Botanical Art from the Golden Age of Scientific Discovery by Anna Laurent, 5/5
I borrowed this book from the library just to flip through the pictures, but it turned out to be an unexpectedly delightful read. The text perfectly balances with the images, providing just enough additional information to capture the reader’s interest and encourage a more in-depth examination of the many botanical wall-charts it features.
Why I read it: a brief intention to create my own botanical art lead me to order all related books from the library (there weren’t many).
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, collected by Alvin Schwartz, drawings by Stephen Gammell, 3/5
It is clear that children are the target audience for this book, but the simple layout and child-friendly writing style provide a disturbing contrast with the extremely dark and gross stories it contains. I wouldn’t have wanted to read such terrifying things as a kid and certainly wouldn’t want my own children to be exposed to these ideas at a young age. As an adult, I found the stories to be entertaining, if a bit simplistically retold, and the artwork in particular is outstanding.
Why I read it: a thrift store find. I’ve always been interested in fairy tales and myths, so paranormal stories are not that much of a stretch.
Tapisserie de Bayeux: Photos and Captions of Bayeux Tapestry, published by Éditions Artaud Frères, 5/5
This high-quality souvenir book contains photos of the complete 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry and terse captions in six languages, outlining events leading up to the Norman conquest of England and culminating in spoilers King Harold’s death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The needlework is charmingly quirky, from the multi-colored horses to the occasional nude figures in the border, proudly displaying their embroidered nethers to my extreme amusement.
Why I read it: this book has been in my to-read pile for so long that I can’t remember where or when I bought it. Glad I did, though!
Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon, 5/5
The 10 points about creativity that form the backbone of this little book are deceptively simple (even unimpressive) at first glance. Happily, my first impression was wrong–the author uses this list merely as a starting point for an encouraging and inspiring discussion about artistic creativity. Reading this book first normalised, then challenged, many of the negative feelings that have caused me in the past to describe myself as an uncreative person.
- Steal like an artist.
It’s refreshing to hear someone creative admit that “every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas” (9).
- Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started.
- Write the book you want to read.
This is so much more inspiring than the advice to “write what you know.”
- Use your hands.
- Side projects and hobbies are important.
Having a wide variety of interests can be difficult and it’s sometimes tempting to feel like a loser for not focusing on just one. Kleon doesn’t make a particularly convincing case for his advice of “don’t throw any of yourself away” (68), but I do like the idea that “what unifies your work is the fact that you made it” (72).
- The secret: Do good work and share it with people.
- Geography is no longer our master.
- Be nice. (The world is a small town.)
- Be boring. (It’s the only way to get work done.)
It may not be living the dream, but having a boring day job can give you the financial freedom to pursue creative endeavors. Kleon points out that, contrary to instinct, “establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time” when it comes to being creative (124).
- Creativity is subtraction.
Why I read it: Imgur user morganic mentioned this book in a comment on a photography post.
This collection of Shrigley’s messy, misspelled, dark and unpredictably humorous art seems less accessible than his What the Hell are You Doing? The Essential David Shrigley. “Less accessible” is a fancy way of saying that I didn’t really “get” a lot of the stuff in this book (which you might find a bit ironic if you read my last review of his work). Perhaps I also didn’t enjoy this as much because I went into it expecting to be surprised and delighted, an approach that never seems to work well for me.
Why I read it: My library only has Shrigley’s books in e-book form (which I hate), so I picked this up at Easton’s Books, hoping it would be as funny as the last thing by him that I read.
Tedious political ramblings accompany this collection of aged cartoons by celebrated WWII cartoonist Bill Mauldin, who obviously had a rough transition back to a civilian career after the war. I’ve always been put off by political cartoons in general because they tend to over-simplify complicated issues, mindlessly ridicule opposing viewpoints and, crucially, are usually not even funny. The cartoons in this book are no exception and, I think, would appeal to few readers besides fans of Mauldin and those who are interested in an inside view of one person’s perspective of the political climate in post-WWII United States.
[Why I read it: I recognized Mauldin’s name and liked what I had previously seen of his army cartoons.]