101 Guidesbooksgift

2011 gift guide: books

by Amy Azzarito

I love books. I have a master’s degree in library science, spent eight years at the New York Public Library before joining Design*Sponge and have a relatively large collection of books at home. So each fall, I anxiously await the moment I can begin work on this guide. This year while traveling around the country, Grace would catch me sneaking off in bookstores, writing down titles to share, and I spent many a late night online looking at publisher’s catalogs. The great thing about books as gifts is that they ship quickly (making them the perfect last-minute gift), are easy to wrap and when you find the perfect title for the perfect person, there is nothing more personal. The downside is that it can be difficult to pick a book for someone else, and finding that perfect title can be a challenge. I’ve tried to help matters by only picking books that came out this year (most this fall), so there is a good chance your recipient doesn’t have these titles yet. There are 42 books on this list, so you should be able to match at least one title to a person. And if you can’t, there are now lots of options for your own wish list. Happy reading! — Amy Azzarito

Image above: 1. Nomad: A Global Approach to Interior Style by Sibella Court — One of the treats of this summer was tagging along on a walking tour of SoHo with Sibella Court. She is such a huge talent. 2. Design*Sponge at Home — OK. I have to admit momentary hesitation when it came to including the Design*Sponge book on the list. I didn’t want to play favorites, but then I had an internal discussion and realized that there is no book that I believe in more, and I’m proud to have been a tiny part of it. It is by far my favorite book of the year. 3. Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden — I wrote earlier this year about this book, and it is definitely one of my top picks for any garden enthusiast on your list. 4. Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel — Diana Vreeland shaped American fashion and American taste; this book chronicles that journey. There were a couple fashion-magazine books this year: 5. Vogue: The Covers, perfect for studying the evolution of American fashion, and 6. Bazaar: Greatest Hits, perfect for a fashion or photography enthusiast. This book provides an insider look at some of the most memorable Bazaar photoshoots from the past 10 years. 7. Exotic Taste: Orientalist Interiors — Every year I keep my eye open for books that I think are must-haves for my design history library. This is one of my favorites this year.

Image above: 1. Cyclepedia: A Century of Iconic Bicycle Design — A sure-win for any cyclist on your gift list. This book is basically a tour through bike collector Michael Embacher’s 100 favorite bicycles. 2. The Pirate Handbook: A Rogue’s Guide to Pillage, Plunder, Chaos & Conquest — ‘Nuff said. 3. Pantone: The 20th Century in Color — From Harvest Gold and Avocado in the 1970s to colors inspired by Martha Stewart and Kurt Cobain, this book is a fascinating look at 20th-century color. 4. Farm Anatomy — I’m pretty much sold on anything to do with animals. A book that lets me fantasize about having a farm from the comfort of my urban sofa has my name all over it. 5. The World of Department Stores traces the history of department store shopping, beginning with 19th-century Paris shopping. 6. Money: Everything You Never Knew about Your Favorite Thing to Find, Save, Spend & Covet; 7. The Ceramics Bible; 8. Walls: The Best of Decorative Treatments — Learn how decorative wall treatment evolved from murals to wood paneling and stencils.

Image above: 1. The Toaster Project or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch — Thomas Thwaites sets out to build this kitchen staple by hand. 2. Wildwood by Colin Meloy (author) and Carson Ellis (illustrator) — This was Grace’s favorite fall read, sustaining her through many plane rides. 3. The Wilder Life — For all those Little House on the Prairie fans. Wendy McClure sets out to discover the real world of Laura Ingalls Wilder. 4. Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms; 5. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern — How the discovery of one ancient manuscript changed the course of the world. 6. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman — Last year, my favorite book was Cleopatra. This year, I’m completely engrossed by Catherine the Great, and realizing that I knew so little about her. 7. Marcel the Shell with Shoes On — I LOVE Marcel. It might not take as long to get through as some others on the list, but I was so excited to discover Marcel in this book by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp.

More books (including crafting & cooking!) continue after the jump!


Image above: Bought, Borrowed, & Stolen by Allegra McEvedy — Recipes from around the world. 2. The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen — Pair with a gift of cheese or, if you really want to splurge, a membership to a cheese CSA. 3. Pasta — A book of amazing pasta recipes, including soups, classics and quick meals. Awesome. 4. Illustrated Guide to Cocktails; 5. A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavor Reinvented for Your Kitchen — Hugh Achson’s restaurants are a must when Grace and I visit Atlanta or Athens, Georgia. I’m so excited to try some of my faves at home. 6. Campfire Cookery by Sarah Huck & Jaimee Young — I love this book. In addition to recipes, there’s everything from what to bring with you to what types of wood are best for cooking particular kinds of food and how to forage for herbs. Gift this book with a cast-iron skillet, and your gift recipient can spend the winter practicing indoors. 7. Handheld Pies: Dozens of Pint-Size Sweets and Savories — Some say pies are the new cupcakes . . . 8. The Meatball Shop Cookbook — I have an unhealthy relationship with their vegetarian meatballs with pesto. At least now I can keep my love a little more private.

Image above: 1. Little Book of Screen Printing — Catalogs the best from more than 100 screenprinting artists. 2. Pulled: A Catalog of Screen Printing — A collection of more than 40 of today’s top screenprinting designers. 3. Maps by Paula Scher — Maps as art. Need I say more? 4. Alexander Girard — Grace and I got a sneak peek of this and were totally blown away. Not only did it give us a new appreciation for Girard, but it also really helped us understand Girard’s influence on modern designers (watch the book trailer here). 5. Pilgrimage by Annie Leibovitz — This book has been making the rounds as one of the top photography books of 2011. It’s filled with photographs of places that were personally meaningful to Leibovitz: Thoreau’s cabin at Walden, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home and Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott lived. 6. The Art of Instruction — An amazing collection of vintage educational charts. 7. Drawn In by Julia Rothman — A peek into the sketchbooks of artists, illustrators, graphic designers and cartoonists.

Image above: 1. Vintage Craft Workshop: Fresh Takes on Twenty-Four Classic Projects from the ’60s and ’70s; 2. The Beekeeper’s Bible — I have a least five beekeeping books. This is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. 3. The Liberty Book of Home Sewing — We love Liberty fabrics. This book is filled with sewing projects that highlight Liberty’s well-known fabrics. (My favorite is the round pillow.) 4. Sewing Basics — This book is inspiring me to finally learn how to sew. 5. Weekend Handmade — I’m a huge fan of Kelly Wilkinson’s blog, Make, Grow, Gather, and her first book is filled with the same inspired, pretty and modern projects. 6. The Bust DIY Guide to Life Everything from gardening to making cheese to weddings. The last DIY guide you’ll need.

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  • Wowooww! Awesome list! I want them all for myself. Is that bad? About a dozen of these are already on my wish list and of course I have the DS book. But I am soo thrilled to learn of the others!

  • thank you thank you thank you for this gift guide!! It was wonderful :D
    I’m a big book lover..

  • Great list!
    Just got “Wildwood” as a gift for my 9-year-old cousin for Christmas. Meanwhile, I’m reading the copy I gave my best friend for his birthday, and my other good friend keeps hers with her. Yeah… that’s three copies of “Wildwood.” I’m pretty sure I’ll need one, too. What a great book for everyone!

  • So many of these are already on reserve for me at my library! Thanks for adding a whole bunch more. I can’t wait to catch up.

  • Wow. What an extensive list! Thank you for the recommendations since I am always out to look for new books to add to my collection. Thanks!

  • Thank you for the great list Amy.
    Here is one that I would add for all the textile junkies out there.
    Sheila Hicks: 50 Years (Addison Gallery of American Art) by Susan C. Faxon, Joan Simon and Whitney Chadwick

  • for laura ingalls wilder fans, kelly kathleen ferguson wrote an amazing memoir of dressing up in a prairie dress and road tripping to laura ingalls sites throughout the midwest that is hilarious and insightful and an amazing gift for readers. you can get it on amazon and i loved it much more than the wilder life.

    and, i am dying for pilgrimage. great list! thanks.

  • SUCH a great list! I’ve just discovered a few more books that I’d love to add to my collection! Thanks so so much x

  • Oh dear! What am I going to do now…I want so many of them! I really do love Sibella’s books…pure inspiration! So many! I’m asking for a few…and giving a few…and coveting a few….!Thanks for such a great list!

  • I just received the Design Sponge and Modern Vintage Style by Emily Chalmers from Amazon. (shhh…I bought them for myself). I love these books so much, I’m going to order them for gifts.

  • my favorite gift guide so far. i love nothing more that giving/receiving books at holidays – such a meaningful gift! it’s startling how many of these books i own already. i guess i treat myself pretty well the rest of the year ;)

  • Excellent post. Makes me wish I had someone to buy me a gift or two. Looks like I’ll be doing my own Hanukkah shopping this year.

  • Thanks for including links to indie bookstores! I love receiving recommendations from fellow bibliophiles, and the roundup of books you’ve selected is so diverse and the books so quirky/interesting (the mycophilia book looks perfectly tailored for me – I’m obsessed with mushrooms! – and the illustrated guide to cocktails, with a fox holding a cocktail? Amazing.). I’ve already jotted down several that I need to read in the new year. It’s always a happy moment for me contemplating which book to read next!

    P.S. I’m seriously impressed by your library experience. I’ve worked in book publishing for a few years now, but I’ve always contemplated shifting laterally to a career in library science. Despite the tumultuous book landscape at the moment, it’s something I’m considering.

    • Hi Joanna!
      Glad you liked the book links! I seriously LOVE creating this gift guide every year. Feel free to email me about library science stuff – amy a at designsponge dot com :)
      Best of luck,

  • Amy, what a thrill to see my cover up there and read your kind words. Thank you so, so much for including me. I always knew you had excellent taste! :) xoKelly

  • Cannot stop looking at how beautiful Wildwood & Mycophilia look side by side. Might need to get those just so I can display them as art in my home. Just kidding, I also would love to read them! Thanks for this wonderful list!

  • I love your gift guides! Love that you did one with books, I love both giving and getting books as presents and found several I’d like to both give and get myself!

  • AMAZING list!! I love that you love books so much :) Thank you so much, these are great finds that I can’t wait to explore. I’ve always been in love with maps, and so the Maps book is one I’ll have to get, can’t wait!

  • I’m giving two of these! The Vogue book and of course, Design*Sponge.

    Great round-up. I’d be thrilled to receive any of them.

  • AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME collection of books! I have way too many tabs open to all the books I just have to devour now. If only I could disappear for a length of time to devote myself to such a pleasure :)
    Thanks for all the inspiration!

  • One really awesome gardening book to check out is “One Writer’s Garden”. It is about the Jackson, MS writer Eudora Welty. Welty and her mother worked on these great gardens at her home. The gardens are highlighted as well as the history behind gardening in the South. The authors are Susan Haltom and Jane Roy Brown with photographs by Langdon Clay. It is truly a delight to read and browse through!

  • Awesome list, I want to get everyone a book for Christmas:) take some, give some- a couple of my favorite books I highly recommend checking out are below:
    Eleanor Lambert; Still Here- a biography on an iconic figure who pioneered the way for public relations and branding of self, not to mention one fashionable lady. Written by her former assistant John Tiffany who has a New York based business of his own now.

    Tossed and Found- you may have already featured some of the designs from this book but regardless, it’s one of my favorite books because it uses found objects otherwise discarded or kicked to the curb until design couple Linda and John Meyers( Wary Meyers Decorative Arts, get their hands on it and turn it i into some crazy awesome design. The best part is, there’s instructions of how to create these madterpieces for yourself.