Deborah Berke

Architect / United States / Deborah Berke & Partners Architects

Deborah Berke’s Book List

I have always loved books—books of all kinds. I like reading books, I like being in rooms where there are books, I get inspiration from books, I like giving books as gifts, I like having a book with me.

My list is an eclectic one of books I have enjoyed and books I have learned from. I always have a large pile of books—fiction and nonfiction, books with images and books without, poetry, plays, collections and surveys, essays—on my nightstand, and always a book in my bag.

16 books
Reyner Banham

I first discovered Banham through his incredible book on Los Angeles. As a New Yorker I appreciated the way he parsed and explained that city. However, as a way to connect with Banham’s broader architectural thinking and insights, this book of collected essays is the one to dip into.

This book is fun to read and covers a broad range of design-related subjects in some very brief essays—perfect for those with short attention spans or limited time to read. There are pieces in the collection that make you laugh. Can’t say that about very many design books.

Alan Colquhoun

Alan Colquhoun is one of the great architectural writers and critics around. Too little known in the United States, in my opinion, this collection is a great way to experience his writing and thinking.

Hal Foster

This is a very serious collection of essays that had a huge impact on the way I think about the world and about art and architecture. Ken Frampton’s essay “Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance” is one every architect should be familiar with, but the value of this volume is also in the essays of Rosalind Krauss and Fredric Jameson, among others.

William Gass

This is a riff on, a tribute to, the word “blue.” It is really beautifully written. Reading it makes you focus on what you know, what you see, and how you think about it.

Brian Hayes

This wonderful book examines all types of infrastructure. As a child my favorite part of trips headed out of New York was the industrial and infrastructural detritus along the New Jersey Turnpike. Perhaps because of this, this book really appeals to me. It’s a field manual for all that—old and new. The author is a scientist or maybe a scientific writer—I don’t know for sure—but he gets this stuff and he photographs it with real care and affection. Great images and descriptions.

Amy Hempel

Amy Hempel writes with such exquisite precision that one savors every carefully selected word and each elegantly constructed sentence.

Hendrik Hertzberg

I always enjoy reading Hertzberg’s column in The New Yorker and find this collection of essays to contain some of his best.

A. M. Homes

In everything she does A.M. Homes shows us the dark and the weird in late 20th- and early 21st-century America. Her writing is brilliantly funny.

Joseph Mitchell

This is a great book about a New York that doesn’t really exist anymore. Mitchell’s observations and descriptions of it are perfect. Very few of us write as well as Joseph Mitchell did, but this book should be an encouragement to go out and carefully observe your city, wherever it may be.

Brian O’Doherty

The subtitle tells all: “On the relationship between where art is made and where art is displayed.” A beautiful object and a compelling little book.

Grace Paley

I have enjoyed her stories and her essays, but connect best to Grace Paley’s poetry. Read anything by her.

Robert Rubin Editor

Beautiful as an object and impossible to put down as a read. And while I love my library, it made me wish I also could spend a few days in Richard Prince’s library from time to time.

Susan Sontag

This book includes some of Susan Sontag’s best-known essays. My favorite, “Against Interpretation,” has this to say: “Our task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art, much less to squeeze more content out of the work than is already there. Our task is to cut back content so that we can see the thing at all.”

John R. Stilgoe

Walk away from your desk, go outside, keep your eyes open and remember what you see and ask why it is that way. A great exhortation to all of us to be questioning observers.

Norval White
Elliot Willensky
Fran Leadon

The original version of this indispensable guidebook, by Norval White and Elliot Willensky, was the first architecture-related book I received as a gift. That copy was much used and is now really beat-up. Fran Leadon did a great job with Norval White in creating this carefully updated version, still full of opinions as well as useful information. A must-own book for all New Yorkers.

comments powered by Disqus