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Posted 11.29.06 | PERMALINK | PRINT

The Editors

2006 Holiday Reading List


The holidays are always a great time to catch up with reading, and to make gifts to friends and relatives. We've put together a list of some of our favorite books — recent and not so recent — by Kurt Andersen, Graydon Carter & George Kalogerakis, Julie Ault, Stuart Bailey & Peter Bilak, Geoffrey Batchen, Alan Bennett, Barbara Bestor, Boy Scouts of America, Bill Buford, Cabinet Magazine & David Greenberg, Guy Delisle, Editors of Phaidon Press, Jeremy Deller & Alan Kane, Al Gore, Sam Harris, Claudia Hellmann & Claudine Weber-Hof, Philip Hoare & Chris Heath, John Hodgman, Shu Hung & Joseph Magliaro, Maira Kalman, Jon Link & Mick Bunnage, Claire Messud, David Mitchell, Bill Moggridge, Sina Najafi, Tom Phillips, Michael Pollan, Philip Roth, Barry Schwartz, Iain Sinclair, Mark Stevens & Annalyn Swan, Nina Stritzler-Levine, Peter Turchi, Edward Tufte, Jenny Uglow, John Walters and Rob Young. We hope you enjoy them.

Kurt Andersen, Graydon Carter & George Kalogerakis
Spy, The Funny Years
Miramax, 2006
If you (a) miss the ironic 1980s and/or (b) are curious about the origins of 75% of the conventions of contemporary magazine design, this amusing book, beautifully designed as you'd expect by Alex Isley, will more than satisfy. [MB]
Julie Ault
Come Alive! The Spirited Art of Sister Corita
Four Corners Books, 2006 [U.S. edition in 2007]
Delightful outpouring of 1960s liberation theology and counterculture aesthetics. Corita's work, beautifully presented in a book designed by Nick Bell, shows the surprising influence of what Corita called the "clang and clatter" of the California vernacular. [AS]
Stuart Bailey & Peter Bilak
Dot Dot Dot
"Since its conception in 2000, DDD has immatured into a jocuserious fanzine-journal-orphanage based on true stories deeply concerned with art-design-music-language-literature-architecture and uptight optipessimistic stoppy/revelatory ghostwriting by friendly spirits mapping b-sides and out-takes pushing for a resolution in bleak midwinter through late summer with local and general aesthetics wound on an ever tightening coil." [WD]
Geoffrey Batchen
Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance
Princeton Architectural Press, 2004
A meditation on the relationship bewteen photographs and memory that ultimately questions the role of visual material in the context of that most irrevocable fact — mortality. Batchen looks not only at photo albums but also at reliquaries, memento mori and other iconic objects that somehow traverse the intangible: time and space, past and present, memory and longing, love and loss. It is a remarkable book in many ways, beautifully written and of great interest to photographers, collectors and anyone interested in the cultural history of personal memorabilia. [JH]
Alan Bennett
Untold Stories
Farrar, Straus Giroux, 2006
Not really related to design at all, but I must simply recommend this book above many others for the sheer pleasure of spending time in Bennett's company, in the sense of highlights from his diaries and collected essays and reviews. Bennett comes across as charming avuncular presence who stumbles round French churches with a playfully mordant eye, or yields a brilliant apercu from his walk home from lunch with a fellow playwright. Crammed in economy class from London to New York, he is moved to observe: "There's a Yorkshire dialect word that covers this feeling more succinctly than any phrase in standard English. When you can afford something but don't like to see the money go in that particular way you way: 'I can't thoil to pay it.' Which is exactly what I feel about club class." [TV]
Barbara Bestor (with drawings by Geoff McFetridge)
Bohemian Modern: Living in Silver Lake (Limited Edition)
Regan Books, 2006
When I graduated from college my peer group split into two factions: those that went to New York and those that went to L.A. If you were one of the latter group, you will probably find this book a bit of a bore, but if you're like me and have spent your adulthood on the East Coast wondering how the other half ended up you will find plenty to envy in these cluttered pages: the space, the light, the informality, the outdoors! If you are sitting in Brooklyn, Northern Liberties, or Mount Pleasant, this book is the embodiment of the conversation you have probably gone through countless times in bars, restaurants, and even in your own head: what if I had moved to L.A.? [DS]
Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America: The Official Handbook for Boys (Reprint of Original 1911 Edition)
Applewood Books, 1997
I stumbled upon this in Amazon while looking for Adrian Shaughnessy's recommendation of the Pet Shop Boys Catalogue. Who would have thought that the mind of Amazon would link PSB with the Boy Scouts. I'm inspired and will buy my son a copy for the holidays. [WD]
Bill Buford
Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany
Knopf, 2005
Bill Buford left his job at The New Yorker to apprentice in a kitchen, giving new meaning to the idea of bravery (or maybe just masochism.) His book is just as good as Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, except that Buford's a better writer. His anecdotes of failed filets, sautée injuries and maimed carrrots are superbly retold, while his acquired mastery behind the stove is shared with humilty and grace. [JH]
Cabinet Magazine & David Greenberg
Presidential Doodles: Two Centuries of Scribbles, Scratches, Squiggles & Scrawls from the Oval Office
Basic Books, 2006
What do president's do when they are sitting in all those meetings deciding the fate of the free world? They doodle. From the Founding Fathers to Andrew Jackson and Benjamin Harrison; Theodore Roosevelt's animals to Herbert Hoover's geometric designs; JFK's sailboats to FDR's gunboats; and, of course, Ronald Reagan's cowboys and hearts for Nancy. A fantastic collection to rival any designer's sketchbook. [WD]
Guy Delisle
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Fantagraphics/Drawn and Quarterly, 2005
French-Canadian animator Guy Delisle traveled to North Korea (where animation work can be had more cheaply than South Korea or China) in 2001, and renders in sober blacks and grays here the surreal comedy and tragedy afoot in the world's most secretive regime, everything from having a customs officer ask about his copy of George Orwell's 1984 to succinct observations of daily life in the PRK — i.e., when the fancy hotels in Pyongyang have all their lights on, you know there's a foreign delegation in town. Until Lonely Planet comes out with its guidebook to the PRK, this graphic novel is your best best to understanding a place often rendered in cartoonish cariacatures. [TV]
Jeremy Deller & Alan Kane
Folk Archive: Contemporary Popular Art from the UK
Book Works, 2006
Folk Archive is an unromantic look at the current state of the vernacular. The design by James Goggin is suitably deadpan for a book whose contents range from hairstyles, to desserts. The editors claim their goal was to identify "what might constitute present day folk art" in the UK. The search is decidedly unfocussed and honest. Far from glorifying the sublime beauty of the everyday or the raw genius of the folk artist, Folk Archive accepts these unselfconscious design projects as they are and without apology. [DS]
Editors of Phaidon Press
Vitamin Ph: New Perspectives in Photography
Phaidon Press, 2006
Like it's outstanding companion, Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing, this book is an rich and surprising survey. Looking at contemporary photography through its pages, one gets excited that there is so much interesting new work. [WD]
Al Gore
An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It
Rodale Books, 2006
Months ago, I was at a party talking to a publisher and he told me he was trying to find a way to turn what was essentially a Powerpoint presentation into a book. I heard only the words "Powerpoint presentation" and, like most sensible graphic designers, began politely backing away. Luckily, Ariel Apte, Alicia Cheng and Sarah Gephart took the challenge, and this remarkable visualization of Al Gore's powerful argument is the result. [MB]
Sam Harris
Letter to a Christian Nation
Knopf, 2006
After the publication of The End of Faith, Sam Harris received thousands of angry letters from Christians. Letter to a Christian Nation is his brief, brutal, alternately hilarious and morbidly depressing response. The argument for secularism is most compelling when Harris questions the lack of critique that religion receives in this country. If your idea of holiday fun includes long family arguments about the fate of our country this is the perfect gift. [DS]
Claudia Hellmann & Claudine Weber-Hof
On Location: Cities of the World in Film
Bucher, 2006
While recently trolling through the DVD extras of Jacques Tati's wonderful 1952 classic Monsiuer Hulot's Holiday, I was delighted by a 1976 BBC Omnibus interview with the director, held at the very same Hotel de la Plage in St-Marc-Sur-Mere in Brittany. The place had hardly changed at all. For those of you who, like me, often carefully scan the credits for geographical giveaways, On Location is a delightful tour of the real-life analogues to some of cinema's most evocative locales, from the Coppelia ice cream parlor in Havana's Vedado (used in Strawberry and Chocolate) to the karaoke joint where Bill Murray takes a crack at Bryan Ferry in Lost in Translation. [TV]
Philip Hoare & Chris Heath, editors
Pet Shop Boys Catalogue
Thames & Hudson, 2006
Easy to dismiss PSB as too-brainy pop mavens. But looking at their "brand management" over the past 20 years it's clear that they are masters of self-revelation. Mark Farrow's sleeve art, and their unerring choice of collaborators, makes PSB's visual style as sharp as anything in pop or contemporary art. It really is that good. [AS]
John Hodgman
The Areas of My Expertise
Riverhead, 2006
At the recommended dosages (small), this is the funniest book of the year. Do have a taste for literate trivia with absolutely no basis in fact? More specifically, do you require a list of 1,000 hobo names (with an extra 100 in the revised paperback edition)? Then Hodgman is your man. And, yes, he is the PC Guy in those Apple commercials. [MB]
Shu Hung & Joseph Magliaro, editors
By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art
Princeton Architectural Press, 2006
Defining craft as the act of making something by hand is certainly a limited view of the term, but this disciplined curatorial program makes By Hand more than merely a survey of recent trends in design. Editors Shu Hung and Joseph Magliaro offer a compelling interpretation of craft by collecting the work of artists and designers who make their personal style part of the finished products they create. The casual combination of art and design illustrates the fact that the tactics and roles of artists and designers are once again starting to blend. [DS]
Maira Kalman
Sayonara, Mrs. Kackleman
Puffin, 1991
And for our younger readers ... any of Maira Kalman's magnificent adventures for children make for wonderful reading, (looking and dreaming, too) but this is my own all-time personal favorite. Who can resist the rhyming couplets? Hey, Hiroko/Are you Loco?/Would You Like a Cup of Cocoa? Whimsical and delicious, for children of all ages. [JH]
Jon Link & Mick Bunnage
Modern Toss (featuring Mr. Tourette)
Simon & Schuster, 2006
This is probably the most profane, offensive, socially irredeemable comic book ever produced. There are many reasons not to buy this book (or even look at it): The c-word appears on almost every page — scratch that, it appears in almost every sentence; the use of Cooper Black is just as liberal; the drawings are crude; and there aren't even any jokes in it. There is only one reason to buy it: it is really funny and inexplicably cheerful given that the topics include: brain tumors, the gratuitous murder of endangered species, adultery and flies. But a comic book about a sign painter? It's irresistible as well. [DS]
Claire Messud
The Emperor's Children
Knopf, 2006
A tough look at the cultural elite, this stunning novel chronicles writers, editors and documentary filmmakers as they lead twisted lives in New York City in the days before and after 9/11. The Emperor's Children is a joy to read: Messud's prose is expansive and fluid and funny. [WD]
David Mitchell
Black Swan Green
Random House, 2006
A fictive account of an 80s childhood in a British rural backwater, overshadowed by the Falklands War and the rise of Thatcherism. Mitchell name checks the brand iconography of the time like a sacred litany, and he's good on the deviousness and dissembling of childhood. Adults often require children to remain mute and uncomprehending long after children have passed into the knowingness of adulthood. Mitchell shows how children acquiesce in this. [AS]
Bill Moggridge
Designing Interactions
MIT Press, 2006
IDEO founder and laptop pioneer Moggridge has authored a massive, canonical text that is part bible, part atlas to the world of interactive design — and what design shouldn't be interactive? From the mouse to the iPod to the cell phone to Google, we spend our days moving through environments and actions that have been (in the best cases at least) so carefully constructed and intuitive they seem like natural extensions, from Henry Kloss radio
dials to the simple interface of Google, and this book serves as both history and instruction manual to interface design. [TV]
Sina Najafi, editor
Cabinet: A Quarterly Magazine of Art & Culture
"Cabinet is an award-winning quarterly magazine of art and culture that confounds expectations of what is typically meant by the words "art," "culture," and sometimes even "magazine." Like the 17th-century cabinet of curiosities to which its name alludes, Cabinet is as interested in the margins of culture as its center." A perfect gift for those with curious interests. [WD]
Tom Phillips
Merry Meetings: Drawings and Text
D3 Editions, 2005
If you wanted to drop $150 for a present, please send me this book. UK artist, and author of the infamous A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel, Tom Phillips spends endless amounts of time in committee and board meetings at the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Academy. For years he has been drawing on their agendas and official memos — a unique commentary of an artistic mind confronting endless bureaucracy. [WD]
Michael Pollan
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Penguin Press, 2006
I read this, then I watched Nicholas Geyrhalter's staggering documentary, Our Daily Bread, and I haven't felt — or eaten — the same since. Food takes up a scant portion of our budget these days, and any food can be gotten any time of year — the result is we barely pause to consider what's propping this whole sordid, alienating system up. Pollan's indictment of the industrial-nutritional complex is not just food for thought, its thought for food. [TV]
Philip Roth
Everyman
Houghton Mifflin, 2006
Something quiet, elegant and elegiac from the creator of Nathan Zuckerman and Alexander Portnoy: this slim novel's nameless protogonist faces mortality after largely misspending his life...as an art director, of all things. [MB]
Barry Schwartz
The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less
Harper Perennial, 2005
This book will get you through cocktail parties for at least the next six months. Like Blink and The Long Tail (whose thesis this book practically refutes), The Paradox of Choice is essentially an extended The New Yorker article. But it is one of those The New Yorker articles that truly effects your view of the world. Although you can pretty much get the larger point of the book from the sub-title, Schwartz's meticulous evidence is riveting and his explanation of the emotional cost of the remarkable freedoms we enjoy is profoundly insightful. [DS]
Iain Sinclair, editor
London: City of Disappearances
Hamish Hamilton, 2006
Iain Sinclair is the best British writer of the moment. When asked if he did much research for his novels he said his whole life was research. Here he edits a book about London — but not the London we think we know. It's an alternative, hidden, occult London. Maybe it's the London that only exists in Sinclair's imagination. [AS]
Mark Stevens & Annalyn Swan
De Kooning: An American Master
Knopf, 2005
De Kooning struggled for years as a fine artist, supporting himself with his work as an illustrator and as a commercial artist. In 2005, nearly a decade after the artist's death, one of his paintings became the most expensive postwar painting ever sold at auction. This biography superbly captures the emerging, modern world that de Kooning longed to, and eventually did inhabit: his personal demons, his artistic struggles, his remarkable achievements in spite of (or perhaps because of) his rocky beginnings. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. [JH]
Nina Stritzler-Levine, editor
Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor
Yale University Press, 2006
Any book by Dutch designer Irma Boom is an event, and her channeling the master weaver, Sheila Hicks, is no exception. I love this book, and I love holding and touching it — it's as tactile as the work it pictures. [WD]
Edward Tufte
Beautiful Evidence
Graphics Press, 2006
An essential part of any design collection is the work of Edward Tufte, and his new book, Beautiful Evidence, will not disappoint. Six years in the making, Tufte expands his argument about visual representation with many fascinating new examples. And, of course, like all his books, this one is beautifully produced as well. We've recommended this title before, but it deserves to be on gift lists for 2006. [WD]
Peter Turchi
Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer
Trinity University Press, 2005
Beautifully designed and compellingly written, Turchi's book looks at the relationship between the physical map and the narrative arc that accompanies it. It's an exploration of the journey writ large, at once realistic and highly imaginative, referencing literature, film, art, fiction, poetry and psychology. [JH]
Jenny Uglow
Nature's Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick
Faber and Faber, 2006
This biography of the 18th century illustrator and designer has been a surprise inclusion on more than one British best of 2006 lists. Bewick's exquisite woodcuts could not ask for a more sympathetic setting. [MB]
John Walters, editor
Eye: International Review of Graphic Design
Originally edited by Rick Poynor, Eye has continued to grow and evolve under editor John Walters. Quite simply the best magazine about graphic design, Eye is also interested in visual culture writ large, including music, museums and branding. Exceptionally well written (and edited), its mix of history, profiles and topical examinations always makes for interesting reading. [WD]
Rob Young
Rough Trade: Labels Unlimited
Black Dog Publishing, 2006
As part of the ongoing archaeological dig surrounding the post punk era, Rob Young investigates the rise, collapse and rise of the Rough Trade label. For the past 30 years it has been the home of maverick pop from The Smiths to Scritti Politti; from Robert Wyatt to The Slits. And miraculously, at a time of music industry conglomeration, it survives. [AS]
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Design Observer is edited by Michael Bierut, William Drenttel, Jessica Helfand, Julie Lasky and Nancy Levinson. William Drenttel is Editorial Director and Publisher.
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