show: 20th Anniversary Collection ($59.95)
The Big O comes to DVD with a six-disc retrospective of the greatest moments from her two decades as a talk show host. Relive the tears, the screams, the laughs and those ever-morphing hairstyles, get that Oprah glow knowing that proceeds from the set benefit her Angel Network.

DVD
Mad Hot Ballroom ($29.99)

This quirky, charming documentary follows New York City elementary school kids who discover the joys of the tango and merengue—and blossom into competitive ballroom dancers.

DVD
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection ($199.98)

SPLURGE

A magic blend of bloodsuckers, wooden stakes, high school and dating. Sarah Michelle Gellar and her sidekicks battle all manner of demons in this note-perfect cult series. The whopping 40-disc set contains all 144 Buffy episodes, plus plenty of extras.

BOOK
Going for the Bronze
Sloane Tanen ($14.95)
Author of 2003's memorable Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same and creator of the only chick-lit with feathers, Tanen returns with another hilarious, cathartic photo book about poultry princesses who can't kvetch enough. Birkin bags, Botox, lipo—it's all here.

Perfect for Daydreamers

1. BOOK
Woman in the Mirror
Richard Avedon ($65)
An eye-popping collection of Avedon's black-and-white portraits of women (plus one shot of Elton John in a dress) from the past 60 years, including his indelible takes on Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn, Janis Joplin and Kate Moss.

2. BOOK
Airstream Living
Bruce Littlefield and Simon Brown ($29.95)
This trailer-park-chic book traces the history of the silver land yacht and peers inside such illustrious models as the ever-popular Top Dog hot dog stand and one fancy-pants version decorated by Ralph Lauren.

3. BOOK
Meditative Spaces
Michael Freeman ($29.95)
Ideal for moments when you're dreaming about starting over from the ground up: Asian-design expert Freeman photographs distinctive havens including an ice chapel, a glass tent and a treehouse-style perch in Japan.

4. BOOK
Wide Angle
National Geographic Greatest Places ($30)
This massive collection (260 photos in all) of panoramic shots taken on all seven continents will captivate any restless reader.

5. GADGET
Exilim EX-S500 ($349)

SPLURGE

Sometimes it pays to be fashionable. One of the most stylish digital cameras on the market—it's just over half an inch thick—also packs a photographic wallop thanks to its zoom lens.

6. CD
Extraordinary Machine
Fiona Apple ($18.98)
With her arty pop demeanor and smoky-voiced jazz shadings, Apple dishes out more romantic drama with her much-delayed third album.

7. DVD
American Movie
Musicals Collection ($35.95)
Long gone are the days when you could catch three Broadway shows for under $40. But this DVD gives you the next best thing: lustrous film versions of the legendary musicals West Side Story, Guys and Dolls and Fiddler on the Roof.

8. BOOK
Marylyn Abbott's Thoughts on Garden Design
Marylyn Abbott ($35)
A gardening book that even non-gardeners will find alluring. In this visually arresting volume, the Australian-born horticulture guru offers idea about styling, structuring and planting gardens with a painter's precision. Sink into this on a cold day.

BOOK
DON McCULLIN IN AFRICA
BY DON McCULLIN ($75)
A transporting look at the cultural riches of the least-traveled lands in Africa, this volume of black-and-white photos captures an amazing range of human faces. Photographing tribal people near Sudan from 2002-04, McCullin documents remote villages where men, women and children with astonishing body art follow their daily routines. Every page of McCullin's book brings a shock of pleasure.

CD
Catching Tales Jamie Cullum ($13.98)
The old-school piano man puts a fresh spin on the classic cabaret style of the Sinatra set with a genre-bending gusto that goes from funky hip-hop beats ("Get Your Way") to lush jazz-pop romanticism ("I'm Glad There Is You").

CD
Timeless Martina McBride ($18.98)
Country star McBride, displaying a great sense of history, takes on classic tunes by Hank Williams ("You Win Again"), Kris Kristofferson ("Help Me Make It Through the Night") and Merle Haggard ("Today I Started Loving You Again") on a superb album that lives up to its title.

DVD
Titanic Special Collector's Edition ($29.99)
Talk about a three-hour tour: Set sail with Leo "King of the World" DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on the epic, tragic voyage in the top-grossing film of all time. This three-disc set includes 45 minutes of deleted footage and commentary from director James Cameron and Winslet. Iceberg not included.

DVD
Lost: The Complete First Season ($59.99)
Escape to an island paradise—but do know that there's something nasty lurking out there. The seven-disc set, which contains all 24 episodes from the premiere season of ABC's breakout TV drama series about 48 stranded survivors (not for long) of a plane crash. Bonus material includes unaired flashbacks, deleted material, bloopers and a peek behind the scenes.

Perfect for Good Times

1. HOT CHOCOLATE
Michael Turback ($9.95)
With fancy warmers from experts including pastry chefs, this gem includes sweet and spiked versions.

2. MANGOES & CURRY LEAVES
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid ($45)
The authors pair authentic recipes from the Indian subcontinent with photos of street vendors, tea pickers and wedding processions. An outstanding book.

3. THE HERBAL KITCHEN
Jerry Traunfeld ($34.95)
The easiest way to rev up familiar dishes? Add fresh herbs. Here, the secrets of rosemary lemon chicken and zucchini basil gratin.

4. IN STYLE PARTIES ($27.95)
A clued-in guide to stress-free entertaining from the editors of In Style; includes how-tos for more than a dozen events.

5. THE BEST RECIPES IN THE WORLD
Mark Bittman ($29.95)
Yet another from the prolific Bittman, who culls the best from Asia, Africa, South America and points beyond.

6. TRUE TUSCAN
Cesare Casella ($24.95)
A native of Tuscany, this buzzed-about N.Y.C. restaurateur writes about his irresistible food with his trademark charm.

7. CHOCOLATE HOLIDAYS
Alice Medrich ($15.95)
The goddess of chocolate talks readers through 50 knockout desserts.

8. A BAKER'S TOUR
Nick Malgieri ($34.95)
Malgieri serves up gorgeous carbs from 39 countries.

Perfect for Great Guys

1. CD
The Legend
Johnny Cash ($49.98)
Few of us will ever shoot a man in Reno, but hearing the Man in Black sing about it—and other topics on the four-disc set—is one of life's great pleasures.

2. BOOK, CD
The Bob Dylan Scrapbook 1956-1966 ($45)
A companion to the film No Direction Home, this tribute features rare photos and a CD with early interviews and radio gigs.

3. CD/DVD
Born to Run 30th Anniversary Edition
Bruce Springsteen ($39.98)
A digital remastering of the album that made Bruce the Boss. Plus: a 1975 concert on DVD.

4. GAME
XBOX 360 ($399)

SPLURGE

Hook it up to an iPod and it acts like a stereo; plug in a digital camera and see a slideshow on TV. Plus it plays video games optimized for HDTV.

5. BOOK
Smithsonian Baseball Stephan Wong ($29.95)

Mark McGwires record-breaking home run ball and nearly 100 years of World Series programs: A look at the sort of artifacts that would never make it to eBay.

6. BOOK
Sports Illustrated: The Football Book ($29.95)

From John Elway's postseason drive to Joe Namath's panty hose ad, everything he ever wanted to know pigskin.

7. DVD
Office Space: Special Edition with Flair ($19.98)
This 1999 cult comedy about the misadventures of an office worker (Ron Livingston) is just the thing for cubicle drudges. Jennifer Aniston costars.

8. DVD
Seinfeld: Seasons 5 & 6 Gift Set ($119.95)
Eight discs of must-see episodes. Bonus: comes with a mini Puffy Shirt.

9. DVD
The Complete Monty Python's 16-Ton Megaset ($199.95)

SPLURGE

A 16-disc set of original Monty Python's Flying Circus episodes, including the one that poses the question, "What's that on the telly, then?" (Hint: It may be a penguin, and it may be highly combustible.)

10. CD
You Could Have It So Much Better
Franz Ferdinand ($18.98)
Neo-new wave doesn't get much better than the Franz-tastic sophomore release from the poster boys of the skinny-tie brigade.

11. BOOK
Full Metal Jacket Diary
Matthew Modine ($29.95)
Here's a trip for guys hooked on the 1987 flick about Vietnam; Modine details his grueling 13 months on the set and opens up about notoriously enigmatic director Stanley Kubrick. Bonus package includes behind-the-scenes photos.

12. GADGET
Sirius S50 ($329.99)

SPLURGE

Get ready for Howard Stern; this handy little digital audio player lets you record 50 hours of your fave Sirius radio fare.

Perfect for Kids

1, 2, 3. BOOKS
Klutz Activity Books

New entries in this line of how-to tomes plus craft supplies are great fun:

1. Building Cards: Castles ($12.95)
Comes with knights and a nifty cardboard castle to construct.

2. Room Lanterns ($19.95)
Includes materials to make festive strings of lights.

3. Capsters ($14.95)
Features bottle caps that kids can festoon with charms held in place with lacquer. (Caution: Parents may find these addictive.)

4. BOOK
One Red Dot
David A. Carter ($19.95)
Billed as "a popup book for children of all ages," this swell new entry from the creator of the loveable Bugs in a Box books features cool paper sculptures that ask readers to, yep, find the red dot.

5. BOOK
Winter's Tale
Robert Sabuda ($26.95)
Combining entrancing art with amazing paper engineering, the master of pop-ups captures the magic of a snowy walk in the woods.

6. GADGET
Firefly Phone
Firefly Mobile ($99.99)
A cell phone designed just for kids, it's got flashing lights, animation and only five keys (including direct dials to Mom and Dad). Plus parents can manage calls.

7. BOOK
Mercy Watson to the Rescue
Kate DiCamillo ($12.99)
Here's the first in a new series for DiCamillo (author of Because of Winn-Dixie). This fast-paced tale features a pig named Mercy, a problem neighbor and piles of buttered toast.

8. BOOK
Wizardology ($19.99)
On the heels of the bestsellers Dragonology and Egyptology, here comes a similar scrap-book-style volume devoted to another spooky subject. Complete with "magical" talismans and recipes for mysterious potions, it's bound to please your Potter-philes.

DVD
The Polar Express ($29.95)
The eye-catching computer-animated tale of an enchanted train ride to the North Pole may become a Christmas classic. Kids will dig the interactive games and extra songs, while adults will enjoy the bonus look at Tom Hanks's transformation into five (count 'em!) different characters and an interview with author Chris Van Allsburg, who wrote the original Polar Express children's book.

DVD
Madagascar ($19.95)
Treat your little smart alecks to this animated comedy about a quartet of wisecracking animals (a lion, zebra, hippo and giraffe) who escape from a Manhattan zoo and unintentionally wind up in the jungles of Africa. The disc comes loaded with extras, including a tour of the actual Madagascar, several games and a nifty new "I Like to Move It, Move It" music video.

DVD
Cinderella ($29.99)
The one, the only, the Disney version, available for the first time on DVD. This two-disc set includes making-of featurettes and an Isaac Mizrahi-hosted look at princess style. Put it together and what have you got? Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!

BOOK
Dreamflight
Brigitta Garcia Lopez ($16.95)
Sweet and mystical, this story of a boy and his eccentric guardian angel (translated from the Spanish) is illustrated by photos of the characters in amazing scenes sculpted by the author.

BOOK
Diary of a Spider
Doreen Cronin ($15.99)
The latest from the author of kiddie hits including Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type and Giggle, Giggle, Quack. The witty tale of a spider's grass-level worldview jumps off the page with vibrant watercolor-and-ink illustrations. Cronin's humor and wordplay make the story as much fun for grown-up readers as for kids.

BOOK

Clara and Asha
Eric Rohmann ($16.95)
A magical picture book from the winner of the 2003 Caldecott Medal; here, Rohmann chronicles the adventures of an imaginative girl and her pal, a giant fish called Asha. The fanciful illustrations, also by Rohmann, are a joy.

BOOK

How to Speak Politely and Why
Munro Leaf ($14.95)
Originally published in 1934 and updated for the 21st century, this parents' fave uses stick-figure sketches and funny captions to teach sprouts to avoid conversation-stoppers, including the notorious and ubiquitous "gimme." (Thank you, Mr. Leaf.)

BOOK
Chicken Socks: Pompom Animals ($9.95)
Part of Klutz's new Chicken Socks line of interactive books for the kindergarten crowd, Pompom Animals is a compact package with multicolored pompoms, adhesive googly eyes and plenty of glue. The book provides directions and diagrams for young kids to create perfect pets—no housetraining required.

Perfect for Pet Lovers

1. TREATS
Buddy Biscuits
Cloud Star ($4.50)
Mint-flavored, gingerbread-guy-shaped snacks for discerning pups.

2. BOOK
Classic Cats by Great Photographers
Jules Farber ($39.95)
Everybody say awwww: black-and-white shots of cats doing everything from sleeping in pots to trying their paw at the piano.

3. BOOK
Knitting for Dogs
Kristi Porter ($14.95)
A step-by-step guide to making sequined sweaters, leg warmers or even pashminas for your pooch.

4. BOOK
The Underdog
Julia Szabo ($12.95)
Finally, a photo book that focuses on the mutt, including uncommon mixes like the Boston terrier-shihtzu

5. BOOK
March the Penguins
Luc Jacquet ($30)
This companion to the film chronicles the 13 months the crew filmed in Antarctica and dishes about their droll stars.

6. BOOK
Cattitude
Christine Montaquila and Kim Levin ($12.95)
A comic primer on getting in touch with your feline side. Rule No. 4: "Don't be afraid to show a little leg."

7. BOOK
Polaroids
William Wegman ($24.95)
Now in paperback, Wegman's 250 Polaroids of canines, including his famous Weimaraner Man Ray, are as giggle-inducing as ever. Wegman writes the accompanying essays.

8. BEAUTY AIDS
Buddy Rinse Products
Cloud Star ($8.45)
Is Fido having a bad fur day? This lavender-and-mint wash will help you tame his unruly 'do—and do away with that doggy scent.

9. BOOK
Barking Up the Family Tree
Mark J. Asher ($12.95)
In this endearing volume, kids pose with their bunnies, hamsters, kitties and horses and share the lessons they've learned. Says one: "When dogs are hungry, hands look like food."

Special Gifts
One-of-a-kind picks for those hard-to-please folks in your life (you know who they are)

FOR THAT PRIVATE DANCER LOOKING FOR A PARTNER...
iZ Interactive Music Toy ($39.99)
Since teddy bears are so hopelessly 20th century, why not update your (grown-up) kid's toy collection with this futuristic little guy: an electric-hued alien life-form that not only supplies its own jazzy music but dances, bounces his eyes and provides some flashing lights to boot. You can even hook iZ up to your own MP3 player and watch him groove out to your favorite tunes.

FOR CALVIN & HOBBES CULTISTS...
The Complete Calvin & Hobbes Bill Watterson ($150)

SPLURGE

This smart, gently satirical comic strip about a thrill-seeking 6-year-old boy and his wisecracking tiger addressed topics from public affairs to parenting. When it ended in '95, hearts were broken. Weighing 23 lbs., this three-volume set, out in October and already a bestseller, features new art. (Just don't drop it on your foot.)

FOR CSI FANS WHO ALWAYS SPOT THE PERP...
The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes—Vol. Ill The Novels Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ($49.95)
Each novel—A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Valley of Fear—has historical footnotes and period photos to help flesh out the crimes.

FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO SMELL SMART...
Candle Bibliothéque Assouline.com ($45)
Know someone who wants a literary vibe but doesn't have space for leather-bound volumes? How about a candle with the clean, brainy scent of a book?

FOR THE DORM NEIGHBOR WHO CAN HEAR A PIN DROP...
Deluxe Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure McPHEE.com ($12.95)
Based on Seattle librarian Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason, this 5" figure comes with a tiny book cart and a computer. Most importantly, she's posed in a permanent shush to remind noisemakers to put a sock in it.

SPECIAL

FOR THAT FRIEND WHO KNOWS WHEN TO FOLD 'EM, BUT ISN'T SURE HOW...
Barstool Origami Nick Robinson ($16.95)
Gregarious types who are good with their hands can learn how to create the Emergency Beer Glass (on the cover) or impress peers by launching bar snacks across the room with the Peanut Catapult. Detailed diagrams and full-color photos of the finished products get you started. Who knew bar napkins could be so useful?

FOR BOOMERS WHO STILL BLAME IT ALL ON MOM...
Mommy Knows Worst James Lileks ($18)
No hugging. Let 'em cry. If you give the baby a bone, make sure it's dean. Billing itself as "Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice," this wry look at child-rearing wisdom from early last century proves that the world does indeed owe a lot to Dr. Spock.

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