Books for appreciating the details

Big books on the little things

The world around us is full of little details and history that often go unnoticed: why stovetops look the way they do, how language and communication influence us, or why bergamot and lavender pair so well. We invite you to get curious and take a closer look at the things around you with these books on the intricacies of everyday life.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Even the smartest among us can feel inept as we try to figure out the shower control in a hotel or attempt to navigate an unfamiliar television set or stove. When The Design of Everyday Things was published in 1988, cognitive scientist Don Norman provocatively proposed that the fault lies not in ourselves, but in design that ignores the needs and psychology of people. Fully revised to keep the timeless principles of psychology up to date with ever-changing new technologies, The Design of Everyday Things is a powerful appeal for good design, and a reminder of how—and why—some products satisfy while others only disappoint.

“The cumulated insights and wisdom of the cross-disciplinary genius Donald Norman are a must for designers and a joy for those who are interested in artifacts and people.” —Cees de Bont, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

The Color Revolution by Regina Lee Blaszczyk

When the fashion industry declares that lime green is the new black, or instructs us to “think pink!,” it is not the result of a backroom deal forged by a secretive cabal of fashion journalists, designers, manufacturers, and the editor of Vogue. It is the latest development of a color revolution that has been unfolding for more than a century. In this book, the award-winning historian Regina Lee Blaszczyk traces the relationship of color and commerce, from haute couture to automobile showrooms to interior design, describing the often unrecognized role of the color profession in consumer culture.

“Read this marvelous book and your eye for color will snap back into brilliant focus.” —Jude Stewart, Imprint

A Biography of the Pixel by Alvy Ray Smith

The Great Digital Convergence of all media types into one universal digital medium occurred, with little fanfare, at the recent turn of the millennium. The bit became the universal medium, and the pixel—a particular packaging of bits—conquered the world. Henceforward, nearly every picture in the world would be composed of pixels—cell phone pictures, app interfaces, Mars Rover transmissions, book illustrations, video games. In A Biography of the Pixel, Pixar cofounder Alvy Ray Smith argues that the pixel is the organizing principle of most modern media, and he presents a few simple but profound ideas that unify the dazzling varieties of digital image making.

“We spend half our day staring at a screen, but where do the images on it come from? This engaging, thoroughly researched book by a pioneer of digital image making explains the history, theory, and technology of every image you see through a computer screen.” —Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google

Consequences of Language: From Primary to Enhanced Intersubjectivity by N. J. Enfield and Jack Sidnell

Where scholars have long wondered what it is about humans that makes language possible, N. J. Enfield and Jack Sidnell ask instead, What is it about humans that is made possible by language? In Consequences of Language, their objective is to understand what modern language really is and to identify its logical and conceptual consequences for social life. Central to this undertaking is the concept of intersubjectivity, the open sharing of subjective experience. There is, Enfield and Sidnell contend, a uniquely human form of intersubjectivity, and it is essentially intertwined with language in two ways: a primary form of intersubjectivity was necessary for language to have begun evolving in our species in the first place and then language, through its defining reflexive properties, transformed the nature of our intersubjectivity. In the authors’ analysis, social accountability—the bedrock of society—is grounded in this linguistically transformed, enhanced kind of intersubjectivity.

“Outstanding. Consequences of Language builds on the authors’ individual and joint work to offer meaningful developments of their perspectives on the relationship between language and social organization.” —Scott Barnes, Macquarie University, Australia

The Beauty of Numbers in Nature: Mathematical Patterns and Principles from the Natural World by Ian Stewart

From a zebra’s stripes to a spider’s web, from sand dunes to snowflakes, nature is full of patterns underlaid by mathematical principles. In The Beauty of Numbers in Nature, Ian Stewart shows how life forms from the principles of mathematics. Each chapter in The Beauty of Numbers in Nature explores a different kind of patterning system and its mathematical underpinnings. In doing so, the book also uncovers some universal patterns—both in nature and made by humans—from the basic geometry of ancient Greece to the complexities of fractals.

Atlas of Perfumed Botany by Jean-Claude Ellena

For perfume makers, each smell carries with it a multitude of associations and impressions that must be carefully analyzed and understood before the sum of all its parts emerges. All perfumers have their own idiosyncratic methods, drawn from their individual olfactory experiences, for classifying fragrances. In Atlas of Perfumed Botany, virtuoso perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena leads readers on a poetic, geographic, and botanical journey of perfume discovery. Ellena offers a varied and fascinating cartography of fragrances, tracing historical connections and cultural exchanges. Full-page entries on plants ranging from bergamot to lavender are accompanied by detailed and vivid full-color botanical illustrations.

“Ellena writes in a vivid prose, and has a knack for translating smells into the written word… This enchanting volume merits a spot on any perfume connoisseur’s shelf.” —Publishers Weekly

Animal Beauty: On the Evolution of Biological Aesthetics by Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard

Are animals able to appreciate what humans refer to as “beauty”? The term scarcely ever appears nowadays in a scientific description of living things, but we humans may nonetheless find the colors, patterns, and songs of animals to be beautiful in apparently the same way that we see beauty in works of art. In Animal Beauty, Nobel Prize–winning biologist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard describes how the colors and patterns displayed by animals arise, what they communicate, and how they function in the social life of animals. Watercolor drawings illustrate these amazing instances of animal beauty.

Animal Beauty is a delightful adventure into the diversity and complexity of animal aesthetics… Her book provides a powerful argument for why we need to bring beauty back to the sciences.” —Richard O. Prum, Yale University; author of The Evolution of Beauty

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