Coffee Table Book Review: Spectacle

November 1, 2018 Uncategorized 12 ★★★★

Coffee Table Book Review: SpectacleTitle: National Geographic Spectacle: Rare and Astonishing Photographs
Author: National Geographic Society, Mark Thiessen, Susan Tyler Hitchock
Source: from publisher for review

I’m incredibly excited that the only book tour group I work with has started featuring books from National Geographic. Every one I’ve received, including this beautiful coffee table book, has been well constructed. This particular book has vivid prints on paper that feels of high quality. I’m impressed by the way the shape of the book has been made to accommodate pictures with many different aspect ratios. I felt a few of the widest pictures were done a disservice by the split caused by the spine of the book, but the vast majority of the pictures were showcased very well. The amount of text was perfect – one sentence describing each picture, plus the location. Each caption was easily associated with a picture without being intrusive.

The pictures themselves were a mixed bag for me. Mostly, I think this just reflects that what different people find spectacular will vary. A few of the photographs bothered me because they were noisy, taken in dark settings with a resulting graininess. I thought this led to a lower quality picture than I expect from National Geographic. My only other complaint is that I didn’t always find the pictures of people particularly interesting. Some of the portraits were stunning. Other pictures of people won me over with their charm, primarily due to striking lighting or vibrant colors. Others just didn’t hold my interest. The nature and landscape photography in this book was more uniformly to my liking. As someone who does nature photography, I was particularly inspired by pictures of the fast-moving hummingbird; close-ups of insects; and pictures of animals that are hard to find. These were incredible.

Like any book that is a work of art, whether you like individual pictures here will be a matter of taste. Personally, I would recommend this collection as largely of incredibly high quality pictures and of high quality construction. I can also say that the vast majority of the pictures worked for me. It was common for me to turn the page and be completely blown away. There’s also great variety, making this the perfect collection to entertain anyone sitting at your coffee table and wanting to pass the time.

PS – Something I didn’t notice until a second look through after finishing this review is that every pair of photos that are shown on adjoining pages has some connection – shape, color, pattern, or theme. This added another element of enjoyment, putting the pictures clearly in conversation with one another.

For other reviews, see the other stops on the tour.

12 Responses to “Coffee Table Book Review: Spectacle”

  1. whatsnonfiction

    I can understand why subtitling something “astonishing photographs” would set the bar and expectations pretty high. I’m intrigued, especially with the cover picture, but weird that anything with graininess would be included!
    “Mostly, I think this just reflects that what different people find spectacular will vary.” <–So true and that also made me laugh!

    • DoingDewey

      They do set the bar pretty high, don’t they?! I think I have high expectations for National Geographic in general, as well.

      Many of the grainy pictures were truly fantastic scenes, like one inside a forest fire, and I think they were as good as could be given the lighting, but I must admit that they bothered me a little.

      I’m glad I made you laugh! I wouldn’t say that’s my forte in review writing, but I appreciate it from other reviewers.

    • DoingDewey

      They’re so good! I don’t know if my library has books like this or not, but I hope you’re able to find a copy. It was a nice, easy book to get through.

  2. Helen Murdoch

    Now I need to go back through this book and see the paired photographs since I didn’t notice that when I looked through it. My whole family has enjoyed this book.

    • DoingDewey

      I didn’t notice most of them the first time through, but towards the end I realized that there had been quite a few pairings and when I revisited it, I realized they were all like that!

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