The penultimate book by the late Tony Judt, one of the finest and most searching of modern historians, who died this past August from ALS, aged 62. The title is from a poem by Oliver Goldsmith, circa 1770 ("Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey/Where wealth accumulates and men decay"), but the subject could not be more contemporary: the troubling state of modern America, where we face huge challenges, yet seem to have lost our confidence to carry out large-scale public works.
Sternberg Press, 2010
This book, which began as an issue of e-flux journal
, poses a key but rarely asked question. It’s also a model for a new (or perhaps that should be old) kind of reduced footprint publishing: small, light and unobtrusively designed — almost reticent. Contains a wealth of illuminating discussion from Boris Groys, Martha Rosler, Hal Foster, and other art-worlders.
Penguin Books, 2009
Like a lot of people, I’m a new convert to the great German writer Hans Fallada, whose Alone in Berlin was probably my novel of the year. Based on a real case, it takes you to the cruel heart of the Nazi regime where the smallest acts of resistance exact an immense cost. Fallada seems to inhabit every one of his characters. Excruciatingly claustrophobic, but brilliant.
Penguin Press, 2010
A leading social historian, Judt died in 2010 from an incurable degenerative disease. He was full of contradictions: a European social democrat who preferred life in America; a Jew despised by Zionists. Judt has written a clear-eyed memoir of growing up in post war Britain. It is a work suffused with poetic fire and unsentimental wisdom.
A lit oddity that plays fast and loose with notions of authorship, truth, reality and perception. Reading it is like diving into fast moving traffic. But what hits you doesn't kill you; just sends you spinning into another lane where new dangers await. A Burroughsian chop up that finds meaning everywhere and offers narrative where you least expect it. Like the internet in book form.
Chronicle Books, 2010
In the 80s and 90s I was wedded to grids, typographic law and sophisticated production techniques, and rarely had time for the anti-formalist fanzine scene. Yet now I look at zines and see a lost Eden: a graphic arcadia that has been submerged in waves of uniformity, visual conservatism, and the homogenizing effect of commercialism.
Kodansha International, 2010
A timely and inspiring book that reminds us how an advanced culture in the past, that faced similar challenges to our own, was able to live sustainably. We can all learn from a society that encouraged humility, considered waste taboo, suggested cooperative solutions and found meaning and satisfaction in a beautiful life.
John Chris Jones
W.W. Norton Company, 2004
An artist-writer-designer whose philosophy – indeed his whole life — first inspired me when I was a young magazine editor more than 30 years ago. It still does.
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010
Why and how business needs to work with with interest groups, communities, and governments to address the wicked sustainability challenges of our time.
Giovanna Borasi, editor
The latest in the CCA’s superb series examining the “themes of contemporary life” (e.g., Sorry, Out of Gas), Journeys takes an eclectic spin along the contours and way stations of globalization — everything from the strange saga of European Union cucumber regulation to the postponed Utopian dreams of Amsterdam’s Bijlmermeer housing complex to how the Chinese are reshaping Brazzaville.
Du Rouergue, 2006
I admittedly bought this ostensible children’s book for my daughter, but I’m one the one who can’t stop looking at it. Lovely illustrations that capture the proper balance of whimsy and elegance of Tati’s Hulot as he bicycles through iconic landscapes. No French required, but a little jouissance wouldn’t hurt.
Clemens Steenbergen, Johan van der Zwart & Joost Grotens
010 Publishers, 2010
Who else but the Dutch would use water and landscape as a weapon? This volume examines the history and legacy of the system of hydrological defense lurking in the land of the polder, with staggeringly beautiful and imaginative cartography, as usual, by Grotens (Atlas of the Conflict, Metropolitan World Atlas).