World Book Day - What are you reading right now?

April 19, 2019
Kimberly R. Kay
What are you reading right now?

April 23, 2019 is World Book Day, which according to UNESCO is "a celebration to promote the enjoyment of books and reading." In that spirit, Daniel Hartwig (University Archivist) and Astrid Johannah Smith (Rare Book and Special Collections Digitization Specialist) asked some of our local book aficionados, "What are you reading right now?" and perhaps more important, "Why?" Their answers range: academic, self-improvement, romantic, and sometimes just for fun!

Kris Kasianovitz, Government Information Librarian for International, State and Local Documents; Head, Social Sciences Resource Group:

Swing Time, by Zadie Smith - "Smith gave the presidential lecture at Stanford this year, and I realized I hadn't actually read any of her fiction! I'd read some of her essays and pieces in various magazines and heard interviews with her. I chose Swing Time for the very simple reason - it was the only title/copy available at my public library (everything was checked out at Stanford Libraries). I'd like to read White Teeth next."

A New City O/S : The Power of Open, Collaborative, and Distributed Governance, by Stephen Goldsmith and Neil Kleiman - "I actually bought a copy of A New City O/S for the Stanford Libraries -- partially because I'm trying to collect works on civic engagement, open government and data, government transparency, civic and gov tech, PPPs (public private partnerships), etc. at the very local levels.  So like everyone else interested in these topics, I was trolling the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation Data-Smart City Solutions (yes, that's a mouthful!) website for items and came across this book. I took a look at the book website which included a brief video on Civic Data by Goldsmith and a pretty good endorsement by Jennifer Pahlka, Founder and Executive Director, Code for America. And that was enough for me to order a copy and also start reading it!"

Eitan Lev Kensky, Reinhard Family Curator of Judaica and Hebraica Collections:

The Jew of New York, by Ben Katchor - "The Jew of New York is an epic in miniature. Katchor compresses into single panels what others unfold over pages, while his pages are less narratives than brief introductions to a complicated ethical universe. (There are, however, plenty of FUN stories.) The Jew of New York is set in 1830s New York - but there are many Jews and many New Yorks, and complicating both of these ideas seems precisely the point even as it's also not the point at all. If nothing else, it's a completely idiosyncratic look at 19th century America by one of the greatest living cartoonists."

Drew Bourn, Historical Curator, Stanford Medical History Center; Instructor in History, Stanford Continuing Studies:

Remembrance of Things Past (À la recherche du temps perdu), by Marcel Proust - "I'd been meaning to read it for a long time. What finally prompted me to begin was the decision last year to spend time in Paris this spring. The anticipation of visiting locations in Paris that are associated with events in the novel served as the catalyst for me to finally pick it up."

Cathy Aster, Services Manager, Digital Library Systems and Services:

White Fragility: why it's so hard for White people to talk about racism, by Robin DiAngelo - "Recently, I was able to watch part of an American Library Association (Midwinter) 2019 President's Program talk by RobinDiAngelo on White Fragility. Motivated by my interest in better understanding and overcoming my biases, Robin's talk inspired me to read her book. Also looking to do my part in facilitating the dismantling of whiteness in librarianship."

Doris Cheung Wu, Production Coordinator, Digital Production Group, Digital Library Systems and Services:

Shadow of night, by Deborah Harkness - "I was sold on the idea of an enchanted manuscript and time travel with witches and vampires."

Benjamin Albritton, Digital Medieval Project Manager & Associate Curator for Paleographical Materials, Digital Library Systems and Services:

Studying early printed books, 1450-1800 : a practical guide, by Sarah Werner - "Dr. Werner is a leading light in the world of rare books and straddles the line between physical and digital very elegantly. Basically, she's a model early book scholar and someone we should all be reading!"

Tim Noakes, Head of Public Services, Special Collections:

Kaputt, by Curzio Malaparte - "I just finished reading another book by Malaporte, The Skin, which was probably one of the most amazing books I've read in years, so wanted to read another work by him, which is ALSO really good."

Kimberly Kay, Administrative Associate for Technical & Access Services:

The Burning Page, by Genevieve Cogman - "I just finished Cogman's The Masked City from The Invisible Library series, which ended in a bit of a cliffhanger. So of course, I had to dive into the The Burning Page right away. I was drawn to the series because the main character, Irene, is a librarian/spy who gets out of sticky situations using Language - my kind of heroine! Her world mixes technology and magic in a really clever way, and I find myself wishing I could hang out with Irene in her Library."

Kathleen Smith, Curator, Germanic Collections & Medieval Studies:

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach - "I decided to start reading it after hearing so much about her other works, including Stiff and Gulp, and because my brother-in-law enjoyed it. She is a local author, and I really like her humorous but informative take on science and problem-solving. She has an excellent appreciation for the absurd and an inquisitive mind."

Glen Worthey, Digital Humanities Librarian, Subject Specialist for Linguistics and Philosophy:

The Library Book, by Susan Orlean - "Not only does it have practically the greatest title ever — which is self-referential in the subtlest way, as well as being marketing genius both for us librarians and for the millions of library lovers in the world — it’s also riveting, inspiring, tragic, and hopeful.  If you’ve ever felt like your library work is mundane, unnecessary, or old-fashioned, read this book: it’ll make you proud to serve in one of the world’s great institutions of good."

Becoming, by Michelle Obama - "Deciding to read this was not hard (in spite of its mega-bestseller status): who doesn’t love Michelle Obama?  (A certain portion of the electorate need not answer that.)  But I so loved listening to Barack Obama read his own Dreams from my Father about a decade ago — which (fun fact) made him the only one of our Presidents to have won an Emmy — that I decided to read Michelle the same way.  I am not disappointed: she is smart, funny, brave, strong, no-nonsense, and every bit as poetic as Barack."

Stella Kaoru Ota, Physics Librarian:

The Clutter Connection: How Your Personality Type Determines Why You Organize the Way You Do, by Cassandra Aarssen - "This title popped up as available via my public library's HOOPLA app for borrowing ebooks, and I had to check it out. I find it fascinating how productive, creative, happy people can all organize their information and their spaces in vastly different ways."

Sarah Sussman, Curator, French and Italian Collections; Head, Humanities and Area Studies Resource Group:

The Bastard of Istanbul, by Elif Shafak - "I just finished The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak from 2007 - a novel spanning Istanbul, Armenia, and the US and several generations of families whose pasts and present are tied together by historical and personal events. A friend with whom I often share books recommended it strongly."

A History of Algeria, by James McDougall - "I'm currently reading A History of Algeria by James McDougall, a recent book on the modern history of Algeria that from reviews appears to be the new standard work. I feel that it is particularly important to read now given the events currently unfolding in Algeria and because of the country's long colonial and post-colonial relationship to France."

The Monumental Challenge of Preservation: The Past in a Volatile World, by Michèle Cloonan - "And I am almost finished with Michèle Cloonan's The Monumental Challenge of Preservation: The Past in a Volatile World (2018), which I started in preparation for seeing her present it at the Book Club of California a few weeks ago."

I know I'm going to add some of those to my reading list! 


In the meantime, here are a few more book-related posts to peruse in honor of World Book Day!

 Kimberly Kay / SUL

Miniature books from the Germanic collections at Stanford - Sometimes described as any book under 3” in width or height, a miniature book can reflect any genre and are known to have existed as early as the Middle Ages—their size proving advantageous for travel and, if necessary, for concealment.

Two volumes (of four) dated 1782 of the influential Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual, including colored woodblocks with manuscript annotations. Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Stanford Libraries.

From the The Morgan A. and Aline D. Gunst Memorial Library of the Book Arts, six woodblock-printed books – two predating Gutenberg – and a manuscript, spanning six centuries of production, exemplifying book traditions in China and Japan. Of utmost importance in the history of the book, Chinese traditions include the invention of paper in the 3rd century BCE, the invention of woodblock printing in the 7th century, and the invention of movable type in clay and wood in the 11th century.

 Kathleen Smith

A catalog of nearly 1,000 German buttons from a firm founded in 1896 by Gustav Overhoff in Lüdenscheid, an industrial German town in North Rhine-Westphalia with a long tradition of mining and manufacturing.

Mozart. Zauberflote -- Image by Ray Heigemeir / SUL

Opern-Tÿpen consists of six volumes of chromolithographic plates depicting scenes from 54 operas popular in 19th century Germany. Each opera plot has been distilled into a mere six frames, with liberally adapted accompanying text.

Urbano Monte atlas screen shot

Urbano Monte 1587 atlas - Urbano Monte’s 60-sheet planisphere—the largest known early modern manuscript map of the world completed ca. 1587. All sheets of the intricately detailed nine by nine foot map have been digitally assembled for the first time. 

 Linda A. Cicero/ Stanford News

Our Conservation Lab's rare book conservator Elizabeth Ryan repaired a first edition On the Origin of Species that arrived with its textblock detached from its cover. Her work is hightlighted in this news story.