What better person to pick their top five books than Elinor Jansz? She’s half the brains behind Four Corners Books who have reproduced some of the most beautifully made publications of the last decade. Four Corners are responsible for publishing such treasures as an impeccably designed, over-sized copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray and a candy pink copy of Vanity fair illustrated by Donald Urqhart among many, many others. Go over to their site and plan all the birthday presents you need to buy, ever. Before that, though, have a look at Elinor’s favourite books, she’s picked some absolute corkers.
The Book of Common Prayer
We first started working with graphic designer John Morgan in 2007, and although we’ve since worked with lots of different designers John is someone we’ve worked with many times because we love his work. Our print consultant Martin Lee first suggested we go and meet John because, Martin said, “John knew more about typography than any young person should”. To prove it Martin said we could take a look at the multi-volume project they’d just completed for their last client, The Book of Common Prayer for The Church of England no less. For our first meeting Richard and I were convinced John must be a religious man or he wouldn’t have got the job, as a result I think we were both quite nervous that our books might not meet the high spiritual standards he’d demand…we soon realised that we had nothing to worry about in that respect.
Nick Hornby: The Polysyllabic Spree
Having read a lot as a child, somewhere in my growing up I started treating books like some kind of badge-collecting brownie, reading in order to clock up culture points rather than just for pleasure. Nick Hornby, with the first of these wonderful books about reading, reminded me that there are many easier ways to enjoy yourself than reading a book and that therefore you should find books that you love and read them and not beat yourself up about the rest. As my colleague Richard puts it, novels aren’t like Brussels sprouts, there’s no reward for eating them all up just because they’re good for you, so you should just tuck into what you enjoy.
Sister Corita: Footnotes and Headlines
A book designed and illustrated by Catholic nun and pop artist Sister Corita Kent. I discovered this book when we first started working on our book about Sister Corita’s art. In this book every page bursts with Corita’s delight in the visual pleasure of words – she appropriated the 1960s graphic explosion in popular culture to reveal its often unintentional messages of hope and spirituality – for example in ads for Pepsi Cola, Esso Oil and Wonderbread. Every page of Footnotes involves a visual play and dance of letterforms and shapes that makes you want to jump up and make art. Or maybe even join a groovy Hollywood convent.
Elinor Brent-Dyer: The Chalet School Books
I read heaps of these books when I was about nine years old and this world of young ladies who went hiking before lunch and darned their own socks enchanted me. I rejected my parents’ suggestion of attending the local comprehensive and insisted that I at least have a crack at getting into a school that would be just like the Chalet School. I chose a school on The Isle of Wight and looked forward to swimming in mountain lakes (I was still only 10 by that time and didn’t realise The Isle of Wight doesn’t have any mountain lakes). I spent my first term terrified, hiding from girl gangs and one girl in particular who would eat her warts and spit them at you. So, although my time there was a complete disaster it taught me that books as well as being fun can be dangerous – and that was a useful lesson.
Michael Kupperman: Tales Designed To Thrizzle
Michael Kupperman’s world of noirish, bizarre happenings is completely irresistible. We recently published a book with Kupperman, a collection of pages from 1950s men’s adventure magazines from his archive. The illustrations include men fighting sea-serpents, women fending off lascivious ermine and showgirls in Nazi uniforms doing high kicks. In some ways it’s a self-consciously silly book but it is also one that confronts serious questions of male identity, camp and fantasy without the reassuring distance of an academic treatise. I think Richard and I feel both proud, and a bit sheepish, about this book.