Summer Reading in Architecture, Art & Design, and Engineering

Photo of a book being read on the beach

"Beach Reading" by Anne Adrian via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This summer is flying by, but hopefully you still have some time to enjoy the beautiful weather while reading a good book. Here are some suggestions from librarians here at the Art, Architecture & Engineering Library for interesting reading in the areas of architecture, art & design, and engineering.

Architecture and Urban Planning

BIG little house : small houses designed by architects by Donna Kacmar (2015)
Available at U-M Library

“In BIG little house, award-winning architect Donna Kacmar introduces twenty real-life examples of small houses. Each project is under 1,000 square feet (100 square meters) in size and, brought together, the designs reveal an attitude towards materiality, light, enclosure and accommodation which is unique to minimal dwellings. While part of a trend to address growing concerns about minimising consumption and lack of affordable housing, the book demonstrates that small dwellings are not always simply the result of budget constraints but constitute a deliberate design strategy in their own right.” (From publisher’s description)

Tiny house living : ideas for building and living well in less than 400 square feet by Ryan Mitchell (2014)
Available at U-M Library and Ann Arbor District Library

“This book explores the philosophies behind the tiny house lifestyle, helps you determine whether it's a good fit for you, and guides you through the transition to a smaller space. For inspiration, you'll meet tiny house pioneers and hear how they built their dwellings (and their lives) in unconventional, creative and purposeful ways.” (From Syndetic summary)

Floating palaces of the Great Lakes : a history of passenger steamships on the inland seas by Joel Stone (2015)Image of book cover
Available at U-M Library and Ann Arbor District Library

“The aesthetic, structural, and commercial peak of the steamboat era occurred on the Great Lakes, where palatial ships created memories and livelihoods for millions while carrying passengers between the region's major industrial ports of Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Toronto. By the mid-twentieth century, the industry was in steep decline, and today North America's rich and entertaining steamboat heritage has been largely forgotten. In Floating Palaces of the Great Lakes , Joel Stone revisits this important era of maritime history, packed with elegance and adventure, politics and wealth, triumph and tragedy.” (From Syndetic summary)

Under the Radar Michigan : the first 50 by Tom Daldin ; photographs and stories about the episode names by Jim Edelman ; contributing prose by Eric Tremonti (2015)
Available at U-M Library and Ann Arbor District Library

“A book about the people, places and things that make Michigan a great place to be, written by the guys from Under the Radar Michigan, an Emmy Award winning PBS television program.” (From publisher’s description)


Art & Design

Factory man : how one furniture maker battled offshoring, stayed local-- and helped save an American town by Beth Macy (2014)
Available at Ann Arbor District Library

“In her first book, winner of the 2013 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award, Roanoke Times reporter Macy explores the effects of globalization on America's furniture manufacturing industry via the story of the Bassetts, a family from Virginia, whose Bassett Furniture Company was once the world's largest producer of wooden furniture.” (From the Publisher’s Weekly review)

Daily rituals : how artists work by Mason Currey (2013)
Available at U-M Library

“From Beethoven and Kafka to George Sand, Picasso, Woody Allen and Agatha Christie; from Leo Tolstoy and Henry James to Charles Dickens and John Updike, here are writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, philosophers, caricaturists, comedians, poets, sculptors, and scientists on how they create (and avoid creating) their creations.” (From the publisher’s summary)

Image of book coverColor : a natural history of the palette by Victoria Finlay (2004)
Available at U-M Library and Ann Arbor District Library

“It turns out that the pigments and dyes responsible for hues have many remarkable characteristics, most of which we rarely ponder. Journalist Finlay's first book is a blend of travelogue and historical exploration about the myriad ways color takes on meaning for us, whether as a matter of aesthetics, economics, war or culture.” (From the Publisher’s Weekly review)



The Victorian Internet : the remarkable story of the telegraph and the nineteenth century's on-line pioneers by Tom Standage (1998)
Available at U-M Library

“Tom Standage's richly detailed and immensely entertaining social history reminds us that, as revolutionary as the Internet may seem, it has all happened before.” (From John R. Alden’s review on

Martian Summer: robot arms, cowboy spacemen, and my 90 days with the Phoenix Mars Mission by Andrew Kessler (2011)
Available at U-M Library and Ann Arbor District Library

Follow along as Andrew sits with scientists and engineers as they communicate across the solar system with the Phoenix Lander on Mars and struggles to live on 24 hour, 37 minute, 22 second days. This book provides a witty look at what it is like to work on a space mission.

Image of book coverStuff Matters: exploring the marvelous materials that shape our man-made world by Mark Miodownik (2014)
Available at U-M Library and Ann Arbor District Library

““Stuff Matters” is about hidden wonders, the astonishing properties of materials we think boring, banal and unworthy of attention — paper, concrete, glass, plastic.” “Miodownik takes us into the shrouded architecture and history of each of these materials, drawing on “psychophysics,” the study of how humans react sensually to materials.” (From Rose George’s review in the New York Times)

The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (2015)
Available at U-M Library and Ann Arbor District Library

“In this thrilling book, master historian David McCullough draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers’ story, including the little-known contributions of their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them.” (From the publisher’s description)

Do you have a suggestion of a good book in one of these subject areas? Leave a comment below with your suggestion!

Happy reading!