Bond by Design: the Art of the James Bond Films by Meg Simmonds

Field Guide to Tools: How to Identify and Use Virtually Every Tool at the Hardware Store by John Kelsey

A History of Baseball in 100 Objects: a Tour through the Bats, Balls, Uniforms, Awards, Documents, and Other Artifacts that Tell the Story of the National Pastime by Josh Leventhal

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe

Happy Easter! I found all kinds of goodies in my Easter basket this morning. In addition to marshmallow poultry (future combatants in a microwave cage match), I found a sampler of new non-fiction titles. These books are visual treats—each one intertwines text and images so that they are equally important. Like picture books for children, the story (here, the informative text) is incomplete without the illustrations; every image holds details which open up the text. Likewise, the pictures rely on words to flesh out the scene. These books are not quite graphic novels where images play the starring role; it’s more a case of images and words working in partnership. I often hear non-fiction dismissed as boring or dry or dull. If that’s been your experience, try one of these titles. You may find this new approach to non-fiction refreshing.

Bond by Design: the Art of the James Bond Films by Meg Simmonds

What does the idea of a Bond film look like? Open this coffee table book, and you’ll see work from the pens, pencils, and computers of production designers from Dr. No to SPECTRE. Author Meg Simmonds has gathered many illustrations (and a few words) from Bond production designers Sir Ken Adam, Syd Cain, Peter Murton, Peter Lamont, Allan Cameron, and Dennis Gassner. While the formal text is kept scant to make room for the lavish images (including numerous two-page spreads), detailed, informative captions more than make up for it. The images are meant to be the stars of the book, and they certainly are! You will find production concept drawings, set layouts, storyboards, props illustrations with notes, gadget schematics, costume illustrations, studies for coats of arms, plus plans for steeplechase jumps. Two of my favorite images are the Skyfall digital schematic tracing the attack on Skyfall Lodge and detailed pencil sketches of fake gold ingots created for Goldfinger. Bond by Design is an accessible introduction to production design and art direction for films as well as a must for fans of the franchise. Portions of the book—just like the films illustrated—are for grownups.

Field Guide to Tools: How to Identify and Use Virtually Every Tool at the Hardware Store by John Kelsey

Recognizing my lack of DIY experience, I picked up this title hoping it would help me approach some projects at home. This pocket-sized reference packs a lot of information in a small space. At 300 pages, it will add a little weight to a pocket or a purse, but it is a fabulous introduction to a wide variety of power and hand tools. The entries are organized into chapters by the type of tool or the type of work it performs: “Shop Safety”, “Fasteners”, “Garden and Yard”, “Electrical and Electronic”, “Carpentry and Building”, etc. Each entry begins with the tool’s name, followed by either a line drawing or color photograph, a general description of it, and where it is used (its “Habitat”). Tool descriptions avoid jargon, making it much easier for the novice to identify them; a cordless drill is “a fat pistol made of colored plastic with a stubby barrel and an awkward, ungainly handle”. Additional helpful categories follow such as “Primary Uses”, “Secondary Uses”, “Operating Principle”, “Safety Note”. “How to Use” details exactly that in clear, short instructions numbered step-by-step. “Variations” outlines different types of the tool or, where applicable, descriptions of “old school” versions. My favorite heading is “Tool-Kit Minimum” which tells exactly how much is a useful amount to have on hand. The author, a former editor of Fine Woodworking magazine, knows his material and clearly lays it out for the reader. This is a great home reference, particularly for newbies or those who think they aren’t but could use a little help anyway.

A History of Baseball in 100 Objects: a Tour through the Bats, Balls, Uniforms, Awards, Documents, and Other Artifacts that Tell the Story of the National Pastime by Josh Leventhal

 With Opening Day a week away and both the Cards and the Royals starting at home, I couldn’t wait to peek inside this book. Author Josh Leventhal attempts to find the origins of baseball then brings his history of the game up to include the 2013 World Baseball Classic Championship. At first glance, his choice of objects surprised me—a 14th century Flemish calendar, a 1910 Underwood typewriter, 1970s player Tommy John’s elbow—and concerned me. Would his definition of baseball’s history be a convoluted stretch? How many uniforms, bats, and balls could he include before things grew repetitious? Leventhal addresses these questions in his introduction to the book; take time to read this quick section as it clarifies his approach to the topic and adds to the reader’s experience. The hidden treasure of the book lies in Leventhal’s treatment and explanation of the objects. Tommy John’s elbow may have charms of its own (I’m sure the former L.A. Dodgers pitcher appreciates it); Leventhal introduces the joint to highlight the advent of a career-extending surgical technique (ulnar collateral ligament reconstructive surgery) used today, benefitting the likes of pitchers Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Each object is a springboard into a larger examination of a topic of historical significance to the game; for example, the Underwood typewriter traces the path of early-to-mid 20th century sports writing. Reading this book from beginning to end will likely appeal to hardcore baseball fans wanting to fill the long stretches of March Madness airtime. The real fun lies in reading smaller chunks—pick an object and see where it leads!

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe

Ever wonder exactly how a microwave works? Ever try to explain it to someone else? Randall Munroe set out to understand complicated objects and processes in the world around him and explain them to the rest of us using simple words and pictures. I promise this is more interesting than it sounds! Munroe specifically used only the 1000 most common words in English to explain microwaves (food-heating radio boxes), helicopters (sky boats with turning wings), the electromagnetic spectrum (colors of light), and the Large Hadron Collider (big tiny thing hitter), among other things. This results in simple explanations in short words which are easily understood. The text offers a brief overview at each entry’s beginning then becomes incorporated with the illustrations in labels, explanations, captions across the remainder of the page. Simple line drawings show objects in cutaway and demonstrate processes from beginning to end. Text and illustrations are printed in blue tones thus keeping a clean, orderly look throughout. The font is small to allow lots of information on the page. The page itself is taller, comparable to an art book. Even on the most tightly packed pages—dishwasher (box that cleans food holders), padlock (shape checker)—there is plenty of white space between captions and drawings to maintain an uncluttered look. Thing Explaineroffers a unique twist to visual dictionaries. Its minimalist, monochromatic look forces the reader to focus on the entry at hand without sacrificing visual appeal. This book has a lot to offer all but the very youngest of readers. Budding engineers and the curious will love it. Come down to the library and take a look—you’ll see what I mean.

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