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Recommended Books

"Have You Seen . . . ?": A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films
David Thomson
Knopf, 2008
At first I thought this massive book was slapdash. But I find myself returning to it even more frequently than to Thomson’s indispensable Biographical Dictionary of Film. Time after time he trains his crosshairs on the essential qualities that make films great — or flawed. And so often it's a phrase, a gesture, a mood that I’ve missed. Bravura criticism from a master. [AS]
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A Day with Picasso
Billy Kluver
MIT Press, 1999
A researcher finds 24 photos of a bunch of friends. They greet each other, mug for the camera, drink at a café. From these images Kluver builds a detailed visual history of the afternoon of August 12, 1916. As a result, the lives of Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob and Modigliani come alive as vividly as if they were in a film. [AHL]
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A Pattern Language
Christopher Alexander
Oxford University Press, 1977
An attempt to create a grammar of architecture that begins at the largest scale, regional transport, and ends with the smallest, the bedroom wall. In between, informed by a blend of common sense, Zen philosophy and quantitative measurement, Alexander and his colleagues develop a life-enhancing philosophy of building, drawn from that high-1970s source, sociological surveys. Always considered fairly far out, Alexander unexpectedly won the Vincent Scully Prize this year for the continuing influence of this book and The Timeless Way of Building. [AL]
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A Women's Berlin: Building the Modern City
Despina Stratigakos
University of Minnesota, 2008
At the turn of the 20th century, as Berlin emerged as a modern metropolis, the city became the setting for a thriving network of women architects, artists, journalists, activists, and reformers. An elegantly written study of a neglected chapter in the city’s history that ended, like much else, with the rise to power of the Nazis. [NL]
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About a Mountain
John D'Agata
W. W. Norton & Company, 2010
A tour de force of narrative nonfiction that moves from the political — the U.S. government's controversial plan, proposed 30 years ago, to dig an extensive network of tunnels into Yucca Mountain, north of Las Vegas, and there deposit 77,000 tons of radioactive waste — to the personal — the suicide of teenage boy, who jumps to his death from the roof of the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas in the summer of 2002. [NL]
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Above the Pavement — the Farm!
Amale Andraos & Dan Wood
Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
TA small book describing WORK Architecture Company's 2008 P.S.1 project, Public Farm 1. The story it tells about making a tiny working farm in the museum courtyard is as interesting as the way it is told, via oral history. [AL]
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Abstract Comics
Andrei Molotiu, editor
Fantagraphics Books, 2009
Though "abstract comics" are (according to the editor) "sequential art consisting exclusively of abstract imagery" which may also "contain some representational elements as long as those elements do not cohere into a narrative or even into a unified narrative space," this arresting book is like a scoop of primordial narrative, representational mud. Which is to say, it has vitaminic powers. [ME]
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Agriculture in Urban Planning: Generating Livelihoods and Food Security
Mark Redwood, editor
Cromwell Press, 2009
In countries where hunger is a lived reality, growing food in cities is taken seriously. The South can teach the North a lot here. This book by leading experts on urban agriculture drawns on original field work in cities across the rapidly urbanizing global south; it proposes practical strategies to integrate city farming into the urban landscape. Agriculture in Urban Planning: Generating Livelihoods and Food Security, is edited by Mark Redwood and published by Earthscan with the International Development Research Centre.  [JT]
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Air Guitar: Essays on Art & Democracy
Dave Hickey
Art Issues Press, 1997
Hickey's hopscotching from high to low in this set of essays is impressive, but the real payoff is that he never lets his knowledge get in the way of his ideas. He comes across like he's looking for a fight, but he's too charming to really piss you off. It may seem otherwise at first, but this is not, in the end, a book of criticism: It's a book of enthusiasm. [RW]
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Alien Phenomenology: Or, What It's Like To Be A Thing
Ian Bogost
University Of Minnesota Press, 2012
In this slim but dense volume, Ian Bogost sketches the thing-centric philosophy of “object-oriented ontology,” builds his own addition to it, and suggests how it may be put to use. The starting point is a post-humanist attempt to understand the world in way that does not begin and end with, you know, us. That line of thought gets increasingly weird as one tries to grok how a coffee cup experiences a taco, and so on. While we can never truly know “what it’s like to be a thing,” the tactics (and reasons) Bogost suggests for trying to do so anyway can be extremely thought-provoking. In particular, the strategy he labels “carpentry”: though he’s basically addressing philosophers, Bogost (best known as a game designer) advocates “constructing artifacts,” instead of or in addition to writing, talking, or thinking about them. What we learn is how much around is profoundly “alien,” and just how useful it is to realize that this is so. [RW]
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America's Kitchens
Nancy Carlisle & Melinda Talbot Nasardinov
Historic New England, 2008
A detailed visual history that covers everything from the Hoosier cabinet (an amazing space-saver from the turn of the last century) to the hygienic surfaces of the 1960s dream house. Lovely vintage images, and brief thoughtful accounts of how and where we have cooked. [AL]
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An Oresteia: Agamemnon by Aiskhylos; Elektra by Sophokles; Orestes by Euripides
Anne Carson
Faber & Faber, 2009
Translator Carson creates a unified Greek dramatic trilogy out of the work of three ancient playwrights, Aiskhylos, Sophokles, and Euripides; the stunning language helps the violence find its plateau quickly and keeps it there, hovering. Battlestar Galactica fans will find their show's seeds here. [ME]
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Animate Earth
Stephan Harding
Green Books UK, 2006
Animate Earth brings the world of rocks, atmosphere, water and living things vividly - and literally - to life. Harding blends science with intuition in such an extraordinary way that, that the reader will find him or herself looking at tarmac surfaces and concrete runways as criminal artefacts. And now, with the clarion cry, "Free your soil," de-paving groups are springing up all over the built world. [JT]
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Another Take: 17 Short Stories on Architecture
Marc Angélil, Sarah Graham, Manuel Scholl, Reto Pfenninger, Hanspeter Oester
Verlag Scheidegger & Spiess, 2011
A multi-author volume of stories each focused on an architectural work of the firm AGPS, ranging from houses and storefronts to airports and commercial complexes, and from Southern California to Switzerland. [NL]
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Architecture in Uniform
Jean-Louis Cohen
Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2011
A complex discussion of the role of architects and architecture in the Second World War, and as such, in the words of author Jean-Louis Cohen, an effort "to compensate for the omission of ... the most deadly and extensive conflict in human history from most histories of architecture." [NL]
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Architecture of Regionalism in the Age of Globalization
Liane Lefaivre and Alex Tzonis
Routledge, 2011
A comprehensive history and theory of regionalist architecture in the context of intensifying globalization, with a focus on identity, community, sustainability and geopolitics. [NL]
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Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style
Virginia Tufte
Graphics Press, 2006
A genius book for any working writer, a sort of Kama Sutra of the English sentence, which doesn't insult the intelligence by browbeating you for the basics or over points (e.g., serial commas, passive voice) that are best left to style guides and copyeditors, but focuses on how to exploit the the mechanics of linguistic units (words, phrases, clauses) to create certain effects — of which clarity is only one. [ME]
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Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals
Christopher Payne
MIT Press, 2009
Beautifully researched, exquisitely photographed, expertly composed and edited, this book takes readers on an engrossing tour of abandoned state mental institutions across the nation. Though devoid of living souls, Asylum is every bit the portrait: it's a portrait of a lost generation, that reverberates with human tenderness on every page. Extraordinary. [JH]
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Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line
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). [TV]
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Beautiful Losers
Aaron Rose & Christian Strike
D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, 2005
This exhibition captured a sparkling moment in DIY cultural creation, just as the concept formerly known as the underground collided with the Internet, the commercial marketplace, and a more fragmented version of what "mainstream America" means. Many of these artists have gone on to wider acclaim, and deservedly so. But this would be an invaluable document even that hadn't happened. [RW]
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Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography
Errol Morris
Penguin Press, 2011
Morris examines photography, and how we look at it — what we project into images, sometimes including even the intentionality of the photographer, or the morality of the subject. We see things that aren't there, and miss things that are. [RW]
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Bibliographic: 100 Classic Graphic Design Books
Jason Godfrey
Laurence King Publishing, 2009
A fundamental resource for graphic designers and teachers, Bibliographic surveys classic graphic design books with full-color large images. Since these books cannot be easily purchased, this thoughtful survey is a gem for book lovers. [WD]
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Blackstock's Collections: The Drawings of an Artistic Savant
Blackstock's Collections: The Drawings of an Artistic Savant
Princeton Architectural Press, 2006
Gregory Blackstock washed pots for a living for twenty five years, played the accordion to supplement his income and hand drew hundreds of extraordinary visual lists, from hatchets to emergency trucks to wasps to Great Italian roosters. Blackstock is an artistic (and autistic) savant and his quirky and endearing drawings are a must see for anyone interested in visual communication. [AHL]
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Bombast: Spinning Atoms in the Desert
Michon Mackedon
Black Rock Institute Press, 2010
A well-illustrated study of the state of Nevada's long and complex relationship with the landscapes and politics and culture of nuclear power. [NL]
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Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig
Steve Heller & Elaine Lustig Cohen
Chronicle Books, 2010
Alvin Lustig's long anticipated monograph has arrived and I am happy to report, was well worth the wait. Beautifully designed by Tamar Cohen and lovingly authored by Steve Heller and Elaine Lustig Cohen, the book spans the prolific career of this modern man, full of images, drawings and his famous book covers, an intimate portrait of an important designer. [JSC]
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Bracket: On Farming
Mason White, Maya Przybylski, Editors
Actar, 2010
The first edition of a new annual almanac of architecture, environment and digital culture, founded by InfraNet Lab and Archinect, Bracket 1 explores the interconnections among farming, architecture, landscape architecture and urban design. [NL]
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Bridging the Gap: Public-Interest Architectural Internships
Georgia Bizios & Katie Wakeford, editors
Bizios & Wakeford, 2011
A new collection of essays by leading practitioners and educators, including Victoria Beach, Bryan Bell, Thomas Fisher, Michael Pyatok and Jess Zimbabwe, among others, focusing on the growing field of public-interest design and the need to strengthen opportunities for young designers. [NL]
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Buildings of Hawaii
Don. J. Hibbard, Editor
University of Virginia Press, 2011
The latest volume in the Society of Architectural Historian's series Buildings of the United States is a comprehensive overview of the architecture of the six major islands of Hawaii, from the traditional to the contemporary. [NL]
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California Design, 1930-1965: "Living in a Modern Way
Wendy Kaplan, editor
MIT Press, 2011
The gorgeously illustrated and thoughtfully written catalogue for a recent exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with chapters on buildings, furniture, ceramics, technology, fashion, graphic design, etc. [NL]
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Canti: Poems
Giacomo Leopardi
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010
For those of us who prefer the darker sides of literature, this is a large body of work of great importance. I keep reading and reading, and then re-reading. The translations by Jonathan Galassi are precise and the poems are moving. [WD]
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Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?
Mark Fisher
Zero Books, 2009
Mark Fisher, author of the K-punk blog, is one of the sharpest, most versatile, and readable of pop culture theorists. This concise, passionate essay about capitalism’s claims to be the only realistic political and economic system – in a fine polemical series from Zero Books – packs a hefty rhetorical punch. Fisher is especially trenchant on the management culture’s contradictory demands of education, where he has experience as a teacher. Critical designers need theoretical tools. Capitalist Realism delivers. [RP]
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Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline
Anthony Grafton & Daniel Rosenberg
Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
A visual history of the time line, published (by my old employer, Princeton Architectural Press) in the spirit of Edward Tufte — that is to say, a work of tremendous intellectual breadth produced with great love and quality materials. [ML]
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Cellophane House
Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake
KieranTimberlake, 2011
A monograph chronicling the creation of Cellophane House, an experiment in prefabricated housing designed by the Philadelphia firm KieranTimberlake and exhibited on site at the Museum of Modern Art as part of Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling. With a foreword by architectural historian Sandy Isenstadt and afterword by the firm's research director Billie Faircloth. [NL]
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Charlotte Perriand et le Japon
Jacques Barsac
Norma Éditions, 2008
A truly surprising and beautiful volume on early multi-culturalism and modern design, this book documents the decades that Charlotte Perriand spent in collaboration with Japanese craftsmen and designers, the criss-crossing influence of both vernacular Japanese construction and materials on a European high-modernist. In French. [LW]
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Chinati: The Vision of Donald Judd
Marianne Stockebrand
Yale University Press, 2010
A comprehensive catalogue of the collected works of the Chinati Foundation, focusing on its founding artist Donald Judd and the dozen or so others — including John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Roni Horn and Richard Long — whose installations have put Marfa on the art map. [NL]
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Circus: The Photographs of Frederick W. Glasier
F. W. Glasier, P. Kayafas, D. Walk & L. Sante
Eakins Press Foundation, 2009
These photographs rank with Atget or Sanders, we needed this book to place Glasier within our canon of photographic greats. Cathy Water's design is simply perfect. Jed Perl in The New Republic says it's: "one of the most beautiful art books of recent years" and that's not hype. [WD]
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Cityscapes: San Francisco and Its Buildings
John King
Heyday, 2011
This new guidebook to the architecture of San Francisco, by the urban design critic of the San Francisco Chronicle, mixes architecture and landscape, historical and contemporary, and the everyday and the extraordinary. [NL]
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Clip, Stamp, Fold
Beatriz Colomina & Craig Buckley, editors
Actar, 2010
An ambitious overview of "the radical architecture of the little magazines, 196X to 197X," focusing on how experimental magazines both recorded and inspired the work of avant-garde designers and theorists. [NL]
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Collections of Nothing
William Davies King
University of Chicago Press, 2008
Nearly everyone collects something, unless you're William Davies King, in which case you collect, well, pretty much everything — from broken bits of furniture to retro cereal boxes, his tales of aggregating so much stuff are at turns funny, poignant, deeply human and delightfully visual. [JH]
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Combinatory Urbanism
Stray Dog Cafe/Morphosis, 2011
A monograph on the work and ideas of Morphosis and its founder Thom Mayne. Subtitled "the complex behavior of collective form," the book begins with this central premise: "the contemporary city is dynamic, unstable, and increasingly difficult to trace as a linear process." [NL]
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Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Fair Trade, Sustainable Livelihood and Ecosystems in Mexico and Central America
Christopher M. Bacon, V. Ernesto Méndez, Stephen R. Gliessman, David Goodman, Jonathan A. Fox, editors
MIT Press, 2008
In a system that can involve as many as eight transactions to bring the coffee to market, coffee farmers receive less than two percent of the price of a cup of coffee sold in a coffee bar, or roughly six per cent of the value of a standard pack of ground coffee sold in a grocery store. Confronting the Coffee Crisis unpacks the complex coffee industry, while showing that interactions between local livelihoods and global actors do not automatically have to be negative. [JT]
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Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives
N. Christakis & J. Fowler
Little Brown, 2009
From bank runs to suicide prevention, nut allergies among schoolchildren to epidemics in virtual worlds, Christakis and Fowler Christakis and Fowler bring startling clarity to the idea that we don't live in groups — we live in networks. [JH]
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Conundrums: Typographic Conundrums
Harry Pearce
It Books, 2009
Using just one box per conundrum, two colors and a single typeface, Pentagram’s Harry Pearce, has authored and designed a very entertaining book. Full of great visual puzzles, there is plenty of exercise for the brain, fun for the funny bone, and candy for the eyes. A very nice little gift book indeed. [JSC]
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Michael Benedikt, editor
University of Texas at Austin, 2014
The latest volume from the Center for American Architecture and Design, at the University of Texas at Austin, Curtains explores the uneasy though changing relationship of architecture to the humble — or not so humble — curtain. As Michael Benedikt says: "Curtains are not only for spreading across windows … and openness to curtains and their kin will help rejuvenate the art." [NL]
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Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground
Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, July Oskar Cole, Laura Allen, editors
Soft Skull Press, 2007
Dam Nation is a collection of essays, drawings and photographs that span a wondrous range of topics: off-grid water concepts, the politics of dams and water infrastructure, watersheds as a way of understanding and living in the world. The essays explain the often destructive relationship between human settlements and nature. But these gloomy reflections are more than counter-balanced by stories about successful resistance to dams — including advanced plans to dismantle some of them — and practical ideas on how to restore watersheds. [JT]
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Data Flow
R. Klanten, N. Bourquin & S.Ehmann, editors
Die Gestalten Verlag, 2008
This book offers comprehensive coverage on the modern applications of information graphics, graphs, charts and visual data. The various examples range from clear and concise to complex, conceptual and beautiful. This book is where rational, mathematical order, collides with the abstract chaos of art. [JSC]
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Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age
Viktor Mayer-Schonberger
Princeton University Press, 2009
Looking for a dystopian notion for your sci-fi novel? Look no further. Mayer-Schönberger warns about the social and political costs and risks of ever-powerful, durable forms of memory prosthetics in the form of digital technologies, and proposes solutions. [ME]
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Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front
Sharon Astyk
New Society Publishers, 2008
Uniquely among recent books on life after the Peaks — energy, protein, biodiversity etc — Astyk does not write to scare us all witless. Astyk writes about the benefits that can come (and will come, for most of us) from being poor in material terms. She proffers practical advice on how best to live comfortably with an uncertain energy supply; prepare children for a hotter, lower energy, less secure world; and generally how to survive and thrive in an economy in crisis. [JT]
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Design for a Vulnerable Planet
Frederick Steiner
University of Texas Press, 2011
A call to ground design practice in ecological practices, using "nature as a standard," and in democratic ideals, with case studies in the U.S. and abroad. [NL]
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Designing Media
Bill Moggridge
MIT Press, 2010
On the surface, just another anthology of interviews. But the interviews are so good! And the range of voices so rich! I'm an unwilling fan of this book. Bill Moggridge moves the questions way beyond normal discussions about "media." [WD]
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Detroit: 138 Square Miles
Julia Reyes Taubman
Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit/D.A.P., 2011
A powerful and comprehensive photographic survey of Detroit, with a foreword by Elmore Leonard and essay by Jerry Herron. In Leonard's words: "If what happened in Detroit is a crime, Julia's book is the crime story." [NL]
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Distributed Urbanism: Cities After Google Earth
Gretchen Wilkins, Editor
Routledge, 2010

A wide-ranging collection that explores the increasingly decentralized systems through which cities are organized and produced, and highlights architectural practices emerging in response. [NL]
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Donald Judd
David Raskin
Yale University Press, 2010
A comprehensive monograph on Judd, beautifully written and well produced, that follows the artist from his early career in New York to his last decades in Marfa and the Chinati Mountains. [NL]
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Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
Bill McKibben
Times Books, 2010
As concerned observers of environmental degradation struggle to arrest the damage, Bill McKibben points out that the doomsday scenario many envision as the problem of our children or grandchildren is playing out in the here and now. If fact, we’re soaking in it. [JL]
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Eating Animals
Jonathan Safran Foer
Back Bay Books, 2010
For Foer, the horrors and biocrimes of our modern food system are only possible because we are disconnected from the fact that animal foods involve killing animals. The ways we buy meat and fish at restaurants and supermarkets, pre-cooked in pieces, widens the disconnect. But as the secrecy surrounding the factory farm breaks down "we can no longer plead ignorance — only indifference" Foer writes. "Those alive today will fairly be asked: what did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?" [JT]
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Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Lynne Truss
Gotham Books, 2004
Reaching deep down to get in touch with her inner grammarian, Truss reveals her zero tolerance to punctuation, and explains how even the simplest of errors go a long way toward making make us sound truly idiotic. For those guilty of interjecting the word "like" into every single sentence, this book should be tatooed to your face. [JH]
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Ecological Urbanism
Mohsen Mostafavi, editor, with Gareth Doherty
Lars Müller Publishers, 2010
Based upon a conference at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, and weighing in at 656 pages and 4.3 pounds, Ecological Urbanism is a powerhouse collection — starting with Rem Koolhaas and ending with the late Ian McHarg — that offers a wide-ranging view of the state of ecology and the city. [NL]
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Ed Ruscha: Road Tested
Michael Auping & Richard Prince
Hatje Cantz & Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2011
The catalogue of a recent exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, inspired by the 1956 road trip Ed Ruscha took from his hometown of Oklahoma City to Los Angeles, and focusing on works informed by the artist's love of cars and driving. [NL]
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Everything That Rises : A Book of Convergences
Lawrence Weschler
McSweeney's, 2006
This is a book full of nimble writing that never fails to stimulate the synapses. Weschler makes extraordinary leaps of insight between disparate images and historical moments, be it between Rembrandt and Che Guevara and a mass grave outside of Srebrenica. Passionate, personal and always surprising, you can read these bite-sized essays and come away buzzing with wonder. [AHL]
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Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism
Bryan Bell & Katie Wakeford, editors
Metropolis Books, 2008
This upbeat compendium is a cross-section of public-interest design polemics and projects. The projects have low budgets and large ambitions, and include remediated riverways in Taiwan, microcredit-financed housing in Mexico, lightweight shelter for Kosovo refugees, and affordable prefab in Virginia. [NL]
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Exquisite Corpse
Michael Sorkin
Verso, 1994
Whenever I feel that contemporary architecture criticism has gotten too dull, I flip through this collection of Sorkin’s Village Voice reviews from the 1980s, pick one, and feel instantly refreshed. Sorkin can be mean (to Paul Goldberger) and paranoid (about the Ford Foundation), but his proto-snark is thoroughly backed up with architectural analysis that is both pointed and full of feeling. [AL]
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Extraordinary Exhibitions
Ricky Jay
Quantuck Lane, 2005
Magician, actor, curator and wondrously quirky cultural presence, Ricky Jay is also a serious ephemera collector and a passionate social historian. Here, he shares selections from his magnificent collection of circus broadsides, advertising everything from an armless dulcimer player to a chess-playing automaton to an equestrian bee keeper. Brilliant. [JH]
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Fables Of Abundance: A Cultural History Of Advertising In America
Jackson Lears
Basic Books, 1995
A sweeping, deeply researched, insight-rich history of commercial persuasion and the American culture it created (or vice versa?). Full of myth-piercing and discovery in equal measure. Vital. [RW]
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Fabrication: Essays on Making Things and Making Meaning
Susan Neville
MacAdam/Cage Publishing, 2001
Neville, a journalist, traces the consumer's path by literally shadowing the people who make things — from casket makers to cartographers — and reveals the degree to which changing economies impact entire worlds. Her perspective is honest and surprisingly invigorating, proving that God may live in the details after all. Read the introduction, if nothing else. Life-changing. [JH]
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Teal Triggs
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. [AS]
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Finishing the Hat
Stephen Sondheim
Knopf, 2010
If you want to be convinced that Stephen Sondheim is America's greatest living artist in any medium, this generous book will provide all the evidence you need. The lyrics of his greatest shows, including West Side Story, Company, Follies and Sweeney Todd are remarkable for their wit and precision. Better still, however, is the running commentary he provides on his idols and rivals, stars and collaborators and above all, the pleasure and pain of the creative process iteself.
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Folk Photography
Luc Sante
Verse Chorus Press, 2009
Winner of the 2010 Infinity Award from the ICP for writing on photography, this book beautifully archives the photo-postcard trend of the early 1900's. These amateur images paint a picture of life in rural America, each postcard communicating a visual message, vacillating between the historical, the mundane and the haunted memory of nostalgia. [JSC]
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Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance
Geoffrey Batchen
Princeton Architectural Press, 2004
Meditations on photography as a mnemonic device by one of our premier critics. Batchen examines the emotional appeal of photographs by revealing the many ways they are embellished — with text, paint, frames, embroidery, fabric, string, hair and more — to create strange and often beautiful memento mori. [JH]
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Fritz Kahn: Man Machine Maschine Mensch
Uta von Debschitz & Thilo von Debschitz
Springer, 2009
The amazing cutaway diagrams of German scientist, gynecologist and author Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) finally get their due in a new book. Do not miss this. [MB]
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General Knowledge
Stephen Bayley
Booth-Clibborn, 2000
A zeitgeist-defining collection of 20 years of Stephen Bayley’s critical writings about design and style culled from the UK’s major broadsheets and magazines. Bayley’s direct engagement with such room-dominating and yet often-ignored elephants as taste, luxury, beauty and status makes for titillating reading in today’s austere design climate. Meticulously designed by Graphic Thought Facility whose use of highlighting and underlining seeded a deluge of similarly bureaucratic design treatments, the book is as much a cult object as one of Bayley’s revered Zippo lighters, Mont Blanc pens or Sony Walkmans. [AT]
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George, Be Careful: A Greek Florist's Kid in the Roughhouse World of Advertising
George Lois
Saturday Review Press, 1972
Do you need a little snap to get you through the week? Lois recounts hilarious moments from his life in advertising from the late 1950s through the 1970s. From literally hanging out of a window to get the attention of a client, overturning a desk in disgust or lunching at The Four Seasons, this is an insider’s look at a culture that is now no more than a vestige. [AHL]
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Gerd Arntz: Graphic designer
Ed Annink & Max Bruinsma, editors
010 Publishers, 2010
Mr. Poynor is the resident expert around these parts on the history of Dutch design, but you can take my word that this book on the master of the pictogram will be something you spend a great deal of time with. Arntz doesn't have much of a name here in the States, so this book is of special value. [ML]
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Guide to Easier Living
Mary & Russel Wright
Gibbs Smith, 2003
The industrial designers' 1950 guide describes a modern home that liberates women from formal entertaining and families from high-maintenance routine. Their idea of easier living still resonates, and their detailed home prescriptions (buffet suppers, portable seating, double-duty storage) are still useful, rendered in charming drawings. [AL]
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Having Words
Denise Scott Brown
Architectural Association, 2009
A collection of Scott Brown's essays from 1967 to 2009, on topics ranging from urban planning to pop art to the role of women in the profession. "Sexism and the Star System," from 1989, remains poignant — and all too relevant. [NL]
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Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change
Philip Brookman
Steidl, 2010
The Muybridge exhibition now at Tate Britain in London moves to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in February 2011. This is the book of the show and it offers a fabulous survey of every phase of the eccentric photographic innovator’s career. The repro of the sepia images is excellent. Muybridge monograph authors Rebecca Solnit and Marta Braun contribute fine essays. [RP]
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High Line: The Inside Story of New York City's Park in the Sky
Joshua David & Robert Hammond
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011
The directors of the High Line describe the multi-year effort to create Manhattan's celebrated new park. [NL]
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Hungry City
Carolyn Steele
Random House UK, 2008
Amid an explosion of books and bogs about food and cities, Hungry City stands out: it's an ideal place to start in plotting the relationship between the way cities evolve and the ways we feed ourselves. [JT]
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Iaspis Forum on Design and Critical Practice: The Reader
Martin Frostner & Magnus Ericson et al., editors
Lukas & Sternberg, 2009
The Reader, a Swedish project with English text, is one of the most interesting graphic design titles to be published in recent times. The book has smart interviews with Experimental Jetset, James Goggin, Nille Svensson, Dexter Sinister, Metahaven, and others. Thoughtfully compiled, carefully edited and well designed, this hard to find volume is essential reading for anyone interested in current possibilities for a critical approach to design practice. [RP]
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Ill Fares the Land
Tony Judt
Penguin Press, 2010
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. [NL]
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In the City
Greyworld Publishing, 2009
Part catalogue, part children's book, In the City explores the unexpected pleasures of city living, and documents more than a decade of projects by the London-based public art collective greyworld. [NL]
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Insurgent Public Space
Jeffrey Hou, editor
Routledge, 2010
Design educator and activist Jeffrey Hou has assembled a provocative collection that explores "guerilla urbanism and the remaking of the of contemporary cities." [NL]
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Paul Auster
Henry Holt and Co., 2009
This novel was panned by James Wood in The New Yorker ("Hints that have been scattered like mouse droppings lead us to the postmodern hole in the book where the rodent got in...") and praised by Clancy Martin in The New York Times Book Review ("So if, like me, part of why you read is the great pleasure of falling in love with a novel, then read Invisible."). I love Paul Auster's books, and this is definitely his best book in years. I loved all the "mouse droppings" in this dramatic story of incest and transformation... [WD]
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Ira Rakatansky: As Modern As Tomorrow
Lynette Widder, with Joan Ockman
William Stout Publishers, 2010
"When and how did the American house become modern?" This is the provocative question posed at the start of this compact but substantial monograph, the first on the six-decade career of the Rhode Island architect Ira Rakatansky. [NL]
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James Frazer Stirling: Modernism in Crisis
Anthony Vidler
Yale University Press, 2010
An elegant monograph on the under-appreciated but instrumental British modernist, Anthony Vidler presents the story of James Frazer Stirling, who taught for many years at the Yale School of Architecture. The content of the book are drawn from Stirling's archive, and worth the price alone for his beautiful drawings. [ML]
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Journeys: How Travelling Fruit, Ideas and Buildings Rearrange Our Environment
Giovanna Borasi, editor
Actar, 2010
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. [TV]
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Just Enough
Azby Brown
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. [JT]
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Just Enough: Lessons In Living Green From Traditional Japan
Azby Brown
Kondansha International, 2010
Stories and sketches, depictions of vanished ways of life, told from the point of view of a contemporary observer. It tells how people lived in Japan some 200 years ago during the late Edo period, when traditional technology and culture were at the peak of development, just before the country opened itself to the West and joined the ranks of the industrialized nations. “Just Enough” is about a mentality that once pervaded Japanese society and tcan serve as a beacon for our own efforts to achieve sustainability today.  [JT]
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Just My Type: A Book About Fonts
Simon Garfield
Profile Books, 2010
f you already know everything there is to know about about type, this is the book for you. If you have a loved one who doesn't understand why anyone should give a damn about type, this is the book for them. To write a single volume capable of entertaining the initiated and initiating the unaware is an amazing achievement and Simon Garfield has pulled it off. Garfield, an accomplished journalist who managed a similar feat in 2002 with Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World, is well read and readable and may be the ambassador the graphic design profession has long awaited. [MB]
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Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment
Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen
Yale University Press, 2011
The first book in a generation to explore the career of one of America's most prolific postwar architects, Kevin Roche: Architecture as Environment makes ample use of newly released archives and unpublished interviews to illuminate a complex legacy.  [NL]
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Kuth/Ranieri Architects
Byron Kuth and Elizabeth Ranieri
Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
A monograph on the work of the San Francisco office Kuth/Ranieri Architects, featuring built work and large-scale urban and ecological proposals. With essays by Ila Berman, Aaron Betsky, Rodolphe el-Khoury and Mitchell Schwarzer. [NL]
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L.A. Under the Influence
Roger Sherman
University of Minnesota Press, 2010
Los Angeles urban designer Roger Sherman uses game theory to explore how multiple constituencies compete for "profit, influence, and visibility" in the contemporary city — with the goal of illuminating how designers can influence the myriad negotiations that shape the city. [NL]
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L/B: Beautiful Book
Wahler, Burckhardt & Carmine
JRP Ringier, 2009
The work of L/B, the Swiss-based artists Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann, is sculptural, architectural and intensely graphic. Rarely has art owed so much to graphic design. This is public art imbued with the same rigour and precision that characterizes Swiss graphic design. It’s a quality found in the book’s Swiss designers — Norm, who also designed the recent Geigy book. [AS]
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Las Vegas Studio: Images from the Archive of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown
Hilar Stadler & Martino Stierli, editors
Verlag Scheidegger and Spiess, 2009
A collection of images from slides, photos, and films from the original field research of 1966-1968 that would form the visual core of Venturi, Brown, and Izenour's seminal analysis, Learning from Las Vegas (1972). Like the sun-bleached image of its cover, this book captures a fugitive moment in American culture with images that parallel and in some cases presage the deadpan aesthetic of artists such as Ed Ruscha and Dan Graham or the subjects of the new color photography as practiced by artists such as Stephen Shore. [AB]
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Lasting Yankee Stadium Memories
Alex Belth
Skyhorse Publishing, 2010
Alex Bleth presents a tribute to the now demolished but beloved 70's era ballpark, in all its concrete glory, by a laundry list of distinguished writers — including yours truly.  [ML]
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Le Jacquot de Monsieur Hulot
David Merveille
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. [TV]
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Making Healthy Places: Designing and Building for Health, Well-being and Sustainability
Andrew Dannenberg, Howard Frumkin, Richard Jackson, editors
Island Press, 2011
From a trio of medical doctors, a detailed overview that incorporates the latest research on the many connections between urban design and public health. [NL]
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Marina City: Bertrand Goldberg's Urban Vision
Igor Marjanovic and Katerina Rüedi Ray
Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
Marina City is a handsome monograph on Chicago's beloved corncob towers. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, anyone? [ML]
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Metahaven: Uncorporate Identity
Daniel van der Velden & Vinca Kruk, editors
Lars Muller Publishers, 2009
After decades of corporate identity being reduced to logos, Metahaven has undertaken a larger project to explore identity in politics and culture, online and across borders. This expansive monograph is its own project — the transformation of a design practice into a research laboratory and think tank. An important book. [JSC]
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Metropol Parasol
J. Mayer H.
Hatje Cantz , 2011
from Jurgen Mayer H. Architects, a monograph on their project, the Plaza de la Encarnación, which aims to reinvigorate the city center of Seville. [NL]
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Miami Modern Metropolis
Allan T. Shulman, editor
Bass Museum of Art, 2009
A large-format, generously illustrated history of Miami architecture and urbanism in the decades following World War II, when, writes Allan Shulman, "the city was a virtual laboratory for modern architecture." [NL]
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Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates: Reconstructing Urban Landscapes
Anita Berrizbeitia, editor
Yale University Press, 2009
A hefty and handsome monograph on the work of this landscape architecture firm. Much of the work is for environmentally damaged sites, and combines complex reconstruction techniques with a sophisticated design sensibility. The projects range in scale from a series of gorgeous minimalist courtyards for Tahari’s headquarters to large-scale waterfront parks in Pittsburgh and New York. [NL]
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Milk, Eggs, Vodka: Grocery Lists Lost and Found
Bill Keaggy
How Books, 2011
A curious lens through which we see peoples’ spending habits, food allergies and idiosyncratic tendencies, and a celebration of the non-sequitor if ever there was one. Funny lists, sad lists, unhealthy lists, old peoples’ lists — you name it, it’s here. But it isn’t so much the lists themselves (okay, sometimes it is) as the author’s dry commentary that will keep you riveted. You’ll never look at a shopping list the same way again. [JH]
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Mimi's Dada Catifesto
Shelley Jackson
Clarion Books, 2010
Mimi is an artistic cat who meets Mr. Dada, a human who believes that art can be anything. Introduce your children to the Dadaist art movement, or just enjoy the great prose and mixed-media art. Great gift. [WD]
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Miroslav Tichý
Miroslav Tichý
Steidl, 2010
Obsession is not always a good thing, but for Czech artist/photographer Miroslav Tichý it has brought him fame — even if late in life and even if he did not want it. Using handmade cameras made from toilet paper tubes, cardboard, spools and other found materials, Tichý has devoted years to secretly photographing female passersby. The images are raw, scratched, distorted and imperfect — which is part of their magical charm. In a world where flawless technique usually prevails, Tichý’s photos reflect his often-troubled psyche, where visages of women are collected like fireflies in a jar. [JF]
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Modern Views
Paul Goldberger and Phyllis Lambert
Assouline Publishing, 2010
Modern Views is a catalog of artworks inspired by the Farnsworth and Glass Houses, with proceeds benefiting the National Trust. [ML]
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Monica Haller: Riley and His Story
Riley Sharbonno & Monica Haller
Onestar Press/Falth & Hassler, 2009
Riley Sharbonno, a nurse at Abu Ghraib prison, photographed his daily experience using his camera to record the memories he would suppress. Artist Monica Haller offers us 480 pages of realities that provide a glimpse into a war the media ignores, that most Americans want to forget, but one that many of its combatants can't. In Matt Rezac's design, pages fit images and not the other way around, insuring that this book functions, like Riley's camera, as a concise repository of often traumatic experiences. [AB]
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Montage Revisited
Charlotte Bundgaard
Arkitektskolens Forlag, 2013
An investigation, from a Danish architect, into new approaches to industrial-based architecture. The author proposes "montage" as a strategy to engage increasingly flexible and high-tech manufacturing processes. [NL]
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Museum of Complaint
Matthew Bakkom, editor
Steidl, 2009
Before blogs and tweets and digital petitions, the letter was the primary vehicle for voicing dissatisfaction. This book features some 132 letters written to the Mayor of New York between 1751 and 1969, which chronicle, both individually and collectively, the kinds of absurd problems that faced metropolitain dwellers in an earlier, arguably cell phone and email-free time. This beautiful book offers up a side of material culture not frequently seen — or imagined — and obliges us to reconsider the lost art of letter-writing in a new and unusual way. [JH]
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Myth, Modernity and the Nature of Things
Salvatore LaRosa
B Five Studio, 2012
A visually elegant and thematically rich monograph of the recent design work— from architecture to furniture to objects — of Salvatore LaRosa, one of the partners of the New York firm B Five Studio. [NL]
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Neo-avant-garde and Postmodern: Postwar Architecture in Britain and Beyond
Mark Crinson & Claire Zimmerman, editors
Yale University Press, 2010
An anthology that explores unexpected continuities between the postwar and postmodern eras, with essays on the work of Alice and Peter Smithson, James Stirling, Leon Krier, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, and Charles Jencks, among others. [NL]
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Neuland: The Future of German Graphic Design
Actar, 2009
Can graphic design have national characteristics in the age of the internet and globalisation? Although much of what’s on show here could come from anywhere in modern Europe, a legacy of Germanic self-belief hangs about this collection of confident work by confident young German graphic designers. Look in vain, however, for wine labels or menu cards: this is the graphic design of self-exploration and cultural enquiry. [AS]
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No Return: Journeys in the Holocaust
Romek Marber
ichard Hollis & Five Leaves Publications, 2010
Romek Marber is famous for designing the covers of Penguin’s crime fiction in the 1960s. Few knew that he was a Holocaust survivor. In 1998, he was encouraged to write down his story, and it has taken until now for it to be published – by fellow graphic designer Richard Hollis’s new imprint. Marber’s evocation of his Polish childhood is elegiac; his terrible memories of the horror he witnessed are set down with greatly affecting economy and restraint. [RP]
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Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?
Kate Bingaman-Burt
Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
The artist's hand-drawn documentation of purchases, many of them evidently mundane, is a striking effort to make sense of our daily entanglement with money and the material. It's also weirdly (tellingly?) addictive: You'll wish for more pages. [RW]
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On Bullshit
Harry G. Frankfurt
Princeton University Press, 2005
The author, a professor of philosophy emeritus at Princeton, gives a delightfully concise and coherent assessment of what, exactly, bullshit is — and why there's so much of it around. Engaging, and handy. [RW]
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Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design
Khoi Vinh
New Riders Press, 2010
This new elements of style for web design, by the former online design director of the NYT, will lead you to clarity — and not just on the Internet. Also, if you're interested in design, New York, photography, dogs, baseball, literature, food, and people who are very smart, be sure to bookmark Khoi's blog, [PS: I think he's a consultant to Design Observer.] [ML]
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Overpainted Photographs
Gerhard Richter
Hatje Cantz, 2009
I know it's unfashionable to say but these images are heartbreakingly beautiful. Anyone interested in visual communication should at least have a look. Richter has found a rare and original hybrid between mechanical reproduction (photographs) and subjective expression (painting). In addition, Siri Hustvedt’s catalogue essay is a gem. [AHL]
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Paris versus New York: A Tally of Two Cities
Vahram Muratyan
Penguin, 2012
Gertrude Stein’s famous formulation “America is my country but Paris is my hometown”. has been given an inventive twist by Vaham Muratyan in his new book Paris verses New York. Paris is Muratyn’s country and New York is his hometown. Through a perceptive and amusing series of opposing graphic depictions he teases out oppositions that make each city so different and yet so related. Food (boulette/burger; macaron/cupcake) culture (a hilarious depiction of Godard’s glasses frames vs Woody Allen’s) personalities (amelie/carrie, jospehine/Liza) and sense of place (cage/elevator, le periph/bridge and tunnel). Words don’t come close to the inventive cleverness of these conjunctions; it’s all about the graphics. You can get a sense of his work here. [AHL]
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Paul Smith: You Can Find Inspiration in Everything
Obrist & Violette, editors
Violette Editions, 2004
Had it not been for a serious bicycle accident, at age 17, which put an end to his hopes of becoming a professional cyclist, we might never have known Paul Smith. With his classic style, ubiquitous stripes and modern twists, he personifies all that is fun, smart, elegant and, yes, goofy. This book is a delight. [ECB]
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Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth
Margaret Eleanor Atwood
House of Anansi, 2008
Adapted from a series of lectures, the book is a rather searing summary of evolving attitudes toward debt and value, defined broadly. The argument isn't a happy one, but it sure is convincing. [RW]
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Penguin 75
Paul Buckley, editor
Penguin, 2010
Ever wonder how a book cover came to fruition? This book, tells the tales of 75 Penguin book covers and the stories behind them. We hear from the art directors, designers and writers. Insightful and funny. [JSC]
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Perspecta 44: Domain
Tala Gharagozlou, David Sadighian & Ryan Welch, editors
The MIT Press, 2011
The latest edition of the distinguished journal from the Yale School of Architecture centers on a question: How do we establish the domain of architecture? [NL]
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Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities
John M. Carrera
Chronicle Books, 2009
The 1500 engravings that originally illustrated the 19th-century dictionaries of Noah Webster are a remarkably rich resource — one that lay buried in the bowels of Yale University. John Carrera has made an amazing book, collecting and restoring these illustrations from the original engravings. Collected together they tell a new story of knowledge, of nature, discoveries and innovations. A gem. [WD]
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Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage
Elizabeth Siegel
Art Institute of Chicago, 2009
Long before the Dada doings of Max Ernst and Kurt Schwitters, everyday people made spectacular compositions using silhouetted photographs and no shortage of colorful ephemera. The resulting photocollages, produced at the end of the Nineteenth Century, "reveal the educated minds as well as accomplished hands of their makers, as they take on new theories of evolution, the changing role of photography, and the strict conventions of aristocratic society." [JH]
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Positions #1 Grand Plans
Sarah Williams Goldhagen
NAi Publishers, 2010
A thoughtful peer-reviewed journal, highlighting urbanism, keeps the ongoing debate of what modern architecture was or is, alive. [JSC]
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Power and Love
Adam Kahane
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. [JT]
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Program or Be Programmed
Douglas Rushkoff
OR Books, 2010
Once upon a time, Rushkoff was practically the spokesman for the Internet. This is what makes his, shall we say, less-enthusiastic assessment of how that revolution worked out worth reading. His perspective is informed, provocative, and useful. [RW]
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Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature
David Antin
University Of Chicago Press, 2011
Reading David Antin is a joy: a provocative, highly-readable text that spans art and poetry since the 1960s. The ultimate in cultural observation. [WD]
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Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout
Lauren Redniss
It Books, 2010
Let me ask you this: How many books do you own with a cover that glows in the dark? None? So now we've established that you're going to buy this book, and we haven't even gotten to the interior. Redniss is a charming illustrator (think Maira Kalman) and empathetic storyteller with great feel for her subject. Science is so often treated in a sterile manner, but this book about clinicians is never clinical. Caveat emptor: Lauren is a friend. [ML]
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Re-Inventing Construction
Edited by Ilka and Andreas Ruby
Ruby Press/Holcim Foundation, 2010
An engrossing compendium that expands upon a recent conference in Mexico City sponsored by the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction. An international roster of contributors explores how innovative technologies and complex systems thinking can reduce our carbon footprint. [NL]
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Reality Hunger: A Manifesto
David Shields
Knopf, 2010
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. [AS]
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Reclaiming (the Urbanism of) Mumbai
Kelly Shannon & Janina Gosseye, editors
SUN, 2009
A well-illustrated anthology exploring a city in the midst of rapid social and ecological change. With contributions from Neera Adarkar, Charles Correa, Padma Achwal Desai, Andre Loeckx, Rahul Mehrotra, and Rohan Shivkumar, among others. [NL]
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Reconstructing the View: The Grand Canyon Photographs of Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe
Rebecca Senf, Stephen Pyne, Mark Klett, Byron Wolfe
UC Press, 2012
Photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, pioneers in the field of rephotography, spent five years tracking down the locations of historical photos of the Grand Canyon and creating collages with contemporary views from the same point. Read Klett's interview with Places photo editor Aaron Rothman. [JW]
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ReFusing Fashion: Rei Kawakubo
Dresner, Hilberry & Miro, editors
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 2008
The catalog that accompanied an exhibition of Rei Kawakubo's design for Comme des Garçons, with essays focused on her work as design process rather than (or alongside) fashion, by Harold Koda, Sylvia Lavin, Michael Stone-Richards and Judith Thurman. Designed by Danielle Aubert and Lana Cavar. Selected for AIGA's "50 Books." [LW]
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Tom McCarthy
Vintage, 2007
An unnamed object falls from the sky and injures a man. He receives a huge settlement and embarks on a post-trauma program of re-enacting scenes from memory, with the aid of many assistants, in a quest to feel real again. McCarthy’s strange novel uncoils with relentless logic and a compelling descriptive focus on ordinary things. Those who insist on conventional novelistic pleasures might struggle with it. Accept the narrator’s compulsions and Remainder takes you to a parallel world of dark absurdity that prosaic literary realism can’t reach. [RP]
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Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change
Clive Hamilton
Earthscan, 2010
Hamilton lambasts our "greed, materialism and alienation from Nature" before advising us to "abandon the accustomed view of the future as an improving version of the past." But his larger purpose is more pragmatic than moralistic: he wants to help us prepare psychologically and practically for the the reality of what climate weirdness will bring. Hamilton anticipates that fresh values may emerge in the era of a hot Earth —moderation, humility and respect, reverence for the natural world. [JT]
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Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America
Kurt Andersen
Random House, 2009
Andersen urges Americans to dust off the ashes from the recent economic conflagration and look at the opportunities it provides for reconsidering the future. “These times are not just accursed, not simply an awful episode to be endured,” he writes — “they really are interesting times, because of the new and possibly improved America that might be created out of the wreckage." [JL]
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Retrofitting Suburbia
Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson
John Wiley & Sons, 2011
A comprehensive and knowledgeable guide to redesigning postwar suburbia in response to the new imperatives of sustainability. First published in 2008, with a new edition updated by the authors, and including a foreword by Richard Florida. [NL]
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Revolution of Forms
John A. Loomis
Princeton Architectural Press, 2011
Updated edition of the major English-language history of the Art Schools in Havana — an extraordinary complex of buildings begun in the early years of the Cuban Revolution, left unfinished, and now being restored. [NL]
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Rockwell Kent: The Art of the Bookplate
Don Roberts
Fair Oaks Press, 2003
Rockwell Kent was one of America’s most sought after artists. In addition to his illustrative work, Kent designed bookplates. The clients of these bookplates reflect his democratic mores, and include factory workers, college students and millionaires. His belief was that a bookplate should mirror it's owner. These letters between Kent and various clients are a rare treat and the bookplates themselves are miniature masterpieces. [ECB]
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Shoot! Existential Photography
Clément Chéroux, editor
Revolver Publishing, 2010
This catalogue accompanied a psychologically fascinating exhibition at the Rencontres d’Arles photography festival, which showed automatic photos of people hitting the target in fairground shooting galleries: in effect, the shooters shoot themselves. One Dutch woman documented her entire adult life in these pictures and photographer celebrities such as Man Ray, Brassaï and Henri Cartier-Bresson peered down the gun barrel, too. [RP]
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Snapshot Chronicles
Barbara Levine & Stephanie Snyder
Princeton Architectural Press, 2006
With a powerful design by Martin Venezky, Levine's collection of found photo albums frames a rich, collective narrative of times, technologies and lives long gone. Recommended reading for anyone interested in personal narrative, vernacular photography, and visual memory. [JH]
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Soak: Mumbai in an Estuary
Anuradha Mathur & Dilip da Cunha
Rupa & Co., 2009
A powerful reinterpretation of the relationship of Mumbai to the Mithi River: What if the city ceased to combat the seasonal monsoons with hard engineering, and instead reconceived itself as an estuary, in accord with ecology and geography? Handsomely designed and produced, Soak is the catalogue for a recent exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai. [NL]
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Social Venturing
Robin Murray, Julie Caulier-Grice & Geoff Mulgan
Young Foundation, 2009
Describes a different kind of economy — a social economy — that is more socially and informationally intensive than capital intensive. A key ingredients “relational capital.” This is both the knowledge and trust built up between a venture and its users and suppliers, and the relationships between a venture and its staff and circle of volunteers. Social venturing, by Robin Murray, Julie Caulier-Grice and Geoff Mulgan is published by The Young Foundation.  [JT]
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Song and Circumstance: The Work of David Byrne from Talking Heads to the Present
Sytze Steenstra
Continuum, 2002
David Byrne can hardly contain his enthusiasm for this study, and no wonder. Dutch philosopher Sytze Steenstra, who wrote his doctorate about Byrne, has delivered a superbly wide-ranging, detailed and insightful analysis of the rock star, filmmaker, artist, and design collaborator’s multifaceted oeuvre. A discussion of Byrne’s book The New Sins, for instance, takes us to the German Romantics, Novalis, and Nietzsche. You emerge thinking that this much-celebrated pop-avant-gardist and bicycling cultural omnivore might even be a tad underrated. [RP]
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Sorry, Out of Gas
Giovanna Borasi, Mirko Zardini, editors
Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2007
The catalogue for an extraordinary exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, which at once looks back to the oil crisis of 1973 and forward to the urban and energy challenges that are defining our future. [NL]
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Space & Psyche
Elizabeth Danze, Stephen Sonnenberg, Editors
The University of Texas at Austin, 2013
The latest volume from the Center for American Architecture and Design is an anthology that explores the relationship between buildings and psychoanalysis. As the editors argue: "Buildings are inert objects, but our experience of them transcends the physical realm and extends into our deepest consciousness." [NL]
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Speak, Memory
Vladimir Nabokov
McGraw Hill, 1966
Who has written more evocatively and more precisely about memory, childhood and objects than Nabokov? His descriptions of his colored pencils or the lure of imported English products in pre-Revolutionary Russia or his nanny’s hands are examples of how physical objects and visual memory can be imbued with astonishing emotional meaning. [AHL]
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Species of Spaces and Other Pieces
Georges Perec
Penguin Classics, 1998
One of the prevailing preoccupations of contemporary design is a fascination with the lowly and overlooked aspects of everyday life. If such a movement has a spokesperson, it must surely be the brilliant French archivist, writer and puzzler Georges Perec. This collection contains several of his ruminative essays about what he calls “the banal, the obvious, the common, the ordinary, the infraordinary, the background noise, the habitual” as well as his approaches to classifying and analyzing it. [AT]
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Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand
Malcolm Daniel
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010
Here’s a sumptuous book to accompany the Met’s exhibition of three giants in 20th century photography, images drawn entirely from the museum’s collection of works by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), Edward Steichen (1879-1973) and Paul Strand (1890-1976). See through these rare “crown jewels of the collection” how photography emerged from Pictorialism to embrace such radical modernist ideas such as candid street photography, abstraction and movement. [JF]
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Still Life with Oysters and Lemon: On Objects and Intimacy
Mark Doty
Beacon Press, 2002
A quietly brilliant meditation on objects and memory, which is to say life and death, this slender book mixes the personal and the historic in a memoir of sorts: Funny, sad, sweet, it changes the way you see. [RW]
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Stoss and Chris Reed
C3 Publishing Co., 2007
A thoughtful and well-produced monograph on the work of the Boston-based StossLU — the LU stands for landscape urbanism — with essays by Stoss founding principal Chris Reed and landscape educator and theorist Charles Waldheim. [NL]
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Street Value
Rosten Woo, Meredith TenHoor & Damon Rich
Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
Collaborators Rosten Woo and Meredith TenHoor, with Damon Rich, mix history, interviews and design guidelines to create a fascinating composite portrait of the past, present and future of Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn. A photo essay by Gus Powell enriches the mix. [NL]
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Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives
David Eagleman
Vintage, 2010
This highly original, brilliantly imaginative collection of speculations about what might happen to us when we die is pure delight. One afterlife is populated only by people you remember, another only by sinners. In another hereafter, God has gone missing and heaven is coming apart at the seams. The stories are just two or three pages long; they resound, often movingly, with giant implications. Deserves to become an art school cult book alongside Auster’s New York Trilogy and Calvino’s Invisible Cities. [RP]
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Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys
Kate Fletcher
Earthscan Publications, 2008
An expert, thoughtful and above all usable guide to the practice of sustainable fashion. Kate Fletcher describes how clothing manufacture could be turned into a sustainable industry. Her detailed book assesses systems as well as products, examining possible solutions from raw material to final design.This is a must read. [JT]
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Territory: Architecture Beyond Environment
David Gissen, Editor
Wiley, 2010
For the May/June 2010 issue of Architectural Design, guest editor David Gissen has assembled an extremely strong collection of articles and projects, all exploring "the possibility of an architecture that actively produces its external, environmental conditions." [NL]
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Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age
Blair Kamin
University of Chicago Press, 2010
An excellent collection of articles, covering the past decade and updated with postscripts, by the architecture critic of The Chicago Tribune. [NL]
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The Agile City
James S. Russell
Island Press, 2011
A wide-ranging study that acknowledges the challenges that global warming poses to the health and prosperity of the United States — and then details how our cities can creatively adapt their development patterns to ensure a better future. [NL]
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The AIA Guide to New York City
Norval White, Elliot Willensky and Fran Leadon
Oxford University Press, 2010
The AIA Guide is the definitive guide to the greatest city in the history of the world. [ML]
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The Altered Landscape
Edited by Ann M. Wolfe, with contributions by Lucy R. Lippard, Geoff Manaugh, and W.J.T. Mitchell
Skira Rizzoli, 2011
A comprehensive catalogue of an exhibition at the Nevada Museum of Art incorporating the work of dozens of contemporary photographers, all focused on revealing, in the words of curator Ann M. Wolfe, "the ways that individuals and industries have marked, mined, toured, tested, developed, occupied, and exploited landscapes over the last fifty years." [NL]
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The Architecture of Harry Weese
Robert Bruegmann, Kathleen Murphy Skolnick
W.W. Norton & Company, 2010
A comprehensive and thoughtful study of the fifty-year career of the Chicago architect Harry Weese (1915–1998), best known for the remarkable achievement of the Washington Metro. [NL]
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The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World
Jacqueline Novogratz
Rodale, 2009
This memoir by the founder of Acumen Fund, a nonprofit that invests in sustainable enterprises in developing countries, shares insights into the practice of giving effectively. The sweater of the title was one Novogratz had donated to Goodwill only to find it a decade later on the back of a child in Rwanda. “Our actions — and inaction — touch people every day across the globe.” she concluded. [JL]
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The City as Campus
Sharon Haar
University of Minnesota, 2011
A timely and illuminating study of the interaction between universities and cities, with Chicago and its schools serving as exemplars of an increasingly important institutional/urban relationship. [NL]
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The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009
A menagerie of (short) narrative forms; elegant and playful dispatches from a world that, refreshingly, seems to never have been visited by religion, brand names, or Freud. You'd call it science fiction, except there are no robots, either. [ME]
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The Cruel Radiance
Susie Linfield
University Of Chicago Press, 2010
Brilliantly crafted, exquisitely written and exceptionally powerful in its argument, Susie Linfield looks at our complex relationship with what are essentially disquieting images: pictures of war, of violence, of unthinkable terror. Linfield debates theorists and critics from Charles Baudelaire to Walter Benjamin and fearlessly takes issue with Susan Sontag whose seminal 1977 book On Photography is reconsidered with fascinating new insight. [JH]
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The Function of Form
Farshid Moussavi
Actar, 2009
Farshid Moussavi, co-founder of Foreign Office Architects and professor of practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, explores contemporary meanings of the classic — Moussavi calls it "seductive" — dictum "form follows function."   [NL]
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The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant Guerre, and the Language of Rupture, with a New Preface
Marjorie Perloff
University Of Chicago Press, 2003
Though somewhat academic in tone, Perloff's book includes a fascinating argument on the invention of collage — its connection to language, to poetry and to experimental form — that should be required reading for all visual practitioners. [JH]
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The Internet and Everyone
John Chris Jones
Ellipsis London, 2000
John Chris Jones was decades ahead of his time. The Internet and Everyone it the opposite of a how-to textbook, mostly comprised of Jones's "design plays" and other fiction. In 560 pages, the reader realizes that Jones has been pursuing a kind of social designing that did not even have a name when he started writing and teaching about the subject several decades ago. [JT]
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the internet and everyone
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. [JT]
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The Jet Age Compendium: Paolozzi at Ambit 1967-1980
David Brittain
Four Corners Books, 2009
One of the compensations of living in London and travelling on its Dickensian subway system is the mosaic-clad walls at Tottenham Court Road station. Designed by Eduardo Paolozzi in 1984, it's hard to imagine them surviving. For those who can’t see Paolozzi’s subterranean wonderwalls, this book on his relationship with the radical magazine Ambit, offers lavish compensation. [AS]
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The L.A. Earthquake Sourcebook
Judith Lewis & David Ulin, editors
Designmatters at Art Center College of Design, 2009
Anything anyone could want to know about earthquakes and not only L.A. earthquakes, but earthquakes in general. This book covers such topics as the myth of “earthquake weather,” to preparedness, to the art of living in perpetual denial of the inevitable. Created by the students and faculty of Art Center College of Design, designed by Stefan Sagmeister and including various essays and illustrations by many notables. [JSC]
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The Landscape of Contemporary Infrastructure
Kelly Shannon and Marcel Smets
NAi Publishers, 2010
Generously illustrated overview of recent projects by leading designers that integrate architecture, landscape and infrastructure, including viaducts and roads, parks and waterfronts, transport stations and port terminals. [NL]
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The Memory Chalet
Tony Judt
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. [AS]
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The Mexican Suitcase
Cynthia Young
Steidl, 2010
For decades, photography experts, curators and historians had heard rumors that the legendary war photographer Robert Capa’s Spanish Civil War negatives might actually exist. The suitcase, having disappeared from Capa’s Paris studio at the onset of WWII, finally surfaced just three years ago and are presented for you in a handsome, two-volume set. The added bonus of these volumes is the marvelous design by Martin Venezky and his Appetite Engineers studio. Book accompanied the exhibition at ICP. [JF]
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The New Economics
David Boyle and Andrew Simms
Earthscan, 2009
"What are we to do about an economic system that destroys the biosphere for economic reasons? What would a politics based on wellbeing be like?” David Boyle and Andrew Simms propose a new approach that turns our assumptions about wealth and poverty upside down: Real wealth, they explain, can be measured by increased well-being and environmental sustainability rather than just having and consuming more things.  [JT]
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The Ongoing Moment
Geoff Dyer
Pantheon, 2005
A weirdly wonderful semi-fictional account of the canonical figures in the history of photography by genre-resistant writer Geoff Dyer. Organized according to a contingent taxonomy of subjects such as hats, benches, stairways and gas stations that recur in photos by Walker Evans, André Kertész, Edward Weston, Diane Arbus et al, Dyer attempts to “see if style could be identified in and by — if it inhered in — content.” [AT]
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The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory
Torkel Klingberg
Oxford University Press, 2008
Smart, satisfying pop science book about working memory, an important concept in neuroscience: what it is, how to train it, why it's limited, and why it's more robust among modern homo sapiens than at any time in our past. [ME]
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The Oxford Companion to the Book
Michael Suarez & H. R. Woudhuysen, editors
Oxford University Press, 2010
This two-volume set is an important addition to the history of the book: entries range from the arcane (Missionary Printing) to the current (Electronic Book). Nonetheless, it reads throughout like history written in the 21st century. Thank god. This is one of those multi-volume tomes I'm glad to have in my library. [WD]
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The Paradox of Urban Space
Sharon E. Sutton and Susan P. Kemp, editors
Macmillan, 2011
An exploration of how urban spaces not only reflect persistent inequalities but also offer sites for collective action and social transformation. [NL]
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The Politics of Climate Change
Anthony Giddens
Polity Press, 2009
Giddens, former director of the LSE, proposes ways to bring the arrest of global warming to the forefront of policymakers’ agendas. “The book,” he writes, “is a prolonged enquiry into a single question: why does anyone, anyone at all, for even a single day longer, continue to drive an SUV?….We are all SUV drivers, because so few of us are geared up to the profundity of the threats we face." [JL]
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The Power of Pro Bono
John Cary and Public Architecture, editor
Metropolis Books, 2010
An impressive compendium of recent projects created by architects working pro bono, compiled by John Cary and the San Francisco non-profit Public Architecture, with a foreword by environmental justice activist Majora Carter and a preface by Public Architecture founder John Peterson. [NL]
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The Principles of Uncertainty
Maira Kalman
Penguin Press, 2007
There is nothing uncertain in our full-tilt recommendation of Maira Kalman's latest book — a series of illustrated essays combining the author's whimsical drawings with her refreshingly unpretentious observations about — well, pretty much everything under the sun. A must-read for the whole family: or as Maira might say, mishpucha. [JH]
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The Religious Imagination in Modern and Contemporary Architecture
Renata Hejduk and Jim Williamson, Editors
Routledge, 2011
A wide-ranging and scholarly anthology on the religious imagination and "its influence on architectural form and ideology," appearing at a moment when religion is resurgent in history and culture. [NL]
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The Spoils of Poynton
Henry James
Oxford University Press, 2008
A slim novel about the danger of loving things more than family, more than romance, possibly more than life, in which alliances between mother and son, the tasteful and the philistine, the emotional and the reserved are created and destroyed over the question of what to do with Poynton — possibly the most beautiful house in England. A cautionary tale couched in James’s most exquisitely repressed language. [AL]
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The Sponsored Life: Ads, TV, and American Culture
Leslie Savan
Temple University Press, 1994
This collection of Savan's wildly original columns on advertising for The Village Voice remains a model for how to critique the commercial persuasion landscape. Ads are ephemeral, but the insights are durable. [RW]
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The Story of Eames Furniture
Marilyn & John Neuhart
Die Gestalten Verlag, 2010
Unbelievable homage to the most famous of design couples. Two volumes — as large and heavy as books come. Many surprises. Stay tuned for a full review by Alexandra Lange in the months to come. [WD]
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The Studio-X NY Guide to Liberating New Forms of Conversation
Gavin Browning, Editor
GSAPP Books, 2010
The new book from Studio-X at Columbia University is "both a method and manual for fostering conversations," in the words of Gavin Browning, and a record of public conversations held at the Studio's work/event space in Lower Manhattan. [NL]
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The Tennessee Valley Authority
Tim Culvahouse, Editor
Princeton Architectural Press, 2007
An expansive and interdisciplinary examination of one of the most influential infrastructure-building programs of the New Deal, with essays by Jennifer Bloomer, Steven Heller, Barry M. Katz, Christine Macy, Todd Smith and Jane Wolff, and with new photographs by Richard Barnes.  [NL]
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The Third City
Larry Bennett
University of Chicago Press, 2010
A history of contemporary Chicago, which political scientist Larry Bennett calls the "third city" to distinguish today's thriving metropolis from the Rust Belt city of the mid 20th century and the earlier industrial powerhouse of the prewar era. [NL]
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The Waters of Rome
Katherine Wentworth Rinne
Yale University Press, 2011
The fountains of Rome, writes Katherine Rinne, offer "one of the most spectacular urban aquatic displays in the world." Rinne, an urban designer and historian, looks beyond their beauty to reveal the role of Rome's water infrastructure in the city's social, cultural and physical life. [NL]
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Toward Zero Carbon
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Images Publishing Group, 2011
Comprehensive documentation of the "Chicago Central Area DeCarbonization Plan," created by the Chicago firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. "What if we could tap into Chicago's latent potential," the authors ask, "by using the existing built environment as a carbon asset?" [NL]
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Tree of Codes
Jonathan Safran Foer
Visual Editions, 2010
Jonathan Safran Foer, who brought an inventive visual approach to storytelling in his novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, takes it way beyond the next level with this extraordinary book. Using a different pattern of die-cuts on every page, Foer transforms an existing book, Bruno Schulz's The Street of Crocodiles, into an entirely different one. There's nothing new about multilayered narratives, of course, but using production techniques this ambitious takes a literary metaphor and creates an object of unprecedented complexity and beauty. [MB]
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Trickster Makes This World
Lewis Hyde
Canongate Books Ltd, 2008
A stunning synthesis of cross-cultural, era-leaping material demonstrating how mischievous, risky play at the borders creates fresh culture — and redraws those borders, over and over. [RW]
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Trouble In Paradise: Examining Discord Between Nature and Society
Julie Sasse
Tucson Museum of Art, 2009
More than 50 artists participated in a Tucson Museum of Art exhibit that explored our apparently bottomless capacity to ravage the planet. The range of media — from color-saturated photographs of uranium tailings to cartoon-like paintings of drowning polar bears — is impressive, as is the artists’ struggle to resist the temptation to make disaster look beautiful. [NL]
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Turning Pages: Editorial Design for Print Media
Robert Klanten et al., editors
Gestalten, 2010
Design publishing continues to pump out far too many pointless survey books. Turning Pages from Gestalten in Berlin is an object lesson in how to get it right: super-timely subject, masses of well-chosen examples, and knowledgeable, pointed commentary. Ingredient X is the way it’s all pulled together. The pages have a chaotic excitement that teeters on the brink of overload, yet everything stays in focus. The book feels totally of its moment. [RP]
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Type: A Visual History of Typefaces & Graphic Styles, 1901-1938 Vol. 2
Cees De Jong, editor
Taschen, 2010
Also from Jan Tholenaar's vast collection, Vol. 2 expands through 1901-1938. Each volume includes a keycard to an online image library where 1400 high-res scans are available for unrestricted use. These two books are a valuable addition to any designers toolbox. [JSC]
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Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles
Cees De Jong, editor
Taschen, 2009
A great reference. Culled from Dutch collector Jan Tholenaar's private collection, Vol. 1 gives examples of typography, ornamentation and various uses of the letter form, ranging from 1628 through 1900. Features the work of typographers William Caslon, Eric Gill, Jan Tschichold, A. M. Cassandre, Adrian Frutiger and others. [JSC]
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Typography (Graphic Design in Context)
Denise Gonzales Crisp
Thames & Hudson, 2012
Crisp's new book is based on years rethinking of how we understand typography... This revolutionary book considerably expands the notion of how type works, reorienting values mostly imported from print and dedicated to exclusive notions of "good design. [LS]
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Anne Elizabeth Moore
New Press, 2007
A merciless response to the contemporary culture of branding. If you read this book looking for advice on how to reach younger consumers, the author will probably hate you forever. [RW]
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URBANbuild: Local_global
Ila Berman/Mona El Khafif
William Stout, 2009
A beautifully designed and produced record of the work of URBANbuild, a Tulane University design center created to support the rehabilitation of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. [NL]
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Utopia's Ghost
Reinhold Martin
University of Minnesota Press, 2010
An incisive exploration of recent architectural theory, suggestively subtitled "Architecture and Postmodernism, Again." Martin contextualizes design discourse within the larger political, environmental and cultural debates of the mid and late 20th century — ranging from the Vietnam War to public housing — in a provocative effort "to reclaim for architectural thought a decisive role in the analysis, interpretation, and critique of power." [NL]
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Volume: Writings on Graphic Design, Music, Art, and Culture
Kenneth FitzGerald & Rudy VanderLans
Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
A real treat, this, a whole book of essays by one of the most distinctive and, at times, idiosyncratic writers to bring his sights to bear on visual communication. FitzGerald’s ambitious pieces were a highlight during Emigre’s middle and later years; I always wished he would publish more widely. Volume shows what graphic design writing can do when it stops fretting so much about the narrowly professional issues that keep it earth-bound and obvious, and allows itself elbow room to improvise and riff. [RP]
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War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy
Oxford University Press, 2010
This book took almost the entire year to read. About four pages a day; I never wanted it to end. The lucid descriptions of battle or riding through the snow on a sleigh in the moon light or of the young, luminous Natasha are breathtaking. A classic for a reason. [AHL]
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What is Contemporary Art?
e-flux Journal
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. [RP]
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Wolf Hall: A Novel
Hilary Mantel
Henry Holt, 2009
Last year’s Man Booker prizewinner is a gorgeously rendered tapestry of an exhaustively fictionalized subject: those lusty Tudors. As Henry VIII courts Anne Boleyn against the backdrop of the Holy Roman Empire, saintly Thomas More is presented as an ascetic crabapple and Thomas Cromwell — a villain in how many Hollywood renditions? — captures our hearts. We’ve been endlessly told the end of the story (enter axe), and yet this novel remains a page-turner. [JL]
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Women and the Everyday City
Jessica Ellen Sewell
University of Minnesota, 2011
A provocative study of the complex dynamics between gender and place, focusing on San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. Sewell, an architectural historian at Boston University, explores how women inhabited and influenced public spaces including streetcars, sidewalks, groceries and department stores, restaurants and cafés, etc. Ultimately Sewell links women's increasing use of public space to the suffrage campaigns that resulted in women's right to vote. [NL]
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Working the Line
David Taylor, Hannah Freiser & Luis Alberto Urrea
Radius Books, 2010
A beautifully produced volume of photographs by David Taylor focused on the social and physical complexities of the U.S.-Mexican border. With texts in English and Spanish by Hannah Freiser and Luis Alberto Urrea. [NL]
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Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion
Kathryn B. Hiesinger
Yale University Press, 2011
The catalogue of a recent exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, exploring Hadid's designs for furniture, lighting, jewelry and other objects — a comparatively less known aspect of the career of the Pritzker Prize-winning architect. [NL]
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Dave Eggers
McSweeney's, 2009
Set in New Orleans during Katrina, this nonfiction account of one man's harrowing ordeal in a city dissolving into toxic anarchy could have been unremittingly harsh and depressing, but it reads like a thriller. Very hard to put down. [JL]
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