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Ermahgerd. Berks.

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Penguin 75: Designers, Authors, Commentary (the Good, the Bad...)

Penguin 75: Designers, Authors, Commentary (the Good, the Bad . . .) - Paul Buckley, Chris Ware Short version: As self-congratulatory, masturbatory coffee table art books go, I suppose this one is pretty good. (This statement available for blurbs, Penguin! You don't even have to ask!) It was my birthday a few days ago, and I'm pretty sure my parents got me one of the new Kindles. The thrifty side of my personality (which is very large and insistent about its views on not wasting money) likes this because it means I can read anything in the public domain for free without having to sit in front of my computer (not that I won't continue to do this at work when circumstances warrant). But there's another part of my brain that revels in the senses, appreciates the visual (oh shiny!) and tactile (oh deckled edges are so fancy!) attributes of a well designed book. This is the part of my brain that subscribes to about six different book design blogs that I read at work when circumstances warrant.I especially love Penguin, which has a fascinating design history, ranging from an iconic, simplistic look that brought classic lit to the masses decades ago to the more ambitious artistic experiments of today (and you can probably read about all of that in this here other self-congratulatory masturbatory coffee table art book). This one, however, focuses on the new, specifically the team of designers led by longtime Penguin art director Paul Buckley.In addition to coverage (ha ha) of various current best- and not-so-best-sellers, Penguin 75 highlights the really interesting work Buckley's team has done on the Penguin Classics line, which is crucial because many of these are those aforementioned PD books, books that you can pretty much get for free without lifting a finger, so it's up to Paul to make you want to buy them, and it's something he is very good at.I mean, check this out:Doesn't that kind of make you want to read Candide? No rational person wants to read Candide, right? But look, it's like a funny comic! I want that on my shelf. Right next to this version of Little Women that apparently is very different from the one where there are long scenes of pretty much everyone getting along:I wanted to read Penguin 75 because I appreciate How the Sausage Is Made, but that isn't really this book, which is very heavy on graphics (understandably) but very light on text (probably because it was admittedly thrown together very quickly). And while some of the commentary is fun, particularly from designers bitter because their work was changed or their best designs were trashed in favor of more "salable" versions and from the authors who hate their covers, it's hard to find a lot of insight in 100-word paragraphs that appear to have been emailed in on deadline.Coverage is also a little odd, obviously skewed toward more recent concepts like the very cool Penguin Inks (doesn't this make you want to read Bridget Jones's Diary again?), or best-sellers like Eat, Pray, Love and The Memory Keeper's Daughter, but there are a lot of obscure and not all that interesting inclusions too, like who cares what stupid cover they slap on Twitterature?So, pretty much this book is just Paul Buckley cashing in on Penguin's 75th anniversary by showing off work his team has done on 75 covers, because there is next to nothing celebrating the company's legacy in here. But it's still neat if you like pretty books and feel compelled to buy them even though they are widely available for free. WARNING: NEW COPIES OF THIS BOOK MAY GIVE OFF TOXIC INK-Y EXHAUST FUMES AND MAKE YOU NAUSEOUS WHILE READING I'M SERIOUS MY COPY STINKS I FELT ILL!