Holiday Shopping Guide 2018

by Lynne Rostochil.

I really have no idea how it is December already when my head is still thinking it’s October, but here we are knocking at the door of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever winter holiday you celebrate, which means it’s time to think of the perfect gift for the mod lover in your life.  It’s been awhile since we’ve written an all-book list, but I’m feeling the need to read and have some great recommendations for you.  You can order or pick up any of these tomes at Commonplace Books, Full Circle Books, Best of Books in Edmond or, if you are lazy and do all of your shopping online, at Amazon.

Let’s begin with an Oklahoma angle, shall we?

Industrial Design in the Modern Age by Penny Sparke

When George R. Kravis, II was 11 years old, he purchased a modern-looking RCA Victor record changer and thus began his love of modern industrial design.  While living and working in Tulsa as an adult, Kravis began gathering modern design, primarily from the 1930s and 1940s, and amassed an internationally renowned collection of several thousand rare and valuable artifacts, most of which sadly left Oklahoma after his death in February and went to the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York.  Luckily, he donated his extensive library to OSU, so not all of his impressive collection has left the state.

This profusely illustrated book takes a comprehensive look at the Kravis Collection while it was still intact and will leave you salivating with industrial design desire, I promise you.  Simply put, it’s a beautiful book and is a must-have for any modern art/architecture library.

4th & Boston: Heart of the Magic Empire by Douglas Miller and Steve Gerkin

Okay, so this one isn’t strictly mid-century modern, but if you love Art Deco architecture in general and Tulsa’s collection in particular, you will want to own a copy of this stunning book.  Through hundreds of historic and current photos and drawings, the book tells the fascinating stories of one intersection in T-Town and how it came to pass that so many significant buildings sit there.  It’s great stuff!

Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel

I know, that title is a mouthful, but it also gives you a tiny glimpse of the fascinating, interweaving tales the author tells of these groundbreaking women artists and their work.  As you might imagine, female artists did not have an easy road in the 1940s and 1950s, and all of these women fought against one thing or another (or all of the following): prejudice, substance abuse, living life in the shadow of more famous spouses, etc.  Yet, in every instance they overcame so many obstacles, while continuing to create, and their work is revered today.  At over 900 pages, this is one hearty book, but the stories of these artists are so interesting that you will wish it could be twice as long.

Women Design: Pioneers in Architecture, Industrial, Graphic, and Digital Design from the Twentieth Century to the Present Day by Libby Sellers

Since we’re talking about women artists….

I picked up this book when Commonplace Books had a booth at the Mod Swap during Oklahoma Modernism Weekend and it hasn’t left my coffee table since.  The book provides an overview of the careers of such famous female designers as Eva Ziesel and Ray Eames and architects like Zaha Hadid, but it also introduces the reader to less obviously famous designers whose careers you may know little about, like architect and designer Lina Bo Bardi, in my case.  It’s an easy and interesting read and is well illustrated, but it ended way too soon for me — I wish it featured even more fabulous and creative women!

Mid-Century Architecture Travel Guide: East Coast USA by Sam Lubell

In our 2016 Holiday Shopping Guide, we recommended the first book of this series that was devoted to West Coast modernism.  At the time, I had no idea that Lubell would continue with a guide to the East Coast and now I’m hoping he will come to the Heartland and put together a similar travel book for this region.  Anyway, these compact guides are great to throw into a suitcase if you’re travelling to the region, and they provide locations for some off-the-beaten path buildings as well as the famous stuff you expect to see, along with photos and histories of each structure.

Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961-1967 edited by Tony Shafrazi

Hands down, this is one of the best photography books I’ve ever purchased.  I bought it when it first came out about 10 years ago and copies were snatched up so quickly that it was difficult to find them anywhere for a long time that didn’t cost $200 or more, so I was happy to see that it was reprinted this year.  Of course, most people know that Dennis Hopper was an actor and maybe you know that he was a painter, too, but in addition to those great talents, he was also a gifted street photographer.  Most of the images in this book are of life in Los Angeles featuring his friends, family, and complete strangers living day-to-day lives in a place that was no longer the glamour capital it had been in previous decades.  It is real and moving and is certainly one of my greatest bound treasures.

Bill Wood’s Business by Diane Keaton and Marvin Heiferman

And since we’re talking about movie stars and photography books….

Over 20 years ago, actress and photographer Diane Keaton purchased the archive of a professional Fort Worth photographer who worked around town during the halcyon boom days of the post World War II era — Bill Wood.  She didn’t know what she was going to do with the archive, but she knew she wanted to keep it intact.  Fast forward to 2008.  With few projects scheduled for the near future, Keaton decided it was time to look through Wood’s work and put together this fascinating slice of Fort Worth life from the 1950s.  It’s such a fascinating look at a town with the same friendly size and vibe as Oklahoma City and view all of the hopes and dreams that come alive in his vibrant images.

As an aside, I fell in love with this book so much that, a few years ago when an opportunity arose to buy a small archive from a Woodward photographer, I didn’t hesitate to follow Diane Keaton’s lead and snap it up.  I’m always uploading new photos of the archive, which you can view here.

Road Trip: Roadside America From Custard’s Last Stand to the Wigwam Restaurant by Richard Longstreth

Last year, I got to write a review of this fun photography book devoted to quirky roadside America but stupidly forgot to include it in the Holiday Shopping Guide, so I’m correcting that mistake this year by adding it now.  If you’re smitten with vernacular architecture and old signs, then you will love this tidy little photography book that includes 40 years worth of photos of long-vanished and even many intact motor courts, gas stations of every style, and diners galore.  And, yes, you will find a few images taken right here in Oklahoma, too.

Lost Restaurants of Tulsa by Rhys A. Martin

Last year saw the publication of Classic Restaurants of Oklahoma City by the Oklahoman’s Dave Cathey, and this year we get a companion book about Tulsa’s fare by local photographer and historian, Rhys A. Martin.  If you enjoyed the first book, you will love this one, too.  It’s going to be a great stocking stuffer for all of the Oklahoma history and restaurant lovers in my family, that’s for sure.

Pet-tecture: Design for Pets by Tom Wainwright

I cannot imagine a better gift for the pet lover in your life than this fun and quirky tome devoted to modern design for the pups, kitties, and other animals in our lives.  It’s so cute and fun and makes me want to buy every single item that’s featured.


Okay, that’s it for this year’s top 10 mod book recommendations.  If you are looking for something besides a page turner, here are a couple of other gift ideas for you.

Go Goad

Wanting some unique art that won’t break the bank? Well then, I’m happy to report that Mod Squadder, local artist, and all around great guy, Matt Goad has affordable prints of some of his most beloved paintings for sale.  I know!  Can you imagine a better gift idea than getting your loved one a distinctive art print by one of the state’s best artists?

Go here to contact Matt about prints he has available.

Contribute to HerFlag

The year 2020 marks 100 years since women won the right to vote and local artist, Marilyn Artus is planning a collaborative project with female artists from around the country to celebrate this special anniversary and to encourage women to participate more in the democratic process.  Next year, she will embark on a 14-month journey to each of the 36 states that ratified the Constitution to give women this fiercely-fought-for freedom; at each stop, she will work with a female artist from that state to create and sew on a stripe for “HerFlag.” Upon completion of the project in August 2020, Marilyn and her fellow artists will have worked to create a giant, 18′ x 28′ flag that will be on display at various locations around the U.S.  As she says, this isn’t about Republican or Democrat but instead, “the journey and the completed flag are a thank you and a visual love letter to the states that gave women the right to vote.”

I can’t imagine a better gift for the person who has everything than making a donation in that person’s name to this worthwhile project.  I know that’s what I’m asking my family for Christmas!

Go here to learn more about the project and to donate.


To wrap up this year’s Holiday Shopping Guide … and all of the gifts it contains … please don’t forget to purchase a batch of this year’s artist-designed Curbside Chronicle wrapping paper to help wrap up homelessness in OKC.  I’m really liking the Peter Max vibe of Wayne Coyne’s design this year:

Okay, that’s it for this year’s guide.  Hope it helped you find a few treasures for friends, family, and even yourself.