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Monthly Design Review - August 2023

Accompanying our research theme this month, we're delving into library collections, design and architecture. Check out the below list, and disappear into the stacks.



Renowned photographer Candida Höfer Travels the world to capture the majesty, stillness, and order of libraries. Photographed with a large-format camera and a small aperture, these epic images of libraries from Brazil to Italy communicate more than just superb architecture. Umberto Eco's essay about his own attachment to libraries is the perfect introduction to an otherwise wordless, but sublimely reverent journey.

Buy the book here.


BIBLIOSTYLE: How we Live at Home With Books (Nina Freudenberger and Sadie Stein, 2019)

A peek at the private libraries and bookshelves of passionate readers all over the world, including Larry McMurtry, Silvia Whitman of Shakespeare and Co., Gay and Nan Talese, and Emma Straub. Gorgeous photographs of rooms with rare collections and floor-to-ceiling shelves are a visual delight and an inspiration for every bibliophile with a growing home library.

Buy the book here.


UNPACKING MY LIBRARY: Architects and their books (Jo Setffens, 2009)

This book provides an intimate look at the personal libraries of twelve of the world’s leading architects, alongside conversations about the significance of books to their careers and lives.

Architects such as Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves and Toshiko Mori share their well-loved and rare volumes, eclectic organizational schemes, and the individual touches that make a bookshelf one’s own. Each architect also presents a reading list of top ten influential titles, from architectural history to theory to fiction and nonfiction, that serves as a personal philosophy of literature and history.

Buy the book here.


THE MADMAN'S LIBRARY (Edward Brooke-Hitching, 2021)

Edward Brooke-Hitching grew up in a rare book shop run by his father. After writing critically acclaimed bestsellers about the histories of maps, he decided to embark on a quest for the most eccentric and extraordinary books from around the world.

This collection compiles the most unusual, obscure books from the far reaches of the human imagination throughout history. Books written in blood and books that kill, books of the insane and books that hoaxed the globe, books invisible to the naked eye and books so long they could destroy the Universe, books worn into battle and books of code and cypher whose secrets remain undiscovered. Spell books, alchemist scrolls, wearable books, edible books, books to summon demons, books written by ghosts, all come together in the most curiously strange library imaginable.


Buy the book here.


THE PUBLIC LIBRARY: A Photographic Essay (Robert Dawson 2014)

The 17,454 public libraries in the United States function not just as book depositories, but also as de facto community centers offering free internet access, job-hunting assistance, and a warm place to take shelter. And yet, across the country, cities large and small are closing public libraries or curtailing their hours of operation. Photographer Robert Dawson crisscrossed the country documenting hundreds of these endangered institutions from the majestic reading room at the New York Public Library to Allensworth, California's one-room Tulare County Free Library built by former slaves. Accompanying Dawson's revealing photographs are essays, letters, and poetry by some of America's most celebrated writers, as well as a foreword by Bill Moyers and an afterword by Ann Patchett.

Buy the book here.


LIBRARY OF EXILE (Edmund de Waal Library of Exile, 2020)

This book documents an installation by British artist and writer Edmund de Waal, housing more than 2,000 books in translation, written by exiled authors. The porcelain-covered pavilion was intended as a place of contemplation and dialogue, while each book had an 'ex libris' label so visitors could write their name inside.

First unveiled during the Venice Biennale 2019, the exhibition traveled to Germany and then to the British Museum in London. Once the installation closed the books were donated to Iraq's University of Mosul, whose library collection was destroyed by Isis in 2015.

A preface by author Elif Shafak reflects on the importance of literature and its capacity to transcend languages and borders.

Buy the book here.

The collection can still be explored through an online catalogue.



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