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Staff Book Suggestions Summer 2021

John Buchtel
Come in out of the hot sun and cool off with one of these big books while learning about one of the most important treasures in the Athenæum's collection, the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493:
 

(Cutter Classification :X7Z //K796 //w)

A richly illustrated in-depth history of the most extensively illustrated early printed book. An experienced book designer and printer himself, MacArthur grant recipient Adrian Wilson tells the story through the lens of the astonishing survivals of early contracts, sketches, and layouts for the massive 1493 publication. He argues persuasively that some of the sketches may have been done by a young Albrecht Dürer.

(Library of Congress Classification Lg Z241 .S3413 2001)

A complete full-color facsimile of a stunningly hand-colored copy of the German edition of the most extensively illustrated early printed book, with a well-researched introduction in English by Stephan Füssel, director of the Institute for Book Studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

(Cutter $7T //Sch2 //zs)

A limited edition fine-press book that tells the story of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Some of its content has been superseded—but it includes an original leaf from the 1497 piracy! N.B. As this item is part of our Special Collections, it doesn't circulate, but one can view it by way of a research appointment.

Jacqueline Chambers

(Library of Congress PZ4.M9056 Sec 2012)

(Library of Congress PZ4.M9056 Fo 2009)

Kate Morton is one of my favorite writers. Her novels center around family histories, generational mysteries, and the indelible bonds of women. Both The Secret Keeper and The Forgotten Garden were wonderful reads, and I could not put either book down even as the hours ticked on and my eyes strained to remain open late into the night! I love the way her stories span over many generations and locations, and you become deeply invested in her flawed and beautiful characters. 

Carolle Morini
Lyrical and Critical Essays by Albert Camus. Edited and with notes by Philip Thody. Translated from the French by Ellen Conroy Kennedy.

(Cutter Classification VF3 .C1573 .l .E)

If you have read his fiction and have a hankering for more Camus in your life, check out his essays—you will not be disappointed.

Looking At Pictures by Robert Walser. Translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky

(Library of Congress N7445.4 .W325 2015)

Take a read of these short unique pieces about art, artists, and life before you head to the museums and galleries. The perfect size for travel.

Derek Murphy

(Library of Congress PQ613 .D38 1987)

This was one of those fortuitous discoveries for which the Athenæum's stacks are so well-suited. The title caught my eye while I was looking for another book, and the first sentence of the preface cemented my interest: "For years I have been reading sixteenth-century letters of remission for crimes, dutifully taking notes on names and acts, while chuckling and shaking my head as though I had the Decameron in my hands." In sixteenth-century France, some citizens convicted of certain crimes were given the chance to plead their own case, telling the story of their crime in hopes of a pardon. These stories were typically transcribed to be reviewed by the king or his chancellery. Many of these documents survived in the archives, and they give a rare insight into the voices of the common people of the time. The author shares several entertaining examples of these pardon tales, and considers what they can tell us about the ways people of that time and place lived and told stories.

Anthea Reilly

(Library of Congress PZ4 .H478 Pa 2017)

Any novels by Mark Helprin—He is a delight to read—writes as though he is composing a fantastic symphony.

(Library of Congress PZ4.L8591 De 2011)

M.L Longworth mystery series set in Aix-en-Provence—charming and good for fast reading.

(Library of Congress PZ4 .H4316 Co 2020)

Shirley Hazzard Short Stories—excellent writer as usual.
 

(Library of Congress PR6063.O7489 A79 2021)

Her final book—essays on her life, another excellent read.
 
Kaelin Rasmussen

(Library of Congress PZ4.D547 Do 1996)

Like many of us, I have seen the film Blade Runner (at least two cuts of it, anyway). Until now, however, I had not read the book upon which it was based. Though in general I quite enjoy dystopian science fiction of yesteryear, I had always avoided Philip K. Dick’s 1968 classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, thinking “Been there, seen that.” I have now changed my mind and recommend the book on its own merit. The apocalyptic, noir-ish flavor of the book will be familiar to movie fans, but there is so much more there. Rick Dekard’s hunt for renegade artificial humans is fraught with huge ideas about the nature of human emotion, intelligence, perception, and empathy, and alongside, the small, sharp uncertainties and petty urges of everyday life. In other words, the good stuff. While I was not pleased with the stereotypes embodied in the women characters, a not unexpected flaw, I still enjoyed the skillful world-building, the exciting story, and the troubling possibilities of this surprising novel. Plus, science fiction makes great summer reading!

Leah Rosovsky

(Library of Congress PZ4.C3118 Mo)

This beautiful short novel tells the story of a shell shocked World War I veteran, Tom Birkin, who spends a summer just after the end of the war in the English countryside. Birkin has been asked to restore a medieval mural that has been uncovered in a small local church. The book poses questions about love, memory, place, and art especially as part of the process of recovery. It's deeply moving and deeply enjoyable.

(Library of Congress PZ4.M11865 De 2020)

Set in New York City in the fall of 1969, the novel starts when one of the deacons of the local Baptist church shoots a young man dealing drugs in the Brooklyn project where they both live. McBride is an amazing storyteller and creates vivid portraits of a large cast of characters and their overlapping lives. The novel is alternately painful, gripping, and very funny.

Carly Stevens

(Library of Congress PZ4 .D149 Wa 2021)

(Library of Congress E185.96 .T83 2021)

I detest the summer months. To cope, I throw myself into books to pretend I'm anywhere but Boston during the grueling heat and humidity. In my mind, nothing can transport you out of the heat better than a thriller. Waiting for the Night Song by member Julie Carrick Dalton fits the bill perfectly. I also like to throw in some nonfiction to keep my brain in tip-top shape. Three Mothers by Anna Malaiki Tubbs is an engrossing read that asks readers to reexamine the legacies of Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little in order to understand a mother's role in resistance and activism.

Mary Warnement

(Library of Congress + Z814.L53 L53 2020)

A book about books always catches my eye, and the fifteenth century is my favorite period, so how could I resist this. These rulers took their impressive collections with them as they travelled from stronghold to stronghold. If you are familiar with a medieval illuminated book, then it was probably owned by one of these dukes. This is an over-sized book but manageable. A brief introduction explains the history of the dukes and the region they ruled. A short chapter from the conservators highlights repairs made—or not—with excellent photographic illustration, as is the case for the catalog entries. These books now reside in the Royal Library of Belgium (KBR) and the book accompanies an exhibition in a newly designed space to showcase their amazing collection. If the history doesn’t interest you—and some of the translations are a little uneven—you can jump ahead to the catalog entries for these gorgeous books. If you’re ready to start thinking about packing your bags again for travel, just think what these ducal households had to consider when packing their libraries.

(Library of Congress DA245 .C3687 2006)

My second recommendation also focuses on the fifteenth century, told through a family’s letters, which have the "immediacy of an overheard conversation." My commutes for a month were enlivened by Castor's story of their survival, discovery, publication, rediscovery, and republication, which interested me as much as the history itself. The Pastons are well known among medievalists, but if this isn’t a period you know much about, you’ll learn much and no doubt be shocked at the level of upward social mobility. Castor writes well and not only simplifies the complicated political and family history. If you want to know about the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Falstoff, this is good for that too.

(Library of Congress PZ4 .B626956 Th 2020)

And now for something completely different, to prove I am not (only) a history geek. Mystery lovers may know Cara Black’s Aimée Leduc series set in modern Paris. This standalone thriller is set primarily on one June day in 1940. The first chapter opens with a bang, and you can’t imagine how it can keep it up; however, then comes the twist and the thrill is there till the end. A great summer read.

Hannah Weisman

(Library of Congress PZ4.A165 Wh 2021)

As a fan of political soap operas—er, dramas—on television, Stacey Abrams's newest novel is the perfect summer read. Although I haven't made it to the end yet, I'm deeply invested in whether Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn will survive his coma, whether his bright law clerk Avery Keene will determine whether the Justice's cryptic message to Keene forewarns a legitimate national security threat, and whether President Stokes will play a role in ending the Justice's life. Abrams's story rolls along at a pleasant clip, making it easy to enjoy on the beach or on the front porch with a summer beverage.