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It’s hard to pick “best ofs” from all the enticing books published this year but following are ten that came across the DnA transom that touch on design in different and thought-provoking ways (for DnA’s gift object picks, click here):

1. Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Persson and the Game that Changed Everything 

By Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson

Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson’s tale of how an introverted Swedish boy with a troubled family turned his passion for programming — and legos — into an indie videogame sensation is both a great rags to riches story and an accessible introduction to the world of gaming design and Sweden’s role in it. Hear the authors talk about the book, here.

2. The Circle

By Dave Eggers

I’ve met people who are either bored or irritated by this book, but I’m in the camp that finds Eggers’ new novel, about a utopian tech behemoth (à la Google, complete with fancy HQ that reinforces the cultish office culture) that turns totalitarian, to be a must-read cautionary tale about this age of “sharing” our lives online.

3. Lolita: The Story of a Cover Girl: Vladimir Nabokov’s Novel in Art and Design

Co-edited by John Bertram and Yuri Leving

Who says you can’t judge a book by its cover? LA-based architect John Bertram and co-editor Yuri Leving commissioned designers to create new covers for Nabokov’s Lolita, as a means to explore the challenge of encapsulating, visually, the novel about an abused 12 year-old girl who has been recast in popular culture as a teenaged seductress. Fascinating and disturbing.

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4. Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles

By Stephen Gee

Long overdue survey of the native of Bolton, England, who never gained the lasting fame of Richard Neutra or Rudolf Schindler but had a towering impact on the skyline of Los Angeles, designing many of its landmarks, including City Hall, Union Station and Bullocks Wilshire. Hear Stephen Gee talk about the book, here.

5. Good Girl Bad Girl

By Christopher Finch

Artist and art writer Christopher Finch has turned his hand to crime writing and this first in a series — featuring a former art fraud investigator examining the disappearance of a young woman in New York’s loft district, circa 1968 — is a crackling fusion of pulp noir and art and cultural history. Christopher talked about the book on DnA, here.

6. The Art of Frozen

By Charles Solomon, with essays by Charles Solomon, John Lasseter, Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

The stunning visuals behind Disney’s latest animated film Frozen required five years of research, which involved traveling to Norway and studying its “stave” churches and traditional folk art, and meeting with physicists at Cal Tech to learn about snow. Charles Solomon’s book walks you through how the team at Disney Animation Studios used design to enrich the film’s characters and their icy backdrop. Hear Michael Giaimo, art director, talk about Frozen’s visuals, here.

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7. The Asylum

By Simon Doonan

This, the latest memoir by Barneys’ “Creative Ambassador” Simon Doonan, is a hilarious and insightful look back at some of the high and low points of his four decades in clothing, premised on the idea that there is a creative connection between fashion and madness. He talks about the book, here.

8. Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture

By Rowan Moore

The architecture critic for The Observer newspaper has produced a fascinating contemplation on architecture and emotion. From the crass towers of Dubai to the liveable modernism of Lina Bo Bardi, he explores the ways “in which the concerns of the living (hope, power, sex) interact with the dead stuff of buildings.”

9. Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!

Text by Caroline Evans, Alexander Fury and Shonagh Marshall; edited by Alistair O’Neill; photographed by Nick Knight

Beautifully photographed study of the extreme personal style of Isabella Blow, the highly influential fashion editor who launched the careers of legendary designers Alexander McQueen and Philip Treacy, as well as many other designers and models, including LA gallerist Honor Frazer. The book accompanies a marvelous exhibition currently on at London’s Somerset House.

10. Collections and Corrections

By Joe Day

Highly original and provocative book by LA-based architect Joe Day that explores the societal and architectural connections between two institutions that have expanded tenfold since the 1970s: museums and prisons. Joe Day talked about the book on this DnA.

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  • warren

    Frances, this is an eclectic and fascinating collection of stuff. I don’t know where to start. Thanks.

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