Find me inspiring books!
April 1, 2009 3:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to expand my reference library. What are your favorite inspiring books (the kinds with photos/artwork in them?)

Basically, I'm looking for any books that have good reference material in them-- not so much the text (though I like reading), but ones that show interesting images to use to inspire me when I can't think of what to draw. (National Geographic came in handy for this as a kid) I don't get to travel a lot but I love to peruse books, so I thought why not find some good sources?

Books with old advertisements, design, patterns, motifs and artwork from indigenous worlds, sci-fi, photos of houses and environments, costume design, books about nature and animals, space, historical photos, underwater photography, the topic doesn't matter specifically, just whatever you have or would recommend I'm super-curious to find out about. Coffee-table books, old books, whatever!

As an example, I have books like these:
Manuel Manilla
The Golden Age of Advertising-the 60's

and am thinking about getting these:
Chasing Rickshaws (I found this in a library and it was great!)
Little House on a Small Planet

Thanks hivemind!
posted by actionpact to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Edward Tufte’s books
posted by ijoshua at 3:42 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Book One by book jacket designer Chip Kidd. He uses lots of interesting images of all sorts.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:53 PM on April 1, 2009

I'm a fan of the photography of Kennan and Karen Ward. They have a handful of coffee table books filled with landscape and wildlife photography and narrative.
posted by netbros at 3:59 PM on April 1, 2009

Go down to your local antique dealer and pick up a stack of old Look or Life magazines they probably have rotting in a corner. Lots of good stuff in there.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:10 PM on April 1, 2009

The Art of Looking Sideways.
posted by scruss at 4:32 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Skillful Huntsman is an art book about the concept art for a sci-fi movie. The catch is, no movie was ever intended to be made - the entire book is an exercise in the art of developing characters and a world, as would be needed to be done in a film or game production. But there is no film - it's entirely about the art and the artistic/conceptual process.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:32 PM on April 1, 2009

Brilliant, wonderful, profusely illustrated, though expensive:
The Circus: 1870-1950, The Irish Georgian Society: A Celebration

Less expensive: The Forgotten Arts and Crafts (highly recommended), Period Details: A Sourcebook for House Restoration, Nineteenth Century Interiors: An Album of Watercolors, The Art of Painted Furniture (beautiful), Oriental Carpets: Their Iconology and Iconography from Earliest Times to the 18th Century (beautiful).

Also worth checking out Publishers such as Abrams, Rizzoli, Thames and Hudson, Taschen and DK.
posted by mlis at 4:40 PM on April 1, 2009

Seconding Tufte.
posted by benign at 6:00 PM on April 1, 2009

The Codex Seraphinianus is available online (think of a word that rhymes with "schklorrent"), if you don't want to pay $500.
posted by ostranenie at 7:13 PM on April 1, 2009

An enterprising soul is selling Codex Seraphinianus as an "e-book".

"You will receive instructions on how to receive this E-Book after the payment..."

BookFinder locates a copy at $78.50 including shipping. Very, very tempting even though it would need repair.
posted by mlis at 8:28 PM on April 1, 2009

Oh you guys! You've totally found some winners. Unfortunately you're also fans of pricey books so I'll have to keep my eyes peeled and save some pennies! But I'm really impressed by all the things you picked out.

To share the wealth, here are some other books I'm looking at:

The Treehouse Book

The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World

The Houseboat Book (What can I say, I'm fascinated by houses on dwellings...)

Marimekko: Fabrics, Fashion, Architecture

Contemporary World Interiors

The Whimsical Work of David Weidman and Also Some Serious Ones

Anyway, if you have any more I would love to hear them! This is really inspiring, and I'm definitely seeking out some of these in the future.
posted by actionpact at 10:59 PM on April 1, 2009

A good, old copy of South with the photos included might work. Some of those shots of the Endurance being crushed by the ice floes are just incredible.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:06 AM on April 2, 2009

Here is the Cool Tools listing for the Secret Museum of Mankind, a really trippy book from the early 20th century with totally fantastic pictures of all sorts of peoples and cultures that have by now completely vanished from the Earth. Books that seem to fit your description often appear on Cool Tools. Things like 19th century German diagrams of sea creatures like jellyfish and mollusks. Really awesome, you should check it out.
posted by seasparrow at 6:07 AM on April 2, 2009

Thanks seasparrow! I was wondering if there were sites that showcased this sort of thing-- only one I knew of was Book By Its Cover, but that's more for art/design related books. Cool Tools looks pretty awesome!
posted by actionpact at 9:41 AM on April 2, 2009

I spend way too much time browsing through the Bibliodyssey Amazon storefront.
posted by quatsch at 2:07 PM on April 2, 2009

BookFinder locates a copy at $78.50 including shipping. Very, very tempting even though it would need repair.

I noticed this earlier, less than 16 hours after that was posted, the copy is no longer for sale.
posted by mlis at 9:42 PM on April 2, 2009

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