Lifestyles of the musical and famous Your friend Fred must make a speech at his company's annual convention, and he hasn't a clue where to begin collecting his information. You want to help Fred with his fact-finding mission, but private detectives are pricey, and your Web search returned hundreds of thousands of sites. What gift doesn't require bloodhounds, a modem, or a fingerprint kit? Why books, of course! At some point, everyone must write a report, an article, or speech. Reference books are imperative for research and documentation, and the handier, the better. Random House's Famous Name Finder ($14, 037570602X) is the perfect tool when you can remember a name but can't quite place the person. This book will eliminate the need to ask, who's that person you know, the one who was married to . . . because it cross-references 10,000 people from various fields, including sports, entertainment, the arts, and history. Can't remember the first name? Can't remember the last name? Can't remember the real name? The Famous Name Finder is indexed by first name, last name, nickname, and spouse's name; each entry also includes biographical information. How many times have you watched a movie based on a favorite book, and walked away thinking about the differences between the two? Novels into Film: The Encyclopedia of Movies Adapted from Books (Checkmark Books, $16.95, 0816039615) is a book that identifies and examines how a book is translated to the big screen. Each entry includes a brief synopsis of the novel, and the film or films that adapted its story. The differences between the two, as well as differences in themes, characters, etc., are studied. Brief bibliographies are listed at the end of each passage, and various photographs are included. There is some critique involved, but the major emphasis here is not to determine the success or failure of film adaptations, but rather to inform the reader of the unique and specific process that goes into the translation of print to film. With a foreword by director Robert Wise, Novels into Film is a great choice for folks who love books, movies, or both. Everyone is familiar with dictionaries and encyclopedias, but references books are taking different and exciting paths that extend beyond mere alphabetizing. The Oxford Children's Book of Famous People (Oxford University Press, $37.50, 0195215176) examines the lives of 1,000 well-known figures. From Aesop to Pele to William I, this is an ideal resource for short writing assignments, or a springboard for larger, more detailed amounts of research. Updated for the millennium, The Oxford Children's Book of Famous People also includes entries about more recent notables, such as Tom Cruise, Tony Blair, Bill Gates, and Diana, Princess of Wales, to name a few. Readers will find extra guidance from the directories in the back, organized by theme and period. This is a wonderful quick-reference addition to any workspace.

Picture this: a gorgeous volume of album covers. DK Publishing's 100 Best Album Covers: The Stories Behind the Sleeves ($19.95, 078944951X) provides music lovers with the inside scoop on the most artistically innovative album covers of all time. Learn about the visual artists behind the works, the labor-intense production schedules, the concepts behind the finished products and the alternative plans for jackets that were banned in certain countries. What makes this book particularly interesting is that authors Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell do not focus on the recording artists themselves; while certain Elvis, Beatles, and Prince albums are included, you'll also find The Popinjays, System 7, and Happy Mondays receive equal page time. There's plenty of insider information provided, but the focus is not on who topped the charts, but who had the eye-catching album covers. 100 Best Album Covers is a refreshing alternative for both music and art lovers. Cajun music is as flavorful as its food, and thanks to University Press of Mississippi, readers may sample it once again. Cajun and Creole Music Makers (Musiciens cadiens et creoles) has been re-issued and updated, thanks to author Barry Jean Ancelet and photographer Elemore Morgan Jr. Originally published in 1984, Cajun and Creole Music Makers is the definitive volume of Louisiana culture. To update the book for its re-issue, Ancelet and Morgan returned to the original material and added more recent musicians like Steve Riley and Dirk Powell. In some cases, such as Christine Balfa's, it is a then and now perspective of Louisiana life. The text is featured in both English and French, and over 100 photographs show these musicians in various surroundings. The result is an intimate look at the inner workings and sustaining power behind the music. Who says information has to come in black and white text? Seaports of the South: A Journey (Longstreet Press, $25,1563524996) is very informative and also beautiful enough to display. Author Louis D. Rubin Jr. and photographer John F. Harrington look at 13 seaports found in South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, and Florida. Readers will travel with these two men, who have been friends since age 16, and marvel at the history and distinct personality that distinguish each seaport. Rubin and Harrington recount the development each port has undergone, particularly after the Civil War, and the unique commercial role that each seaport plays in our nation's economy. Climb aboard and enjoy this spectacular journey through time and this region.

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