Art: Over 2,500 Works From Cave to Contemporary
Art: Over 2,500 Works From Cave to Contemporaryforeword by Ross King
DK Publishing, 612 pp., $50
What it aims to do: Teach you how to become a better appreciator of art – and possibly the most annoying person in the room. "Do you know the difference between Mannerism and Pointillism?" asks the press release. "Can you tell a John Currin from a Jan van Eyck?" Listen, mister, you're not gonna make any friends with that tone of voice.
What it says about you: Egghead with exquisite taste.
The randomizer: Pages 158-159 – a gorgeous reproduction of Hieronymus Bosch's triptych, Garden of Earthly Delights. Flip the page, and you get a fascinating breakdown of the painting's composition, story, and technique. Keep flipping, and you'll hit one dazzling artwork after another, accompanied by bite-sized artist bios, historical contexts, and stroke analyses.
Best accessorized with: New York's Museum of Modern Art's gift catalog and a B.A. in art history.