The back cover of Asian Furniture (HK$580, FormAsia) should whet the appetites of design buffs and quiz fans. Eight pictures of chairs and chests - plus an odd-looking stepped piece containing an assortment of drawers - beg to be matched with the countries featured in the book: India, Indonesia, Thailand, China (including Tibet), Philippines, Korea and Japan. Anyone unable to identify the provenance of the items should be able to hone their skills with the help of this book. A hefty image-heavy volume with incisive text, Asian Furniture affords readers (and browsers) enlightening journeys through the histories of the eight lands, showing how the development of furniture was affected by colonial incursions, for example, and the ways in which climate and lifestyle influenced the use of materials and size of chattels. In Thailand, as Pitya Bunnag writes, houses constructed from bamboo could not withstand heavy loads, and furniture with legs was unsuitable for flimsy flooring made of split bamboo tied to bamboo joists. Which is why cabinets and sleeping platforms were legless, light and small. Glorious pictures of furniture, accompanied by informative captions, end each section, whose contributing authors include Peter Moss (for India), Willy Lam Wo-lap (China) and Anna Hestler (Tibet). Useful, too, is the double-page spread titled 'Woods'. It features photographs of trees such as camphor, northern elm and paulownia, which, because of its high combustion point, is quasi fireproof and thus used to make items such as Japanese tansu to store valuables. For those wondering, the tansu is the stepped chest on the back cover of the book. It was popular because it worked as a staircase and provided storage. In an essay that prefaces Shop America (HK$400, Taschen), Steven Heller writes: 'The storefronts of the 1940s and 1950s may not have the virtuosity of [Edward] Hopper's Nighthawks, but each enticingly designed window on the world has a curiously irresistible hypnotic pull.' This quirky tome on mid-20th-century storefront design examines not only the new ways of presenting shops but also the enthusiasm of post-war Americans for consumerism. The book, itself alluring with its stylish vintage pictures and gelato colours, showcases dozens of architectural renderings with black and white photos of actual shop fronts from 1938 to 1950. These appeared everywhere that spending cash could be turned into an enjoyable pastime - from florists to fruit mongers and shoe stores to sweet shops - and afforded shoppers the feeling of freedom, an illusion apparently advanced by the introduction of broad panes of non-reflective glass. Like the storefront windows that hinted at unique experiences behind them, Shop America has more than meets the eye. The book should appeal to anyone interested in design as well as readers with a hankering for pop culture and history.