Among this fall's coffee-table book fare, the phrase "there's no place like home" takes on new meaning when perusing the many titles that showcase the residences of the very grand and very wealthy. Abbeville's Italian Villas features remarkable homes from the Renaissance to the present; Villas on the Lakes (Scriptum Editions) highlights those on Italy's northern shores of Orta, Maggiore, Como and Garda; and artist Giovanni Giaconni has created pen-and-ink watercolor renderings of the 32 designs in Villas of Palladio (Princeton Architectural Press). The 50 examples featured in Palaces that Changed the World (Prestel) will fascinate lovers of architecture, travel and history, as will the 25 examples of magnificent exteriors, interiors and gardens in Great Houses of Europe (Aurum). Closer to home, Rizzoli's The Mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast takes readers back to the sumptuous estates of America's Gilded Age and Embassy Residences in Washington D.C. (Villegas Editores) explores the private side of U.S. ambassadors.

Another private world is revealed in Over the Top (Pointed Leaf Press), a meticulous study of cosmetics-industry pioneer Helena Rubenstein, who was celebrated for her art collection, decorating talent and chic couture. Though her personal effects were dispersed after her death at 94 in 1965, this retrospective re-creates the splendor in which the 20th-century stylemaker lived.

Unfortunately, beautiful images give way to the photojournalist's lens. With our country still mired in the Mideast conflict, titles on war—both current and past—appear on a number of publishers' rosters. Channel Photographics and de.MO focus on recent battles in Desert Diaries and War: USA. Afghanistan. Iraq., respectively. Another wave of WWII and WWI remembrances and analyses will be available as well: The Campaigns of World War II Day-by-Day and SS: The Secret Archives—Eastern Front and ...Western Front (Barron's); World War II: The People's Story (Reader's Digest); The Wehrmacht: The German Army in World War II, 1939—1945 (Routledge); World War I (DK); and War Stories: Reporting in the Time of Conflict from the Crimea to Iraq (Bunker Hill). Thames & Hudson dips back a bit further to examine The Complete Roman Army, reporting on soldiers' daily life along with outcomes of major campaigns.

But despite humanity's conflicts, imagination still soars. Here Be Dragons (Princeton Univ. Press) conjures up a menagerie of fanciful animals (unicorns, griffins, centaurs) over the ages. And more recent devotees of whimsy hail from Pittsburgh. The city recently celebrated DinoMite Days (à la Chicago's Cow Parade) with its own beasts of choice, shown in the University of Pittsburgh's Dinosaurs of Distinction: creatively decorated fiberglass dinosaurs exhibited on city streets, office buildings, parks and plazas. Yabba-daba-doo!