8 Gift-Worthy Design Books for the Holidays

Give the gift of design — or keep yourself merrily preoccupied with a good new tome — this holiday season. (Photo: Billion Photos/Shutterstock)

With the frenzied days of door-busters and discounted flat-screen TVs now mercifully behind us, it’s time to get serious about conquering that holiday gift-shopping list — specifically the printed matter portion of that holiday gift-shopping list.

During the months leading up to the holidays, book publishers traditionally release a bulk of their hottest and most gift-worthy titles. And this year — a year when we could all use a good distraction from our devices and the spirit-deflating headline du jour — is no exception.

With an emphasis on tomes that revolve around architectural escapism and the healing power of design, below you’ll find eight highly giftable books for everyone on your list. It’s an eclectic bunch, for sure, with picks that will appeal to clutter-combating minimalists, wanderlust-y tiny house admirers, animal-loving landscapers and folks who spend a disproportionate amount of time frequenting IKEA (you know who you are).

Now on that note, get shopping ...

"Michael Graves: Design for Life" by Ian Volner (Princeton Architectural Press)

Michael Graves: Design for Life by Ian Volner
Michael Graves: Design for Life by Ian Volner. (Photo: Princeton Architectural Press)

Whether giving humdrum household products an aesthetic revamp for Target or injecting a heaping dose of whimsy into Disney hotels, the late architect Michael Graves is famed for bringing a playful — and sometimes derided — post-modern sensibility to the masses. Graves’ true legacy, however, was as a tireless champion of universal design. After suffering an infection that left him paralyzed from the waist down in 2003, Graves dedicated his career to ensuring that all people, including the elderly and those with disabilities, benefitted from the healing properties of good design. This anecdote-driven bio, which work commenced on prior to Graves’ death in 2015, includes interviews with the subject himself along with friends, family and colleagues.

"Nomadic Homes: Architecture on the Move" by Philip Jodidio (Taschen)

Nomadic Homes: Architecture on the Move by Philip Jodidio
Nomadic Homes: Architecture on the Move by Philip Jodidio. (Photo: Taschen)

From souped-up Airstream trailers to DIY houseboats to suspended tent-cocoons, every type of transportable structure imaginable is represented in this hefty showcase of marvelous movable architecture. Lavishly produced, this eye-candy filled book is the ideal gift for tiny house enthusiasts and wanderlust-stricken loved ones who are itching to hit the road ... without leaving home behind.

"Rock the Boat: Boats, Cabins and Homes on Water" (Gestalten)

Rock the Boat: Boats, Cabins and Homes on Water
Rock the Boat: Boats, Cabins and Homes on Water. (Photo: Gestalten)

Houseboat fanciers take note: From the publisher behind popular escapist coffee table books such as "Hide and Seek: The Architecture of Cabins and Hide-Outs" comes this comes this glossy, globetrotting compendium of habitable ships, pontoon-bound abodes and one-of-a-kind floating structures ranging from full-time homes, hotels, saunas and more.

"The Log Cabin: An Illustrated History" by Andrew Belonsky (Countryman Press)

The Log Cabin by Andrew Belonsky
The Log Cabin by Andrew Belonsky. (Photo: Countryman Press)

The perfect holiday gift for grown-ups who graduated past Lincoln Logs, this comprehensive history — stuffed with photos, illustrations and all matter of tidbits and trivia — of America's favorite (read: most heavily) romanticized type of rough-hewn abode is described as the "perfect companion for cabin dwellers, vacationers and daydreamers alike."

The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife" by Nancy Lawson (Princeton Architectural Press)

The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife by Nancy Lawson
The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife by Nancy Lawson. (Photo: Princeton Architectural Press)

From Nancy Lawson, a columnist at the Humane Society's All Animals magazine, comes this important, insightful and beautifully produced book that sets out to explain why it's hard to call yourself a truly accomplished gardener without paying special mind to your plants and the beneficial creatures that help them grow. With chapters dedicated to topics like choosing the right native species for pollinators such as bees and butterflies, the main takeaway of this is: a garden teeming with, not devoid of, critters is ultimately a healthier and more harmonious one.

"Habitat: Vernacular Architecture for a Changing Planet" edited by Sandra Piesik (Abrams)

Habitat: Vernacular Architecture for a Changing Planet by Sandra Piesik
Habitat: Vernacular Architecture for a Changing Planet by Sandra Piesik. (Photo: Abrams)

This big and beautiful book revolves around vernacular architecture — that is, buildings constructed in response to local needs using locally available materials. Filled with arresting photography, informative essays and a robust reference section, "Habitat" is organized by the five major climate zones. Within each zone, readers will find examples of how climate influences indigenous construction methods. "Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet," reads the book. "There has never been a more important time to understand how to make the best use of local natural resources and to produce buildings that connect to ecosystems and livelihoods and do not rely on stripping the environment or transporting materials across the globe."

"Remodelista: The Organized Home" by Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick (Artisan)

Remodelista: The Organized Home
Remodelista: The Organized Home. (Photo: Artisan)

Behold, the perfect gift for the friend or loved one who constantly harps about how they are drowning in clutter. With a focus on individual style and creativity, this practical home organization guide also dispatches plenty of solid advice for those who aren't necessarily embarking on a major clutter-curbing campaign but are looking to live a more simple and thoughtful life at home (translation: without as much waste).

"IKEA Design & Identity" by Eva Atle Bjarnestam

IKEA Design and Identity book
IKEA Design and Identity book. (Photo: IKEA)

Not newly published although made recently available at stateside IKEA stores, this book provides a fascinating glimpse into the design ethos of the Swedish home design powerhouse. Pick up a copy for the IKEA-obsessed individual in your life while shopping for notable new releases including ODGER, a revolutionary chair made from recycled wood and plastic that clicks together sans tools; the gender-neutral urbanite-friendly SLADDA bicycle; and the IKEA PS Vase, a beautiful and highly gift-able vessel made from scrap glass.