Amanda Dameron

Editor / Architecture; Interior Design; Product Design / United States / Dwell Media

Design Editor’s Choice: Amanda Dameron’s Book List

Reading has always been a simple pleasure for me, something I’m driven to do. I don’t remember a time in which I didn’t know how to read—though perhaps I should say I don’t remember a time in which I didn’t know how to lose myself by simply enjoying a book.

Last year I moved from the West Coast to New York, and I barely brought any furniture or clothes with me. What I did bring was 50 boxes of books and vintage magazines. For the first time in my life, I am lucky enough to have enough bookcase space to display all of my collection.

My list contains books that have seeded my design education, books that have contributed to my understanding of and appreciation for editing, and books that have simply delighted me.

9 books
George Nelson

My copy of this book is old and smells like mold. It was another second-hand purchase, and it once belonged to a library. Not only do I love the wit and clarity found in Nelson’s writing, I also love the way this book is composed. Whether he’s dealing with the visual pollution clogging our daily lives, the necessity of avoiding “the monstrosity of sprawl,” or the proper way to “read” a painting or a sign, Nelson is a patient but forthright teacher for training oneself to embrace the right kind of sight.

Ai Weiwei

I picked this one up at the Monterey Design Conference last year, knowing that the architect and artist Ai Weiwei had maintained an important online diary that had contained his musings on art, politics, design, furniture, people, and a great deal many other things. I knew that the Chinese government had shut the blog down on several occasions but had done little to dampen the author’s influence both in his own country and abroad. The way that it’s written and printed, with many entries, some short, some longer, make it possible to open this book at any page and get sucked in immediately. I just opened it, and I landed on this: “Writing one’s feelings is simple, but can also be a difficult thing, for at least the following reasons: You can’t be sure this is really what you are thinking; If you write something down, it will never be anything else; It’s difficult to maintain a good writer’s posture from beginning to end.”

Hermann Muthesius

This is a recent acquisition. I’ve long known of Muthesius, founder of the Deutscher Werkbund, and his influence on the modern architecture movement in Germany, but I’d never read any of his own published works until I ordered this one. I was prepared for a scholarly take on the decorative arts, but what I was not prepared for is his arch wit and social commentary. This is an essential read for anyone wishing to get a sense of popular aesthetic impulses at the turn of the last century. It really helped me frame my own understanding of just how shocking the modern movement was to the prevailing winds of the time.

Ved Mehta

This book is a touching tribute to the incomparable William Shawn, the editor of The New Yorker from 1952 to 1987, written by one of his long-standing contributing writers, Ved Mehta. I’ve long been interested in the life of Mr. Shawn, who was an exceedingly sensitive editor, a staunch defender of writers, and a complicated man in his personal life. This book helped me understand why he was considered such a great editor: he listened and focused on the ideas and words of the writers, but he did not rewrite. A good editor is flexible, but stands firm when needed, not without emotion but without ego.

Mary Pope Osborne
Illustrated by Troy Howell

I received this book for my 11th birthday, at the height of my infatuation with mythology. The inscription reads: “To Amanda—I couldn’t find this in Latin or Greek, which I know you would have preferred”—this a gentle joke at my expense, as this was the same year I started as a first-year Latin student and let’s say I didn’t quite have a shining aptitude for conjugating dead-language verbs. In any case, this is a much-beloved book and one that always reminds me that though the subject matter has changed, I remain the same reader.

Miriam F. Stimpson

Every time I have the opportunity to travel in Europe, I peruse this book, assembled by Stimpson, a professor at Brigham Young University. Within it are simple line drawings of structures of note, organized by country, with a small paragraph of explanation accompanying the illustration. It was published in the mid-1980s and it’s an incredible resource for travelers or for lovers of modern architecture in general.

Ryan E. Smith

This book has aided in my technical understanding of prefab construction like no other. Written for architects and design and construction professionals, Smith’s book is packed with informative background on the methodology of prefab. Though I am not a building professional, the content presented is easy to understand and parse. Smith presents case studies, interviews with architects in the field, and the book contains a multitude of photographs and illustrations that reinforce the ideas within the pages. I return to this book again and again.

Mary Wortley Montagu
Introduction by Anita Desai
Text edited and annotated by Malcolm Jack

Written in the first half of the 18th century by Lady Mary Wortley, wife of an ambassador to Turkey, this book is one of the finest collections of travel essays I’ve read. Her language is so evocative, the details she notes about the people, buildings, places she visits are beautiful without being florid. Her narrative style is objective without being dispassionate, engaging and innately curious.

Lewis Mumford

I studied this book in college, but it wasn’t until I started working for Dwell that I purchased a second-hand copy for my bookshelves. This collection of 37 essays, penned by everyone from Mumford himself to Philip Johnson and Henry David Thoreau, has solidified my foundational knowledge of architecture and filled in the gaps of my design education. This is not a book that’s meant to be read cover-to-cover, at least, not for me. I read one essay at a time, and I return to them again and again. My favorite time to tackle these essays is first thing in the morning, on the train to work. Then I try to turn the ideas over in my mind over the course of the day, and I return to the same essay on my way home. I won’t say that I can quote it from memory or that I have completely mastered the ideas contained within the pages, but it’s a book that I try to challenge myself with on a regular basis.

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