Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Book Spotting Part Three

In this installment of Book Spotting, things get a little touchy-feely (and no, I'm not talking about Tara's recently curated love & lust book display at the front of the shop).

Not only visual texture, but physical, tangible, run your fingers across it, squish it, turn it over in your hands texture, has been intriguing me more and more with cover design. Maybe I'm just a tactile person, or maybe it's a book designer thing (Chris and I did engage in a serious conversation about how pleasantly substantial the cover stock on Mia Couto's Tuner of Silences is when it arrived yesterday morning).

Whatever the motivation for my choices, I found myself photographing many books in the shop today that engage the fingertips as much as the eyes.

 The Believer: The 2012 Art Issue

While it may not be as easy to tell from the photo, this issue of The Believer has one of the most interesting textural additions I've seen on a cover. That band of white covered in text on the right hand side there? That isn't printed on the cover. It's a piece of fabric, like a label in a piece of clothing. And that text on it? It's not printed either, but stitched. The first time I looked at this issue I thought there was something odd about the way that band of text looked and it took me picking it up to realize the extent of detail that had gone into the cover's production. 

How Music Works by David Byrne (McSweeney's, 2012)

McSweeney's has a reputation for creating attractive and innovative book designs, so a book like this from them should be no surprise. Except, when I pulled it out of the box when it arrived in the shop, I was surprised. More specifically, my hands were surprised because—there's no other way I can really describe it—this is a squishy book. The white vinyl feel cover compresses and springs back under your fingers sort of like a child's bathtub book, but also not at all like a child's bathtub book. The text is set into the vinyl, and the simplicity of the type treatment and the iconography of the speaker are subtle and utilitarian enough that the unexpected texture doesn't push this one over the top. This is a book that makes you want to hold it, open it, flick through it, and consequently buy it, and if a cover can do all that, I'd say it's succeeding.

A Hologram for the King by David Eggers (McSweeney's, 2012)

Another McSweeney's title, this one has the feeling of a quality vintage book with gilt lettering and in-set patterns on the cover. There's nothing fancy about it, except, you know, the shiny gold and intricate design, but it manages to feel classic as opposed to contrived. This isn't my usual taste for sure, but on a table of off-white books with minimal typographic covers, a little gold leaf never went awry.

Love and the Mess We're In by Stephen Marche (Gaspereau, 2012)

Like McSweeney's, I've kind of come to expect beautiful books out of Gaspereau, but this one particularly struck me because of the genius of swapping out the text colours. The editions are identical, except for the orange, grey, blue, or burgundy text; however, with a typographic cover, colour choice is a good portion of the book design battle (I guess the same can be said of pictorial covers as well, but when you're working solely with text, colour seems to become more of a focus). The really smart thing about this is that Gaspereau know their market and I'd assume that many people in their market (those folks who enjoy a beautiful, well-designed, well-made book) might be collectors or at the very least people who might be tempted to pick up this volume in multiple. How can you resist having a copy in every colour? I realize this one isn't so much about texture, but I had to include it as it has been catching my eye on the shelf since it arrived in all of its lovely colours.

In the Land of Punctuation by Christian Morgenstern, illustrated by Rathna Ramanathan 
(Tara Books, 2009)

Again, this book doesn't really fit into my texture theme, but I couldn't help but include it in today's post because design is such a huge part of the book's appeal and function. Looking at the cover on its own, it has the three-colour graphic boldness that really makes it stand out. It incorporates a variety of punctuation in a subtle way (exclamation and period being the most obvious, but the white space suggests commas and quotation marks as well). The type treatment doesn't compete with the geometric design and the whole thing comes together to make a pattern that makes sense, as opposed to looking like a bunch of punctuation thrown on a page. And that's just the cover. Open this one up and you won't want to put it down...

I'll be in the shop doing more Book Spotting.
Until next time—

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