Gift Guide: Three Popular Books

WORDS Alma Viviers and Tracy Greenwood

These three new volumes are a feast of fashion, food and design.

1. Contemporary Design Africa by Tapiwa Matsinde, Thames & Hudson, R465

African design is on everyone’s lips. Creative outputs from the continent is receiving wide-spread international attention, and 2015 has seen a series of exhibitions that attempt to showcase and reflect on this blanket identity of “African design” and what it means, such as Grains of Paradise: Contemporary African Design at R & Company in New York.

British/Zimbabwean designer, creative business consultant and writer Tapiwa Matsinde similarly puts together a showcase of African design in this book. She attempts to shift the dialogue from craft to design, but the five sections that the book is divided into – Basketry, Ceramics, Furniture, Lighting & Décor and Textiles – continue to reflect the artisan roots of much of the work.

Within each section, a curated selection of producers are profiled and local design talents such as Imiso Ceramics, ZENZULU, willowlamp and Haldane Martin are featured alongside designers from Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso.

There is a case to be made for some obvious omissions from Matsinde’s selection, but the book provides a neat introduction to contemporary design from the continent.

2. The Art of Cooking with Vegetables by Alain Passard, Frances Lincoln, R395

In his debut cookbook, French chef and owner of the three-star restaurant L’Arpège in Paris delights with an ode to cooking with vegetables and fruit. In 2001 he astonished the food world by removing red meat from his restaurant menu, and he has since dedicated himself to realising the full flavour potential of cooking with vegetables and fruit as main ingredients. The results are delectable dishes such as asparagus and pear with red sorrel, avocado soufflé with dark chocolate, and yellow beetroot baked in a dome of coarse salt.

Another somewhat unusual aspect of the book is that Passard has illustrated the recipes with his own collages. He explains that in the preface: “The collages in this book express marvellously well the influence of colour in my cooking: For me, it is a true source of inspiration, one which urges me to search for partnerships between ingredients in a quest for gastronomic and visual harmony.”

3. Where’s Karl?: A Fashion Forward Parody by Stacey Caldwell, Ajiri Aki and Michelle Baron, Potter Style, R242

Join fictional fashion blogger Florence de la Sabine on a Where’s Wally type hunt for Karl Lagerfeld. Where will he pop up and whom will he be with? Perhaps at New York’s Met Gala? Or on the ski slopes of St Moritz?

The full-colour illustrations by Michelle Baron are awesome – if you look closely you can play a who’s who of “spot the celeb” – as the likes of Anna Wintour, Kim Kardashian, Beyoncé and even Suri Cruise grace these intricately detailed pages.

Although intended as a bit of harmless fun, the book has received mixed reviews, with fashion historian Jeffrey Felner giving it a scathing thumbs-down on the New York Journal of Books website. “Frankly, the supposedly witty and snarky text has already been better stated by Karl himself, and way too much of it comes off as fawning, gossipy, and name-dropping rather than true humour,” says Felner. “It would be my recommendation to read the books that have been ‘penned’ by Karl himself to get the true essence of this icon’s wit and personality.” You be the judge.