Brain Pickings

Blog-Turned-Book Success Stories: Part One

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Maps of Utopia, posh Brooklynites, and what Whole Foods has to do with high school mixtapes.

The web may have its share of questionable content and lowest-common-denominator taste, but it has also democratized the content industry in a powerful way — with its low barrier of entry, anyone with a smart idea and excellent content can draw an audience and become the go-to authority in a niche or a publishing superstar of eclectic interestingness. And just like every waitress in LA dreams of being discovered by Hollywood, most superstar bloggers dream of getting the coveted and tangible acclaim that is a book deal.

We love nothing more than to see well-written, meticulously curated and brilliantly conceived content get the credit it deserves. And we’ve gathered proof that it is indeed possible. Here are five of our ten favorite blogs-turned-books.

BOX BOTTLE BAG

It’s no secret we’re big package design geeks — because, let’s face it, framing is everything; ideas are only as powerful as their presentation, and what are packages but presentation vehicles for the products that come in them?

For years, The Dieline has been our favorite go-to for packaging goodness. This month, they’re finally releasing the much-anticipated anthology of said goodness — Box Bottle Bag: The World’s Best Package Designs from TheDieline.com.

The book features 224 pages of richly visual, meticulously curated package design gems, including the site’s biggest hits as well as a handful of never-before-seen projects from legendary designers.

CASSETTE FROM MY EX

We’ve featured Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves before, and we even included it in our curated gift guide for books, so we won’t overelaborate.

Suffice it to say this lovely mixtape revivalist project takes the cheesiest parts of nostalgia and turns them into a wonderful celebration of youthful creative romanticism.

STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE

It’s been nearly two years since Christian Lander’s brilliant, relentlessly funny-cause-it’s-true Stuff White People Like first drew critical acclaim from hipster pundits alike. The blog was so brilliant, in fact, that it got a book deal a mere three months after its launch, a pace of success that’s practically unheard of.

Wittily written and often surprisingly insightful beneath its surface humor, Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions is as much a cultural portrait of a certain Obama-loving, New-Yorker-reading, Whole-Foods-shopping, Scandinavian-furniture-admiring socioeconomic subset as it is a diagnostic tool for your own chronic white-clicheness.

STRANGE MAPS

We love the geeky art-science world of cartography. So when our favorite maps blog,
Strange Maps, got a book deal, we covered it promptly.

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities features 138 of the most fascinating, absorbing and remarkable maps from the blog’s 3-year history of culling the world’s forgotten, little-known and niche cartographic treasures. And it too made our book guide last year.

From the world as depicted in Orwell’s 1984, to a color map of Thomas More’s Utopia, to the 16th-century portrayal of California as an island where people live like the Amazons, the book is brim-full of priceless anecdotes from our collective conception of the world over the centuries.

THE SARTORIALIST

In 2005, Scott Schuman set out to photograph stylish people on the street, then began uploading these photos to a no-frills blog.

Little did Schuman, a.k.a. The Sartorialist, know that over the next few years, his blog would gain such enormous cultural traction that it would elevate him to the most influential observer of street style. TIME Magazine even named him one of the Top 100 Design Influencers.

Last year, the blog put its money where its mouth is, releasing the sleek, stylish and all-around gorgeous The Sartorialist: (Bespoke Edition). (Sure, you could settle for the paperback, but that would be like watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on TV — you still get it, but half its glamor and beauty are lost.)

From Milan to Miami, Beijing to Brooklyn, the book is a global portrait of exquisite taste, an addictive and indulgent intersection of voyeurism and aesthetic appreciation.

UPDATE: Here’s Part 2, with 5 more

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