Cool Hunting Summer 2009 Reading List


With the dog days of summer just around the corner, our thoughts turn to languid afternoons spent in the park, on the beach or the backyard—if we're lucky enough to have one. Few activities are better for the slow life than a quiet summer read. With that in mind, we asked Cool Hunting contributors to offer up their suggestions for this season's most enjoyable and inspirational books. We're confident you'll find a title or two that suits your taste as well.

Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice by Alissa Hamilton
"Squeezed" charters the rise of OJ from luxury beverage to household staple over the course of a mere century in America. Along the way, Hamilton divulges some rather acidic facts about FDA standardization, juice wars and the dubious notion of "not from concentrate." Available from Yale University Press.

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford
Paralleling recent manifestos on local farming and artisinal food production, philosopher and motorcycle mechanic Matthew B. Crawford offers an acclamation for the skilled laborer, arguing the spiritual rewards of working with one's hands. For anyone trafficking in information and ideas, this books offers an insightful reconnection to the material world. Available from Amazon.

On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change by Ada Louise Huxtable
From one of the century's greatest architectural critics, Pulitzer Prize winning Ada Louise Huxtable, comes this hefty collection of essays (some never before published) spanning four decades. In logical progression and elegant prose, the book details modernism's early beginnings, late '60s urban decay, the architectural revival of the '90s and the skyscraper craze of the early 21st Century. Available through Powell's Books.


Never Use White Type on a Black Background: And 50 Other Ridiculous Design Rules by Anneloes van Gaalen
"50 Ridiculous Design Rules" presents a collection of inspirational and delusional design jargon intended to question preconceived notions of layout, type, and technique. An interactive Amazon.—Kelsey Keith

Helvetica Forever by Lars Müller and Victor Malsy
For budding typographers and graphic designers looking to beef up their trade knowledge, "Helvetica Forever" is a mandatory summer read. Tracing the fifty-year history of this now ubiquitous font, the editors draw comparisons to other 20th century sans serif fonts while charting Helvetica's swift rise to becoming the most widely used font in the world. Available through Amazon.

There's Nothing Funny About Design by David Barringer
Few writers can speak about graphic design with the alacrity and sharp-tongued criticism of the self-taught David Barringer. This collection of essays on everything from the letter X to DVD covers bristles with energy and metaphoric prose. Available through Princeton Architectural Press.


Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World by Alastair Fuad-Luke
This fascinating series of essays looks at how activism through design can help create positive social and environmental change. Part history book, part design catalogue, part toolbox, this book arrives at a crucial moment in our history where we all need creative minds to work on sustainable solutions for our future. Available through Amazon.—Leonora Oppenheim

The Waste Makers by Vance Oakley Packard
Written in 1960, yet never more relevant, Vance Packard's "The Waste Makers" offers timely perspective on the ass-backward design standards of our post-industrial world. Packard explores the ubiquitous strategies of planned obsolescence—particularly among America's mid-century auto giants—and the lasting impressions left on our landscape, and collective psyche. Available through Amazon partners or your local public library.—Russ Lowe

Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must be Sustainable by Nathan Shedroff
The way we design products has a huge impact on sustainability. Designer Nathan Shedroff's latest book, "Design is the Problem," provides insight into the role design has played and how we can move forward with sustainability in mind. See the full CH review for more. Available as a paperback and digital package through Rosenfeld Media. And with the discount code WHATMATTERS you get 20 percent off the cost of the book (and all other books) on the site.—Evan Orensten


This Book is Broken by Stuart Berman
Compiled from over forty hours of interviews with Toronto's transformative indie music collective Broken Social Scene, "This Book is Broken" charts the years of fits and starts that preceded the band's explosive 2003 album "You Forgot it in People." A fitting seasonal read about a group that has produced some wonderful summer tunes. Available through Amazon or in a special bundle version at Gallery AC.

Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton
An astute and sardonic account of seven circles within the art world, Thornton's book is a revealing study of the commodification of creativity. From the military precision of a Christie's auction to the celebrity buyers at Art Basel, these tales of a booming "industry" find a new gravitas in the wake of our recent economic reckoning. Available through Amazon.—Tim Yu

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
This writhing satiric novel follows the escapades of protagonist Pete Tarslaw as he endeavors to create a best-selling novel and so upstage his ex-girlfriend at her forthcoming wedding. Along the way, everyone connected to the literary industry is superbly parodied and ridiculed. The delicious irony is that Hely's novel has already garnered praise in the Books of The Times and Amazon's Best of the Month. Available through Amazon.


The Bicycle Book: Wit, Wisdom and Wanderings edited by Jim Joyce
"The Bicycle Book" is a delightful homage to the two-wheeler, featuring 25 contributions from writers and cartoonists from around the world. A concise and satisfying read, it's the perfect pocket companion for a lazy ride to the park. Available from Satya House Publications.

The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art by Eileen Myles
Author of more than 20 books of poetry, post-punk icon Eileen Myles reflects on two decades of travel and art writing with a collection of essays spanning such diverse subjects as Thoreau's Cape Cod walk, James Schuyler and Björk, queer Russia and Robert Smithson, actor Daniel Day-Lewis and director Sadie Benning, co-founder of the band Le Tigre. Available through MIT Press.

Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
If Jack Kerouac never actually got on the road, but was instead forced to wait out his layover in an ill-designed airport contemplating his life's mistakes, he may have composed something like this complaint letter in the form of a novel. Pithy and witty, Miles expresses his character's brooding atmosphere with the utmost fluency. Available through Square Books.—Karen Day