Plan Your Trip Across the Roads of the Roman Empire, Using Modern Web Mapping Technology

At the moment, I hap­pen to be plan­ning some time in France, with a side trip to Bel­gium includ­ed. Mod­ern intra-Euro­pean train trav­el makes arrang­ing the lat­ter quite con­ve­nient: Thalys, the high-speed rail ser­vice con­nect­ing those two coun­tries, can get you from Paris to Brus­sels in about an hour and half. This stands in con­trast to the time of the Roman Empire, which despite its polit­i­cal pow­er lacked high-speed rail, and indeed lacked rail of any kind. But it did have an expan­sive net­work of roads, some of which you can still walk today, imag­in­ing what it would have been like to trav­el Europe two mil­len­nia ago. And now, using the web­site OmnesVi­ae, you can get his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate direc­tions as well.

Big Think’s Frank Jacobs describes OmnesVi­ae as “the online route plan­ner the Romans nev­er knew they need­ed.” It “leans heav­i­ly on the Tab­u­la Peutin­ge­ri­ana” — also known as the Peutinger Map, and pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture — “the clos­est thing we have to a gen­uine itin­er­ar­i­um (‘road map’) of the Roman Empire.”

Though not quite geo­graph­i­cal­ly accu­rate, it does offer a detailed view of which cities in the empire were con­nect­ed and how. “Geolo­cat­ing thou­sands of points from Peutinger, OmnesVi­ae refor­mats the roads and des­ti­na­tions on the scroll onto a more famil­iar­ly land­scaped map. The short­est route between two (ancient) points is cal­cu­lat­ed using the dis­tances trav­eled over Roman rather than mod­ern roads, also tak­ing into account the rivers and moun­tains the net­work must cross.”

You can use OmnesVi­ae just like any oth­er way-find­ing appli­ca­tion, except you enter your ori­gin and des­ti­na­tion into fields labeled “ab” and “ad” rather than “from” and “to.” And though “for some cities cur­rent day names are under­stood,” as the instruc­tions note, it works bet­ter — and feels so much more authen­tic — if you type in cities like “Roma” and “Lon­dinio.” The result­ing jour­ney between those two great cap­i­tals looks ardu­ous indeed, pass­ing at least three moun­tain­ous areas, thir­teen rivers, and count­less small­er set­tle­ments. And accord­ing to OmnesVi­ae, no roads led to Brus­sels: the clos­est an ancient trav­el­er could get to the loca­tion of the mod­ern-day seat of the Euro­pean Union was the Wal­loon vil­lage of Liber­chies — which, as the birth­place of Djan­go Rein­hardt, remains an impor­tant stop for the jazz-lov­ing trav­el­er of Europe today.

via Big Think

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Roads of Ancient Rome Visu­al­ized in the Style of Mod­ern Sub­way Maps

How the Ancient Romans Built Their Roads, the Life­lines of Their Vast Empire

The Roman Roads and Bridges You Can Still Trav­el Today

How to Make Roman Con­crete, One of Human Civilization’s Longest-Last­ing Build­ing Mate­ri­als

The First Tran­sit Map: a Close Look at the Sub­way-Style Tab­u­la Peutin­ge­ri­ana of the 5th-Cen­tu­ry Roman Empire

How Did Roman Aque­ducts Work?: The Most Impres­sive Achieve­ment of Ancient Rome’s Infra­struc­ture, Explained

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

A Culinary Videos Series Shows Every Conceivable Way to Cook Eggs, Potatoes, Pizza, Bacon & More

So you think you know your way around a pota­to, eh?

No doubt you excel at boil­ing, mash­ing, roast­ing, bak­ing and twice bak­ing …

You may make a mean pota­to chip or pomme frite

Per­haps you’ve per­fect­ed some tricks with a microwave or air fry­er.

But before you’re puffed too full of brag­ging rights, have you ever thought to sub­ject this hum­ble root veg­etable to a blow torch, an iron, a dish­wash­er, a juicer or a gaso­line pow­ered gen­er­a­tor plugged into a giant dim­mer switch?


Con­grat­u­la­tions on hav­ing avoid­ed some tru­ly dread­ful meth­ods for prepar­ing a pota­to, judg­ing by the results of some of Bon Appétit Con­tribut­ing Edi­tor Amiel Stanek’s more out­ré, tongue-in-cheek exper­i­ments, above.

Wait, maybe there aren’t real­ly 63 ways to cook pota­toes?

The prepa­ra­tion we’re legit­i­mate­ly eager to try is pick­ling, for spuds Stanek declares “very sweet, salty, acidic”, a wel­come addi­tion to a cheese board or a cru­dité plate.

And there’s an argu­ment to be made for turn­ing a waf­fle iron into a dual pur­pose device by mak­ing hash browns in it.

Stanek fares less well, pip­ing pre-mashed pota­toes into a Rol­lie ® Eggmas­ter, “a weird, made-for-TV device that is made express­ly for cook­ing eggs:”

Ewww, no, why is it like that? This is dis­gust­ing!!!

If you’re won­der­ing how that Rol­lie ® does with its intend­ed ingre­di­ent, Stanek’s got an answer for you:

Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, oh my god, it looks like it’s in a con­dom. This is the most dis­gust­ing egg thing we have made all day…it tastes like bad seafood. I don’t know why, it tastes plastic‑y. This is hor­ri­ble!

Mean­while, those in long term rela­tion­ships with part­ners hold­ing dif­fer­ent views on the best way to scram­ble, fry or poach an egg may find them­selves feel­ing vin­di­cat­ed by this episode.

Either that or hor­ri­bly betrayed.

Oth­er than pota­toes and eggs, the only episode of the 10 in the Almost Every series not exclu­sive­ly geared toward cook­ing flesh is the one devot­ed to piz­za, which at 32 meth­ods, ties with chick­en breast. (Only whole chick­en, at 24 meth­ods, has few­er options.)

Veg­ans will like­ly feel unim­pressed, in addi­tion to left out, giv­en that there’s near­ly that many sug­gest­ed hacks for melt­ing plant-based cheese.

Per­haps a vis­it to Moon­burg­er, a meat­less Hud­son Val­ley chain where Stanek is Culi­nary Con­sul­tant and the shakes are dairy free is in order?

Those crav­ing ever more off­beat attacks, how­ev­er, will find them­selves enter­tained by Stanek’s efforts involv­ing an Easy-Bake Oven (yeah, nope, not good at all),  a Teenage Mutant Nin­ja Tur­tle Piz­za Machine (the whole cheese sitch looks a lit­tle bit demented…bummer, dude), and a crust that’s baked around a sil­i­cone cone, then filled with a “molten, dan­ger­ous slur­ry” of sauce and cheese (this thing looks demon­ic to me, like an ani­mal horn meant for a Satan­ic rit­u­al…)

If that’s not our cue to seek out a restau­rant with a wood burn­ing oven, per­haps it’s a sig­nal we should order out.

Watch a com­plete playlist of Bon Appétit’s Almost Every here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

10,000 Vin­tage Recipe Books Are Now Dig­i­tized in The Inter­net Archive’s Cook­book & Home Eco­nom­ics Col­lec­tion

The New York Times Makes 17,000 Tasty Recipes Avail­able Online: Japan­ese, Ital­ian, Thai & Much More

The Recipes of Famous Artists: Din­ners & Cock­tails From Tol­stoy, Miles Davis, Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe, David Lynch & Many More

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Five Graphs That Changed the World: See Groundbreaking Data Visualizations by Florence Nightingale, W. E. B. DuBois & Beyond

Almost two and a half cen­turies after its first pub­li­ca­tion, Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Caus­es of the Wealth of Nations is much bet­ter known as sim­ply The Wealth of Nations. Had he writ­ten it today, the text itself, which runs between a for­mi­da­ble 500–700 pages in most edi­tions, would also be con­sid­er­ably short­er. It’s not just that writ­ers in Smith’s day went in for length per se (though many now read as if they did), but that graphs had­n’t been invent­ed yet. Much of what he’d dis­cov­ered about the nature of eco­nom­ics could have been expressed more con­cise­ly — and much more clear­ly — in pic­tures rather than words.

As it hap­pens, the kind of infor­ma­tion­al graphs we know best today would be invent­ed by Smith’s fel­low Scot William Play­fair in 1786, just a decade after The Wealth of Nations came out. “Data visu­al­iza­tion is every­where today, but when Play­fair first cre­at­ed them over 200 years ago, using shapes to rep­re­sent num­bers was large­ly sneered at,” says Adam Ruther­ford in the Roy­al Soci­ety video above.

“How could draw­ings tru­ly rep­re­sent sol­id sci­en­tif­ic data? But now, data visu­al­iza­tion has become an art form of its own.” There fol­low “five graphs that changed the world,” begin­ning with the map of water pumps that physi­cian John Snow used to deter­mine the cause of a cholera epi­dem­ic in 1850s Lon­don, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture.

We’ve also post­ed W. E. B. Du Bois’ “hand­made charts show­cas­ing the edu­ca­tion­al, social, and busi­ness accom­plish­ments of black Amer­i­cans in the 35 years since slav­ery had been offi­cial­ly abol­ished.” The oth­er world-chang­ing graphs here include Flo­rence Nightin­gale’s “cox­comb” that showed how unsan­i­tary hos­pi­tal con­di­tions killed more sol­diers dur­ing the Crimean War than did actu­al fight­ing; the so-called Kallikak Fam­i­ly Tree, a fraud­u­lent visu­al case for remov­ing the “fee­ble-mind­ed” from soci­ety; and Ed Hawkins’ more recent red-and-blue “warm­ing stripes” designed to present the effects of cli­mate change to a non-sci­en­tif­ic audi­ence. Using just blocks of col­or, with nei­ther num­bers nor text, Hawkins’ bold graph harks back to an ear­li­er gold­en era of data visu­al­iza­tion: after Play­fair, but before Pow­er­Point.

via Aeon

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Art of Data Visu­al­iza­tion: How to Tell Com­plex Sto­ries Through Smart Design

Flo­rence Nightin­gale Saved Lives by Cre­at­ing Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Visu­al­iza­tions of Sta­tis­tics (1855)

Kurt Von­negut Dia­grams the Shape of All Sto­ries: From Kafka’s “Meta­mor­pho­sis” to “Cin­derel­la”

A Pro­por­tion­al Visu­al­iza­tion of the World’s Most Pop­u­lar Lan­guages

The 1855 Map That Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Dis­ease Pre­ven­tion & Data Visu­al­iza­tion: Dis­cov­er John Snow’s Broad Street Pump Map

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy Visu­al­ized

W. E. B. Du Bois Cre­ates Rev­o­lu­tion­ary, Artis­tic Data Visu­al­iza­tions Show­ing the Eco­nom­ic Plight of African-Amer­i­cans (1900)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Pussy Riot Sends a Powerful Message to Vladimir Putin: “You Have Already Lost. You Know It.”

Speak­ing at TED, Nadya Tolokon­niko­va, found­ing mem­ber of Pussy Riot, has a pow­er­ful mes­sage for Rus­sians today: Resist­ing the author­i­ty of Vladimir Putin is an option. It’s a choice. Of that, Tolokon­niko­va has already pro­vid­ed ample proof. For more than a decade, the mem­bers of Pussy Riot have staged high-pro­file protests in Rus­sia … and paid the price, with time served in prison. As she puts it, “Courage is an abil­i­ty to act in the face of fear. And some of us have cho­sen to live coura­geous­ly.” That exam­ple is what makes her a threat:

The rea­son why I became a threat to the sys­tem, not because of any actu­al phys­i­cal pow­er that I have, but because courage is con­ta­gious. And any act of speak­ing the truth can cause incal­cu­la­ble trans­for­ma­tions in social con­scious­ness. And we all have this pow­er. It’s a moral act to use this pow­er. You may or may not achieve the results that you want­ed, but there is eter­nal beau­ty in try­ing to find truth, in risk­ing every­thing you’ve got for what’s right…

As always, she saves choice words for Putin: “Vladimir Vladimirovich, the Krem­lin walls became your prison walls. You have already lost. You know it. That’s why you’re so afraid. You lost in spir­it.” Now we just need Rus­sians at home, and Ukraini­ans on the bat­tle­field, to make the implic­it explic­it.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent 

A His­to­ry of Pussy Riot: Watch the Band’s Ear­ly Performances/Protests Against the Putin Regime

Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokon­niko­va Tells Pro­tes­tors What to Do–and Not Do–If Arrest­ed by Author­i­tar­i­an Police

Slavoj Žižek & Pussy Riot’s Nadezh­da Tolokon­niko­va Exchange An Extra­or­di­nary Series of Let­ters

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Download Free Coloring Books from Nearly 100 Museums & Libraries

We here at Open Cul­ture hearti­ly endorse the prac­tice of view­ing art, whether in a phys­i­cal muse­um, in the pages of a book, or online. For some, how­ev­er, it tends to have one seri­ous short­com­ing: all the col­ors are already filled in. If you’re itch­ing to use your own col­ored pen­cils, crayons, water­col­ors, or oth­er tools of choice on draw­ings, paint­ings, and a vari­ety of oth­er works besides in the pos­ses­sion of well-known art insti­tu­tions, these past few months are a time of year to savor thanks to the ini­tia­tive Col­or Our Col­lec­tions.

Each Feb­ru­ary, Col­or Our Col­lec­tions releas­es its lat­est round of col­or­ing books free online, assem­bled from con­tri­bu­tions by the likes of the Bib­lio­thèque nationale de France, Eton Col­lege, the New York Botan­i­cal Gar­den, the Toron­to Pub­lic Library, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San Fran­cis­co.

“Launched by The New York Acad­e­my of Med­i­cine Library in 2016,” says its about page, it hosts an “annu­al col­or­ing fes­ti­val on social media dur­ing which libraries, muse­ums, archives and oth­er cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions around the world share free col­or­ing con­tent fea­tur­ing images from their col­lec­tions.”

The de-col­ored pic­tures you see here offer just a taste of all you can find in this year’s Col­or Our Col­lec­tions crop. Some of the par­tic­i­pat­ing insti­tu­tions pro­vide col­orable selec­tions from across their hold­ings, some stick to a cer­tain theme, and some con­tribute actu­al vol­umes, dig­i­tized whole or cre­at­ed for the occa­sion. Take, for instance, the Ol’ Med­ical Colour­ing Book from Queen’s Uni­ver­si­ty Library, which promis­es hours of fun with pages like “ante­ri­or view of the skele­tal sys­tem,” “ven­tral view of the brain,” and “uri­nary sys­tem shown on the female form.”

These are some dis­tance from the bun­nies and but­ter­cups we col­ored in as chil­dren; so are the vig­or­ous nine­teen-thir­ties motor­cy­cle adver­tise­ments assem­bled by the Harley-David­son Archive, or the archi­tec­tur­al and archae­o­log­i­cal draw­ings from the Médiathèque de Châteaudun. But Col­or Our Col­lec­tions 2023 also con­tains a good deal of kid-direct­ed mate­r­i­al as well, includ­ing Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Library’s live­ly pack­age of ani­mal images from issues of Kodomo no Kuni, or The Land of Chil­dren — a mag­a­zine direct­ed toward the kids of Japan a cen­tu­ry ago, but then, some child­hood plea­sures know no cul­tur­al or tem­po­ral bounds. Enter the archive of 2023 col­or­ing books here.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Free Col­or­ing Books from The Pub­lic Domain Review: Down­load & Col­or Works by Hoku­sai, Albrecht Dür­er, Har­ry Clarke, Aubrey Beard­s­ley & More

A Free Shake­speare Col­or­ing Book: While Away the Hours Col­or­ing in Illus­tra­tions of 35 Clas­sic Plays

The Dune Col­or­ing & Activ­i­ty Books: When David Lynch’s 1984 Film Cre­at­ed Count­less Hours of Pecu­liar Fun for Kids

The Very First Col­or­ing Book, The Lit­tle Folks’ Paint­ing Book (Cir­ca 1879)

The First Adult Col­or­ing Book: See the Sub­ver­sive Exec­u­tive Col­or­ing Book From 1961

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Harry Belafonte (RIP), James Baldwin, Marlon Brando & Sidney Poitier Talk About Civil Rights, 1963

Note: Yes­ter­day Har­ry Bela­fonte, the civ­il rights activist, singer and actor, passed away at age 96. In his mem­o­ry, we’re bring­ing back a post from our archive, one that fea­tures Bela­fonte and oth­er leg­ends dis­cussing the March on Wash­ing­ton, back in August, 1963. The film above is now made avail­able by the US Nation­al Archives.

On the day of the his­toric “March on Wash­ing­ton for Jobs and Free­dom” (August 28, 1963), known today as The Great March on Wash­ing­ton, CBS aired a 30-minute round­table dis­cus­sion fea­tur­ing Har­ry Bela­fonte, James Bald­win, Mar­lon Bran­do, Charl­ton Hes­ton, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Sid­ney Poiti­er.

The whole seg­ment is fas­ci­nat­ing, even and per­haps espe­cial­ly because the speak­ers pur­sue their some­times diver­gent agen­das (Hes­ton speaks opti­misti­cal­ly about peace­ful dis­sent, Bran­do hopes the Civ­il Rights move­ment may lead to repa­ra­tions for Native Amer­i­cans, while Bela­fonte warns omi­nous­ly that the Unit­ed States has now reached a “point of no return”). But it may be Joseph Mankiewicz, the sharp-wit­ted writer/director of All About Eve, who pro­vides one of the dis­cus­sion’s pithi­est lines: “Free­dom, true free­dom,” he says, “is not giv­en by gov­ern­ments; it is tak­en by the peo­ple.”

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Noam Chom­sky & Har­ry Bela­fonte Speak on Stage for the First Time Togeth­er: Talk Trump, Klan & Hav­ing a Rebel­lious Heart

How Jazz Helped Fuel the 1960s Civ­il Rights Move­ment

How Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Used Niet­zsche, Hegel & Kant to Over­turn Seg­re­ga­tion in Amer­i­ca

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Urine Wheels in Medieval Manuscripts: Discover the Curious Diagnostic Tool Used by Medieval Doctors

If you went to the doc­tor in late medieval Europe hop­ing to get a health com­plaint checked out, you could be sure of one thing: you’d have to hand over a urine sam­ple. Though it dates back at least as far as the fourth mil­len­ni­um BC, the prac­tice of uroscopy, as it’s called, seems to have been regard­ed as a near-uni­ver­sal diag­nos­tic tool by the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry. At, you can read excerpts of the then-defin­i­tive text On Urines, writ­ten about that time by French roy­al physi­cian Gilles de Cor­beil.

When a skilled physi­cian exam­ines a patien­t’s urine, de Cor­beil explains, “health or ill­ness, strength or debil­i­ty, defi­cien­cy, excess, or bal­ance, are deter­mined with cer­tain­ty.” Urine “dark­ened by a black cloudi­ness, and mud­died with sed­i­ment, if pro­duced on a crit­i­cal day of an ill­ness, and accom­pa­nied by poor hear­ing and insom­nia, por­tends a flux of blood from the nose”; depend­ing on oth­er fac­tors, “the patient will die or recov­er.”

Urine that looks livid near the sur­face could indi­cate a vari­ety of con­di­tions: “a mild form of hemitri­teus fever; falling sick­ness; ascites; syn­ochal fever; the rup­ture of a vein; catarrh, stran­gury; an ail­ment of the womb; a flux; a defect of the lungs; pain in the joints; con­sump­tive phithi­sis; the extinc­tion of nat­ur­al heat.”

White urine could be a sig­nal of every­thing from drop­sy to lipothymia to hem­or­rhoids; wine-col­ored urine “means dan­ger to health when it accom­pa­nies a con­tin­ued fever; it is less to be feared if there is no fever.”

We may feel tempt­ed, 800 years lat­er, to dis­card all of this as pre-sci­en­tif­ic non­sense. But com­pared with oth­er diag­nos­tic meth­ods in the Mid­dle Ages, uroscopy had a decent track record. “Urine was a par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful tool for diag­nos­ing lep­rosy,” writes the Pub­lic Domain Review’s Kather­ine Har­vey, “because the imme­di­ate phys­i­o­log­i­cal cause was thought to be a mal­func­tion­ing liv­er — an organ which was cen­tral to the diges­tive process, and thus any prob­lems would be vis­i­ble in the urine.” Indeed, “new forms of urine analy­sis have devel­oped from these ancient tra­di­tions, and our present-day med­ical land­scape is awash with urine sam­ples.”

That’s cer­tain­ly a vivid image, and so are the “urine wheels” that accom­pa­ny Har­vey’s piece: elab­o­rate illus­tra­tions designed to help doc­tors iden­ti­fy the par­tic­u­lar hue of a giv­en sam­ple, each one col­ored with the best pig­men­ta­tion tech­niques of the time. But “there was no stan­dard­iza­tion,” notes Atlas Obscu­ra’s Sarah Laskow, “and while some book pub­lish­ers cre­at­ed detailed col­or­ing instruc­tions, the arti­sans who did the work didn’t always con­form to those spec­i­fi­ca­tions.” As much pres­tige as these vol­umes sure­ly exud­ed on the book­shelf, it was as true then as it is now that you become a good doc­tor not by read­ing man­u­als, but by get­ting your hands dirty.

via The Pub­lic Domain Review

Relat­ed con­tent:

Behold the Medieval Wound Man: The Poor Soul Who Illus­trat­ed the Injuries a Per­son Might Receive Through War, Acci­dent or Dis­ease

How the Bril­liant Col­ors of Medieval Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­scripts Were Made with Alche­my

Behold a 15th-Cen­tu­ry Ital­ian Man­u­script Fea­tur­ing Med­i­c­i­nal Plants with Fan­tas­ti­cal Human Faces

1,000-Year-Old Illus­trat­ed Guide to the Med­i­c­i­nal Use of Plants Now Dig­i­tized & Put Online

Down­load 100,000+ Images From The His­to­ry of Med­i­cine, All Free Cour­tesy of The Well­come Library

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Stephen King Recommends 96 Books for Aspiring Writers to Read

Image by The USO, via Flickr Com­mons

I first dis­cov­ered Stephen King at age 11, indi­rect­ly through a babysit­ter who would plop me down in front of day­time soaps and dis­ap­pear. Bored with One Life to Live, I read the stacks of mass-mar­ket paper­backs my absen­tee guardian left around—romances, mys­ter­ies, thrillers, and yes, hor­ror. It all seemed of a piece. King’s nov­els sure looked like those oth­er lurid, pulpy books, and at least his ear­ly works most­ly fit a cer­tain for­mu­la, mak­ing them per­fect­ly adapt­able to Hol­ly­wood films. Yet for many years now, as he’s ranged from hor­ror to broad­er sub­jects, King’s cul­tur­al stock has risen far above his genre peers. He’s become a “seri­ous” writer and even, with his 2000 book On Writ­ing—part mem­oir, part “textbook”—something of a writer’s writer, mov­ing from the super­mar­ket rack to the pages of The Paris Review

Few con­tem­po­rary writ­ers have chal­lenged the some­what arbi­trary divi­sion between lit­er­ary and so-called genre fic­tion so much as Stephen King, whose sta­tus pro­vokes word wars like this debate at the Los Ange­les Review of Books. What­ev­er adjec­tives crit­ics throw at him, King plows ahead, turn­ing out book after book, refin­ing his craft, hap­pi­ly shar­ing his insights, and read­ing what­ev­er he likes. As evi­dence of his dis­re­gard for aca­d­e­m­ic canons, we have his read­ing list for writ­ers, which he attached as an appen­dix to On Writ­ing. Best-sell­ing genre writ­ers like Nel­son DeMille, Thomas Har­ris, and needs-no-intro­duc­tion J.K. Rowl­ing sit com­fort­ably next to lit-class sta­ples like Dick­ens, Faulkn­er, and Con­rad. King rec­om­mends con­tem­po­rary real­ist writ­ers like Richard Bausch, John Irv­ing, and Annie Proulx along­side the occa­sion­al post­mod­ernist or “dif­fi­cult” writer like Don DeLil­lo or Cor­mac McCarthy. He includes sev­er­al non-fic­tion books as well.

King pref­aces the list with a dis­claimer: “I’m not Oprah and this isn’t my book club. These are the ones that worked for me, that’s all.” Below, we’ve excerpt­ed twen­ty good reads he rec­om­mends for bud­ding writ­ers. These are books, King writes, that direct­ly inspired him: “In some way or oth­er, I sus­pect each book in the list had an influ­ence on the books I wrote.” To the writer, he says, “a good many of these might show you some new ways of  doing your work.” And for the read­er? “They’re apt to enter­tain you. They cer­tain­ly enter­tained me.”

10. Richard Bausch, In the Night Sea­son
12. Paul Bowles, The Shel­ter­ing Sky
13. T. Cor­aghes­san Boyle, The Tor­tilla Cur­tain
17. Michael Chabon, Were­wolves in Their Youth
28. Rod­dy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors
31. Alex Gar­land, The Beach
42. Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
49. Mary Karr, The Liar’s Club
53. Bar­bara King­solver, The Poi­son­wood Bible
54. Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air
58. Nor­man Maclean, A Riv­er Runs Through It and Oth­er Sto­ries
62. Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ash­es
66. Ian McE­wan, The Cement Gar­den
67. Lar­ry McMurtry, Dead Man’s Walk
70. Joyce Car­ol Oates, Zom­bie
71. Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods
73. Michael Ondaat­je, The Eng­lish Patient
84. Richard Rus­so, Mohawk
86. Vikram Seth, A Suit­able Boy
93. Anne Tyler, A Patch­work Plan­et

Like much of King’s own work, many of these books sug­gest a spec­trum, not a chasm, between the lit­er­ary and the com­mer­cial, and many of their writ­ers have found suc­cess with screen adap­ta­tions and Barnes & Noble dis­plays as well as wide­spread crit­i­cal acclaim. For the full range of King’s selec­tions, see the entire list of 96 books at Aero­gramme Writ­ers’ Stu­dio.

You can also find anoth­er list of 82 books rec­om­mend­ed by King here.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2014.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stephen King Cre­ates a List of 82 Books for Aspir­ing Writ­ers (to Sup­ple­ment an Ear­li­er List of 96 Rec­om­mend Books)

Stephen King’s 20 Rules for Writ­ers

Stephen King’s 22 Favorite Movies: Full of Hor­ror & Sus­pense

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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