You've made big travel plans for the summer, and then you receive the call: Aunt Agnes, Cousin Curtis, and the rest of the family have rented a big house near the beach, and everyone is expected to be there for the month of July. Sigh . . . Guess where you'll be spending your summer vacation? You need a little pick-me-up gift for yourself, under the circumstances. What gift doesn't require a security deposit, seven-day advance purchase, or a Saturday night stay? Why, books, of course! Photographer Jeffrey Kraft's exquisite photographs of Parisian cubbyholes and artifacts are not intended to entice one to visit the city; rather, his Literary Paris (Watson-Guptill, $18.95, 0823028305) is meant for those who have already been. The images are meant to inspire a memory from a time that has passed; this is not a fancy collection of tourists' snapshots. Kraft has arranged his remembrances alongside excerpts from literary works by authors who stayed in Paris for extended periods of time. Kraft has captured the glimpse, the detail, the moment, rather than structures and sites. He offers an idea of what remains in the mind and heart, even years after the visit itself has ended. A wonderful gift for the Francophile in your life.

Ben Jonson said, He was not of an age, but for all time. He was, of course, speaking of his friend William Shakespeare. Children's book author Aliki has written and illustrated William Shakespeare and the Globe (HarperCollins, $15.95, 006027820X), which describes not only Shakespeare's life, work, and times, but even acknowledges visionary Sam Wannamaker, who spent years resurrecting the Globe. The book is designed much like a script, with acts and scenes and characters. An interesting add-on is the list of words and expressions, complete with illustrations, credited to Shakespeare; for example, sweets to the sweet and hush were apparently invented by the Bard himself. Seems we've been quoting Shakespeare without realizing it! Cities like Paris and London must make use of every tidbit of soil that can be found; as acreage diminishes in our growing world, green thumbs everywhere are striving to be more and more creative with their craft. Artisan has published Window Boxes: Indoors and Out ($27.50, 1579651240) with this in mind. Authors James Cramer and Dean Johnson offer fragrant, beautiful, and useful options for the, uh, land-challenged. Cramer and Johnson offer optional locations (who says a window-box is limited to being wooden, square, and outside?) and year-round planting options (a thriving garden in January?) With this book, the decision is no longer how to create a miniature garden, but rather how many miniature gardens you can create. Soil sold separately! Of course, if we're talking land for land's sake, Antarctica has land to spare. It's been 85 years since Ernest Shackleton and the 27-member crew of the Endurance set out to cross the Antarctic on foot. Less than 100 miles from its destination, the Endurance was caught in an ice pack and was badly damaged. For over 20 months, the crew (along with 69 sled dogs) was marooned, but no lives were lost. Two books commemorate this remarkable true story of adventure and perseverance. First, there's Knopf's The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, a sophisticated account of the expedition. There's also Ice Story: Shackleton's Lost Expedition (Clarion, $18, 0395915244), which may be better-suited to younger explorers. Both books feature expedition photographer Frank Hurley's photographs and offer a chronological summary of this death-defying journey. Hurley started the expedition with professional equipment, but his final shots were taken with a pocket camera. Endurance author Caroline Alexander, in association with the American Museum of Natural History, carefully researched this volume, complete with some of Hurley's photographs that had not been published previously. Ice Story author Elizabeth Cody Kimmel presents the journey in storybook format, but the information is accurate and anecdotal. Both books would make great gifts for anyone who has a taste for adventure and hopeful endings.

Agnes and Curtis decide that the grown-ups need to take the children to the waterpark which happens to be 50 miles away for the day. Fifty miles can seem like 500 without Fun on the Run: Travel Games and Songs (Morrow Junior Books, $17, 0688146600). Brimming with silly stories, limericks, brain teasers, and songs, this book helps to fill travel time without batteries or messy cleanup. Familiar songs and games such as The Ants Go Marching and Hangman are included, but Fun on the Run contains nearly 125 pages of other games and songs that can be a part of any trip. If you still confuse Darth Vader with Darth Maul, fear not; Dorling Kindersley has published two books that will help you keep the prequel and the original trilogy straight: Star Wars Episode I: the Visual Dictionary ($19.95, 0789447010) and Star Wars Episode I: Incredible Cross Sections ($19.95, 078943962X). Like their predecessors (or would it be their descendants?), these books are designed to keep facts, characters, and plots straight. Archaeologist David West Reynolds, an obvious choice for the author, approaches this much like he did his previous Star Wars works. One feels as if he is on an archaeological dig or scientific study of another world. May the source be with you!

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