“Where to start?”

… Or, a slightly idiosyncratic list of interesting books suitable for beginners:

These are all books that I have in my collection that I have found useful when teaching beginners, and/or they’re good introductions to their particular subjects. Some are older and therefore out of print, but still widely available used, often for extremely good prices.

Note that lack of inclusion in this list does not mean that the book is not a good beginner book – I’m just limiting myself to recommendations for books I’ve actually worked with directly, here.

Random aside: be aware that authors frequently don’t have much control over the titles of their books, and so there’s an odd preponderance of books with names like “The Most Amazing and Complete Origami Book Ever in the History of the Universe!” You shouldn’t think the authors are insane and choose titles like that for themselves – it’s usually just the marketing folk being, well, marketing folk. Don’t let a silly title turn you off from a book, and if you’re shopping online, try to find a vendor who lets you look inside (e.g. Amazon.com) so you can see what pieces are in a particular book, what the diagramming style looks like, etc.

These are alphabetized by author.

Engel, Peter

engel-10-fold-origami10-Fold Origami (at Amazon)

Though perhaps not an absolute-beginner’s book (it does use some more complicated maneuvers like crimps and sinks) the 10-fold-per-piece constraint keeps these very approachable. Clear diagrams with a nice mix of traditional and (very) creative pieces.

Kasahara, Kunihiko

kasahara_origami_made-easyOrigami Made Easy (at Amazon)

(Out of print, but widely available and very inexpensive used.)

This is a classic, with a variety of traditional and creative pieces. A good foray into typical origami diagramming style and pieces using the traditional origami “bases” as starting points.

Kawamura, Miyuki

kawamura-polyhedron-origamiPolyhedron Origami for Beginners (at Amazon)

(Out of print, available used.)

I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for this book for a whole pile of reasons: Miyuki is a close friend, I helped edit this English-language version of her book, and I love polyhedra. That said, this is a great book for someone interested in getting into the mathematical side of origami, particularly modular polyhedra and their kin. Clearly diagrammed, and a fine exercise in learning to think about things in 3D.

LaFosse, Michael & Alexander, Richard

lafosse_ultimate-kitUltimate Origami for Beginners kit (with DVD) (at Amazon; see all the pieces in the kit at the Origamido.com site)

This kit – which includes the 64-page book, a DVD with instructional video for all the pieces, plus origami paper – is a great introduction to the range of things you can do with origami. It’s got creatures, flowers, multi-piece modulars and dollar bill folds. The video instructions let you follow along in real time (or start and stop as needed), and are a nice tool to help learn to visualize the folding sequences in the diagrams.

(Full disclosure: I’m not only a longtime student of Origamido Studio, I’m also their webmaster.)

Montroll, John

montroll_easy-origamiEasy Origami (at Amazon; at OrigamiUSA’s Source)

The title says it all. There are 32 easy (almost all traditional, I believe) pieces here, clearly diagrammed and easy to follow using standard origami diagramming notation. (Amazon’s “look inside the book” feature shows you the full table of contents, so you can see what you’re getting.) It’s a good range of pleasing, easily recognizable and satisfying pieces.



montroll_easy-dollar-bill-origamiEasy Dollar Bill Origami (at Amazon; at OrigamiUSA’s Source)

Similarly, this is an great intro to dollar bill folding. (Amazon’s “look inside the book” feature shows you the full table of contents, so you can see what you’re getting.) Varied subject matter and clear diagrams make this appealing to a wide audience.

Morollón, Ángel

morollon_origami-sketchbookOrigami Sketchbook (at OrigamiUSA’s Source; Terry’s origamishop.us [US]; Terry’s origami-shop.com [Europe])

Strictly speaking, this isn’t an absolute beginner’s book, but I included it here because the creatures are absolutely wonderful, and should be approachable by anyone who’s worked past the absolute basics. Everything, from the cool format of the book – made to look and feel like a naturalist’s field note/sketch book – to the beautiful, hand-drawn diagrams, make this a very cool book to own. This is a great book with which to stretch your skills, try some wetfolding, and dive into representational origami.

Neale, Robert and Hull, Thomas

neale_plain-and-simpleOrigami Plain and Simple (at Amazon)

(Out of print, available used)

This book, with 30 pieces designed by Robert Neale and diagrammed by Tom Hull, is another nice progression from simple to intermediate pieces. The pieces themselves are a mix of representational, useful and decorative, and are very intentionally very clearly diagrammed, with no origami “lingo.” As Tom says in the introduction:

When trying to learn origami from a book, the reader is really learning two things at the same time: 1) how to fold paper and 2) how to read origami diagrams. These are two distinct skills, and their combined effect can be discouraging, to say the least.

The piece “Frog with a Big Mouth” – so easy it consists of nothing but fold-this-flap-here valley folds – is one of my all-time favorite introductory folds. It never fails to please, getting laughs even from adults. It’s extra-fun to do as a “surprise” piece, that is, don’t tell the students what they’re making, and have them guess as you go. The reveal at the end is wonderful!

Robinson, Nick

robinson_kit-for-dummiesOrigami Kit (for Dummies) (at Amazon – also available in Kindle format)

I’m generally a fan of the whole … for Dummies line of books, as they do a good job of giving the reader an overview of the topic, plus lots of specific details to get you rolling. This book is exactly that, aimed at Origami. It assumes from the start that the reader doesn’t really know anything about the art, and starts out with great background information on the tools and techniques you’ll need, how to read diagrams, etc., before getting rolling on the pieces themselves. And there’s a great range of material to fold in here, with pieces designed by many different members of the origami design community. Nick also has a great sense of humor, and it comes through very clearly in his commentary.


robinson_beginners-guideA Beginner’s Guide to Origami (at Amazon)

(Out of print, available used)

I’m very partial to Nick’s clear, well-thought-out diagramming style, and it shines in this introductory book. The first 20-odd pages are dedicated to an introduction to origami, including basic folding techniques, symbols and diagramming conventions used in the book. The pieces themselves are interesting, satisfying  works that range from representational (animals, etc.) to useful (bowls), toys, modular and decorative pieces.