Best of CH 2010: Top Five Books

From public radio to public art, our favorite books for 2010 exemplify the beauty in freedom of speech and beyond

Though this year consumers had their pick of platforms with the e-reader, iPad and at its tail end, the ambitious Google eBooks project all at the pinnacle of published matter, print stood strong and proved that just like with the movies, the book is usually better.

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Photographer Henry Hargreaves’ “3DD” took an in-your-face approach with 86 pages of topless women, whose all-natural breasts were maximized with the clever graphic design best experienced with the included pair of 3D aviator glasses. The Kiwi model-turned-photographer shot the women, most of whom are friends, in NYC.

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Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art

Written by Carlo McCormick and with an introduction by Banksy, “Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art” is a large-format book featuring the unsolicited works of over 150 artists curated by Marc and Sara Schiller of the street art site Wooster Collective. From never-before-published photos of work by Keith Haring and Jean-Michael Basquiat to more known pieces by Krink, Os Gemeos and Shepard Fairey, “Trespass” goes beyond street art to include essential outdoor performances and protests such as those by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

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Ikea, The Book

Ikea gives industrial designers a look into the company’s most successful designs with its 450-page tome “Ikea, The Book.” Stories include how they persuaded various creatives—including the iconic Danish designer Verner Panton—to make an original piece to how Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad turned his vision into an international brand that the rest of the world instantly associates with Scandinavian design.

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Understand Rap

Successful lyrics decoders got opportunities to win prizes during Jay-Z’s recent treasure hunt in support of the recent launch of his new book, but sometimes insight is the prize in and of itself, as “Understand Rap: Explanations of Confusing Rap Lyrics You and Your Grandma Can Understand” proves. Divided into chapters that explore ten categories from fashion to places, the book breaks down the slang and diction of lyrics like “Hockey players pagin’ me to practice on my wrist” into plain English (with so much diamond jewelry, my wrist is like an ice rink). This is reading for the whole family.

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This is NPR: The First Forty Years

Correspondents including Cokie Roberts, Susan Stamberg, Noah Adams, John Ydstie, Renée Montagne, Ari Shapiro and David Folkeflick all contribute to “This is NPR: The First Forty Years,” a look back on the first four decades of National Public Radio that covers the station’s development as important news events unfolded. The book is accompanied by a special bonus CD with selected broadcasts that exemplify the mantra “always put the listener first,” beginning with Jeff Kamen’s 1971 May Day demonstrations reporting. Keeping in line with its always cutting-edge content, the book is designed by Design Army, whose type treatments and infographics make it a true must-have for NPR-oholics.