Monocle magazine and its founding editor Tyler Brûlé receive their fair, or more than their fair, share of criticism and parody. But Monocle has also been described as feeling like a club -- a self-selected fraternity of readers who share the editors' essential view across a range of topics, including urbanism, craftsmanship, customer service, printed media, Scandinavian electro-pop, and the value of a good flat white. For members of the club, "The Monocle Guide to Better Living" will be familiar but still very-nearly-essential, reading.
I say "familiar" because parts of this book are indeed adapted from the magazine. The initial section, "Ten Cities to Call Home," for instance, obviously draws from the annual Most Livable Cities list, while the last major section, "Going Places: Travel Top 50," also relies heavily on another annual list. Other articles and photos are recognizable too.
With reference to a previous reviewer, though, this book is definitely not a "greatest hits" collection with nothing new for the long-time reader. I applied the scientific method, opening the book at random and searching for the article and subject revealed on the Monocle website (disclosure: I'm a subscriber, and so have access to the magazine's full online archive). Of the twenty articles thus chosen, fifteen were clearly new material or, at any rate, new reporting on subjects the magazine had covered before. Four were obviously recycled (not that there's anything wrong with that), and one I classified as "kinda new," since it was a print adaptation of a Monocle Films video. Whether that ratio is worth the money is for the individual customer to decide.
As a dues-paying member of the club, one of the parts of the "Monocle Guide" I found most interesting was the photo essay at the end about the Monocle shops, café, and inside the St. Peter's -- or maybe Skull and Bones Hall -- of Monocledom, Midori House itself. Many Monocle staffers are also pictured, almost uniformly young and stylish. I also noticed that very few of them are wearing glasses or otherwise suggesting presbyopia may be a problem, which brings me to my major criticism of the "Monocle Guide." Despite the magazine's philosophical devotion to print, the Monocle and/or gestalten designers' treatment of it isn't very friendly. Captions and other material are in tiny, tiny type, while in certain essays, the closing list of key points or suggestions are printed in minuscule red type on a pink page! For a book hefty enough that it should come with its own dictionary stand (no doubt produced by Monocle in collaboration with Akiyama Mokkou [pp 172-173] or Young & Norgate [pp 138-139] and available for sale in a Monocle Shop nowhere near you), holding the page to the light trying to find an angle where it's legible becomes a strain. Apart from that, though, anyone who understands and appreciates Monocle will find a cozy welcome here, too.