10+1 books for gifting this Christmas, selected by the Salone Book Club


Guido Scarabottolo’s mountains or Ettore Sottsass’s writings? Which book to put under the tree, in one’s suitcase or on the bedside table?

How often have we purchased or given a book for no particular reason, just because the title jumped out at us or we were bewitched by the cover? Christmas is coming and therefore, according to the principle of the communicating vases, so is the time for presents. Useful, more often than not. Like books, because they trigger our thought processes and critical senses and allow us to dream about or explore worlds. There is no common thread to our small selection, a mosaic of themes and forms of literature. From the illustrations of a contemporary graphic master, Guido Scarabottolo, to the composite collection of writings by the great Ettore Sottsass; building types narrated by images to small stories of design; an essay by Mauro Porcini inclining towards a better world and an unusual do-it-yourself guide in which 140 artists moved by the climate emergency have contributed recipes to shape new futures. Then there are the wonderful Japanese posters, the mysteries of colour, a herbarium and a pack of cards for children to invent stories around. Plus, it being Christmas, there had to be one on birth, seen through the lens of design.

Christmas is often inextricably linked with snow and mountains. "In 2005 I spent a day skiing for the first time in thirty years (the backdrop is another subject). The next day I was half paralysed so I spent some time drawing mountains with a tatty paintbrush in an exercise book. Those drawings marked a turning point in my work,” writes Guido Scarabottolo in the preface to his 36 Vedute della Montagna Incantata (Views of the Magic Mountain) (Edizioni della Galleria L’Affiche). Inspired by the title of the most famous series of drawings in the world, Mount Fuji by Hokusai, and Thomas Mann’s famous novel, “a fine description of the form that has followed me around benignly for several years,” he continues. In actual fact, the drawings are so much more than they are declared to be and are all untitled. Just one of them carries a quote from Shakespeare, given an ironic twist: “we are such stuff as Pavesini are made on.”
For those who love a blend of poetry and irony.

36 vedute della montagna incantata

An illustrated 90-page story draws us into the subject of architecture, showing how the evolution of our civilisation is bound up with the history of buildings, from castles to towers, houses, museums, temples, basilicas, skyscrapers and many more. Archistoria. Materiali e Forme di Architettura (Archistory. Materials and Forms of Architecture) (Quinto Quarto) by Magdalena Jelenska with illustrations by the Milan-based brand strategy and creative direction agency Acapulco Studio, set up by Agata Dudek and Małgosia Nowak, responds to the thousands of questions that may come to mind when confronted with a building. What element do the 19th century Crystal Palace and the Louvre Pyramid have in common, for instance. Split into chapters by material (stone, brick, concrete and glass) and architectural type (tower/skyscraper, bridge, arch, dome, central plan, basilica), the book traces the development of construction materials and building forms, culminating in the highest prize an architect could hope for: the Pritzker Prize.
For those in search of cultural entertainment.


From architecture to objects with Trentatré Piccole Storie di Design (Thirty-three Short Stories of Design) (Electa) written by Luciano Galimberti, designer and President of the ADI. The objects are those in everyday use, habitual inhabitants of our lives, but often unsung heroes. The objects are discussed with memories, anecdotes, events, emotions and literary memories, eschewing “the ‘great’ official stories of design” in favour of a more intimate and humanistic approach. Sharing emotions. Each story has its own QR Code linked directly to the podcast on Spotify, narrated by the author. Why 33 stories? Because this is a meaningful number in many of our cultural spheres – religious (the Gospels), literary (the Divine Comedy) and scientific (the number of vertebrae in the human spine). The desire to tell an intimate story also becomes a tool for collective sharing.  
For lovers of autobiographies, in object form in this case.


Trentatré piccole storie di design

Full immersion in the new Renaissance. Or rather, in the times we live in, built on continual innovation, in which the only abiding rule is “that nothing will ever be the same again.” This is the theme of L’Età dell’Eccellenza (The Age of Excellence) (Il Saggiatore), a passionate essay written by the Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo, the second biggest food sector company in the world. Mauro Porcini, innovator, communicator, designer, and former manager of 3M, before which he was a student thirsty for knowledge, has come up with a handbook for optimism for living through these times of experimentation as best we can, in which the opportunities offered by globalisation, technology and communication methods enable creatives – alias “unicorns” - to successfully outdo what the giants can produce. This lengthy (510 pages) “fluid story” expands on the recipe for “positive” living and working, with a final memo to the effect that physical interaction is what’s needed to light the spark of innovation.
For those who believe that the creation of a better world is just a prototype of distance.

L'età dell'eccellenza

140 Artists’ Ideas for Planet Earth (Penguin Books), is also geared to building a better planet. It’s an innovative guide put together by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Curator and Director of the Serpentine Gallery and Kostas Stasinopoulos who, along with the team at the London-based gallery, set up the Back to Earth project, which involved 140 artists, designers, architects, filmmakers, stylists, scientists, poets and thinkers over the years, asking them to provide do-it-yourself recipes for cooking up a more ecological future. The book includes sketches, photographs, essays and precise instructions by figures such as Marina Abramovic, Michael Anastassiades, Laurie Anderson, Stefano Boeri, Brian Eno, Norman Foster, Martino Gamper, Sheila Hicks, Carsten Holler, Yoko Ono, Neri Oxman, Tomas Saraceno and Vivienne Westwood, which cause is to rethink the climate crisis and join this salvific community in imagining new futures.
For those who know that every action we take can help bring about change.

140 Artists Ideas for Planet Earth

It’s the most complete book ever published on the subject. 85 graphic designers and 756 posters tell the story of exhibitions, concerts, fashion shows, sports matches, scientific discoveries, landscapes and destructions. In other words, everything our eyes can take in on a normal day, event or natural or social situation, with tools of mass communication. In L’Arte del Manifesto Giapponese (Contemporary Japanese Posters) (Skira), Gian Carlo Calza, historian of Asian art and collector of Japanese advertising posters, has put together the best of Japanese graphic design, fuelled by the passion, imagination, study and precision inherent in the local DNA and a peerless tool for tracing the history of Japan’s creativity, especially post-War, when the rapid evolution of the arts erupted in a labyrinth of different forms of expression.
For all fans of sophisticated and inventive graphic art.

L'arte del manifesto giapponese

The last in the trilogy of writings by Ettore Sottsass, edited by Matteo Codignola, the small book Di chi sono le case vuote? (Who Owns the Empty Houses?) (Adelphi) is impossible to define because it’s a mix of everything. From essays to autobiography to novels. It’s a visual album – even though there are no images apart from the fine introductory drawing. 29 chapters, selected from his prolific output between the Eighties and early 2000, from the piece from which the title of the book is taken, dedicated to his friend Shiro Kuramata, with whom he communicated “with our eyes, with our smiles or with our hands,” because neither spoke the other’s language, to Colours, in which he confesses that as a child “the colours were the things themselves, they weren’t ‘colours,’ they were wasps, raspberries, mushrooms and that’s it.” As Codignola writes in his Afterword, “an author recognisable in every line, who is different from any other. And what a writer: ironic, paradoxical, with the remnants of genius of common discourse.”
For those who love titles that make them want to read.

Di chi sono le case vuote?

Ladies and gentlemen, colours! They speak to us, they cheer us up, they keep us company. We either love them or loathe them. And we inhabit them, as Abitare i Colori (Living in Colours) (Vallardi) suggests. Silvia Botti, former editor of Abitare Magazine and President of the Giovanni Michelucci Foundation, the centre for study and research into urbanistics, modern architecture and the social habitat, and Massimo Caiazzo, expert in colour design and President of IACC Italia, part of the International Association of Colour Consultants, one of the top colour schools in the world, tackle the subject from both a historical and a technological, scientific and psychological point of view, but always linked with the world of living, by way of myths, mysteries and curiosity. This recent “vertiginous ascent of colour” is due to the increasingly fast spread of new technologies and latest generation applications. The seductive power of colour? It simply resides in its mystery.
For those who love discovering the secret languages of the world around us.

Abitare i colori

Dedicated to children 6 years and over, Fabula Deck® for Kids (Sefirot) is not a book but a pack of cards for igniting children’s imaginations. A real antidote to superficiality. 34 cards designed in Indian ink by Matteo Ufocinque Capobianco, then digitalised for the computer colouring stage, with amazing results. The game is easy: there are a certain number of questions and by means of the various cards – Ideas, Ingredients, Structure and Booster – and a lovely wooden die, the stories come together, thousands of them. The game takes account of parity of gender, inclusivity and usability, allowing children freedom with their creations, be they men, women, dogs, cats, clouds or chairs.
For those who want to push their imaginations beyond every limit.

Fabula Deck® for kids

“When the boars that wreaked devastation on the vineyards in the months the grapes were ripening came into contact with the Asprinio and tasted the tips of the flowers, their traditional behaviour changed. This is why the peasants planted several of them along the rows of vines.” This is one of the intriguing descriptions of the 21 “little plants,” wild herbs or small specimens that make up Erbario (Erbarium) (marinonibooks), a small compendium with texts and pen and pencil drawings by Ugo La Pietra. An exploration of less frequented places such as the edges of railways and motorways, the scrub in the Ligurian hinterland, the Ciociaria hills and fields, mule tracks and little dry-stone walls that sparked this gentle tale of extracts, hairy grass, whose roots were eaten like steaks by rice workers, neretta, elevita intrecciata, fuzzetta. Each with its history, its qualities and associated with other non-plant elements such as human beings, houses, water, music, weather, memories, letters of the alphabet and roast meats.
For those who love botany, drawing and reading and rereading a book without worrying about going around in circles.


Designing Motherhood (MIT Press) by Michelle Millar Fisher and Amber Winick is a pioneering book in terms of its content, the result of a collaborative project with the Maternity Care Coalition in Philadelphia. It is the first exploration of the universality of birth through the history of design and material culture. A great many objects linked to pregnant women and mothers have already been studied from a formal and functional perspective, but not in relation to origins and history. Through 80 designs regarded as iconic, conceptual, archaic, exciting, emotionally meaningful, or simply odd, the book follows the arc of human reproduction through design, defining the relationship between adults and babies over the last century. The authors examine everything that revolves around menstruation, birth control, conception, pregnancy, precocious pregnancy, post-partum and early childhood.
For those who want to be pioneering readers.

Designing Motherhood
7 December 2021