A number of things that happened in the world of books in 2012 didn't reach the world of architecture books. There was no break-away e-book about architecture, nothing to compare to Mark Z. Danielewski's The Fifty Year Sword, a genre-busting novel whose print and digital formats try different experiments. Which is fine. No one launched a Symbolia for architecture, that is, a tablet magazine specific to design the way that Symbolia is specific to the graphic medium of illustrated stories and journalism. And that's also fine.
No one reinvented the wheel in 2012, but instead, a number of writers took to long-form to reconsider architecture from its roots—and from a credible number of perspectives. Far from exhaustive, this list compiles the books that had design fans (and editors) talking from the moment of their release. One of these books is meant for tots who are just starting to think about the material world around them; one of the books was written with the grizzled theorist in mind. One graphic novel could arguably claim both demographics as its audience.
The exhaustive list of books published this year is here, and it includes a few that readers shouldn't miss. For example, ARCHITECT featured an excerpt from Material Strategies, by ARCHITECT contributor Blaine Brownell. Young Architects 13, which profiles the winners of last year's Architectural League Prize, is a good way to keep up with innovative practitioners. And no one can resist massive coffee-table tomes such as 20th Century World Architecture: The Phaidon Atlas or Three Centuries of Educating an Architect or Vitamin G.
But the books that made the best-of-2012 list represent something else—the graphic novels, coloring books, monographs, and dense tracts that stood out from the entire field. These final six would make excellent additions to any personal library.