Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

A week in books

Posted on 12 October 2007 8 comments

Article illustration for a week in books

“Read any good books lately?” It’s a phrase usually associated with filling an awkward silence, but I think it’s a question we should be asking our friends and colleagues on a regular basis.

I love books, me. About a month ago, I somehow managed to acquire several great books in one week, much to the suffering of my wallet. I thought I’d share some thoughts on the books I purchased that week, as the pile is a real hotch-potch.

I’d love to hear what you guys have been reading recently in the comments: any recommendations? I’m not talking specifically about web-related or design-related books here; anything goes, as you’ll see from my own list:

‘Tres Logos’ (reference)

Book cover

The first book was the huge hardback I’ve been mentioning in the Carsonified rebranding process: the excellent logo inspiration resource ‘Tres Logos’. I don’t know about you but personally I could look through logo books until the cows come home; this kind of collection is invaluable to the identity designer, and this is, of course, just one book. ‘Tres Logos’ is part of a series (see also: ‘Los Logos’ and ‘Dos Logos’) published by the great Die Gelstalten Verlag.

Buy: UK / US (via Amazon)

‘Business Cards 2: More Ways Of Saying Hello’ (reference)

Book cover

Like ‘Tres Logos’, this is another great source of inspiration and a lovely ‘coffee table’ book that’s a joy to flick through even if you don’t need to design a business card. Unfortunately we don’t have a coffee table.

Buy: UK / US (via Amazon)

’Schild’s Ladder’ by Greg Egan (fiction)

Book cover

Being someone deeply enamoured with visuals, I’m afraid that I do judge a book by its cover, and the uber-minimalist glow-in-the-dark stars leapt out at me from the bookshelf of one of my favourite bookshops: the excellent Topping Books in Bath (where they serve you free tea or coffee when you walk in, host reading clubs and signings from some great authors, source custom-made bookshelves, and generally create the atmosphere of a quaint olde English shoppe).

’Schild’s Ladder’ is one of the most full-on sci-fi books I’ve ever read, with its use of real physics and exploration of quantum mechanics shaping much of the narrative. Not being an expert in this area (to put it lightly), it’s a little tough at times, but the book is worth a read for the sheer scale of the ideas; primarily the concept of an expanding universe that obeys totally different physical laws eating into our own.

Buy: UK / US (via Amazon)

‘Wolverine: Weapon X’ by Barry Winsor Smith (graphic novel)

Book cover

When I was about 12, we went for a family holiday in the Cotswolds and I bought an issue of ‘Marvel Comics Presents’ from the local newsagent. This was the catalyst that got me into comic books, but I never managed to complete the story contained in this one particular issue. So when I saw the recent republishing of the trade paperback collecting all of that now classic series, I treated myself. For casual X-Men fans: this is the story of how Wolverine became the killing machine he’s known as, complete with the detailed process of coating his skeleton with adamantium.

Buy: UK / US (via Amazon)

Plain A5 notepad

Book cover

Who said books need to be full of content to be good? With my trusty notepad almost full, it was time to get a replacement, and I have to admit that the blank canvas of a plain book fills me with a rather geekish joy. For some reason I also have a thing for the A5 size, and this sturdy hardback should see me through a good few train journeys over the next two years or so.

Now how’s that for a minimalist cover, eh? ;)

‘InDesign CS3: Classroom In A Book’ (reference) and ‘Illustrator CS3: Classroom In A Book’ (reference)

Book cover Book cover

Although not particularly exciting, I realised that I needed to brush up on my (relatively basic) InDesign and Illustrator skills now that I’m doing so much print design at Carsonified. These two books seem to fit the bill quite nicely; the ‘Classroom In A Book’ series having been substantially upgraded since the last time I checked them out (basically they’re now in full colour and have plenty of illustrations). You can’t go too wrong here.

Buy ‘InDesign CS3…’: UK / US | Buy ‘Illustrator CS3…’: UK / US (via Amazon)

‘Casa Batlló’ (souvenir)

Book cover

Sam and I recently returned from Barcelona, where we saw several amazing architectural feats by Gaudi, a man who quite spectacularly left his mark on the city. Being rather disappointed with the photos I was taking as we visited Casa Batll&oacute (although Sam‘s were excellent), I decided to invest in this little book that showcases the man’s work rather well.

Buy: UK / US (via Amazon)

‘The Fundamentals of Typography’ (reference)

Book cover

I’ve only got into typography properly in the last year or so (mainly thanks to the teachings of my good friend Francis) and I felt the need to understand the basics; to learn the rules properly from before the digital age. This book not only serves as an excellent reference point, but as an historical guide to typographic movements and processes. It’s also another beautifully designed book, perfect for flicking through on a rainy day. I really must get that coffee table.

Buy: UK / US (via Amazon)

Recommend to a friend!

Give me some ideas for some more great books that you’ve recently read. As I said above, anything goes: like my own list, I’m not just interested in web or design books. Share it with the world in the comments below…


  1. Alice


    12 October 2007 @ 09:49PM #

    Topping Books sounds like the best bookshop ever. One day I will come to Bath not only to visit you but that bookshop. I read mainly fiction which I swap on bookmooch.com which is a fantastic website where you can swap your books for the price of postage. Better than charity shops because they only have the same detective novels again and again!

    I love the look of ‘‘Schild’s Ladder’ I’ll have to track that one down.

  2. Kyle Meyer

    Kyle Meyer

    13 October 2007 @ 12:20AM #

    Heya Elliot, I still need to write a bookshelf post of my own sometime. But I did just finish Robert Hoekman, Jr’s “Designing the Obvious”

    If you’re into application design it’s an excellent read and has some good juicy bits that I wasn’t expecting.

  3. sasaquatch


    15 October 2007 @ 08:14AM #

    that’s a nice collection. lately i’ve been reading ‘the zen of css design’ by dave shea and molly e. holzschlag; it’s given me a lot of pointers.


    p.s. your website is awesome

  4. Tim Beadle

    Tim Beadle

    15 October 2007 @ 07:19PM #

    Hi Elliot,

    I wish I had more time to just go and peruse Topping’s. We live in Bath, but having a kid (soon to be plural) means we don’t just wander aimlessly round town very often.

    Another friend recommended the shop, though, so I may have to redeem one of last year’s Christmas Vouchers (“A Saturday morning off to just read the paper and have a cup of coffee” or something).

    I’ve just started reading Addicted to Mediocrity by Franky Schaeffer.

  5. Robert Fauver

    Robert Fauver

    18 October 2007 @ 06:50PM #

    I just gave a friend of mine a copy of Cacas

    I just got through GTD

    I think I am going to buy something from http://www.mcsweeneys.net/ next

  6. Elliot Jay Stocks

    Elliot Jay Stocks

    19 October 2007 @ 02:12PM #

    Thanks for the ideas, guys!

    @ Alice: You’d love Toppings! Michael Palin is doing a signing there next week – how cool is that? (Sadly I can’t afford to go.)

    @ Kyle: I must check it out; I’ve heard several people rave about that book.

    @ Sasaquatch: Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, The Zen of CSS Design is a great book and the one that really got me into CSS. Reading that book was definitely a turning point.

    @ Tim: I hope you get to redeem your voucher soon!

    @ Robert: Ryan’s a big fan of GTD. I’ll try and borrow it from him at some point. Thanks for sharing the McSweeny’s link – looks like some rather interesting stuff on there!

  7. Ian Stewart

    Ian Stewart

    22 October 2007 @ 04:50PM #

    Just finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. One of those not-sci-fi books that will be compared to other not-sci-fi books (“Why, this is too good to be sci-fi.”) for all time. I can’t recommend it enough.

  8. Jason Robb

    Jason Robb

    30 November 2007 @ 08:51AM #

    That’s quite a thick A5 notebook, lovely cover as well. What will you be using to mark it up? Pen, pencil, marker, anything in particular?

    I’ve been looking for a good logo book, perhaps I’ll give Tres Logo a try. The type book looks tempting, too. Oh boy, my wallet will feel this one…

    P.S. Your track at FOWD NYC earlier this month was a hoot. Well done! =)

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