In my job at the library I see new books every day, so I decided to make a list of recent and classic books that cost less than twenty dollars.
Note for shoppers: click on pictures/titles below to go to the library catalogue and a link to "Buy your own copy". If you buy the book through the link the library gets a portion of the sale price. More information.
Fifth Avenue, 5 AM: Audrey Hepburn Breakfast at Tiffany's and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson. More than just about the movie, this is a social history of the end of the 1950s, when the censors still ruled Hollywood, and the liberation that was to take place in the 60s was bursting to happen.
A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy by Sarah Lazarovic. For one year, Lazarovic decided not to buy anything. She painted pictures of the things she wanted instead, and meditated on the meaning of wanting and owning. The result is delightful and full of anti-comsumerist insights perfect for this time of year. See some of her work.
The Chairs Are Where the People Go: How to Live, Work and Play in the City, by Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti. Do you have a friend who is so brilliant and entertaining that if you could only write down all the things they say you'd have a book? This is what Toronto author Sheila Heti did with her friend Misha Glouberman and the result is a minor classic. My favourite chapter answers the question "Why do computers only last three years?" I'll never forget Glouberman's answer.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, by Marie Kondo. This was recommended to me by a friend who swears it changed her life. And her apartment. Tips on how to organize and declutter my home? Count me in. At the very least it will be an entertaining alternative to actually doing it. ;-)
Young Neil: The Sugar Mountain Years by Sharry Wilson is a biography of the first 20 years in the life of one of Canada's National Living Treasures.
Nicolas is Quebecois artist and writer Pascal Girard's first graphic book. It is a work of mourning -- a tribute to his younger brother who died in childhood.
The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty. From the publisher: "A travel writer takes a job with a shady publishing company in New York, only to find that she must write a guide to the city - for the undead!" Now have a closer look at that book cover.
Go: A Kidd's Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd. Remember the dinosaur skeleton on the cover of Jurassic Park? That was Chip Kidd's work. He has done iconic work for David Sedaris, Augustin Burroughs, Oliver Sacks and many, many others. Go is his how-to-do-it book for kids of all ages. I love Kidd's work. Can't wait to get my hands on this.
On Beauty and Being Just by Elaine Scarry is a philosophical, moral, asthetic and political defence of our pleasure in the beautiful. Published in 2001 it is a perfect gem of a book. Never feel guilty for enjoying beauty again -- it's good for you.
Tender Buttons: The Corrected Centennial Edition by Gertrude Stein. That's right, the most enigmatic text of the modern era was first published 100 years ago in 1914. This is the new standard text of Tender Buttons, based on Stein's own corrections of the first edition. Simple English words have never been used this way before or since. They don't write books like this anymore.
The Unrest-Cure and Other Stories by Saki. Illustrated by Edward Gorey. A selection of some of Saki's most hilarious stories first published in the early decades of the 20th century. Saki's dry pessimism never stales.
Eyewitness Travel Guides: The Italian Riviera. At this time of year do your thoughts turn to warmer climates? Mine do. And I think there are no better guides than Eyewitness Travel, for both actual and armchair travel. Count on them for state of the art photos, drawings and maps.
Food, Wine, Rome (The Terroir Guides) by David Downie was published five years ago, but it is still the best guidebook to the superb restaurants of Rome, in all price ranges. I would love to have the time and means to eat my way through this book, one restaurant at a time.
The Traditional Shops and Restaurants of London: a guide to century-old establishments and new classics. This lovely little book covers shops from the 1600s to the present. Also lists websites for armchair shopping.
World Film Locations: Toronto. Plan your own tour of Toronto locations that have been featured in major motion pictures. Photos with essays on the movies featured. (Cover: Robert Pattinson in David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis, 2012.)
The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. A stray cat transforms the lives of a Tokyo couple. This novel is noted for it's moments of exceptional beauty and poetry.
The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq. Do you know the French writer Houellebecq? (Pronounced "well-beck") A friend recommended this to me. "You're a photographer. You'll find it interesting. There is a lot of talk about art." He went on to say that this book shows a new maturity in Houellebecq, that he can no longer be considered a "bad boy". I've been wanting to get into Houellebecq's work, so this looks like a good entry point.
The Polysyllabic Spree: a hilarious and true account of one man's struggle with the monthly tide of the books he's bought and the books he's been meaning to read. A Collection of Fourteen Months of his Essays from The Beleiver Magazine, by Nick Hornby. A candid and absorbing memoir of one man's reading. Hornby is interesting on every page.
Northwest Coast Indian Art: An Analysis of Form by Bill Holm. First published in 1965, this book is a classic.
The Flying Creatures of Fra Angelico by Antonio Tabucchi. I'll end on this wild card. I came across this by accident when I was looking for books by Tim Parks, who is the translator. I don't know anything about this but the blurb in the library record makes me want to read it.
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If you want to see more fabulous books under $20, here is the list I posted last year.