It is very much in keeping with the theme of the book review herein for me to start by saying that I am an academic and then wax on a bit about that. I’ll be brief though. When one spends inordinate amounts of time reading, mulling over, devouring, and living with texts, one can develop odd habits when approaching bound (and unbound!) hunks of printed paper. While book covers and authors are initial enticements, I always read the bibliography and the other reference lists in the back of nonfiction books first. What are the roots of the work? Who are the influences? Do they acknowledge contributors? And then…well, I typically work my way backwards through the book on the first pass. If it seems worthwhile, I’ll then read the book the regular way.

Yep. I want to know the punchline before I hear the joke. This actually makes some sense with the articles I read daily for RealJob. Before committing to read from start to finish, it’s nice to know where the authors are headed and have a bird’s-eye view of the path. Starting with a reverse-read gives me the chance to unravel it on my own, in a way.

Okay…so what does this have to do with quilting books? Yeah, I “read” them the same way.

For the most part, the quilting books on the market today are just cloned books of lifestyle photos of quilts, with patterns I mostly ignore, and with little to stimulate thought. It just is what they are. And they are that way because it’s what the publishers assume that the quilting masses are likely or willing to buy. One extremely well curated pseudo-example is the recent museum catalog, Quilts and Color. It flips well from back to front since there is practically no text and there isn’t necessarily a philosophical progression in the photos. That book is just purely delicious eye-candy. I recommend it if you’re looking for some inspiration. And I hope to get up to Boston to see the show at the MFA this summer.

When I finished flipping through that book—in a matter of just a few minutes, I picked up Modern Quilt Perspectives. This is another book that reads well backwards, but has some nice stop-and-linger points when the author explains his motivation for his designs.

Modern Quilt Perspectives

His overall theme of making meaningful quilts resonates well with my own approach to design and making right now. He encourages exploration of community, identity and politics often in deeply symbolic ways. Some of the designs miss the mark a bit in this measure, in my opinion, but they are still interesting quilts that are not all re-treads of the same old thing. It’s refreshing!

Modern Quilt Perspectives

Now, even though we agree about the foundational drive to make, there are several points on which we disagree. And that’s also part of what makes it a good book. Thomas and I might come to fisticuffs should we ever meet up and discuss log cabin quilts. [He says that “[log cabins] are definitively a nineteenth century reference; in the twenty-first century, log cabins are more a vanity than a necessity.” Of course, they were never a necessity; moreover he might not have considered that some of us are still burdened by 19th century values and actions and that the log cabin block and its variants are an appropriate symbol to riff on.] Of course, I joke about the fight…he opens up a debate. It’s been a while since a book regarding quilts made me slow down my page-flipping. It’s a bonus to want to argue with the book on a fairly deep level.

Modern Quilt Perspectives

Nuts and bolts? Unlike the usual overly-styled books, each pattern has a full-page full view of the finished quilt, so you know what you’re making and have a reference when reading the instructions. The patterns have schematics and most skip the ridiculous step-by-step structure many authors attempt. This publisher allowed the author to assume the quilter can reason through it all and still achieve satisfactory results. This means there is more room to hear the voice and stop and think. Particularly lovely to note is that the patterns don’t simply end with the cryptic directives: “Quilt. Bind.” There is a discussion of the quilting ideas, how they contribute to the thematic intent of the patchwork, and/or how the quilting stays out of the way of enjoyment of the ideas and patchwork.

Nice work, TK.

I have one book to give away. Would you like a free copy of the book? Just leave a comment here. Tell me about how you read, or a nice book you’ve read recently (I need ideas for summer vacation reading!), or whatever. The giveaway will close at noon (EDT) on Monday, June 9.
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*** Giveaway is closed. ***
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Disclosure: I do not use affiliate links for shops and I only link to a certain shop because it seems everyone does. There are better (and local!) bookshops one ought to frequent instead. Also…the publisher sent me a copy of the book to give away, however I’d already bought one at full price for myself. So I do feel free to speak honestly and stuff.