Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Bookworms

From fairytales to architecture and positive vibes, there's reading material here for everybody

There’s almost never a bad time to read a book. Fortunately, for some, the end-of-year holiday provides time away from just about everything and an opportunity to dive deep into reading. If you plan on spending your vacation on a couch while the snow falls outside or sunning yourself somewhere balmy, the one must-have is a good book. Whether it’s positive vibes, pop culture, sound advice, girl power, myths, fairytales, design, language or architecture you’re after, our complete Bookworms Gift Guide has something to suit everybody. One doesn’t need to immerse themselves in an 800-page biography to have a good reading experience; sometimes a 52-page illustrated study does the trick—as long as you pick up a book and find a new world, learn a thing or two, and enjoy the escape.

Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History

Molly Schoit’s book “Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History” ($19) celebrates the forgotten, lesser known women athletes who paved the way for today’s sports stars. From Jackie Towanda (the first woman to box at Madison Square Garden) to Conchita Cintrón (a bullfighter also known as The Golden Goddess) and Renée Richards (the first transgender woman to play in a professional tennis tournament) the book is full of significant images and stories from a century of sportswomen.

Pick Me Up

Brooklyn-based artist and designer Adam J Kurtz’s second book “Pick Me Up: a Pep Talk for Now and Later” ($11), the follow-up to “1 Page at a Time,” is part activity guide for adults and part therapy session. Not only are there spaces for drawing and writing poems, the majority of the pages are full of relatable modern-day anxieties and plenty of existential, dark humor. It’s not all doom and gloom though, there’s plenty of sweet and funny moments—along with sound advice.

The Little Mermaid

Despite being born over a century apart, and in Denmark and Japan respectively, Hans Christian Andersen and Yayoi Kusama are an ideal match in this version of Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” ($35). Kusama’s always beautiful illustrations—squiggly patterns and wild creatures—complement the magical and heartbreaking fairytale. This is one for kids of all ages, but remember the original ending of this story is much different than the Disney one.


Including 15 books and over 250 myths, Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” ($25) is a true classic—one many of us may feel a little shameful about, for not having read it yet. The clever and energetic poetry links mythical stories (like Pygmalion and the fall of Troy) via the theme of transformation. The new cloth-bound cover was illustrated by Coralie Bickford-Smith and should be a little incentive to tick this significant tome off your reading list.

You’re Saying it Wrong

If you find yourself discussing (or arguing) how to pronounce words like “pho,” “niche” or “acai,” new book “You’re Saying It Wrong: A Pronunciation Guide to the 150 Most Commonly Mispronounced Words and Their Tangled Histories of Misuse” ($12) could be a useful book to carry on your person. Not only illuminating the correct pronunciations, the book also explains phrases’ and words’ origins and common misuses. May you never mispronounce schadenfreude again.

Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print 1976-1980

With a punk memorabilia collection that stretched 40 years, Toby Mott was the right person to dive in and pick out items from bands, designers and political groups for the new book “Oh So Pretty: Punk in Print 1976–80” ($20). Mott shows how punk was much more than spiky hair and safety pins through his tome, via some 500 artifacts. With zines, posters, badges and more, Mott explores the DIY nature of the movement—displaying just how incredibly creative it really was.

100 Secrets of the Art World

With a list of contributors as long as its title, “100 Secrets of the Art World: Everything You Always Wanted to Know from Artists, Collectors and Curators, but Were Afraid to Ask,” ($10) is an impressive book full of information from powerful players in the art world. From Jeff Koons to Marina Abramović and John Baldessari; curators from the world’s most significant museums and more; the contributors know a thing or three about contemporary art. Not just entertaining, the book offers insights and tips for those wanting to start visiting more galleries and festivals, as well as those who are starting their collection.

Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide

Whether used as a real-life travel guide or as a point of reference, Sam Lubell and Darren Bradley’s “Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide” ($35) is full of design delights from the USA’s West Coast. From celebrated, famous structures to hidden treasures, the flexi-bound book is separated into Pacific Northwest, SF, LA, Palm Springs, and San Diego—complete with maps—so if you’re planning a California road trip, it’s a must-have. From cinemas to houses, bowling alleys and car washes, mid-century architecture is celebrated lovingly in this pocket-sized book.

Morbid Curiosities

The benefits of “Morbid Curiosities: Collections of the Uncommon and Bizarre” ($24) are two-fold. For the light reader, one can turn page after page to find hundreds of startling images. For the deeply curious, Paul Gambino’s analysis offers up insight—not only regarding what you’re looking at, but the people who have collected it all. Within this macabre book, you’ll find the occult and the carnivalesque and much more, many of which is visible for the first time.

Tham ma da: The Adventurous Interiors of Paola Navone

Italian architect and designer Paola Navone’s conceptual work has made her well-known in the home decor and hospitality worlds; won her awards; and led her to work with many brands over her 30+ year long career. On her travels all over the world, finding products and inspiration, Navone discovered the Thai phrase “tham ma da,” meaning “everyday,” hence the book’s title: “Tham ma da: The Adventurous Interiors of Paola Navone” ($85). Despite Navone’s eye for design and interiors being entirely extraordinary, this approach to the simple or the everyday permeates her process—she takes the ordinary, and makes it remarkable.

New Aging

Matthias Hollwich, of the acclaimed architecture firm Hollwich Kushner (HWKN), has a few ideas for the betterment of society and its aging members. He proposes them in “New Aging” ($10), a book built upon a foundation of insightful tips, supported by over a hundred illustrations from Bruce Mau Designs. The new aging concept is direct: incorporate rather than segregate. But it’s the sociological and spatial depths that Hollwich traverses that make this a guide worth looking at now—for all age groups.

American Revolution Bicentennial

Acclaimed designer Bruce Blackburn envisioned much of the visual language that defined the US during the ’70s, including his iconic work for NASA. Among his roster of impactful designs includes those for the bicentennial of the American Revolution, taking place in 1976. Standards Manual continues their in depth look at the work of influential graphic design with their latest edition dedicated toward Blackburn’s work on America’s 200th birthday. Through 52 pages, 49 image plates, a forward by Blackburn himself and an essay by Christopher Bonanos, “American Revolution Bicentennial” ($45) is a glimpse at process, inspiration and how both functioned in an important time for America.

How to See

For some, a work of art in a museum or gallery can require substantial consideration. For others, a passing glance will do. One can choose to read into symbolism, coloration and more—or purely enjoy (or despise) any type of art for aesthetic reasons. For all the aforementioned, and everyone in between, acclaimed painter David Salle’s book “How to See” ($38) offers a helping hand. A series of intimate portraits of Salle’s friends (including Jeff Koons and Alex Katz), peers and other inspirational artists, the work introduces the language of art in a way that artists themselves speak it.

Feelings: Soft Art

With contributions from the likes of Tracey Emin, John Baldessari, Ryan McGinley and more, experimental book “Feelings: Soft Art” ($26) explores contemporary art with a focus on emotions and sensual, gut reactions. Via interviews, short essays and (of course) plenty of imagery, readers are reminded that art isn’t always purely intellectual—rather it’s meant to evoke very human, personal emotions.

Hero image by Cool Hunting, all others courtesy of respective publishers