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On Sharkey's Shelf: "The Best of Flair"

Kevin shares a foolproof gift for lovers of art or nostalgia.

Let’s be honest: The concept of a "coffee table book" is bizarre. A book that’s meant to be closed more often than open, and rarely read for more than a few minutes at once? Talk about a luxury! Perhaps that’s why they make such great gifts -- like scarves or candles, they’re things that people can use but don’t often seek out on their own (especially since the findings rarely justify the costs).

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"The Best of Flair" is a mighty exception, and a knockout gift for any lover of art or nostalgia. If you’re not familiar with "Flair," imagine "Vanity Fair" as seen through the eyes of an extraordinarily bright child -- a wide-ranging commentary on 1950s culture with a wry tone and bold, picture-book-like layouts. It ran for just a year, but its unique style was way ahead of its time, and accordingly has aged well.

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For all the tools that modern graphic designers have at their disposal, it’s rare to see dimension used so effectively. Pop-ups, cutouts, insets, and illustrations make for a rich experience that does more for storytelling than novelty. I love seeing so much attention paid to the architecture of each page. That kind of thoughtfulness sometimes feels lost in the trend toward quick, disposable media.

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When I look through this book, I’m reminded that nothing is original -- in a good way. After all, we have much to learn from our own best tricks! "The Best of Flair" shows how excellence in design, literature, and photography creates a (literal) margin for innovation.

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Add a sleek red case and a few pop-ups, and I can think of nothing I’d rather show off in short bursts at my coffee table.

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