Recommended Reading: Books about H.R. Giger

Instead of tracking down the more famous but very expensive Necronomicon volumes, you can try some other books about Giger's works.  They are often far cheaper and exceed the rarer collections in their own merits.

Hr Giger Com (2007)
That's actually the title of this book, which is unfortunate because it really is perhaps the best overview of his body of work and considerable insight into the man himself.  It has absolutely nothing to do with a website.  I think it's a great starting point to see just how prolific and creative he was, whereas the culture generally focuses on simply his most famous period from the late '70s (e.g., New York, Biomechanoids, Landscapes, etc.).  It covers a great many projects I was unfamiliar with, such as his satirical urban planning of Switzerland as a giant pentagram of cities interconnected by railway stations or his nefarious and murderous Swatch collection, just two pick two projects.

There are also sections on the creation of the Giger bars, his museum, and even tattoos based on his works.  It also contains complete lists of exhibitions, bibliographies, films based on/featuring his works, as well as large samplings of his most famous series up to its publication in 2007. 

Again I emphasize that this book is far more current than the Necronomicon volumes.  The public's perception of his work is somewhat frozen in the period immediately surrounding Alien, thus much is overlooked.  I had literally just finished reading this when Giger passed away, so I was especially disappointed with the one-note obituaries that focused on just a few projects from one phase of his career.  He's simply remembered as an airbrush artist who did album covers of women and/or monsters.  This book broadens the view to show him as an art collector, scuplter, conceptual artist, and designer.

Above all others, I highly recommend this volume!

H.R. Giger's Alien
Authored by the designer himself.  There isn't a lot of text, just enough to give context for the illustrations/paintings/photos, but that text is from Giger's diaries during the production of the movie, making it a very informative document of the process as much as an overview after the fact.  There are a great many photos from behind the scenes, showing the construction of the sets.  There's also enough material in it (both visually and in the commentary) to suggest other directions the film might have gone, had there been more time and money available.  However, what's presented here also doubles as a companion to the prequel film Prometheus in that many of these designs (including -most notably- the rejected ones!) were included decades later in the prequel.

Note that this is far from the most authoritative book on the making of Alien; it's simply a scrapbook of Giger's contributions from Giger's perspective, and even he is apologetic in its introduction about the frustrated tone of the latter.  That said, it's a good book for what all it covers, and it serves as a compliment to other books that more generally cover the making of the film.  For possibly the best book on the subject of the making of Alien, check out the book Alien Vault that includes an enormous amount of material (visual and otherwise) about all aspects of the film.

This small paperback lacks most of Giger's better-known works/styles, but it gathers together a lot of earlier and more incidental pieces, particularly hand-drawn sketches that never make it into most volumes.  I wouldn't call it "essential" for anyone who isn't making the attempt to be a completist, but what's included is unusual enough that it broadens one's appreciation for the artist's genius.  I don't hate it, but I don't recommend this one.

H.R. Giger's Retrospective: 1964-1984 (1997)
Not nearly as wordy as ARh+ (below), but it's another good chronological overview of what Giger produced and what he was up to during these periods, including a few personal details (e.g., relationships) and professional (e.g., promotional tours).  Also, the back of the book includes more comprehensive and updated (as of 1997) lists of solo exhibitions, instances of Giger's work appearing on film, etc.  Many good reproductions of some of Giger's best-known works, particularly from the height of his popularity.

Giger ARh+ (2001)
What's most interesting about this volume is that, though not presented as such, it's the closest thing we have to an HR Giger autobiography.  It's perhaps 25% text (which is a lot for an art book), with the remainder alternating between full-page reproductions of major works and smaller images embedded in the writing comprising photos and minor works (i.e., sketches, such as his "Atomic Children" series).  Depending on how you approach it, the text is either frustratingly or hilariously whimsical.  It isn't so much recollections as jumping-off points for Giger to relate his thoughts on the salient parts of his story.  It makes for an unusual autobiography, but on the other hand, it perhaps gives more insight into the man than a linear narrative history might.

There are the at least three or four simultaneous streams of information I alluded to above, and my biggest criticism is that they are not always chronological and almost never synchronized.  The result is having a written account from, say, his early childhood next to a recent photo near a sketch from his early years as a professional artist, and on the facing page there will be a major piece from his peak Necronomicon or Biomechanics years!  You feel less like a reader than someone browsing across a buffet of personal, professional, and subjectively recalled history.  Good material, all, but what a confusing journey!

My wish list:

There are other books about Giger than just these, but the ones on my "wish list" include the following:
H.R. Giger's Necronomicon (1977)
H.R. Giger's Necronomicon II (1992)
H.R. Giger's Biomechanics (1993)
I'm leaving these titles here as placeholders because I hope to eventually get these and comment on the books themselves as well as how much overlap they have with other titles.

The Giger Database - A page on a larger site, but it's a good checklist of which works have been featured in which book(s).

Giger bibliography - From the same site.  A more complete list than this page since it also includes the rare/out-of-print volumes.


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