I Like It. What is It? and Other Bookish Gift Ideas

‘Tis the season, the Holidaze, time to tuck into sweets and sales, and, hopefully, carve out some time for rest and relaxation with friends and family. It’s easy to be cynical about this last month of the year but who doesn’t like receiving gifts, especially thoughtful ones? For the bookish, design-minded readers in your life, these recent titles are sure to be appreciated long after they are opened.

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I Like It. What Is It? by Anthony Burrill

Graphic designer Anthony Burrill has a keen knack for identifying the interesting parts of self-help mantras and truisms and succinctly trimming away the schmaltz, resulting in bold, memorable work: “Work Hard & Be Nice To People,” “It Is Ok For Me To Have Everything I Want.” Burrill first got noticed on a large scale with his designs commissioned by KesselsKramer for the now legendary advertising campaign for the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel in Amsterdam, the so-called “worst hotel in the world.” Since then his posters and graphics have been plastered all over the world. Now, thirty of Burrill’s posters can be found in this new oversized book, ready to be torn out and placed on your favorite wall.

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The Designer Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom edited by Sara Bader

When a flash of inspiration is needed quickly, sometimes all it takes are a few well thought out words to light the fuse. This handy little book collects quotations from over 100 notable designers who over the years have shared helpful, irreverent, and debatable tidbits that might help any creative get a new perspective on a project. Saul Bass, Irma Boom, Chip Kidd, Ellen Lupton, Herman Zapf—the all-star list of designers whose words are typeset on these pages is impressive, covering the spectrum of visual communication. One of my favorites is from the artist Charley Harper: “Where I grew up, I always say that the only time I ever heard the word “art” was if you were talking about somebody named Arthur.”

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S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

Just because you spend a lot of time reading the internet doesn’t mean you will ever get to the end of it. The same can be said of this book. Similar to Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, S. is a book about a book, calling into question the notion of “authorship.” In the case of S. the primary text is the novel Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka (translated by F.X. Caldeira, who might be Straka), and then the analysis of the novel by two students at Pollard State University. Eric, a Straka scholar of sorts stole the book from his high school library over a decade earlier; leaving the university library in a rush one time he forgot the volume and Jennifer found it. The two leave notes for one another in the margins, which respond directly to the novel and the translator’s footnotes, as well as insights into their personal lives. The stories that busily take shape on the page are compelling, but more for the package than the writing. Though it must be said, S. is a remarkable printed object. From pages yellowed to look aged to blown in ephemera that defies most rules of print production—a map printed on a napkin, a jagged newspaper clipping that does not seem to have been die cut. The sales copy dubs this project a “love letter to the written word,” though it seems more appropriate to call this a reverent obsession with the codex.

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Ten Thousand Stories: An Ever-Changing Tale of Tragic Happenings by Matthew Swanson & Robbi Behr

Another neat book as object, Ten Thousand Stories takes ten sordid short, short stories illustrated with depraved misfits and then horizontally divvies up all the pages into quarters, giving readers the chance to create 10,000 unique stories and accompanying illustrations. With just a few flips of the pages, tales like “The Sordid Aftermath of Drunken Karaoke” and “The Uncanny Allure of Cheerful Livestock” become “The Tragic Habits of Eccentric Messiahs”—replete with the eccentric messiah smoking something that produces a cloud raining dogs watched over by a half chicken/half chemistry beaker. The authors have done a great job keeping everything lively without anything coming off like a gimmick.

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Bough Down by Karen Green

Not all gifts have to be about good times. Because let’s face it, life isn’t all about fun. Karen Green’s elegy for her dead husband reminds readers of how loss is one of life’s defining characteristics and in doing so she has produced an intimate and singular book. With a diamond cutter’s precision the prose transforms a mass of sadness into the multifaceted, and forever difficult, state of recovery. Like Green’s delicate miniature collages also found on these pages, every line of the book demands attention, not in a needy sense but in the I-want-a-magnifying-glass sense so you don’t miss anything. The heady weight of Bough Down is made more intense by the fact that Green was married to David Foster Wallace when he hanged himself.  This is never explicitly acknowledged in the book, but it does add another layer to lines freighted with inspiring honesty: “You’ve won every argument except the one about my being better off.”


print-collections_underthecIn Under the Covers: Print’s Guide to Book Jacket Design, you’ll get 34 pages of book cover design advice, inspiration and eye candy—all in one handy place. See dozens of book covers, including the new, the old, the reimagined—even the ones that never saw the light of day.


About Buzz Poole

Buzz Poole has written about books, design, art, and culture for numerous outlets, including Print, The Village Voice, The Believer, Los Angeles Review of Books, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Millions. He is the author of the story collection I Like to Keep My Troubles on the Windy Side of Things; the New Statesman named his examination of unexpected iconography, Madonna of the Toast, one of 2007’s Best Underground Books.

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