There are several reasons to spend too much money on a book that, most likely, you'll flip through only once or twice: You were moved at an art exhibit and wanted a memento; you visited a city and craved a deeper perspective; you simply wandered into a bookstore and fell in love all over again with the heft and lavishness of a big, rich book.
These books are more than books--they're totems, things that remind us (and our friends and neighbors) of what we really care about, even if we rarely have time to ponder those subjects at our leisure. But while we're all about a spur-of-the-moment splurge, wait until you get home, if you can, to make the purchase. Coffee-table books are almost always significantly discounted on Amazon.
Ruins of Ancient Rome: Drawings in the Eternal City by French architects between 1786 and 1924, edited by Massimiliano David. Getty Publications, $75.
American Cities: Historical illustrations and maps of nine U.S. cities, edited by Paul E. Cohen and Henry G. Taliaferro. Assouline, $70.
Richard Serra: The Matter of Time: America's greatest sculptor. What he can conjure with a piece of curved metal is absolutely astounding. Steidl, $75.
The Gates: Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Central Park spectacle, now part of New York City art lore. Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, $25.
Surfing Photographs from the Seventies: A California and Hawaii time capsule, feathered hair and all, by photographer Jeff Divine. T. Adler, $40.
Bygone Days: Bison, S.D.: John Penor's illuminating photographs of a South Dakota ranch and town between 1907 and 1957. DAP, $85.
The Snippy World Of New Yorker Fashion Artist Michael Roberts: Effervescent collages from a fashion insider. Steidl, $85.
Palm Springs Style: Modernist architecture without all those distracting strip malls, by Aline Coquelle. Assouline, $40.
Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings: Amazing selection of contemporary German art from the Rubell Family Collection, by Mark Coetzee and Laura Steward Heon. Mass Moca, $30.
Egyptian Palaces and Villas: Photos of 41 opulent estates, a must for any maximalist, by Shirley Johnston and Sherif Sonbol. Abrams, $50.
Gregory Crewdson: 1985--2005: Spooky, stylized suburban photography--for those who like melodrama served cold. Hatje Cantz, $60.
Terminal 5: Art debacle at JFK airport: An opening party so raucous, the exhibit was closed before it opened. Lukas & Sternberg, $45.