• Credit: George Brown

Most monographs follow a rather formulaic approach: project descriptions, photos, supporting plans, and drawings. Plain Modern: The Architecture of Brian MacKay-Lyons delves deeper, with a narrative by architect and historian Malcolm Quantrill, who shares conversations he had with MacKay-Lyons, his staff, and clients during a half-dozen visits to Nova Scotia. However, MacKay-Lyons himself introduces each of the eight houses and six public works presented in the book. He writes that the discipline of studying the landscape and building traditions he grew up with involves “a deliberate process of progressive abstraction, beginning with local vernacular building forms. The resulting projects illustrate some of the fruits of this journey; like a trail of bread crumbs left in the woods, they enable me to find my way home.” With a foreword by Glenn Murcutt and an essay by Kenneth Frampton on the Ghost Lab—the annual design/build party MacKay-Lyons hosts for students at his coastal farm—readers are treated to an intimate look at the man and what makes him tick.

Paging through David Salmela's first monograph, Salmela Architect, is like going on a meditative retreat. Set among quiet Northern Minnesota landscapes are buildings that are calm, crisp, and cool—spiritual in their beauty, yet complex in forms and references. Salmela writes in his preface that “each project is like chess: complex, with every game being different. A project may start summer reading the same ... but every subsequent move is a reaction, intuitive as well as structured.”

Growing up on a farm in a Finnish community in central Minnesota, Salmela says he noticed small things—the orderly beauty of tilled fields, and how materials and colors created unique settings. Whether it's an abstract sauna or a rare restaurant commission, his buildings are both playful and cerebral, unexpected and acutely familiar. Author Thomas Fisher observes that Salmela has mastered the art of embracing opposites, believing that “every project offers an opportunity to explore an idea, to make a larger connection.”

  • Credit: George Brown

Arcadian Architecture, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson's latest monograph, is a good choice for architects looking to lose themselves in a book, but it's not one to tote to the beach or take onto a plane. This hefty tome, with its 93/8-inch-by-133/8-inch trim size, includes sumptuous double-spread photography, eight gatefolds, detailed conceptual sketches, and construction documents, plus an 18-panel foldout showing 20 additional built and unbuilt projects. A lavish 40 pages are devoted to the Bill and Melinda Gates compound, a joint venture with Cutler Anderson Architects.

In his preface, Peter Bohlin writes of the firm's interest in exploring the ambiguous links between the past and the future, and in the contrast between permanence and invention. “We believe in an architecture that springs from ... the nature of its place, whether natural or man-made—the tilt and warp of the land, the sun and wind, rain and snow, its attitude, its spirit, the marks of man on a place.” With its elegant graphics and alluring images, this is a book to be savored all summer long.

Using houses from the portfolio of architectural photographer Brian Vanden Brink as examples, Yale-trained architect Christopher Glass shows how Maine's best houses embody the age-old principles of careful siting, context, and proportion to their neighbors. The three sections of At Home in Maine: Houses Designed to Fit the Land examine renovated older houses, buildings converted to houses, and new houses.

“When is a style not a style?” asks David Weingarten in Bay Area Style: San Francisco Bay Region Houses. “When it is the Bay Region style.” His book of 30 houses, arranged chronologically from 1892 to 2004, records a slew of architectural styles from English Arts and Crafts to English and French Gothic, International, Japanese, High Tech, and more. Adding to these curious influences are the distinctions of climate, topography, and risk-taking clients, which lead Weingarten to coin a catch-all label for Bay Area architecture: Picturesque Modernism.

In The Houses of Martha's Vineyard, architect Keith Moskow, a lifelong summer resident of Martha's Vineyard, presents 24 houses built during the past two decades by such noted architects as Robert A.M. Stern, Steven Holl, Margaret McCurry, and Jeremiah Eck. Descriptive text, site and floor plans, sketches, and study models help to elucidate the design ideas.

  • Credit: George Brown

Eschewing what he calls “the bizarre, complex, highly personal, and exclusive quest for architectural novelty,” Wayne Good seeks out modern interpretations of traditional architectural ideas and motifs, as portrayed in his monograph, Wayne L. Good, Architect, with its tagline: Tradition, Elegance, Repose.

With a foreword by Ray Kappe, Swatt Architects: Livable Modern showcases 13 of the San Francisco firm's most significant projects, all but two of them residential.

And finally, whether it's a black-and-white photo of whitewashed houses stacked “like a pile of sugar cubes” or an aerial sketch capturing a town's long, horizontal layers, Steven and Cathi House's Mediterranean Villages: An Architectural Journey offers a unique tour of village architecture in Italy, Greece, Dalmatia, and Spain.

Plain Modern: The Architecture of Brian MacKay-Lyons
Malcolm Quantrill
Princeton Architectural Press
$40, softcover
www.papress.com

Salmela Architect
Thomas Fisher
University of Minnesota Press
$34.95, softcover
www.upress.umn.edu

Arcadian Architecture: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson—12 Houses
Oscar Riera Ojeda
Rizzoli
$65, hardcover
www.rizzoliusa.com

At Home in Maine: Houses Designed to Fit the Land
Christopher Glass
Down East Books
$40, hardcover
www.downeastbooks.com

Bay Area Style: San Francisco Bay Region Houses
David Weingarten
Rizzoli
$50, hardcover
www.rizzoliusa.com

The Houses of Martha's Vineyard
Keith Moskow
Monacelli Press
$50, hardcover
www.monacellipress.com

Wayne L. Good, Architect
Images Publishing Group
$45, hardcover
www.imagespublishinggroup.com

Swatt Architects: Livable Modern
Images Publishing Group
$45, hardcover
www.imagespublishinggroup.com

Mediterranean Villages: An Architectural Journey
Steven and Cathi House
Images Publishing Group
$65, hardcover
www.imagespublishinggroup.com