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Books, music and movies: Gift ideas for the arts lover on your list

Bananagrams. Autoharps. A guitar game that teaches you how to play. Globe Arts' critics - books, film, TV, theatre and music - point you to the coolest loot of the season

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JOHN BARBER'S PICKS FOR THE BOOK LOVER Life by Keith Richards Voted audio book of the year at the awards that honour such productions, this 23-hour narration of guitarist Keith Richard’s best-selling biography includes the voices of actor Johnny Depp, London-born actor Joe Hurley and even a bit by the mumble-mouthed madman himself. $26.38 at chapters.indigo.ca; amazon.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Aquala bathtub caddy This is what book lovers mean by an “immersive reading experience.” Umbra’s eminently renewable bamboo Aquala bathtub reading caddy combines one bell (a fold-up stand for propping books) with one whistle (carved-out footing for a glass of wine) to fashion the perfect analogue oasis in the electronic desert of modern life. $50 at umbra.com and sears.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Bananagrams! Yes, you can download any number of interactive word games for play on your smartphone, but it’s hard to achieve the required measure of family fun without the real thing at hand. For the latest variation in the Scrabble/Boggle vein, try Bananagrams, which combines elements of both those classic games in a colourful, portable package. $18.95 at mastermindtoys.com; chapters.indigo.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Hunger Games Boxed Set Just when you thought Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy of young-adult novels couldn’t get bigger, Hollywood is swinging into action, with the first film scheduled for release this spring. For any young person (or adult) who doesn’t know yet, this handsome set packages the entire phenomenon in a single box. $37.60 at amazon.ca; chapters.indigo.ca

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1493 If there’s a reader on your list who’s left cold by the latest novels but loves to feast on facts, Charles C. Mann’s 1493 is an especially rich offering: an accessible and original world history describing the origins of globalization in the massive exchanges of crops, diseases, minerals and people that followed Columbus’s journey to the New World. $34.50 at randomhouse.ca

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Retro CBC Mobile Reporting Bag Talk about making a political statement with your man-purse or laptop bag! The ideal gift for CBC fans, this rugged canvas shoulder bag comes with a retro CBC/Radio-Canada logo. It promises to carry almost as much baggage as the CBC itself does these days ($34.95, cbcshop.ca)

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How To Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals (Hyperion, paperback) One of the best-reviewed cookbooks of recent years, and little wonder, as Oliver uses the main thrust of recent TV series as its core value – good meals are easily and cheaply made. Well-illustrated and clearly written – with some anti-fast-food proselytizing - it has curry recipes that are highly recommended ($16.49 at amazon.ca)

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Trailer Park Boys: The Complete Collection Oh boy, it’s hoser glory – the total TPB package: Every episode of every TV season, along with the Christmas TV special and the two movies, Countdown to Liquor Day and TPB: The Movie. An unmatched cornucopia of swearing, carousing, stupid behaviour and fun ($69.99 at hmv.ca and amazon.ca)

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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True Blood: Music from the HBO Original series, Vol. 3 True Blood isn’t only about cool vampires and sexy shenanigans. The music is particularly well-chosen. This soundtrack collection has some absolute gems, including a rarely heard version of 9 Crimes by Damien Rice and the surreal, throbbing cover of the Zombies’s She's Not There by Neko Case and Nick Cave ($15.95 at amazon.ca)

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN'S PICKS FOR THE MUSIC LOVER The Complete Metropolis on DVD For some viewers, the sound of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is the 1984 pop score assembled by Giorgio Moroder and performed by the likes of Loverboy and Pat Benatar. The latest reconstructed version of the 1927 silent film returns to the superb original score by Gottfried Huppertz, newly recorded in full by Frank Strobel and the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. $20 at chapters.indigo.ca; and at amazon.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Dress circle tickets to Wagner's Ring Cycle, Metropolitan Opera, New York Robert Lepage’s first two instalments of the four-opera cycle provoked widely divergent opinion, but the whole story will be known only when the Met runs the entire sequence next spring. So far, Ring tickets can be bought only by Met donors or subscribers, so choose your friends wisely. $1,000 (U.S.) for the four performances at metoperafamily.org.

Ken Howard/AP

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The Oxford History of Western Music by Richard Taruskin, paperback Taruskin doesn’t try to tell the whole tale, just the major bits that engage him most, with lots of attitude and abundant references to details large and small. Volumes 1 to 3 (of six) are outstanding. $31 a volume or $141 for the set at amazon.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Rocksmith Guitar Hero gave you a guitar-shaped plastic controller with coloured buttons. Rocksmith, the new video game from Ubisoft, works with a real guitar and gets you to play along with songs by the likes of Radiohead, the Pixies and the Rolling Stones. The initial release isn’t quite as flexible a game as it could be, but it’s the first of its kind to teach people how to play music. $80 for the game, $200 for game plus guitar at futureshop.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Oscar Schmidt autoharp It was good enough for the likes of June Carter Cash, and also for PJ Harvey, who made the easy-to-play instrument a central element of her Mercury Prize-winning disc, Let England Shake. Canadian singer-songwriter Basia Bulat is also a determined autoharp strummer – a sign that this venerable folk instrument could soon be as cool as the ukulele. $380 to $670 at appalachianinstruments.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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RICK GROEN AND LIAM LACEY'S PICKS FOR THE FILM LOVER Carlos TV miniseries made in Europe by high-profile directors often get released here as feature films, very long films that, in lieu of a season's worth of Breaking Bad, can be put to fine use whiling away a holiday afternoon. Carlos, where Olivier Assayas tracks the notorious Jackal through two decades of terrorist activities, is a superb 330-minute example. $31.99 at amazon.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy This season sees the feature-film release of John le Carré’s Cold War classic, with Gary Oldman as the agent George Smiley. The new movie is terrific, but so was a much fuller adaptation back in 1979, when the BBC aired a 7-part miniseries with the great Alec Guinness wearing the Smiley face. Both productions are steeped in the bureaucratic and nicotine-stained venality of the era. $44.95 at amazon.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Auteur heavy-metal T-shirt Declare your membership in the exclusive club of head-banging cinema lovers, with this series of T-shirts sporting famous directors’ names in the style of metal-band logos. Photographed here is Werner Herzog à la Danzig. Others include Scorsese/Scorpions, von Trier/Van Halen, and the provocative Ozu/Ozzy. $25 (U.S.). cinefilevideo.vendder.com

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark Brian Kellow’s balanced, entertaining biography of The New Yorker’s star movie critic from 1967 to 1991 tells how the daughter of an immigrant chicken farmer rose to become America’s most admired and feared film aficionado. $21.45 at chapters.indigo.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Twilight Saga Action Figures These poseable seven-inch plastic figures based on the movie characters from The Twilight Saga teen vampire series should provide endless hours of do-it-yourself drama for all incurable romantics. Werewolf Jacob comes in both shirtless and dressed versions. $17.95 to $19.95, Silver Snail Comics. www.silversnail.com

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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KELLY NESTRUCK'S PICKS FOR THE THEATRE LOVER The Blue Dragon I've never seen a more beautiful theatre book than this graphic novel based on the play by Robert Lepage and Marie Michaud. Fred Jourdain's drawings tell the story of expat art dealer Pierre Lamontagne and his ex-lover, Claire Forêt, who has come to visit China to adopt a baby. Every word of the script makes it in. $14.40 on amazon.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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National Theatre Live While more and more film fans stay home to watch DVDs, theatregoers are increasingly headed to movie houses to catch the best in international theatre. Cineplex is the Canadian outlet for Britain’s National Theatre Live shows, which in 2012 will broadcast Dominic Cooke's praised production of The Comedy of Errors and Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 comedy She Stoops to Conquer. Much cheaper than a flight to London. Admission for two: $39.90 at cineplex.com

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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A Fiery Soul: The Life and Theatrical Times of John Hirsch, by Fraidie Martz and Andrew Wilson (Vehicule Press) Ahead of next summer’s play about its former artistic director at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, brush up on the life of one of the country's greatest artists and nation-builders. An orphan of the Holocaust, Hirsch co-founded the Manitoba Theatre Centre and directed from Stratford to Broadway, before dying of AIDS in 1989. $22 at www.theatrebooks.com

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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The Book of Mormon It's tough to get a ticket on Broadway, and a Canadian production is not yet in sight, so for the time being you may have to settle for the original cast album. The scabrously funny songs from this Tony-winning musical penned by the South Park guys – Trey Parker and Matt Stone – and Avenue Q composer Robert Lopez include I Am Africa, Spooky Mormon Hell Dream and Hasa Diga Eebowai. Explicit lyric warning! $18.61 at amazon.ca

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) by Stephen Sondheim The second volume of Sondheim's collected lyrics covers a period that includes Assassins, Passion and his Pulitzer winner, Sunday in the Park with George (from which the title of the book derives). As with the initial volume, which was on most Broadway babies' holiday lists last year, the sequel's “Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany” are the best part. Learn what Sondheim really thinks of critics, award ceremonies and the “torturous evolution” of Road Show, to use his latest musical's latest name. $50 at theatrebooks.com

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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