Spring 2010: Chronicle Books' illustrated books

Here's the introduction to the Spring 2010 First Impressions series.

The Art of McSweeney's
By McSweeney's
Chronicle Books | 9780811866231 | $45 | March 2010

Longtime fans of McSweeney's fine products know that there is a crew of passionate, book-loving, word-loving insane people working side-by-side with Dave Eggers behind the scenes to make every issue of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The Believer, Wholphin, and their stand-alone book projects, come out as magically as they do.  I know some of them in a distant-cousin-who-used-to-live-closer-than-they-do-now sort of way, from back when I was a sales rep for PGW, their distributor to bookstores.

When I was sitting in those sales conference meetings and the folks from McSweeney's would come in and pitch their upcoming products to us, describing in maddeningly vague yet tantalizing detail, you couldn't help but be caught up in it.  Possibly my favorite memory of a McSweeney's sales conference was when they described the then-upcoming Issue #22, it of the three separate volumes of poetry-chains, unused F. Scott Fitzgerald story ideas, and current Oulipo experiments.  It went something like this.  They described how there would be three parts, and "well, we're trying to figure out a way to bind each volume into hardcovers with magnets."  Silence.  Then gasps.  Magnets!

And they did it.  They made a book with magnets.

You can learn about that issue of the Concern and more – pick up this inspirational look back at all the amazing creativity that has come out of McSweeney's, an oral history of sorts, with all the players remembering how their favorite projects came to be.

Naturally it's a beautiful object of a book, with dozens of tiny short stories printed on the book jacket.  No magnets that I'm aware of.


Ramayana: Divine Loophole
By Sanjay Patel
Chronicle Books | 9780811871075 | $29.95 | Jan 2010


I first met Sanjay Patel on the Internet.  At the time, I was the above-mentioned PGW sales rep and regular Boing Boing reader.  A Pixar animator, Patel had just put together his own self-published edition of Little India (which eventually became The Little Book of Hindu Deities) and it got a mention on Boing Boing.  I was really interested in how it looked and I ordered a copy from him.  We corresponded briefly about ways to help bring his book to a wider audience, but what happened in the end was that Plume brought out a really charming and beautiful edition of Hindu Deities.

Since then, at least on the book front, there's been silence.  But now, after years of work, Sanjay Patel is back with a wonderfully illustrated retelling of the Ramayana in his own style: Ramayana: Divine Loophole.

Fans of Sita Sings The Blues will definitely find something to love here.


Tiny Art Director: A Toddler and Her Vision
By Bill Zeman
Chronicle Books | 9780811872294 | $14.95 | March 2010

Based on the well-loved blog, this book showcases the parallel development of Bill Zeman's talent as on-demand-illustrator (primarily for his in-house client, his daughter) and her growing skill and imperiousness as a demanding art director. 

The Brief: I want you to draw me a dinosaur! Not a scary one! He's taking a bath. The Critique: I don't like him. Job Status: RejectedBeginning when she was two, Zeman's daughter would give him a brief for a new art assignment, typically involving dinosaurs or crocodiles.  After his piece was complete, she would evaluate his work, frequently with withering disdain, and either accept or reject the work.

Capturing all that is enchanting and frustrating about both parenting and working as an illustrator-for-hire, Tiny Art Director is a fun little book (and still ongoing blog!) with a lot to laugh about.

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.

my3books' First Impressions for Spring 2010: books for kids from Consortium publishers

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

Consortium Book Sales & Distribution:  As always, I left this two-day long sales meeting completely overwhelmed with options.  Among the hundreds of new titles that will be coming out from the more than 100 indie publishers that are distributed by Consortium are a couple dozen that I'm very very excited about.

On the Children's and Young Adult side of the catalog (literally - it flips over!), a new publisher joined Consortium for Spring 2010, Enchanted Lion Books.  Two of their picture books are featured below, alongside a graphic novel collection of Trickster tales from Fulcrum Publishing.

The Chicken Thief
by Beatrice Rodriguez
Enchanted Lion Books (Consortium) | 9781592700929 | $14.95 | Apr 2010

Perhaps the sweetest & funniest picture book I've seen in a long time, it's the wordless epic of a fox who snatches a hen from the yard where she lives and runs off with her.  Bear, rabbit and rooster make chase, but after a surprising number of twists in the tale, it's a happy ending for all involved.


The Wild Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster
by Astrid Desbordes
illustrated by Pauline Martin
Enchanted Lion Books (Consortium) | 9781592700936 | $17.95 | May 2010

With understated humor and a very clear line indeed, young readers encounter a graphic novel-format picture book about a Hamster whose interactions with the other animals who are his friends gently illuminate the meaning of life, the life of the mind, and the nature of friendship.  Naturally, it's translated from the French.


Trickster: Native American Tales
edited by Matt Dembicki
Fulcrum Publishing (Consortium) | 9781555917241 | $22.95 | June 2010

More than 20 trickster tales, each retold and illustrated by different Native American storytellers working with selected illustrators.  Here's a sample page from one of the tales, Coyote And The Pebbles.


Consortium on Facebook & on Twitter.  Their Spring catalog can be downloaded in two parts here: Adult & Kids.

my3books' First Impressions for Spring 2010: An Introduction

By way of introduction:

I spent a lot of time in November and December in a series of sales conference meetings with the publishers I represent and with the other sales reps who also represent them around the country.  These sales conferences took place via web conference, by phone conference call, and in person on both coasts and in the middle. The sales rep group I'm a member of added some new publishers to our list for this coming season, and it all added up to the longest, and most intensive, series of sales conferences I can remember.

I've been making notes all along about my favorite new books coming out in Spring 2010.  Some of them I've read all the way through, some I've seen just an excerpt of or sample chapters, and for some I'm going entirely on catalog copy and maybe a few page spreads.  Nevertheless, the books that you'll see featured in this coming series of short posts are the books that I was most excited about at the end of the sales conference process.

As the season progresses, I'll also be putting up more typical long-form posts about some Spring 2010 releases that I'm really excited about.  But it was this process of reading sales kits and reviewing my notes about the Fall 2009 season that caused me to start blogging at my3books in the first place, so I wanted to begin to put up these posts for this coming season.