Mark Batty Publisher specializes in books that are best described as a cross between a bathroom book and a coffee table book. They have that “flip through them at your leisure” quality crossed with “set them out for your friends to see” appeal. The two books that recently showed up in the mail here at the Nuthouse – Eric Schneider‘s Toy Instruments: Design, Nostalgia, Music and Celebrity Vinyl, by Tom Hamling – are exactly the sort of collections any self-respecting music fan would want.
The graphic design is stellar, especially the covers. In the case of Toy Instruments, the book looks like a beaten toy package you might find in the back corner of a Salvation Army, while Celebrity Vinyl has the appearance of an old, bargain bin LP (especially with the dog-eared corners my copy acquired in the mail).
Granted, the books are basically collections of pictures, with a smattering of rather snarky commentary. Hamling’s commentary is a bit more extensive than Schneider’s, offering up links to the artists’ websites, as well as some background information on the musicians. However, it’s mostly smart-ass comments like this one about Alyssa Milano’s Alyssa: “Anything spawned from Danza’s loins deserves to be listened to. Except for his semen. And this album.”
Schneider’s book is a sentence or two, along with some loving photos of electronic kids’ instruments through the years. There is a lot of Japanese merchandise within its pages, and some clever quips, but the intro by DJ Spooky is a lot more informative than most of the lines with each piece of equipment.
Think of the books from Mark Batty as something a step above what you’d find at Urban Outfitters. You’ll get plenty of mileage from them if you leave them out for visitors, and the price tag is low enough to justify the chuckles you’ll get when you flip through them yourself.