ABC’s Favorite Books of 2007 (pt. 5)


We’re nearly there! Here are some more favorites from the Amsterdam boys: Jasper de Bruin, Marten, and San Yin Mark 2.Jasper de Bruin (ABC Amsterdam, Film & Television and Art books buyer)
Saul Leiter: Early Color Saul Leiter: Early Color by Saul Leiter
Wow! I’d never heard of this photographer before, but this book was a revelation to me. ‘Photography is painting with light’ is a phrase often heard, but with Leiter it rings true. Every photograph is a beautiful composition, depicting almost careless, mundane situations from the streets. It’s almost like watching good abstract art. The sensitive use of colors (faded browns, yellows and reds) makes me feel bad about the decline of chemical film. This man had an amazing eye. A treasure! (Apparently I’m not the only one; it’s already out of print after only half a year and second hand copies sell from around $ 350.) Another book, Saul Leiter: Early Black and White was just published in November.

UncreditedUncredited – Graphic Design & Opening Titles in Movies by Gemma Solana and Antonio Boneu
I admit, it sounds a bit nerdy. But I actually have been waiting for such a book to come out. And now that there finally is an overview of some of the best opening titles and the people responsible for it, I’m not the least disappointed. Especially in a time where almost all media consists of motion design, this volume is a good reminder of the source. A lot of attention for Saul Bass (famous for his work for Hitchcock), Jean-Luc Godard, Kyle Cooper and other recognized designers. Also much credit – hence the title, it’s a pun – to lesser or un-known designers. It strikes me as a thorough overview and history of the craft made with opinionated passion. It even comes with a DVD! One point of criticism: there should be a legal maximum to the use of the words ‘delicious’ and ‘brilliant’… (Yes, I am a nerd.)

Photoshop User Magazine
I use Photoshop almost every day, but never used a book. There’s something tedious about going through all the stuff you know, doing the exercises. I also rarely read magazines, but being a, well, Photoshop user, I gave it a try. This magazine has the amazing tendency to skip everything you already know and showing you stuff you would really like to know. Next to Fortean Times and Juxtapoz, this is the only magazine I look forward to.

Making PicturesMaking Pictures: A Century of European Cinematography by Sven Nykvist
The title explains everything, but I was thrilled by the selection. Besides being a beautiful and complete reference book, I was delighted by the strange films highlighted in this volume. Nicely spread out over the whole century, this doesn’t just pay attention to the time when Americans came to Europe to persuade directors and cinematographers to work overseas. After flipping through, I usually head to the video store to rent something I’ve just read about. This is a book I check every now and then, just to feed my never-ending love for the medium.

The Kiss and Other StoriesThe Kiss and Other Stories by Anton Chekhov
Short stories by Russian writers is my favorite corner of fiction and for me, Chekhov is king. The Kiss is such a great story, that it’s almost impossible to convey its wonder in summarized form. Mainly because the actual story is so simple that it seems to be about nothing much. I’ll try: a shy officer attends a party and stumbles in a dark room. There, he is kissed by a woman and he doesn’t know who she is. He is left with incredible feelings and a great wanting-to-know. I won’t spoil the rest. Chekhov describes this delicately, with humor and with deep knowledge of the human soul. Every time I read such a story (and other stories) I believe the Russian hype.

The State of AfricaThe State Of Africa by Martin Meredith
“You cannot even begin to understand contemporary African politics if you haven’t read this fascinating book” says Bob Geldof on the front cover. When you won’t take it from him, take it from me. It changed my understanding of the world.

Black Mass by John Gray
Black Mass is well-written and a pleasure to read. Gray’s book explains and surpasses The Shock Doctrine, The God Delusion, The White Man’s Burden and a whole bunch of contemporary (political) writings; in 50 years time Black Mass will still be read.

Rational MysticismRational Mysticism by John Horgan
I really enjoyed reading about Horgan’s quest for rational mysticism. To me this was probably the most important book of the year.

AIDS In The Twenty-First Century by Barnett & Whiteside
After learning from Meredith that in seven years from now in Botswana, the average life expectancy of a child at birth will be 27 years, I had to read this book. I thought I knew one or two things about HIV/AIDS, but now I know I didn’t.

San Yin’s Top 5 Graphic Novels
Barefoot Gen Barefoot Gen # 1, #2 and #3 by Keiji Nakazawa
I hardly ever read manga but I found this story very interesting. It tells the story about a family who live in Hiroshima, Japan during and after the war. It is not a very cheerful manga. It depicts the horrors after Enola Gay, how the citizens of Hiroshima coped with the devastating attack, and the meager support they received from their fellow Japanese. The drawing style is sober and sometimes repulsive. Still one of the best graphic novels I have read this year

Testament #1 and #2 by Douglas Rushkoff & Peter Gross
Testament tells two stories: the story of the old testament in a contemporary setting, and the story of the struggle between the gods. The more gods are worshipped the more powerful they become. So being a god also means power struggle.

Mystery PlayMystery Play by Grand Morrison
Wow, the art is incredible! A thriller set in a small village in England, where the person who plays god in the local play is murdered. A detective from nearby Manchester tries to solve the murder. Very dark images and good dialogue. A new jewel in my collection.

Blacksad #1, #2 and #3 by Juan Diaz Canales
Blacksad contains an eclectic mix of film noir, thriller and animals. Hmm, strange combination? Yes, maybe. The main character is a private detective who needs to solve murders. But he is drawn into a web, and the question is, will he survive the web? All the characters are drawn as animals but the drawings are beautiful. Did I mention the drawings are beautiful?

V for VendettaV for Vendetta by Alan Moore
Orwell, 1984, totalitarian regimes, resistance, somewhat post-apocalyptic setting, struggle for freedom. I am a sucker for these themes so it still stays at number one. The freedom fighter / terrorist V tries to bring down the system. He fights alone but he fights for all. A revolution always has to come from within, so the system crumbles. There are so many storylines woven together that I do not know where to begin. Or end for that matter. Intelligent, thought-provoking, a must-read, I think, for everyone.