Art MoCo's Top 10 Books of 2008
by sabine7 / December 28, 2008


We've come across such a great variety of books to feature every Sunday at Art MoCo over the year (52, in fact) that it seems a shame to not to pull them off the shelf or coffee table every once in a while. So we decided to pick our ten favorites, just in case anyone has any shopping left to do. We rounded up huge tomes of photography, delightful books for kids, a tidy little book about the love that goes into bento boxes, amazing illustrations and comic strips and even a great piece of tongue-in-cheek fiction. All of these make great gifts. It's up to you to decide whether the gift is for you or someone else. See all ten after the jump.



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The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings by photographer KayLynn Deveney is exactly that: a simple look at glimpses into the world of an old man in Wales living on his own. The book is not much more than a collection of photographs that Albert captioned for KayLynn in his scratchy, old person script, and it is precisely this that makes it a gem. It is a visual history of the quotidian, a book to sit quietly with, a book that opens onto reflection. It is very moving, perhaps because it imparts a sense of peace, or maybe because we so easily recognize people that we know, or have met, or seen from a distance. Albert Hastings reminds us of how human we are, and Kaylynn Deveney shows us our moments. The sort of book that you keep for yourself, and buy as gifts.


Hardcover, 116 pages. Princeton Architectural Press, 2007. $13.57 at Amazon.


+ The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings at Amazon


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A Little Bit of Paris by Jean-Jacques Sempé is a simple book of illustrations that that will transport you to a Paris of the imagination that reflects the best of a vibrant city. Known primarily to North American audiences for his illustrations in the New Yorker, Sempé is also well known for Le Petit Nicolas, a children's series about a mischievous schoolboy. A Little Bit of Paris is a selection of 128 drawings that evoke a postcard Paris, but with gentle humour that injects social commentary wordlessly to a Paris that is easily recognizable, even in its quirks. This book is wonderful for the armchair traveller, as well as for anyone with a fondness for Paris.


Hardcover, 128 pages. Universe, 2007. $19.95 at Amazon.


+ A Little Bit of Paris at Amazon


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On the Beach by Richard Misrach is a very simple book made up of over 30 of Misrach's photographs of people in proportion to the sea. The book is huge (20" x 16" and weighing in at 7 pounds), and has to be, in order to present the scope of Misrach's work. Tiny humans are set off against the vastness of the seemingly endless water in various shades of turquoise, soft aqua and green. The sandy browns of the beaches are in contrast to the water, and to look into these pictures is to escape momentarily from the stresses of the day.
If you are a fan of this photographer's work, especially of this series, this book is a must-have and an excellent value.


Hardcover, 80 pages. Aperture, 2007. $53.55 at Amazon. OH NO, OUT OF STOCK.


+ On the Beach at Amazon


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Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip - Book Two by Tove Jansson is the second volume of the original Moomin comic strip and contains 4 more stories made up of the many strips. Once again, this volume is a beautifully produced book that is as suitable for a coffee table or guest bedroom as it is for children of all ages. Jansson mixes humour, melancholy, and a healthy dash of magic to create a world worth escaping to. This volume covers hibernation, insomnia and a winter carnival; Mymble , her mother and a rash of children; jealousies; and identity. And Little My occupies a prominent place on the colourful cover.


Hardcover, 88 pages. Drawn & Quarterly, 2007. $13.57 at Amazon.


+ Moomin: Book 2 at Amazon


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The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman is a compilation of this wonderful illustrator's series of columns for the New York Times. For one year, Kalman did a colourful column every month, bringing her brand of musing and observation to an appreciative public. This is the type of book one could keep as a diary that one did not have to write; one could spend ample time just getting right into the images and staying a while. This is the type of book that is bought in multiples, as gifts for others and for oneself. It is like a box of candy that lasts forever.


Hardcover, 336 pages. Penguin Press, 2007. $18.73 at Amazon.


+ The Principles of Uncertainty at Amazon


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Face Food: The Visual Creativity of Japanese Bento Boxes by Christopher D. Salyers is a tidy little book that presents a very tidy hobby: the preparation of intricate bento boxes for children's lunches. The author interviews a variety of Japanese mothers and fathers who have to factor in a couple of extra hours to the morning schedule in order to design and prepare beautiful lunches for their children. They start to do it to get the children to eat well, then both sides get hooked. A good-looking bento box that makes use of pop culture symbols as well as manga and anime references will also up the child's popularity. The book is a fascinating look at a hobby that combines nutrition and craft and shows how love turns food into art.


Hardcover, 80 pages. Mark Batty Publisher, 2008. $10.36 at Amazon.


+ Face Food at Amazon


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Boring boring boring boring boring boring boring by Zach Plague is anything but. This first novel is a fanstastic satire of youth in the art world that spoofs artists, art schools, collectors, gallerists, art terrorists and just about everyone else. In addition to being a good read into the world of 19 year olds with attitude to spare, Boring Boring is a visual treat. The typography and graphic design are an integral part of the plot. This clever and funny story is also available as a series of posters. The expectation was that the graphic elements would at best take away from the story, or disguise a poorly written one, but Boring Boring is an entertaining romp with a hilarious cast of characters who keep the plot moving along in several different directions. We loved it.


Paperback, 288 pages. Featherproof Books, 2008. $10.17 at Amazon.


+ Boring boring boring at Amazon


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The Woollyhoodwinks vs. the Dark Patch by Asa Sanchez, Phil Dumesnil, Jeff Root and Scott Runcorn is a delightful tale of plush creatures who must use their wits and talents to battle a mysterious dark patch that arrives one day to swallow them up, one by one. The 'Winks, made from men's jackets at Goodwill, are named Ozard, Ludic, Reddy, Junco and Fluke, and are set against a backdrop of stitched scenery. Each one bears a different crafted personality, and although they are darn cute, the language is perhaps more sophisticated than that generally used for the 4-8 crowd that is the targeted audience. Our favorite line: "So the space between yesterday and tomorrow is now."


Hardcover, 36 pages. Immedium, 2008. $10.85 at Amazon.


+ Woollyhoodwinks at Amazon


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Travelersby Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz is a must-have for any fans of these artists. The book itself is beautiful and includes 40 full-colour images and a short story by Jonathan Lethem that reflects the snowy nature of the snow globe scenes created by Martin and Muñoz. The book is divided into two sections: Travelers and Islands. In the first series, tiny figures are set into the landscape of a snow globe where they encounter danger and unusual events. Three older ladies, armed with rifles, stand guard over a snow-covered picnic table. A man in a suit sits alone on a tree branch while white-clad medical professionals discuss the case below. A naked woman climbs a ladder to retrieve a dress from a wardrobe of branches. The second section features larger tableaux, but the consistent dark humour and anxiety is still present. Animals play a larger part: bulls draw blood and the black sheep causes trouble. Definitely the stuff that dreams are made of.


Hardcover, 96 pages. Aperture, 2008. $21.32 at Amazon.


+ Travelers at Amazon


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Decay by Nathan Troi Anderson and John Putnam is a book of photographs that can easily be described as a book of visual poetry. The two photographers have captured images of decay in progress, be it within nature or caused by it. An old pick-up rusts in a swampy forest, eventually to be mummified by time. The holes in a blighted leaf are captured in black and white. Peeling paint provides a pattern that we almost do not see because we are not looking. Rust from old mattress springs coats the fabric cover. Not only do these images draw the viewer in, but can also inspire any number of stories and poetry. And a wonderful bonus to the book is the enclosed CD of 50 royalty-free images that can be used in a variety of projects. The hard part is choosing ...


Hardcover, 160 pages. Mark Batty Publisher, 2008. $26.56 at Amazon.


+ Decay at Amazon


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The Transparent City is a tremendous tome of photographs by Michael Wolf. With essays by Natasha Egan, associate director and curator at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College Chicago where an exhibition of works appearing in this book will be held, and Geoff Manaugh, senior editor of Dwell and founder of BLDGBLOG, this book is a peep show into Chicago's cityscape, a transparent and fluid thing of beauty. Wolf works with the geometry of urban architecture and a telephoto lens to capture the patterns and details of both residential life and office work. This beautifully produced book allows us to enjoy the use of voyeurism to take a look at our own lives. From rooftops and boardrooms, Wolf records how and where we live. A wonderful book for the perpetually nosy.


Hardcover, 112 pages. Aperture/MoCP, 2008. $37.80 at Amazon.


+ The Transparent City at Amazon


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