Saturday, 14 November 2009

Book review: Berlin Now

Edited by Dagmar von Taube
Published by teNeues

Published in the year of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, this splendid volume is a must have for all the lovers of Berlin’s je ne sais quoi!

Edited by Dagmar von Taube, this stunning photographic portfolio presents about 300 images depicting Berlin’s troubled past and vibrant present. You will be taken onto an exciting journey through the places that make Berlin the dynamic metropolis that it has become and you will be introduced to the people who are at the centre of the capital’s fashion, art, business, cinema and political circles.

The pictures collected here are the product of some of the best photographers, including Mario Testino, Helmut Newton, Karl Lagerfeld and Peter Lindbergh. But this book is not just a feast for the eyes. An introduction by Imre Kertész, the Hungarian Nobel Prize-winning author, and a contribution by the German columnist Franz Josef Wagner, as well as by Dagmar von Taube herself are well written and each provides a different reading key to this collection.

Whether you are familiar with Berlin or not, you will find that this book is brimming with people and places that you will want to know more about.

Book review: Stern Fotografie 52: Lord Snowdon

Published by teNeues

With an elegant and glossy hardcover, this volume would be a precious addition to your collection of Stern Fotografie books, each focussing on a famous and talented photographer, or it would make a beautiful and classy coffee table book.

‘The Lord of light’ is the title of a captivating introduction by the journalist Jochen Siemens, who writes about his meeting with a 78-year-old Lord Snowdon, all sharp eye and no-frills attitude. We learn about the photographer’s career and are entertained by his anecdotes. However the real experience of this book begins on page 14. 25 colour and 33 black and white photographs offer a glimpse into the worlds of a variety of subjects including nannies, celebrities, the Royal Family and everybody in-between. The photographs cover a period from 1958 to 2004 and are striking in their powerful simplicity.

Contenders as my favourite photograph are two royal portraits: that of Princess Margaret, whom Lord Snowdon has been married to, and that of Lady Diana. The former taken in 1967 and the latter in 1991, they both portray the same wonderful sense of timelessness.

Book review: Discovering Words

By Julian Walker
Published by Shire Publications

If you have an active interest in etymology and want to know more about the origin of words that we use in our everyday life or if you simply want to impress your friends with interesting facts and stories, this book is for you. With a format easy to carry around and content arranged in an intuitive and clear way, Discovering Words will be one of those books that you keep referring to and don’t just put away on a shelf.

Julian Walker, an educator focussed on the way that objects hold stories and organizer of workshops on the history of language and books at the British Library, has put together a wide range of words that we take for granted on a daily basis and has put them under a new light. What does ‘umbrella’ mean? Where does the word ‘tea’ come from? What did the West African Wolof word for ‘to live wickedly’ develop into?

You will find the answers to these questions and more browsing this book, which is cleverly organised in twenty three subject areas, such as family, transport, food and work. And not only that! In the introduction, Walker succinctly explains the history of English and its neighbouring languages, making it easier to follow the progress of a word and its spelling through the centuries.

And if you want to test your knowledge before and after reading the book, challenge yourself and your friends with this quiz:

Book review: SEW!

By Cath Kidston
Published by Quadrille

Aimed to both new and existing adepts of sewing, the new book by the famous designer Cath Kidston is a mine of ideas to create lovely accessories.

The book, which also contains the material necessary to make the bag pictured on the cover, will impress you with its modern and fresh lay-out and its lively colours. Starting with a basics section covering all you need to know about essential sewing equipment and techniques, Kidston then presents 41 projects – with 7 related templates – that can be turned into much appreciated gifts for friends and family. From cushions to aprons, from mobiles to purses, every project is helpfully rated according to the skill level required and is provided with a list of the equipment needed and tips. The instructions are clearly outlined and are accompanied by beautifully arranged photographs by Pia Tryde, which contribute to the elegant yet simple look of the book.

A book that is not only useful but also a pleasure to browse and look at.

Book review: Clan

By David P Elliot

The first novel written by David P Elliot, ‘CLAN’ is hard to define. Supernatural thriller? Mystery novel? Historical fiction? Horror story? I am confident in saying that it is a perfect blend of all these genres and even more, as it also touches on themes such as the importance of family and the value of friendship.

‘CLAN’ intertwines past and present, taking its readers from the 14th century – where a battle over the Throne of Scotland is under way – to the present times and back again. In 2007 England, David Elliot starts on a journey of self-discovery accompanied by his daughter, Kate, his son-in-law and his baby grandson, Thomas. Their destination is the borders of Scotland, where the Elliot family stems from and where David, interested in genealogy, hopes to find out more about his ancestors. What he cannot imagine is that his family is in great danger. Lord William de Soulis is waiting for them, observing them using his supernatural powers and aided by his evil familiar, Robin Red Cap. After fighting to become King of Scotland and being imprisoned in spirit form in the sinister Hermitage Castle for hundreds of years after his death, he is plotting to come back into the world. To do that he needs to sacrifice someone whose bloodline is meaningful to him. Someone who happens to be travelling to the borders of Scotland with three loving family members...

Find out more about this battle between Good and Evil in this page-turning novel. Well researched, informative and involving, it will make you want to read more from this author, whose pen will hopefully give us soon another thrilling read.

Book review: The Story of Queen’s Park Brighton

Published by Brighton Town Press

I approached this book knowing nothing about Brighton’s royally-approved Queen’s Park. 72 pages later, I reached the back cover of this exquisite volume – whose glossy cover shows a watercolour by the architect Charles Barry – feeling that I have been part of the park’s life since its beginnings.

Brighton Town Press, in collaboration with the Friend’s of Queen’s Park, has done a masterly job in reconstructing the story of the park. From the lease of the land by a Mr Armstrong through the various following ownerships – the most important being those by the Attree and Duddell families – and up to the purchase by the Corporation in the late 19th century. And then, in more recent times, the survival of the park through two World Wars and its active role in the community up to the present year. But the book is not just about the park. It is about the great buildings that surround it, the people that enjoy it, the plants and the animals that have a home in it.

Provided with drawings, photographs, plans, prints, as well as testimonies and special side notes that help develop a deeper understanding of the context in which the park’s history is set, The Story of Queen’s Park is an ideal guide for first time visitors and regulars alike.

Book review: Library Design

by Karen M. Smith & John A. Flannery
Published by teNeues

With about 200 colour photographs and short texts written in five languages – English, German, French, Spanish and Italian – Library Design is a beautiful coffee table book and a gift that will be appreciated by all lovers of books, libraries and architectural design.

The book presents a selection of international projects that range from private home libraries to award-winning public libraries. Although not going into detail about the individual projects, each of them is introduced with a description of its context and main features, location and architect details. Where available, direct website addresses and little sketches of the library plans, or of the buildings they are located in, are provided.

It also features some furniture companies and independent bookshops and is, all in all, a good starting point for more in depth research and a well-designed volume that you will find yourself browsing over and over again.