The best art & design books of 2019

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, music & DVDs of 2019 here.)


Step into Paradise by Jenny Kee & Linda Jackson

Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson are arguably the most influential, iconic and creative partnership in the history of Australian fashion. In this first in-depth survey, we see more than four decades of the influences, inspirations and compelling stories behind the duo’s work. Featuring many unseen photographs, textiles and artworks from the designers’ personal archives, Step into Paradise is a must-have for fashion fans.


Australia Modern by Hannah Lewi & Philip Goad

Australia Modern is the essential text on Australian Modernism, featuring one hundred significant sites by Australia’s most revered architects and designers. Including illustrated archival images and newly commissioned photographs alongside essays exploring modernism’s influence on Australian life as well as the ongoing challenges facing preservation.


The Touch by Kinfolk, Norm Architects & Gestalten

This incredibly visual and tactile book is a delight to both hold and peruse. Focusing on materiality, light, colour, nature and community, this stunning book reveals some of the world’s most incredible architecture and interiors and will appeal to architecture lovers, history buffs and design appreciators alike.


Magnum Streetwise edited by Stephen McLaren

Magnum Streetwise examines the photographs and practices that have helped define what street photography is and can be. This ambitious tome delves into the Magnum archives and presents unparalleled works by photographers including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Gilden, Martin Parr, Richard Kalvar, Christopher Anderson and many more.


Concrete Houses by Joe Rollo

Concrete has a conviction, strength and directness unlike many other materials. The possibilities for form-making are almost endless and it’s the material of choice in landmark contemporary houses across Australia, Brazil, Portugal, Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands and the USA. Showcasing exceptional illustrations, photography, plans and drawings, this book explores the sculptural possibilities of concrete in architecture.


Vitamin T by Phaidon Editors & Jenelle Porter

The ‘Vitamin’ range has always been the go-to series for the latest information on visual artists. This vibrant survey is no different. Vitamin T is a beautiful object (sewn spine, die-cut cover) and an informative celebration of tapestry, embroidery, stitching, textiles, knitting and knotting.


Ian Fairweather edited by Claire Roberts & John Thompson

Ian Fairweather was a prodigious and idiosyncratic letter writer who documented his travels, his struggles with painting, literature and world affairs. More than 700 of his letters are known to be in existence and here – for the first time – is a definitive collection of these letters, making this the closest thing to an autobiography we have of one of Australia’s greatest painters.


Mirka Mora by Sabine Cotte

With privileged access to Mirka Mora and her studio, Sabine Cotte provides unique insight into the work of one of Melbourne’s most beloved artists. Exploring the materials and practice in Mora’s work, Cotte reveals the complex and truly innovative techniques used, which, until now, have never been studied before.


The Art of Feminism edited by Helena Reckitt, with texts by Lucinda Gosling, Hilary Robinson & Amy Tobin

The fast-paced change in women’s rights over the past two decades has been staggering and profound. We have a long way to go, but here – in over 350 incredible artworks, political posters and graphics ranging from the Suffrage Atelier in the nineteenth century to the ‘birth’ of feminism in the 1960s – we witness the monumental shifts society has seen so far.


Colony by Cathy Leahy, Judith Ryan, Dr Isobel Crombie & Megan Patty

James Cook’s landing and colonisation of Australia marked the beginning of a history that still has repercussions today, a history that both unites and divides Australia and highlights the continuing need for reconciliation. Exploring the impact of British colonisation through more than 1000 essential pieces of our cultural heritage, this book highlights the complex and confronting perspectives of the shared history of First Peoples and European settlers.