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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Have You Read? #7

My mom faithfully saves the paper copies of BookPage for me (paid for by our home library system), and I scan the issue for titles I want to reserve from my public library. Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books by William Kuhn was reviewed a few months ago, and I was eager to read about Jacqueline Onassis through the books she edited while at Viking and Doubleday. In many ways, her status allowed her latitude and decisions not granted to others; she published many obscure titles that would not sell particularly well. Her influence on the authors she published was huge. Peter Sis recalls "she was one of the most inspiring editors I ever worked with." In fact, she was the first for him.

As I read about her as an editor, her character and personality traits became clearer than from anything I have ever read about her high-profile life. The knowledge of her through her books prompted me to look through my own reading lists to see what the books reveal about me. The countless readings of my all-time favorite young people's novel, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, reveals my love of Michelangelo (I have read The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone three times), my fascination with art history, my dream of spending a night in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Perhaps my love of Don Freeman's Corduroy says much the same about being able to stay overnight in a department store like Macy's. The multiple readings of To Kill a Mockingbird reveal my admiration for people who stand up for what is right, maintaining dignity and calm for those involved.

What do our book choices and shelves tell about us? A great deal, I think. With students, I learn their preferences and find new things for them to read and titles that will extend their interests. Take time to observe others' choices and ponder what they tell about them.


  1. I, too, was enchanted and engaged by the books you've cited here. But we can't always trust that someone has read the books on their shelves. I've heard of people who use books as a decorating accessory and never do anything but admire the way color and shape coordinate with decor.

  2. I had never thought about that, brattcat! Decorating with books!
    I think the stacks of books towering on my bed's headboard indicate that I'm a person who needs to buy more bookshelves but procrastinates for years when it comes to buying furniture.
    Have you ever visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Julie? I spent a January in NYC when I was in college, and spent a Saturday at the Met. I was thrilled to see the real places where Claudia and Jamie had run away. I'm glad I was alone, because I don't think many of my other college friends would have understood my excitement.

  3. How awful to decorate with books! I suppose I have seen it in some people's kitchens.

    I have only been to the MMA in books, David. I could only visit Claudia and Jamie's places with someone who admires them as much as I do; otherwise, alone would be necessary.