The interns at my office once polled the design staff on a number of important issues--ie. how many times per day do you type Ctrl-Z? How many trips to the corner deli this week?--and shared their responses. 'In case of fire,' they also asked, 'and barring the normal physical constraints, what would you first save from the studio?' Some answered 'the server' or 'the drafting tables,' but the runaway favorite was the library.
I've toyed ever since with the list of titles that I would toss down the mail chute to safety before succumbing to smoke inhalation. The sixty below represent that list as of April 2014. They're not necessarily the "best," the best-selling, or even the most popular books on the shelf. They're the ones that I would protect so a professional studio could get right back to work the next day (or the same day if we could all get Wifi in the park or cram into the same little coffee shop).
As such they are a peculiar mix of theory and practice, reference and inspiration. Some are academic, but no one ideology permeates. Several are written by practitioners, but none promote the design work of a single firm. The few that are very geographically specific were chosen more for their generalizable lessons or graphical precedents.
You can follow the "Library" link below each to find the loaner copy nearest you. In case you want to add any to your own permanent collection, there are also links to buy through Better World Books if you can, Amazon if you must, or direct from the publisher.
For this post there are sixty, but every day brings new candidates. Maybe what I need is a good, roomy, fireproof safe. What would go into yours?