my3books' First Impressions for Spring 2010: Princeton Architectural Press

Recap: Here's the introduction to the First Impressions series of posts.

Princeton Architectural Press is distributed to bookstores by Chronicle Books.  These three books on their spring list absolutely wowed the reps in the conference room – wonderfully illustrated books, a quirky take on pop culture, a peek inside the lives of creative people.  You can count on PAP to deliver books in those veins every season, right alongside their signature architectural monographs and reference books for professionals.

Obsessive Consumption: What Did You Buy Today?
by Kate Bingaman-Burt
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988900 | $19.95 | Mar 2010

Alien anthropologists wondering where all our money went in the first decade of the third millennium A.D. would do well to lay their tentacles on this book.  On the surface, it's a diary of self-absorption and typical consumerism, but with a closer look, Obsessive Consumption cleverly leaves those first impressions in the dust.

A professor of graphic design in Portland, Bingaman-Burt has been documenting her personal relationship with consumerism across a range of artistic endeavors.  Here in this book, though, she bears witness with a daily drawing of something that she spent money on that day, beginning on February 5, 2006.  The book covers the first three years of her documentary urges and her impulse spending.  From her monthly credit card bills to a bottle of soda at the CVS to an iPhone (finally, on 11/21/08!) to more fancy artist's pens (the last entry), Bingaman-Burt bears witness to how we live today, and where all the money goes.

Her drawings are tart doodles, combining representative line art, squiggly captions, and how much money she spent and where she spent it.

Fans of the documentary & book Handmade Nation (also from Princeton Architectural Press) will recognize her work - she provided all the illustrations for the book.  Kate Bingaman-Burt can be found here on the web, with a blog here and you can even buy a print of one of her pages at 20x200TwitterEtsyFlickr. Frankly, I think she may be the most findable, connected author I've ever profiled on my3books.


Lists: To-do's, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts & Other Artists' Enumerations from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art
By Liza Kirwin
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988887 | $24.95 | March 2010

This book makes a nice pairing with Obsessive Consumption, above, providing another way to peer inside the surprisingly mundane lives of artists.  Curator Liza Kirwin has gathered from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art dozens of examples of unremarkable lists made by remarkable men and women. 

The lists themselves demonstrate clearly that geniuses truly are just like you and me. But it is precisely those actual accomplishments outside of the mundane list-making realm that make these lists worthy of collection, curation, and in the case of this book, further study.  We see lists of paintings sold, lists of appointments, lists of books to read and more.  Many of the lists give us more than just daily ephemera: we see Pablo Picasso listing his recommendations for the epoch-making Armory Show in 1912, Alexander Calder's address book is a who's who of the Parisian scene when he lived there.

The catalog copy provides a list of its own: the artists who have been collected here, including Willem de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Andrew Wyeth.  And yes, the list does goes on.


Bird Watching
by Paula McCartney
Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle Books) | 9781568988559 | $50 | Feb 2010

Another clever subversion of the observer's expectations, Bird Watching documents artist Paula McCartney's recent work in art and nature photography.

Each photograph captures a scene of purest wilderness - trees, branches, sky, pine needles underfoot, distant trails.  Carefully framed in each photograph is a beautiful specimen of passerine, or perching bird.  Notations accompany each photo, citing location, weather conditions and descriptive text of each documented bird.

Look a second time at these photos, though, and you may begin to see that there is more artist than naturalist at work in this journal.  Each bird has been carefully affixed with wires or strings to the branches, because these birds were purchased at craft stores.  McCartney's work is walking the divide between the artificial and the real, and along the way, she has found a way to make the real world feel that much more vivid.

You can spot some examples of her work on her page at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Photography, and at the web site for the Photo-Eye Gallery in Santa Fe, NM.  Her own web site is here.

guest post: sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin picks 3 from Merrell Publishers

Please give a hearty welcome back to my friend and fellow independent sales rep Teresa Rolfe Kravtin, who sends word from her Top Secret Rep Headquarters that one of the publishers she represents is putting out smart, handsome paperback editions of some of their hardcover illustrated books.

Three picks from Merrell Publishers: new, affordable, paperback editions.

Merrell Publishers, a British illustrated book publisher, has done a smart bit of publishing in this economically challenged retail environment. This fall, Merrell is publishing three of its hardcover books in more compact, affordable, paperback editions. There is, again, a compelling reason to share these lovely books with new readers.

American Ruins
by Arthur Drooker
with a foreword by Douglas Brinkley and an essay by Christopher Woodward
Merrell Publishers | 9781858944975 | $24.95 | Sept 2009

It is one of my fascinations with the world of publishing to see a confluence of interests and ideas emerge in works that overlap and compliment each other. American Ruins is a unique compilation of historic ruins thoughout the US, photographed using a specially adapted digital camera in infrared format, revealing a lost world of haunted beauty and ethereal landscapes. In the foreword, historian Douglas Brinkley (author of the recently published Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Harper, July 2009) notes that it was thanks to Teddy Roosevelt in creating The Antiquities Act of 1906, that led to the preservation of sites such as these depicted in the book. In a previous blog post on my3books, I wrote about another Teddy Roosevelt book by Timothy Egan, The Big Burn.  And, of course, there is the recent PBS National Parks series by Ken Burns that eloquently brought together the historical impetus for setting aside those places of unique American nature and character.

  Divided into the four regions of the country, American Ruins is a tour through some of the remaining architecture, history, and geography of these preserved places. Art historian Christopher Woodward provides an essay speaking to what distinguishes America from Europe in our lack of evidence of a long past, establishing context within which to contemplate the sites.

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia; Dungeness, the Carnegie family home on Cumberland Island, Georgia; the Anasazi Ruins in Canyon de Chelly, Arizona; Jack London’s Wolf House in Glen Ellen, California are among the many locations in the book. As Drooker explains, “I was drawn to these sites to forge a spiritual connection with those who came before us, to capture the visual poetry of what they left behind. As a series, these images present a rare overview of some overlooked landmarks and allow us, as Americans, to see where we came from, measure how far we’ve come and gain a vision of where we might be headed.”  For anyone interested in photography, history, America or archeology. (Originally published in hardcover at $45.)


Shelter Dogs
by Traer Scott
Merrell Publishers |
9781858944982 | $12.95 | Sept 2009

Our family doesn’t have a dog. That hasn’t stopped us from becoming devoted fans of The Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic Channel. What we admire about Cesar Millan is his dedication to the cause of “rescuing” dogs, sometimes from shelters or unhappy living environments, and training humans to better understand themselves and the dogs they choose as companions. Many dogs featured on his show are rescued animals, and the people who make it their mission to save these dogs from an inevitable fate.

Shelter Dogs was originally published in hardcover before we were glued to the TV every Friday night. With the new paperback edition of Shelter Dogs, it’s time again to celebrate the intensely striking portraits of shelter dogs in Traer Scott’s beautiful book. Born out of a project to train and socialize abandoned shelter animals for greater rates of adoption and retention, Scott began photographing the dogs for adoption records and internet sites. This progressed into what became the impetus for the book.

  The greatest impact this collection of portraits had upon me originally was the immensely moving character captured by Scott’s sensitive portraiture. As she states in the introduction, “As soon as a camera is pointed at these dogs, they just fix their gaze on you and pour out volumes. They seem to be telling a story that is much longer and more epic than the one their short lives can feasibly encompass.”

There is Bonnie, a pit bull Hurricane Katrina survivor, who was fortunate to be rescued and rehabilitated. Celeste, a frenetic Husky, that was still a mere five seconds for her portrait. Emma, Rosie, Hercules, Ox, Stubbs are all part of this collection of 50 portraits in all.

Published to coincide with the annual ASPCA’s ‘Adopt-a-Shelter Dog’ Month, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the ASPCA by Merrell. It is beautiful photography in the service of an honorable cause. Perhaps our family will stop by a local shelter soon.

“Scott's haunting portrait album bares the souls of these unclaimed but unassailably dignified animals.”  People

“Traer Scott's Shelter Dogs (Merrell) is a canine facebook with more personalities than Chaplin.”  Vogue


The Horse: 30,000 Years of the Horse in Art
by Tamsin Pickeral
Merrell Publishers |
9781858944937 | $24.95 | Oct 2009

There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse.

~ Early twentieth-century proverb.

From the earliest rock painting in the caves of Lascaux, an agate cylinder seal from sixth century BC Persia, carpets, sculptures, mosaics, Egyptian painted wood, Greek frescos, Chinese terracotta tomb relics, Japanese woodblocks — all that and more are included in this rich illustrated history of the horse. Details about the horse as a symbol of power, an element of myth and legend, an integral part of pioneer and Native American life in the New World are examined, as well as how the nature of the relationship between horse and man has evolved over the last hundred years.


Originally published as an oversized hardcover coffee table book at $49.95, this new paperback edition is an incredible value. It is exactly the same book in a slightly reduced size, and half the price, which is reason enough for horse lovers everywhere to have a copy of their own.


Merrell has many wonderful books in their catalog. I will treat you to three additional favorites for women. Women Who Read are Dangerous; Women Who Writeand In Praise of the Needlewoman.

An Eye on the Looking-glass: The Enduring Appeal of Lewis Carroll and Alice

Lewis Carroll's best-known and best-loved creation, Alice, is about to get a facelift.  Any fan of Tim Burton can tell you that his next major project is a typically Burton-ian approach to the children's classic. In his version, a 17-year-old Alice returns to Wonderland for the first time in 10 years and meets up again with all her old acquaintances. (In theatres on March 5, 2010, teaser trailer is here.)


Of course, the launch of a new movie adaptation is always a good reason to put together a display of the latest editions of Alice in Wonderland, and its related books.  Most stores can easily do an Alice display without breaking a sweat - there are always new editions coming out and evergreen classics that are usually in stock.

Here are three suggested books to add to the display that could take it through the looking-glass!

Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll
illustrated by Rodney Matthews
Templar Books (Candlewick Press) | 9780763645687 | $24.99 | Sept 2009

A CAUCUS RACE - 1994 (Rodney MatthewsThe relatively new-to-the-US Templar Books imprint at Candlewick Press is bringing out this lavishly illustrated edition, complete with bejeweled slipcase.  The illustrator is the legendary UK fantasy and SF artist Rodney Matthews (he's also a jazz and rock musician, album cover artist, and video game designer).  He may be best known for his illustrations for Michael Moorcock's Elric books.

AT THE MARCH HARE'S TABLE - 1990 (Rodney Matthews)Given his credentials as a painter of the fantastic, you can imagine just how over-the-top his Alice paintings would be.  Luckily, you don't need to imagine.  His web site hosts a gallery of past works and images from works in progress.  Check out these two illustrations from Alice in Wonderland, previously published in a series of calendars featuring his fantastic art and now repurposed as part of the suite of illustrations for the new book.


On to two books that look at the creator of Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (or as he was known to his friends and colleagues at Christ Church college at the University of Oxford, Charles Dodgson) and the young girl who was his muse and friend, Alice Liddell.

Lewis Carroll
by Colin Ford
Thames & Hudson (Norton) | 9780500410981 | $15.95 | Sept 2009

Alice I Have Been
by Melanie Benjamin
Delacorte Press | 9780385344135 | $25 | Jan 2010

I've previously featured Lewis Carroll, edited by Colin Ford, in the "my3books x 3" post about three terrific series, which included the Photofile series from Thames & Hudson.  The newly released volume in that series is on the photography of Lewis Carroll.  In addition to being a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church college, Carroll was a well-known local photographer, just years after the popularization of photography as a hobby. 

It was through his photography that Dodgson met Alice Liddell and the rest of her family. He famously befriended the young girls, Alice and her two sisters, and escorted them on many outings in the area around Oxford.  On one of those occasions, Dodgson invented the tale that would become Alice in Wonderland.

Alice Liddell as a beggar-maid. (photo by Lewis Carroll)The Photofile book of Dodgson/Carroll's photography features 59 of his pictures, most of them featuring the young girls that were his constant sources of inspiration and to some historians and observers, a possible source of some scandal.

Aside from Dodgson's perhaps questionable focus on young girls, his photography is timeless, and because of the fame of the man as an author, is particularly well-documented. 

Melanie Benjamin's marvelous upcoming novel, Alice I Have Been, covers the same ground from the perspective of Alice Liddell herself, drawing on the historical record and much research, but expands the story into the realm of the possible. 

Alice I Have Been opens in 1932 as an aged Alice Liddell Hargreaves looks back on her life: from the earliest years as the middle daughter of the Dean of Christ Church college, her friendship with Dodgson and the creation of Alice in Wonderland, to her (speculated upon) romance with Prince Leopold, the hemophiliac youngest son of Queen Victoria, and finally to her marriage in later years to Reginald Hargreaves, and the life they had together with their three sons.  

Benjamin has taken the well-worn cloth of the life of Alice Liddell and given the fabric new life with a richly imagined tale.  The crowded streets and gardens of Oxford are filled with vibrant characterizations of Alice and her family, celebrities of the day, and brings a fresh understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the life of one particular girl.