Like my moods, my books go through phases, although I can always count on a few favorites to go back to time and again.
...And here is some more inspiration.
In 2000, graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister shut down his New York-based design studio for a whole year to explore creative ideas without the pressures of deadlines or client mandates. The result was a list of personal revelations (like, “Trying To Look Good Limits My Life,” and “Everything I Do Always Comes Back To Me”) that eventually evolved into remarkable typographic projects mounted around the world. Sometimes odd (sign-holding blow-up monkeys displayed around Scotland), but always fascinating (a billboard in Lisbon mounted on newsprint that faded over time), the projects demonstrate a commitment to experimentation that is laudable, indeed. This “book” is actually a set of 15 different pamphlets that, when rearranged in their laser-cut box, create a slightly different cover.
I picked up this book because of its canary-yellow jacket and interesting typography; I didn't realize until I started the first chapter, that About a Mountain is, actually, about a mountain - Yucca Mountain, specifically, 90 miles outside Las Vegas, and the proposed site of a plan that would entomb America's 77,000 tons of nuclear waste for 10,000 years. It would have been easy to merely rant about what an absurdly bad idea it is to store nuclear waste inside a mountain, but essayist D'Agata is much too sophisticated for that. Instead, he teases out the realities of the astonishing plan via linguists, geologists, cultural anthropologists, transportation experts and the like and, in the process, opens up a discussion about "the fragility of our capacity to know," definitively, anything about anything in the grand scheme of things. It's an impressive feat and stylishly done. -- Kim Okamura
Croce wrote about dance as if she were recording history, which she was, of course – one performance at a time. And such writing! Croce’s column in The New Yorker, which ran from 1973-1998, chronicled the rise (and, sometimes, fall) of the dancers and choreographers we now acknowledge as some of the century’s finest, in incisive and often controversial fashion. At her best, she was able to shed light on a famously “silent” art form, to articulate its nuances and subtleties in ways that brought its loftiness back down to earth. And she definitely shared her opinions, which won her both fans and detractors, as any truly good critic should have. This volume gathers together some of her most notable writings from her illustrious New Yorker period.
Even if you don’t have professional design aspirations, knowing good typographic basics can set you apart from the desktop-publishing masses. Lupton’s excellent handbook goes over things like kerning, tracking and classification, but also delves into style issues of hierarchy and the division of space with a little type history thrown in for good measure. It’s like Type 101 without the homework. Also check out Lupton’s equally excellent, if slightly more rigorous, Graphic Design: The New Basics
The definitive coffee table book for any Kubrick aficionado was made available last year in a more manageable size (and price), but with all the same loving documentation. Not only does it include film stills scanned from each of the original prints, it also features a mountain of in-depth Kubrick fan geekery: interviews, production calendars, handwritten notes, script revisions, behind-the-scenes photos, production polaroids, and so much more. Read it and weep.
Although I’m a great fan of Ishiguro’s writing, I’m actually including The Unconsoled on this list because I’d like people to read it and tell me what they believe it meant. I’m serious about this. The premise: a famous pianist arrives in an unnamed European city scheduled to give the most important performance of his life. The problem is, he mysteriously acquires near-total amnesia and has three days to make sense of his confounding new reality. Dream? Metaphor? You tell me.