From the General Collection

Oct 14, 2015 · Michael Bobb

I enjoy discovering a book from the library, setting it atop my unused filing cabinet (why do I insist on keeping the thing in my office?) and flipping the page every few days to a new picture, whether it be an English garden, high resolution images of Mars, or a portrait of a weathered fisherman from northern Germany. It isn?t some great insight to point out that our culture is dominantly visual. Everywhere we turn, everywhere we go, everything we do anymore seems to involve taking a picture of it, or taking a video of it, or being pounded daily by advertisements which are mostly images. However, when we think of books, most people think of text, not pictorial works. This is unfortunate, because imagery in books has improved dramatically over the years with truly impressive quality. By quality I refer to more than the resolution, or the fine quality of paper on which it?s printed. I refer to the quality and diversity of subject matter, where imagery and photography has immersed itself into every aspect of culture, life, and science.

This essay is broken up into sections, books that are predominantly pictorial works into respective topics. Although I expect, and desire, for you to come check out works on your favorite topics, I ask that you take a chance, try something different, and perhaps explore some new subject areas via photographic works. You may be surprised by what you find, or perhaps even more amazed by how much you enjoy a topic you previously hadn?t considered. For each topic, I give a brief review of a few selections that I particularly enjoy and give you the call number ranges and locations for these topics so that you may browse the area, or perhaps check out one of the books selections mentioned.

Gardens (SB450.9 ? SB476, Tier 1 of Parks Library)

Mediterranean mountains provide the backdrop for a quiet pond, protected by a short yet stout stone wall surrounding it. The pond serves as the focal point for this garden; tall thin spruces dotting its boundaries with the land and mirrored within the pond along with white flowers planted amongst the trees. Secret Gardens, by Alain de Toquin (SB465 L4413 2015, currently in the Leisure Collection, Fireplace Reading Room on first floor), focuses on gardens from various private estates, predominantly European. In this gorgeous book of gardens you will find images of oddly cut shrubbery, bright pink flowers, purple foliage, grassy garden paths, picturesque lunching tables, giant ferns, bromeliads, brick pathways, peonies, hostas, Italian garden statues, wooden paths, shrub mazes, old, rusty French gates and trellises, and expansive wood patios that blend into tall ornamental grasses. Additionally, plans for each garden are included (and a description of each garden), as seen from the rough sketch of the landscape architect?s drawings. A runner up euro-centric garden book, Private Gardens of Paris, by D?Arnoux and Laubadere (SB466 F82 P3717 2014, leisure collection in the Fireplace Reading Room) is a good counterpoint to de Toquin. Found in this book are realistically attainable gardens for the typical person to be able to create and enjoy. There are private little gardens throughout Paris, some a tiny backyard location, and some are from hotels around Paris, but all are urban gardens that seem to be designed not just for aesthetics, but for use. These are in no way small in the sense of quality.

The first entire half of The Japanese Courtyard Garden, by Shigemori and Mizuno (SB458 S53313 1981), consists of color plates of various Japanese gardens. This is a tall book, and published in 1981, the only pre-2000 one I included. The history, floor and garden plans of the courtyards in the first half of the book are included. As a companion book, if you would like more information such as the history of Japanese gardens (tea gardens in particular) and other Japanese garden developments, I suggest The Japanese Tea Garden, by Marc Keane (SB458 K433 2009). Or perhaps you?d like to explore the intersection of Buddhism, meditation, and gardens. View, Kyoto (by Hassink, TR662 H374x 2014), is an interesting collection of images taken from Buddhist temples around Kyoto (and probably my favorite of all the gardening books). The majority of these photographs are taken so that both the interior meditation spaces are seen as well as the gardens that are associated with the temples; most images give you views of the garden as well as the simple yet peaceful interior space of a meditation room for a unique collection of photographs.

The Great Gardens of China, by Fang Xiaofeng (SB457.55 F36 2010) is a collection of gardens from China. From the classic Chinese boat style houses next to pond gardens, to a low profile home and its accompanying garden covered in fresh snowfall, to aerial images of a Chinese Palace (and, of course, its gardens) built next to The Great Wall are the types of images you will find in this book. The main sections of this book are ?Aesthetics and Landscaping? and ?Highlights of Classical Chinese Gardens?.

Great Gardens of America, by Tim Richardson (SB466 U6 R53x 2009) differentiates itself from the previous books suggested, but because this book really captures the American spirit; these gardens, even when manicured, still all have a semblance of wildness in them. Many of these gardens are less formal, and distinct from gardens that are European or oriental in origin. How ironic that this book is published in England. The author is partial to the coasts, particularly California, and does have two or three selections from Quebec as well.

Other suggestions not mentioned in the essay:

Clarke, V. (2014). The Gardener's Garden. London, England: Phaidon. (SB472.45 G373x 2014)

Guinness, B., Majerus, Marianne, Butler, Andrew, & Lawson, Andrew. (2015). Highgrove: An English country garden. New York, NY: Rizzoli (SB466 G83 H55 2015)

Stuart, R. (2010). Gardens of the world: The great traditions. London, England: Frances Lincoln Limited. (SB465 S78x 2010)

Space / Astronomy (QB, Tier 4 in the Parks Library)

With no exaggeration, when my colleague brought to me the book titled This is Mars, by McEwen (QB 641 M395x 2013), I opened it and my automatic gut reaction, even though I live in a cubicle in the library where I at least try to not be loud, well my gut response involved a bit of a yelp as I proclaimed ?holy crap! That is craaaaaaaaazy!? The images in this book are of the surface of Mars. Whatever you are thinking, the pictures in this book will likely not fit your preconceptions. This is full of repeating patterns, unusual flowing lines that I wouldn?t think were the surface of a planet, and are like none other I have ever seen. I give my personal guarantee that these images will not disappoint. Sizing up the Universe, by Gott et al. (QB65 G66 2011) is what you might expect from a book about space, and informative/educational for the non-professional. Another mention (written by Trefil) that is similar to the previous book would be Space Atlas: Mapping the Universe and Beyond (QB65 T74 2012). These selections are what you might consider a stereotypical book on space, with pictures of galaxies, clusters of stars, and planets. Although I know little about astronomy, probably my top visited website of all time is called Astronomy Picture of the Day. This is hosted by NASA, and as its name suggests, there is a new picture every day. Sometimes there are pictures of distant galaxies and their curious spinning shapes and clusters, close-ups of planets in our solar system, or pictures of beautiful night skies from earth in various locations. The images are archived daily going back to the first occurrence in the 1990s. My favorites are close up images of the sun?s surface.


A large selection of portrait books are held at Parks Library. Many of these may be on the artistic bent, and I want to keep this essay away from those types of images; however, I wanted to discuss portraits from a documentarian viewpoint. Portraits as images are one of my favorite types of pictures. Gaze into the eyes of a stranger and find feeling, emotion, empathy, understanding, confusion, terror, or respect for someone you have never seen or met in person. Meet the gay prostitutes of Prosper Street through portraiture (Fowler, 2014, TR681 P73 F69x 2014), or maybe the female patients from Ward 81 (Mark, 2008, TR681 P76 M37x 2008), taken during the period of time (1976) when these particular patients were not treated as they are now. My personal favorite, so far at Parks Library, is the collection of (mostly) portraits of beach workers, fisherman, a sea captain, a surfer, and other peoples that live on the northern coast of Germany in a photographic collection by Ingo Gebhard called Meer-menschen = People of the sea (TR642 G43x 2014). The photographic collection titled Invisible Eve, by Yousef Khanfar (TR681 P69 K495x 2013), gives us a humanistic look at women incarcerated, including a general description of the type of crime committed. It is sad and unfortunate that many of these women are pictured with their children, and the length of their prison sentence is listed. Almost none of these women are violent criminals, but they do have lengthy prison sentences.

Abodes (NA, lower level in Parks Library)

Our collection of books on this topic is large. We have rows upon rows upon rows. Many of these are for the architecture program here at ISU. However, scattered among these are books of imagery that showcase a wide variety of homes and live-in structures.

The Tudor Home, by Murphy and Rochelau (NA7205 M8735x 2015), showcases homes in the United States designed in the English Tudor style. Included are stone homes in the similar style. The book contains descriptions of the homes, including locations and names of the estates. A few examples are castle like (in some cases, they actually are castles), so if you are like me, these are not homes that you would ever actually be able to afford. They are, nonetheless, fun to look at and perhaps dream of a fairyland far away.

A more rustic style than the Tudor, Spanish style homes can and are still quite luxuriant in their own right. In Casa Bohemia, by Linda Paul and Ricardo (NA1301 P36x 2015), we are shown examples of Spanish-Mexican homes. I love the blending of outdoors with in, within both the style of architecture as well as with the selections chosen by Linda Paul for this book. White flat flowing smooth or rough adobe, stone floors brick floors tiled foyers distressed 4 post beds, deep wood bright blue walls bright yellow bedrooms wrought iron balconies and stone archways are combined to create what is one of my personally favorite home styles.

A Tradition of Serenity, by Ong-Ard Satrabhandhu (NA7435 A1 S28x 2015), focuses on a handful of homes from Thailand that were designed by the architect and first author of this monograph. The homes in this book are in either Bangkok or Chiang Mai. These homes seem to mix Chinese influence with kind of a Spanish-Mexican style. Perhaps it is with my novice eye that I see it this way. Either way, the outcome is a unique and beautiful collection of homes from these two major cities of Thailand. This is a larger book, and most of the pictures cover both pages to create larger views of the showcased residences.

To Bricker and Nogai, the authors of The Mediterranean House in America (NA7205 B73 2008), Mediterranean apparently means mansion as well. They are owned by the extremely wealthy. Perhaps that is the down side to this book, but also what makes it a great selection for a picture book.

The previous immaculate houses are beautiful works to look at; however, tiny houses deserve a proper nod as well. If you have not seen a television show or YouTube videos on the ?tiny house? movement, you could really be excited seeing these pictures and how people cope with small, and sometimes extremely cheap, possibilities for housing that are not bad options. Tiny Homes by Kahn (NA7205 K34 2012) showcases many homes and people which I have seen on TV for similar types of documentaries. The life styles as well as notes on the construction of such homes is mentioned in this text, along with pictures of both interior and exterior views. Some tiny homes are literally the size of a closet, but the fans of small homes show how you can live a life of comfort within (often) less than 500 sq. ft.

Landscape & Nature Photography (TR, Parks Library Tier 7)

Mountains covered in snow, people climbing them with ropes and spiked boots. From Italy to France to Switzerland to Germany to Norway to Sweden to Iceland to Canada and the United States, mountains, mountains and more mountains are covered in this book of landscape photography called The Great Wide Open, by Bowman et al., (2015) (TR659.5 G74x 2015). The majority of the images are taken in North America or Europe, with a few exceptions. Pictures of various forests and canyons are included as well. This book is full of over 300 pages of high-quality landscape images. The obscurity of water in this collection might make one wonder about, and put context to, the greater meaning of water in our lives. Do the authors take water for granted because it is commonplace? Perhaps you would like a bit more water when you are looking through images of nature photography?

When we come down from the high peaks of mountains, we are left in the forests, with occasional streams flowing, or small lakes, or sometimes even larger lakes, too. The cool fresh water stream, so clean that you can literally drink out of (okay, so these are pretty much non-existent, but there are still some locales which offer that option without fear of giardia). Well, in Of Woods & Water, by Leonetti and Jordan(2008) (TR660.5 L465 2008), the photographers are not only cognizant of the brilliance and importance of water, but they put it in place with the forest. This collection captures the beautiful nature of Michigan in all of its seasons. Woodlands, streams trickling underneath fallen logs, to sunsets on small lakes, to the Great Lake Michigan, the nature photographs in this book cover it all and include sand dunes as a counterpoint to the water-forest scenes. Some people, however, enjoy water to the point of making it art. Michael Levin, in his black and white photograph collection Zebrato (TR660.5 L48x 2008), takes mostly water scenes that have a human component, often docks or abandoned structures of various kinds gives a ?smooth? feel to the water: motionless, abandoned, and eerie.

Small streams, small lakes, artsy watery scenes, do these not portray well enough the true ferocity of water? Do you need to be shown the true importance, power, and adventure that water can have? Perhaps you want to visit the oceans and beaches of the world instead. Writing in the Sand (Konttinen, 2000) (TR670 K65 2000) is mostly images of people playing in the sand at the beach. This is a smaller book compared to the others, so there are not huge pictures. A more natural selection of images from the beach, sans homo sapiens, yet complete with beaches and breaking waves, can be found in Sand Sea Sky, by Tria Giovan (TR670 G56x 2011). Similar to the previous title is one called Oceanscapes (TR670 A45x 2010), by Renate Aller. In this book, Aller took photographs of the ocean on many different days, but from the same location. Keeping this in mind, this collection shows the ocean mood, how it carries itself and seems to change on a daily basis. The images were taken from Long Island, New York.

Food (TX, Tier 7 of Parks Library)?

I love food. I am a foodie, and I know cookbooks. Perhaps my favorite part about exploring foods of the world is exploring how culture, food, cooking, and dining are intricately intertwined. These selections are not merely cookbooks. The selected books have recipes and pictures of some of them; however, equally if not more important are the other pictures in the selected books. These pictures show a culture: a culture?s food, agriculture, dining experiences, how a culture lives, cooks, and eats. Although most of these books have some recipes, the pictures in them so beautiful that they are deserving as mention of books of imagery over being cookbooks.

I adore Lunch in Provence, (McKenna et al.) (TX719.2 P75 M3413x 2012) to the degree that I have actually purchased my own copy. The images of France (Provence, specifically), of picturesque dining locations, and even a few of the finished dishes are truly inspiring to me. I hope you, too, find them equally tasteful (yeah, I went there). Another French author, Vogue, has put together Decadent Desserts (TX773 V64 2008) with large images, small text, and a smattering of unrelated images in this excellent selection for those that like their food on the sweet side. Besides the gastronomies, there are many images of the outdoors and indoors images of tastefully designed French homes.

I have never been to China, but Kylie Kwong put together a book which makes me feel like I have a clue what it is like to be there. In My China: A Feast for all the Senses (TX724.5 C5 K855x 2007), Kylie forces me to envision being near the guy who?s motorcycle is overflowing with bright red chilli peppers, to be in the packed market with gigantic bowls of grains and vegetables, to be in the fields, in the Chinese country-side on a winding road, or to be standing outside the entrance to a restaurant, owner posing and smiling as I enter. This book shows the gigantic (seriously, gigantic) statue of a sleeping Buddha, the Terracotta Army at Xi?an, Buddhist temples, and the Great Wall of China. Not only does the author give us a glimpse of city life and these unique locations, but she manages to incorporate food into almost every bit of China?s culture, through the photography. If you feel inspired, there are recipes, but I read very few of them as I was in awe of the rest of the images.

Although more focused on the recipes than the previous selections, I include Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, by Rene Redzepi (TX722 A1 R43x 2010), to this essay because of the pages upon pages of upscale Nordic cuisine. The food looks wonderful, is distinctive, and there are other random images interspersed throughout, such as a posing Scandinavian chef, a mushroom hunter in action, ice cold waters surrounded by snowy hills, or a snail crossing an old and weathered 2 x 6. A hand-drawn fold-out map is included that shows the Nordic Region.


Aller, R. (2010). Oceanscapes: One view ten years. Sante Fe: Radius Books.

Arnoux, A., Laubad?re, Bruno de, & Chabaneix, Gilles de. (2014). Private gardens of Paris (Revised Edition), translated from the French by Jane Brenton. Paris, France: Flammarion.

Bowman, J., Ehmann, Sven, & Klanten, Robert. (2015). The great wide open: New outdoor and landscape photography. Berlin, Germany: Gestalten Verlag.

Bricker, L.W. & Nogai, J. (2008). The Mediterranean House in America. New York, NY: Abrams.

Fowler, E. (2014). Hustlers. New York: Capricious.

Gebhard, I., Hahn, Nicolai Max, & Schleussner, Laura. (2014). Meer-menschen = People of the sea (2nd Edition). Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz.

Giovan, T. (2011). Sand Sea Sky: The beaches of Sagaponack. Bologna, Italy: Damiani.

Gott, J., & Vanderbei, Robert J. (2011). Sizing up the universe: The cosmos in perspective. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

Hassink, J. (2014). View, Kyoto. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz.

Kahn, L. (2012). Tiny Homes. Bolinas, CA: Shelter Publications.

Keane, M. (2009). The Japanese tea garden. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press.

Khanfar, Y. (2013). Invisible Eve. New York, NY: Rizzoli.

Konttinen, S.L. (2000). Writing in the Sand. Stockport, UK: Dewi Lewis.

Kwong, K. (2007). My China: A feast for all the senses. New York: Viking Studio.

Leonetti, R. and Jordan, C. (2008). Of Woods and Water: A photographic journey across Michigan. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Levin, M. (2008). Zebrato. Stockport, UK: Dewi Lewis

Mark, M.E. (2008). Ward 81. Bologna, Italy: Damiani.

McEwen, A., Rocard, Francis, & Barral, Xavier. (2013). This is Mars. New York, NY: Aperture.

McKenna, R., & Charial-Thuilier, Jean-Andr?. (2012). Lunch in Provence (English-language ed.). Paris, France: Flammarion.

Murphy, K., & Rocheleau, Paul. (2015). The Tudor home. New York, NY: Rizzoli.

NASA (2015). Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD). Homepage found at:

Paul, L., & Vidargas, Ricardo. (2015). Casa Bohemia: The Spanish style House. New York, NY: Rizzoli.

Redzepi, R. (2010). Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine. New York: Phaidon.

Richardson, T. (2009). Great Gardens of America. London, England: Frances Lincoln Limited.

Satrabhandhu, O., Barron, Errol, Halard, Fran?ois, & Nimmanahaeminda, Purisa. (2015). A tradition of serenity: The tropical houses of Ong-Ard Satrabhandhu.. New York, NY: Rizzoli.

Shigemori, K., Mizuno, K. (1981). The Japanese courtyard garden: landscapes for small spaces. New York: Weatherhill.

Toquin, A. (2015). Secret Gardens. New York, NY: Abrams.

Trefil, J. (2012). Space atlas : Mapping the universe and beyond. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic.

Vog??, C., & Dhellemmes, Thomas. (2008). Decadent desserts: Recipes from Ch?teau Vaux-le-Vicomte. Paris, France: Flammarion.

Xiaofeng, F. (2010). The great gardens of China: history, concepts, techniques. New York: Monacelli Press.