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I'm a sucker for good graphic design books (what designer isn't?). A pile of books showed up around Christmas time. Some of them were X-mas gifts, others arrived from the library. Luckily, I was able to dig into them over the holidays and become inspired by what I read. Here is a quick rundown of what was awesome on the book pile; books

Typography Sketchbooks (Steven Heller & Lita Talarico) Ever since I did a post about my sketchbooks many weeks ago, I've been keeping an eye open for books and blogs about other designers' process and sketchbooks. I ordered this one from the library and it took a while to show up at my local branch. This thing was a brick, but well worth lugging it home. I spent a long time leafing through the diversity of work on display.

Sign Painters (Faythe Levine & Sam Macon) This is a showcase of various Sign painters across the USA. I have a lot of admiration for anyone who has the patience and chops to pull together a beautifully crafted hand-painted sign. And there is plenty of beautiful work to admire in this book. Many, many interesting characters (both the letters and the people who make them). 

Painting with Light: Lighting & Photoshop Techniques for Photographers (Eric Curry) There are plenty of niche photo-techniques that I have been itching to try out and light painting is one of them. I've taken a stab at it a couple of times, and they turned out OK, just not the end result I was aiming for. Eric lays it all out in a step by step guide with lots of case studies. If you are looking to move into some experimental photography and have some fun doing it, this might be a book worth checking out.

Letterforms: Bawdy, Bad and Beautiful: The Evolution of Hand-Drawn, Humorous, Vernacular, and Experimental Type with Other (Steven Heller & Christine Thompson) This was a blast from the past. Published in 2000 and showcasing typographic highlights from the 1990's, it was a great trip down memory lane. Basically a picture book categorized into four different sections, it was a good review of what was once cutting-edge and modern. Some nice work, others... don't really stand the test of time.

The Passionate Photographer: Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great (Steve Simon) My cousin Mel is a fantastic photographer. Steve Simon was her instructor in college, and I really enjoy Steve's contributions to the TWiP podcast. I had heard his new book mentioned on the podcast and Mel recommended it, so it was a nice surprise when I opened this Christmas gift from my sister. Steve has created an excellent guide that helps refine your craft and give your photos a personal voice. The Passionate Photographer is so well done, I bought one for my brother's birthday.

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts (Simon Garfield) I got this one last year for Christmas. I enjoyed the forward by Chip Kidd, but I was kind of turned off by the first chapter (about how designers hate Comic Sans - yawn). I put it on the shelf and totally forgot about it. Then I picked it up again over the holidays. I'm glad I gave it another chance, as I really enjoyed it. I know that the reviews by "typographic purist" has been negative and there has been a lot of poo pooing over certain details... but whatever, I thought it was an enjoyable read, packed with interesting tidbits and I learned a few things along the way.

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (Sean Howe) This was the best of the batch (of course). I was looking for something to get into the early days of Marvel comics, back when they were named "Atlas" and "Timely", so this was perfect. I wasn't expecting the book to cover off all fifty years of the company, so that was an added bonus. The last ten years felt like only 50 pages or so, but that wasn't what I orginally wanted the book for anyway. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Jim Shooter's reign as editor-in-chief, but I was disappointed there was no mention of my tour of the Marvel offices back in the late 90's (by Spider-Man himself!).

Had a Glass 2013: Top 100 Wines Under $20 (James Nevison) This is NOT a design book. But what goes better with a good book than a good glass of wine? I've been getting "had a glass" every year for the last four years, and Nevison's picks are always bang-on. I do enjoy a good bottle for under $20.

Dads Are the Original Hipsters (Brad Getty) This is also not really a design book. However, the current trend within certain design circles to pump out "Hipster" design has been driving me crazy. All style, zero substance and way too easy to whip off. Maybe as a result of that distain, this book made me laugh out loud multiple times.