Books that are also for looks?
March 10, 2012 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Neat books you don't read? I'm thinking of buying a bookshelf that's also an art piece, but I'd need more books than I own. I'm looking for interesting - and cheap - suggestions.

I'd feel weird owning a bookshelf filled with books I haven't read, so I thought it might be fun to ask the hive mind for suggestions of books that aren't meant to be read in the first place? Or just neat books to seek out. And if they can be found on the cheap, even better!!!

Feel free to skip the following tidbit if you've already got ideas. In case it matters: I really enjoy photography (especially abstract), maps (especially old or unusual), history (especially world history), design (especially anything related to web and graphics/fonts/style) and, uhm, other stuff. I'm filing this question under shopping because I'm looking for neat books to buy - probably at Amazon or Powell's.
posted by 2oh1 to Shopping (36 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Carl Jung's Red Book? Probably not that affordable ($90 on eBay), but each page is breathtaking.
posted by idlethink at 3:47 PM on March 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Recipes for disaster: An anarchist cookbook, always fun to skim and sometimes to delve deeper.

Stanley Donwood's Dead Children Playing. Probably more known among Radiohead fans, but even if you're not one, it's really pretty/weird.
posted by revikim at 3:48 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recently bought Oliver Byrne's Six Books of Euclid for my dad. It goes through proofs using images more than text and according to my dad, it is extremely wonderful. It is a Taschen reprint of the original.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:52 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Map as Art, collected by Katharine Harmon, is full of beautiful stuff either meant to look like maps, or inspired by maps. Quite nice.
posted by agentmitten at 3:54 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Having one would be ok, but having a whole collection would be a great addition to your bookcase: book safes.
posted by Forktine at 3:59 PM on March 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've got an old, hand bound copy of the Manual of Classical Erotology.
posted by cmoj at 4:08 PM on March 10, 2012

Best answer: Get a copy of "Steal This Book" and see if someone steals it. I had it on my bookshelf for about 5 years until I had a party one day and it was gone the next day.
posted by King Bee at 4:21 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Get a copy of the Voynich manuscript no one can read it's perfect.
posted by zinon at 4:31 PM on March 10, 2012

Best answer: Strandbooks sells books by the foot.

There's a newer website, different company, doing something similar and mostly cheaper.

You can order by size of books, color, or age or subject.
posted by caclwmr4 at 4:33 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Reference works like A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates and CRC Manuals.

Engineers and surveyors used to have rather large books with lookup tables for logarithms and trig functions. They're of limited interest today, obviously, and can be found pretty cheaply in used book stores.
posted by phrontist at 4:39 PM on March 10, 2012

Best answer: My books that people always comment on are the ones that have some nostalgia for them: The full set of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Wrinkle in Time series, the Little House on the Prairie series, In the Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are and the Little Bear series, and the Foxfire series. Only the Foxfire ones might be expensive (I found mine for $1 each at a used book store). People like to touch them, and talk about there memories with the books.
posted by Houstonian at 4:53 PM on March 10, 2012

Best answer: Book safes, as mentioned above, are cool - but they're even cooler if you make them. Buy a giant hardback really boring look book at a thrift store for $1 or less, use a small knife to cut out a rectangle of pages.

Sorry to everyone who is cringing at the book being harmed.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:25 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

oh, if you can find it: A Humument.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:51 PM on March 10, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, I'm sold on the book safe concept. I'm also enjoying the idea of combining Steal This Book with some sort of ridiculous book safe. Maybe a book safe filled with confetti.

Keep the ideas coming. I really appreciate them!
posted by 2oh1 at 5:53 PM on March 10, 2012

Best answer: Art books, books of poetry and any other books that are made to be read or looked at in small pieces. If you have a lot of space, old encyclopedias, yearbooks and atlases are really interesting. Humor books are good fun, too.
posted by theora55 at 5:59 PM on March 10, 2012

Best answer: How about some "books" you play?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:02 PM on March 10, 2012

The Complete Penguin Classics Library.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:05 PM on March 10, 2012

Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine books, beautifully illustrated children's books, or pop-up books.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:07 PM on March 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

if you're alright with kids books, how about some intricate pop-ups (Sabuda comes to mind)? Also, we plan on using encyclopedias - we have a set from the 50s, one from the late 70s, and one from the late 90s. it's neat (and sometimes sad) to compare.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:25 PM on March 10, 2012

An old set of Childcraft books. I have 2, one of which is from my childhood. They're really cool and the design on some sets are beautiful.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:25 PM on March 10, 2012

There are some interesting history books (and other types of books) in the Weird Book Room at abebooks. I have my very own copy of 'The Man Who Left His Wife and Had a Nifty Time'.
posted by bolognius maximus at 8:43 PM on March 10, 2012

If there's a Half Price Books in your area, I know they sell Books By the Yard for $20...a yard. You can choose between reference books, a mixed option, or law books depending on what you want. I'm assuming you'll want the grab-bag to get some interesting stuff, but for all I know HPB is just selling you books for the looks.
posted by huxham at 8:53 PM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No Half Price Books where I am. I'm in Portland. I'm kind of surprised Powell's doesn't have something similar. Surely they end up with tons of extras they can't sell - or at least sell the old fashioned way.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:01 PM on March 10, 2012

Best answer: I once had a huge volume of clip art. It was full of what looked like old world pictures taken from old volumes ie. pics of African animals. Medical pictures etc. It was cool to look at.

I got it at a library sale.
posted by hot_monster at 9:23 PM on March 10, 2012

Not easy to find, but: The Codex Seraphinianus
posted by Rhaomi at 12:32 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a Steve McMurry collection for a while -- that was really cool because people could look at it. I also had a collection of Fruits, a harajuku fashion magazine.
posted by spunweb at 3:00 AM on March 11, 2012

something by Lynd Ward?
posted by robtoo at 5:48 AM on March 11, 2012

Best answer: I get cheap books at Goodwill, also big coffee table books from the remainder stacks at a local big box store (the World's biggest bookstore, in Toronto - one of the original box stores, but odd for being in the middle of downtown).
posted by jb at 7:53 AM on March 11, 2012

I really like the "post secret" books....
posted by misspony at 10:06 AM on March 11, 2012

Another option, if you have it available to you, is to ask your grandparents for books. I was amazed at the weird things my grandmother had stored away. I have two chef textbooks from the 1800's with notes written in them by my great-grandfather. I also have the most insultingly non-feminist books on romance and cleaning from the 30's. If your grandparents aren't around, you may want to check out the yearly book sales at nursing homes.

tldr: old people have weird books
posted by valoius at 11:14 AM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you have this paperbacks of this edition of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, the spines line up to make a pretty, pretty (well, not all that pretty, but kind of neat) picture of a ring.

And you can read them, too! Especially if you like stories featuring a whiny, spiteful, bastard of a main character! (I loved them, but probably because the setting could also be considered a character).
posted by Ducks or monkeys at 12:24 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unrelated, but your question reminded me of a great "Portlandia" sketch about what to read.
posted by facehugger at 3:24 PM on March 11, 2012

I like Hungry Planet and Material World.
posted by cupcakemuffin at 9:50 PM on March 11, 2012

Response by poster: Valoius: the grandparents idea is tragic. My stepfather's father worked for a book binder (whatever you call that) for decades and had a basement filled to the brim with row after row of 1st editions. As a kid, I thought it stank of books, but now I think of that smell as timeless. After he passed away, ALL of the books were simply cleared out - not even sold. Just cleared out and hauled away as if trash. Soooooooooooo sad.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:52 AM on March 13, 2012

Response by poster: Such neat answers here, by the way. Even the ones that don't work for my needs are neat food for thought.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:57 AM on March 13, 2012

Oh, that is so sad. The idea of any book just being thrown away depresses me, but something of that calibre.. it's heartwrenching. I hope you create a collection that you love (whether you read them or not) as much as he must have loved his.
posted by valoius at 8:21 AM on March 14, 2012

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