Read Culture

Our Back to School Reading List

Eight books for those missing the days when they were told what to read

Whether you’re voracious readers or simply image-seeking page flippers, the following eight books reflect some of the most interesting that have crossed our path recently. As students head off to school, we can all jump on the book-reading band wagon. Of late, we’ve also been smitten with new author Robert Moor’s engaging study on the origins of trails and we spent about as much time ogling the imagery in Bob Mizer’s “1000 Model Directory” as we could have reading “War & Peace.” But here, you’ll find a children’s book for adults, an exploration of the future of food and another on the history of distilled spirits. There’s also a new contemporary classic. We chose not to include any of the throngs of books we’ve pored over on design—because we’re saving those for another day.

Morbid Curiosities

The benefits of “Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and Bizarre” ($22) are two-fold. For the light reader, one can turn page after page to find hundreds of startling images. For the truly curious, Paul Gambino’s analysis offers up insight—not only at what you’re looking at, but the people who have collected it all. Within, you’ll find the occult and the carnivalesque and much more, many of which is visible for the first time.

Transforming Transport

A collection of essays from some of the world’s greatest minds (Sir Richard Branson and Bjarke Ingels included), “Transforming Transport: On the Vision of Intelligent Mobility (€25) addresses the way our transportation systems work and can work in the future. From think tank W.I.R.E, this work in their “ABSTRAKT” series touches upon everything from driverless cars to the urban planning of cities. It’s a fascinating, well-edited work with plenty of new ideas within.

Maker Lab: 28 Cool Projects

Sure, this is recommended for kids between the ages of eight and 12, but “Maker Lab: 28 Cool Projects” ($14) appeals to the inventor in all of us. For anyone longing for the school project days, this is an ideal option. Published by Smithsonian, the book revisits the volcanoes of old but delivers everything from stalactite construction to breathing machines and jungles in a bottle.

How to Learn Almost Anything in 48 Hours

With a title like “ow to Learn Almost Anything in 48 Hours” ($10), this Adam’s Media guide book sets the bar rather high. Written by three-time Australian Memory Champion Tansel Ali, it comes complete with strategies and techniques for holding onto large amounts of information. These are more than tricks, but systems that have been proven effective by more than a few folks out there.

The Invitation

How often does one stop to admire the prose in contemporary fiction? Perhaps with the likes of Jonathan Safran Foer, Julian Barnes or Jhumpa Lahiri. This, however, can be said of Lucy Foley’s “The Invitation” ($14). There’s a magnetism to the work as alluring as its Rome and Italian Riviera backdrops. When romantic tales receive an upgrade, when they extend beyond that of the norms established by centuries of similar stories, one should pay attention.

The Elephant In The Room

Arguably one of the more difficult books to describe, Jack Bender’s slender but potent “The Elephant In The Room” ($25) is a series of stories told in the form of captioned art pieces. This is a work for adults, in the style of picture books for children. And it tackles everything from identity to behavioral issues, all with a bit of humor.

Distilled Knowledge

Many great tall tales get passed around bars. And quite a few of them also involve the subject of alcohol itself. With “Distilled Knowledge: The Science Behind Drinking’s Greatest Myths, Legends, and Unanswered Questions” ($14), some of those are addressed head on, including the old adage: beer before liquor, never been sicker. That said, there’s a great wealth of information here on the process of making booze and the science behind drunkenness. Author Brian D. Hoefling’s work is both fun and insightful—with plenty of trivia items worth keeping in the back of your mind.

The Third Plate

Most anyone in NYC and the foodie community at large is familiar with Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a restaurant of uncommon merit just north of the city. Executive Chef Dan Barber, who has pioneered developments in the farm-to-table movement, authored The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food ($12) and the knowledge within is unprecedented. From the notion of sustainability and its applications to a “third plate” solution for eating today, the book reflects Barber’s 10 years surveying farm communities and even longer time spent looking into how we all eat.

Images by Cool Hunting


More stories like this one.