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Book Faire

On the sidebar I added an Amazon link spotlighting a few products that yer humble host recommends, stuff that I’ve come across in the last few months. This will be updated throughout the year, but I want to go into a couple of books in more detail, right here.

Penguin By DesignPenguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005 by Phil Baines. This volume, published in 2006, was a Christmas gift from some friends of ours (who happened to be attending the inauguration today). Started by Allen Lane in mid-’30s England, Penguin was the first publishing house to bring affordable and handy paperbacks to the masses. Phil Baines’ text forms a too dry yet serviceable history, but the real star of this book are the covers themselves — arranged chronologically and grouped by series (classics, poetry, contemporary affairs, etc.). Paging through the book, one gets a sense that from the very beginning quality was Penguin’s main m.o. It’s interesting to note that many of these cover designs are quaint and even somewhat dull in and of themselves — but when they are presented here, usually four to a page and surrounded by thematically similar designs from around the same time period, it makes me appreciate the thoughtfulness that went into them. I love the covers’ crafty use of color, the grids, the judicious use of type (mostly Helvetica), and the audacity of the more recent ones. The book contains plenty of gorgeous covers from the classical ’40s up through the freewheeling ’60s and ’70s, and the compilers don’t shy away from including some plainly hideous examples of Penguin’s detour into mass market tastes in the ’80s. It’s a well-rounded and beautifully designed book which I’ve already gotten a lot of inspiration from.

Art & SoleArt & Sole: Contemporary Sneaker Art & Design, written and designed by Intercity. This book reminds me of the Entourage episode in which the character of Turtle goes out of his way to acquire a pair of very pricey designer sneaks. Divided equally in two parts, the first half explores the too-hip arena of limited issue designer Nikes, Adidases, Converses and other brands that Turtle would likely covet. The second half delves into artwork inspired by sneaker culture. There’s a lot of overlap between the two, and part of the fun of this book is seeing how the cultures of fine art, Hip Hop, extreme sports, and hipster collecting intersect with each other. To be honest, I actually liked the first half of this book better than the second. It’s strange to think of a shoe as a work of art — but when a real artist applies his or her handiwork to these babies, they really are more worthy of being displayed on a shelf in pristine condition than worn on the feet. The second part also contains plenty of neat stuff (including some Nike Be@rbricks!). One of the coolest pieces of art in the book is the giant LED-lit shoe created by Finnish design firm Freedom of Creation. I first saw this on, of all places, Kanye West’s weblog. Behold:

Freedom Of Creation Shoe

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