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Books We Love - The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books

Books We Love - The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books


Thanks to Brain Pickings for this great article about the book The Top Ten!topten

“Reading is the nourishment that lets you do interesting work,” Jennifer Egan once said. This intersection of reading and writing is both a necessary bi-directional life skill for us mere mortals and a secret of iconic writers’ success, as bespoken by their personal libraries. The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books asks 125 of modernity’s greatest British and American writers — including Norman Mailer, Ann Patchett, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, and Joyce Carol Oates — “to provide a list, ranked, in order, of what [they] consider the ten greatest works of fiction of all time– novels, story collections, plays, or poems.”

Of the 544 separate titles selected, each is assigned a reverse-order point value based on the number position at which it appears on any list — so, a book that tops a list at number one receives 10 points, and a book that graces the bottom, at number ten, receives 1 point.

In introducing the lists, David Orr offers a litmus test for greatness:

If you’re putting together a list of ‘the greatest books,’ you’ll want to do two things: (1) out of kindness, avoid anyone working on a novel; and (2) decide what the word ‘great’ means. The first part is easy, but how about the second? A short list of possible definitions of ‘greatness’ might look like this:

1. ‘Great’ means ‘books that have been greatest for me.’ 2. ‘Great’ means ‘books that would be considered great by the most people over time.’ 3. ‘Great’ has nothing to do with you or me — or people at all. It involves transcendental concepts like God or the Sublime. 4. ‘Great’? I like Tom Clancy.

From David Foster Wallace (#1: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis) to Stephen King (#1: The Golden Argosy, a 1955 anthology of the best short stories in the English language), the collection offers a rare glimpse of the building blocks of great creators’ combinatorial creativity — because, as Austin Kleon put it, “you are a mashup of what you let into your life.”

The book concludes with an appendix of “literary number games” summing up some patterns and constructing several overall rankings based on the totality of the different authors’ picks. Among them (*with links to free public domain works where available):


  1. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

  2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  3. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

  4. Ulysses* by James Joyce

  5. Dubliners* by James Joyce

  6. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

  7. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

  8. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

  9. The complete stories of Flannery O’Connor

  10. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov


  1. Anna Karenina* by Leo Tolstoy

  2. Madame Bovary* by Gustave Flaubert

  3. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

  4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

  5. The stories of Anton Chekhov

  6. Middlemarch* by George Eliot

  7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

  8. Great Expectations* by Charles Dickens

  9. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

  10. Emma* by Jane Austen


  1. William Shakespeare — 11

  2. William Faulkner — 6

  3. Henry James — 6

  4. Jane Austen — 5

  5. Charles Dickens — 5

  6. Fyodor Dostoevsky — 5

  7. Ernest Hemingway — 5

  8. Franz Kafka — 5

  9. (tie) James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Vladimir Nabokov, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf — 4


  1. Leo Tolstoy — 327

  2. William Shakespeare — 293

  3. James Joyce — 194

  4. Vladimir Nabokov — 190

  5. Fyodor Dostoevsky — 177

  6. William Faulkner — 173

  7. Charles Dickens — 168

  8. Anton Chekhov — 165

  9. Gustave Flaubert — 163

  10. Jane Austen — 161

As a nonfiction loyalist, I’d love a similar anthology of nonfiction favorites — then again, famous writers might wave a knowing finger and point me to the complex relationship between truth and fiction.

Books We Love - Fritz Kahn

Books We Love - Fritz Kahn



"Fritz Kahn was a German doctor, educator, popular science writer, and information graphics pioneer whose brilliant work has all but fallen into oblivion. Chased out of Germany by the Nazis, who banned and burned his books, Kahn emigrated to Palestine, then France, and finally the United States to continue his life's work. Though his achievements were numerous, the most notable was the development of creative visualizations to explain complex scientific ideas. Published on the 125th anniversary of Kahn's birth and destined to bring his work back into the spotlight, this monograph features more than 350 illustrations with extensive captions, three original texts by Fritz Kahn, a foreword by Steven Heller, and an essay about Kahn’s life and œuvre. Natural science buffs, graphics professionals, and anyone interested in visual expression of ideas will be fascinated by this tribute to Kahn’s greatest achievements."

Books We Love - Before I Die

Books We Love - Before I Die



"In early 2011, artist, designer, and TED Fellow Candy Chang, queen of thoughtful installations in public spaces that invite collaborative storytelling, covered an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood in chalkboard paint and stenciled on it a grid of the deceptively simple unfinished sentence “Before I die I want to . . .,” which any passerby could complete with a piece of chalk and a personal aspiration. To Chang’s surprise, the wall was completely filled by the next day. Soon, the project took on a life of its own and was replicated in over 10 languages across more than thirty countries, giving voice to millions of such private yearnings."

(via Brain Pickings)



"Before I Die collects the best of these public yet anonymous walls, from Alaska to Australia, Brooklyn to Berlin, filled with answers ranging from the poignant (“see a year without war”) to the silly (“sleep with a harp player”) to the disarmingly honest (“repair my broken heart”). Alongside the photographs are the stories of some of the people who chalked in their anonymous answers."



"I never expected such an amazing outpouring of responses so quickly. Within 24 hours, the entire wall was completely filled out. And the responses range from humorous to overwhelmingly thoughtful — from ‘be a YouTube sensation’ to ‘go 200 mph’ to ‘be completely myself.’ I hear that people are gathering at the house and it’s stopping traffic. I’m blown away.”

2013′s Best Books to Give as Gifts From Flavor Wire

2013′s Best Books to Give as Gifts From Flavor Wire


FlavorWire posted this great list of books to give as gifts, enjoy! (via FlavorWire

If you’ve got a coffee table or bank account big enough to collect all of them, 2013 was a pretty fine year for beautifully packaged books that were interesting reads, but could also make any room look smarter. For those of you who plan to give books as gifts this holiday season, we’ve collected some excellent options published within the past 12 months.









Tiny Handmade Books

Tiny Handmade Books


We are so impressed by the details of these tiny handmade books!Ciulla_E

The first is by Canadian artist, Erin Ciulla. It is a suitcase containing miniature books with mixed media, found materials, and handmade paper.



The second is by Todd Pattison, who studied bookbinding in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s and went on to study with Hugo Peller and Edwin Heim in Ascona, Switzerland. He is currently senior book conservator at the Northeast Document Conservation Center where he has worked for the past eighteen years. This particular project is "found and altered early 19th-century leather binding with fore-edge clasps. The bookshelves of the altered binding hold seventy-two blank leather- and paper-covered books which open and range in height from 1” to 1.5”." (via Guild of Book Workers)

Glow in the Dark Book

Glow in the Dark Book


Croatian designers Bruketa & Žinić have created a book that can only be identified in the dark. When the lights are turned off, words glow on the cover and spine of the annual report for investment company Adris. Copies of the book were displayed at a media festival room, designed by shop-concept studio Brigada, where lights were turned on and off at intervals. Bruketa&Žinić previously designed a book that had to be baked before it could be read - see our earlier story.

Photography is by Domagoj Blažević.


Good ideas glow in the dark by Bruketa Zinic and Brigada 

Good ideas glow in the dark by Bruketa Zinic and Brigada

Good ideas glow in the dark by Bruketa Zinic and Brigada

Good ideas glow in the dark by Bruketa Zinic and Brigada

Good ideas glow in the dark by Bruketa Zinic and Brigada

Good ideas glow in the dark by Bruketa Zinic and Brigada

"We created a room in which, upon entering, the lights fade out and the only things that glow are the annual reports of Adris on shelves and tables."

Good ideas glow in the dark by Bruketa Zinic and Brigada

Credits: Brigada / Damjan Geber (Architect) Bruketa&Žinić OM / Davor Bruketa, Nikola Žinić (Creative Directors), Vesna Đurašin (Production Manager), Ivana Drvar (Account Executive Senior), Radovan Radičević (DTP)

Good ideas glow in the dark by Bruketa Zinic and Brigada

Designers Print Books Using Squid Ink

Designers Print Books Using Squid Ink


Dutch design studio Today Designers used squid ink to specially print a book.

The 48-page book, entitled ‘Naar Inkt Vissen’ (which translates to ‘Fishing For Ink’), is about nautical tales and is accompanied with pictures from various illustrators. Thus, using one-and-a-half liters of the dark pigment from the sea to screen-print 700 of these books was in line with its theme.

On top of using squid ink, ‘Naar Inkt Vissen’ was also bound using Japanese stab-binding technique—with fishing wire purposefully used to complete its look.

The downside is that the book smells fishy, literally: “It smells, stinks and reeks. We are talking about a penetrating fishy smell here, caused by the squid ink with which the book is printed in,” designers told Dezeen.

The seafood-printed book shows that squid ink also has its practical uses besides being eaten. It could also serve as a new eco-friendly way to print on paper—which could lessen how much we spend on printer ink—we just have to find a way to deal with the smell.

(via Design Taxi)

A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design

A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design


(via Creative Review)

Graphic designer and author Chip Kidd has written an introduction to graphic design for children. The book offers an entertaining and inspiring look at visual communication...

On the front cover of Chip Kidd's new book, Go! A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design, is a big red sign usually reserved for the word 'stop'. On Kidd's cover though, it says 'go'. As he explains later in the book, Kidd is toying with his readers. “It is meant first to attract your attention, then to make you want to investigate it and figure it out. And I think that's what all book covers should try to do,” he says.

A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design is aimed at children aged 10 and above and provides an introduction to some of the key concepts in graphics and typography. Witty, engaging and never condescending, it's exactly the kind of introduction to graphic design that I never had - but wish I did – when I was at school.

Kidd's book starts with an explanation of what graphic design is and why it's important. As he explains, “everything that is not made by nature is designed by someone...and it affects us all the time”.  He also provides a potted history of graphic design, stretching from cave paintings in 10,000 BC to the invention of Garamond in 1530, the first user-friendly Apple computer in 1984 and Photoshop in 1989. It isn't an exhaustive list but it references some key design movements and technological developments.

The rest of the book is divided into four chapters - form, typography, content and concept – which outline key design principles. In form, he presents examples of how to create powerful designs using techniques such as cropping and juxtaposing images, layering text and playing with light and dark:

And in a chapter on typography, he introduces readers to kerning, points and picas, and a selection of iconic fonts including Didot, Princetown, Huxley Vertical and of course, Gill Sans and Helvetica. It's a complex subject to relay to a young audience but Kidd pulls it off by toying with type to illustrate his points, encouraging his readers to really think about how typography affects the way we interpret words.

Chapters on content and concept introduce readers to Louis Sullivan's 'form follows function' theory, highlighting the importance of addressing the question, what are you trying to communicate? before deciding on a final design concept. While Kidd acknowledges that the idea for a concept is often the result of luck or a stroke of genius, he encourages readers to “let the problem itself give you ideas”, citing the inspiration for some of his most striking cover designs:

The book ends with a series of design projects encouraging readers to practice the theory they've learned. In one, he invites children to create their own visual identity, asking “what is your idea of yourself? And what idea of you do you want others to have?” He also suggests starting a graphic design collection and making a font specimen sheet.

Kidd's guide is full of practical advice and examples of his own work and others', including his brilliant Jurassic Park book cover - just one of more than 1000 he's designed during his design career. It's informative without being boring,  simplifies complex themes without patronising readers and most importantly, it shows children that design can, and should, be fun.

Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made

Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made


A Special thanks to our friend Keith Rainville for sharing this article with us from Brain Pickings!

After the incredible success of 2001: A Space OdysseyStanley Kubrick began working on a large-scale biopic about Napoleon Bonaparte. He spent countless hours digging through manuscripts, reading books and researching the life of the great French emperor, created a meticulous card catalog of the places and doings of Napoleon’s inner circle, and amassed over 15,000 location scouting photographs and 17,000 slides of Napoleonic imagery. Then he wrote a preliminary screenplay. But in his obsessive genius, Kubrick envisioned such an epic movie that it was ultimately canceled due to the exorbitant costs of location filming. (Well, that and the fact that two similar historical biopics had failed miserably in the preceding years.) And for 40 years, fans mourned the nonexistence of Kubrick’s Napoleon.

Publisher Taschen recently released Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made — an equally epic tome about the project that never happened, making Kubrick’s ambitious work on Napoleon available to the world for the first time as 10 books that live inside one giant volume.

There are only 1000 copies of the limited-edition collector’s title, but even with the hefty price tag of $700, there’s little doubt die-hard Kubrick fans will be elbowing each other for a copy.

The book is a treasure chest full of Kubrick’s precious archives — his correspondence, research material, costume studies, casting considerations, location scouting photographs, sketches, and even the final draft of the screenplay reproduced in facsimile. (Yes, that’s the closest you’ll ever get to an autograph from Stanley Kubrick.) All of this is tucked inside a cleverly designed carved-out reproduction of a Napoleon history book.

To sweeten the deal, the publisher is offering exclusive access to a searchable online database, featuring Kubrick’s complete picture file of nearly 17,000 Napoleonic images — and they’ve made them all downloadable.

Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made is among the most ambitious publishing projects to come by in a long while, both in terms of the incredible wealth of well-researched content in hosts and the brilliantly conceived vehicle. It offers a rare peek at the creative process of a cultural icon, delivered through a fittingly ambitious prism of book design innovation.

Numero: A Pop-up Book of Numbers

Numero: A Pop-up Book of Numbers


Numero: A Beautiful Pop up Book of Numbers by Marion Bataille pop ups numbers books Numero: A Beautiful Pop up Book of Numbers by Marion Bataille pop ups numbers books

Numero: A Beautiful Pop up Book of Numbers by Marion Bataille pop ups numbers books

Numero: A Beautiful Pop up Book of Numbers by Marion Bataille pop ups numbers books

Numero: A Beautiful Pop up Book of Numbers by Marion Bataille pop ups numbers books

Numero: A Beautiful Pop up Book of Numbers by Marion Bataille pop ups numbers books

"Five years ago graphic artist and illustration Marion Bataille took the pop-up book world by storm with her incredible ABC 3D book. Bataille is back this month with a new book titled Numero, a brief but no less charming visual excursion into numbers. The new pop-up book is available October 15th." (via This is Colossal)

Books We Love - Southern Makers

Books We Love - Southern Makers


We love the newest book released by photographer Jennifer Causey. Her incredible photographs and personal interviews give us a glimpse of the art of each makers' craft. We hope you enjoy this book as much as we do!Southern-Makers_01_1_800

"In this follow-up to her bestselling Brooklyn Makers, photographer Jennifer Causey returns to her Southern roots to introduce us to a group of artisans with a long tradition of craftsmanship and a wonderfully vibrant cultural history. In communities across the South, amidst breathtaking country landscapes and bustling city neighborhoods, a thriving creative revival is underway. In Southern Makers, Causey captures the spirit of this movement by documenting twentyfive of the area's most celebrated craftspeople. This eclectic mix of established and up-and-coming makers includes bakers, textile artists, denim designers, jewelers, woodworkers, brewers, farmers, and more. Causey's photographs are suffused with Southern charm as she explores the artisans' spaces—from restored homes and old factories to repurposed gas stations, general stores, and flowering fields. The lively interviews reveal personal inspirations and motivations, along with heartfelt reflections on the place where they live and work." (via Amazon)

See photos on Causey's website!

The Negative Space of a House Cut Inside a Book

The Negative Space of a House Cut Inside a Book


The Negative Space of a House Cut Inside a 908 Page Book sculpture paper home book architecture

"Your House is limited edition artist’s book by Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson that depicts the negative space formed by his home located outside Copenhagen. Every structural detail of the house from the roof, windows, and even a basement crawlspace are depicted within the thick layer of laser-cut paper. The 908-page books were designed by Michael Heimann and Claudia Baulesch and published by the Library Council of the Museum of Modern Art back in 2006."

(via This is Colossal)

The Negative Space of a House Cut Inside a 908 Page Book sculpture paper home book architecture

The Negative Space of a House Cut Inside a 908 Page Book sculpture paper home book architecture

The Negative Space of a House Cut Inside a 908 Page Book sculpture paper home book architecture

The Negative Space of a House Cut Inside a 908 Page Book sculpture paper home book architecture

The Negative Space of a House Cut Inside a 908 Page Book sculpture paper home book architecture

The Negative Space of a House Cut Inside a 908 Page Book sculpture paper home book architecture


Walls - Graffiti Notebook

Walls - Graffiti Notebook



"Walls Notebook is a notebook / sketchbook that features 80 pictures of "clean" NYC walls instead of blank pages. Write, draw, paste, or doodle on these inspirational backdrops. You'll be one step closer to being the street artist you've always wanted to be … minus the jail time. "





Children’s Storybooks With Special Font, For Both The Blind And Fully-Sighted

Children’s Storybooks With Special Font, For Both The Blind And Fully-Sighted


"Kids that are visually impaired usually read books that are different from those that fully-sighted kids read, because of the Braille lettering that regular printed books do not have—this leads to a separation between blind kids and sighted kids. To break down this barrier, and promote equality between the blind and the fully-sighted, Thailand Association of the Blind teamed up with creative agency BBDO Bangkok and publisher Pasarnmitr, to create a series of books ‘Storybook For All Eyes’.

To create the book series that lets both blind kids and sighted kids learn together, a special font that combines Braille and the letters of the English alphabet was created—every character of the English alphabet was embossed with dots that make up the Braille letters, for blind kids to be able to read with their hands.

Each story was told in the ‘fusion’ font, so that both blind and sighted kids can read and experience the same story.

Preview one of the books, ‘Mr Light and Mr Dark’ by Rook Floro, over here, or watch the video below to find out more about how the special books work."

(via Design Taxi)

Moby Dick Pop-Up Edition

Moby Dick Pop-Up Edition



"Call me Ishmael." Three of the most famous words in all literature, they begin Herman Melville’s masterpiece, Moby-Dick. Now, the epic saga of Captain Ahab’s obsessive quest for the white whale comes vividly to life in this three-dimensional graphic novel, the first of its kind. This phenomenal work is the creation of multi-talented artist Sam Ita, apprentice to Robert Sabuda—one of the world’s master paper engineers. Every amazing element is awe-inspiring: there’s not just one pop-up per spread, but several, surrounded by colorful comic book-style panels that convey the story’s drama. Some of the pops-ups are huge and incredibly detailed, like the Pequod itself, which rises gloriously from the page, complete with rigging. Others, smaller but no less wonderful, hide beneath flaps and folds. In one instance, readers actually get to look through a 3-D periscope and see Ishmael through the lens,” drifting in the ocean. The quality of Ita’s paper engineering is nothing short of breathtaking and will carry you off on an unforgettable adventure."

You can purchase a copy of the book here.

Children's Book with Hidden Ink

Children's Book with Hidden Ink


"Reading after dark has lost a bit of its wonder. In the era of tablets, there’s no need for kids to rebel in the nerdiest of ways, stashing contraband flashlights in order to sneak some reading under their blankets after bedtime. iPads have blindingly bright backlights built right in. But a brilliant new book Hide & Eek!, by Rebecca Sutherland, Hat-Trick andKnock Knock, wants to bring some of that special experience back. It’s a book with a fun twist: The exciting and scary images are hidden during the day, and will only appear under a flashlight at night. “It’s magical then when images appear that cannot be seen with the naked eye,” explains Hat-Trick’s Creative Director Jim Sutherland. “Even when you know how it works, it’s still amazing.”

And it really couldn’t work more simply. Ink is essentially sandwiched between two fused sheets of paper, so it only appears when the page is lit. Of course, Sutherland admits that this is easier said than done: The tricky part was making the effect completely invisible during the day, which required testing various papers and tweaking the tonal range of the illustrations until they found the magical sweet spot.

But that sweet spot must be delightful in person. Lions, elephants, and monsters appear to fill the blanks in innocuous illustrations, proving that good old analog tricks can still be fun and relevant in a world dominated by digital UIs. Plus, now that the team behind Hide & Eek! has their print methodology down, they plan to release several more books in the series, transporting kids under the sea and into the jungle, all from the cozy safe haven of their own beds."

(via FastCoDesign)

Chalk Drawn Book Covers

Chalk Drawn Book Covers



Brooklyn-based graphic designer and letterer Dana Tanamachi, who is known for her gorgeous chalkboard typography, has worked for high profile clients like Google, Bloomingdale’s and Time magazine.

More recently, she teamed up with Puffin Books, the children’s division of Penguin Group, to create the covers of the publisher’s “Puffin Chalk” collection of classic children’s titles.

The result is a set of beautiful book covers that was originally drawn by hand on a chalkboard before being photographed for reproduction—the chalk art-style covers are visually striking and whimsical at the same time.

Watch a couple of behind-the-scenes videos below to find out how the designer created these playful and creative covers with colorful chalk.

(via Design Taxi)


3 4 5


Books We Love - An Edible Survival Guide Book

Books We Love - An Edible Survival Guide Book



"It is said that Land Rover vehicles can take on any obstacles in the desert, but can their owners?

To help Land Rover owners stay alive if they ever get stuck in the desert, Land Rover worked with ad agency Young & Rubicam Dubaito create an edible survival guide.

In the ‘Edible Desert Survival Guide’, tips on surviving the harshness of the dessert—such as scorching temperatures, deadly animals and such—are explained.

It teaches you things like how to build shelters, signal for help, light a fire, hunt birds and how to get your orientation by using the North star.

But as a last resort, you can eat the book!

The survival guide is made out of edible paper and ink. Its metal binding can be used as skewers; and its reflective packaging, to signal for help. "

(Via Design Taxi)

LR Eat Book 2.aiLR Eat Book

Miniature Matchbox Magazine

Miniature Matchbox Magazine


"If you are getting tired of the magazine titles on the newsstand, you may want to check out “Zine-in-a-Matchbox”, a miniature magazine that fits into a matchbox.

The brainchild of Brisbane, Australia-based designer Pascalle Burton of The Lavender Room, this quirky, award-nominated magazine is now at its 12th issue.

Each issue consists of a standard set of content, including quotes from celebrated author J.D Salinger and scaled down images of vintage books the Burton has found in second-hand bookshops.

To make this publication even more irreverent, every issue comes with a single matchstick, which the reader can use to set it on fire after they are done with it. "

Thanks Design Taxi!