The best art & design books of 2018

Every year our staff vote for their favourite books, albums, films and TV shows of the past 12 months. Here are our top 10 art and design books of the year, voted for by Readings' staff, and displayed in no particular order.

(You can find all our best picks for books, CDs & DVDs of 2018 here.)


Chromatopia by David Coles

This striking book reveals the origin stories of over fifty of the most vivid colour pigments. Part history book, part alchemical guide, entirely strange and wonderful histories unfold here to reveal the deadly metals, poisonous minerals, burning of bones and the often pure luck that goes into creating these brilliant pigments.


Mirka & Georges: A Culinary Affair by Lesley Harding & Kendrah Morgan

Arriving in Melbourne in 1951, Mirka and Georges Mora energised the culinary and artistic landscape in which they existed. This book, featuring classic French recipes, never-before-known anecdotes, photographs and beautiful reproductions of Mirka’s artworks, illustrates the Moras’ incredible story and the impact they had on Australian art and food.


Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up by Claire Wilcox & Circe Henestrosa

Frida Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera, ordered that Kahlo’s most private possessions be locked away until fifteen years after his own death. These possessions were finally uncovered in 2004 and here the archive of these belongings paints an intimate portrait of Kahlo through a combination of her prosthetics, clothing and never-before-seen diary entries.


Living in the Desert by Phaidon

Following the popular Living on Water, this book features a selection of fifty architect-designed houses that highlight the unique set of challenges presented by building in the desert’s sensitive and often brutal environment. Encompassing homes from the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia, this stunningly photographed book captures the mystery and harsh beauty of the desert.


Urban Sanctuary by Anna Johnson & Richard Black

In the much-anticipated follow-up to Living in the Landscape, Anna Johnson and Richard Black are back with twenty-five distinctive urban properties spanning Australia and New Zealand. Ordered by property size, this book focuses on homes that are a refuge from the fast-paced world we live in. Each property offers a new, inventive way of living with the outdoors.


Romance Was Born by Anna Plunkett, Luke Sales & Georgina Safe

Charting the collections and inspiration behind almost two decades of the iconic Australian fashion label Romance Was Born, this book pays homage to the idea of fashion as fantasy. Featuring interviews and vivid photography, this book bridges the boundaries of fashion, art and theatre while highlighting the true spirit of dressing.


Albert Namatjira by National Gallery of Australia

This is the first publication of pioneering Aboriginal watercolourist Albert Namatjira’s work since the copyright was rightfully returned to his descendants. Namatjira’s work is utterly luminous and his landscapes highlight his deep connection with the Western Arrarnta Country where he was a traditional custodian. This is a must-have book for anyone interested in contemporary Indigenous art and the legacy of this incredible artist.


Civilization: The Way We Live Now by William A. Ewing & Holly Roussell

Tracking the visual threads of humankind through detailed photography, Civilization: The Way We Live Now looks closely at the way we live, work and play and, conversely, what happens when it all breaks down. This incredibly ambitious book – also including essays, commentaries and captions – is an epic visual survey and goes a long way towards decoding how we live today.


Pattern Design by Elizabeth Wilhide

This is the ultimate visual encyclopaedia for anyone interested in design. Featuring more than 1,500 images of the world’s most popular, influential and iconic patterns and organised by theme – Flora, Fauna, Pictorial, Geometric, Abstract – this book highlights work from key designers including William Morris, Sonia Delaunay, Charles and Ray Eames and Orla Kiely among many others.


Unravelled: Contemporary Knit Art by Charlotte Vannier

Long considered a form of cosy domesticity, knitting and crochet have become strong mediums for artistic expression, often using non-traditional materials. Showcasing over forty international artists who incorporate knitting and crochet into their art practice, this book surveys yarn in contemporary art and the multifaceted and unique ways it is used to challenge our perceptions.