The National Emergency Library Makes 1.5 Million Books Free to Read Right Now

The coro­n­avirus has closed libraries in coun­tries all around the world. Or rather, it’s closed phys­i­cal libraries: each week of strug­gle against the epi­dem­ic that goes by, more resources for books open to the pub­lic on the inter­net. Most recent­ly, we have the Inter­net Archive’s open­ing of the Nation­al Emer­gency Library, “a col­lec­tion of books that sup­ports emer­gency remote teach­ing, research activ­i­ties, inde­pen­dent schol­ar­ship, and intel­lec­tu­al stim­u­la­tion while uni­ver­si­ties, schools, train­ing cen­ters, and libraries are closed.” While the “nation­al” in the name refers to the Unit­ed States, where the Inter­net Archive oper­ates, any­one in the world can read its near­ly 1.5 mil­lion books, imme­di­ate­ly and with­out wait­lists, from now “through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US nation­al emer­gency, whichev­er is lat­er.”

“Not to be sneezed at is the sheer plea­sure of brows­ing through the titles,” writes The New York­er’s Jill Lep­ore of the Nation­al Emer­gency Library, going on to men­tion such vol­umes as How to Suc­ceed in Singing, Inter­est­ing Facts about How Spi­ders Live, and An Intro­duc­tion to Kant’s Phi­los­o­phy, as well as “Beck­ett on Proust, or Bloom on Proust, or just On Proust.” A his­to­ri­an of Amer­i­ca, Lep­ore finds her­self remind­ed of the Coun­cil on Books in Wartime, “a col­lec­tion of libraries, book­sellers, and pub­lish­ers, found­ed in 1942.” On the premise that “books are use­ful, nec­es­sary, and indis­pens­able,” the coun­cil “picked over a thou­sand vol­umes, from Vir­ginia Woolf’s The Years to Ray­mond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, and sold the books, around six cents a copy, to the U.S. mil­i­tary.” By prac­ti­cal­ly giv­ing away 120 mil­lion copies of such books, the project “cre­at­ed a nation of read­ers.”

In fact, the Coun­cil on Books in Wartime cre­at­ed more than a nation of read­ers: the Amer­i­can “sol­diers and sailors and Army nurs­es and any­one else in uni­form” who received these books passed them along, or even left them behind in the far-flung places they’d been sta­tioned. Haru­ki Muraka­mi once told the Paris Review of his youth in Kobe, “a port city where many for­eign­ers and sailors used to come and sell their paper­backs to the sec­ond­hand book­shops. I was poor, but I could buy paper­backs cheap­ly. I learned to read Eng­lish from those books and that was so excit­ing.” See­ing as Muraka­mi him­self lat­er trans­lat­ed The Big Sleep into his native Japan­ese, it’s cer­tain­ly not impos­si­ble that an Armed Ser­vices Edi­tion count­ed among his pur­chas­es back then.

Now, in trans­la­tions into Eng­lish and oth­er lan­guages as well, we can all read Murakami’s work — nov­els like Nor­we­gian Wood and Kaf­ka on the Shore, short-sto­ry col­lec­tions like The Ele­phant Van­ish­es, and even the mem­oir What I Talk About When I Talk About Run­ning — free at the Nation­al Emer­gency Library. The most pop­u­lar books now avail­able include every­thing from Mar­garet Atwood’s The Hand­maid­’s Tale to the Kama SutraDr. Seuss’s ABC to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Sto­ries to Tell in the Dark (and its two sequels), Chin­ua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart to, in dis­con­cert­ing first place, Sylvia Browne’s End of Days: Pre­dic­tions and Prophe­cy About the End of the World. You’ll even find, in the orig­i­nal French as well as Eng­lish trans­la­tion, Albert Camus’ exis­ten­tial epi­dem­ic nov­el La Peste, or The Plague, fea­tured ear­li­er this month here on Open Cul­ture. And if you’d rather not con­front its sub­ject mat­ter at this par­tic­u­lar moment, you’ll find more than enough to take your mind else­where. Enter the Nation­al Emer­gency Library here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kin­dle & Oth­er Devices

The Inter­net Archive “Lib­er­ates” Books Pub­lished Between 1923 and 1941, and Will Put 10,000 Dig­i­tized Books Online

11,000 Dig­i­tized Books From 1923 Are Now Avail­able Online at the Inter­net Archive

Free: You Can Now Read Clas­sic Books by MIT Press on

Enter “The Mag­a­zine Rack,” the Inter­net Archive’s Col­lec­tion of 34,000 Dig­i­tized Mag­a­zines

Use Your Time in Iso­la­tion to Learn Every­thing You’ve Always Want­ed To: Free Online Cours­es, Audio Books, eBooks, Movies, Col­or­ing Books & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include 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.

Americans Visited Libraries Almost Twice as Often as They Went to the Movies Last Year, a New Survey Shows

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

One recur­ring sto­ry over the past year, cov­ered by every major news out­let, asks whether stream­ing ser­vices are “killing” movie the­aters (or if they are killing them­selves). Anoth­er looks into the trend of binge-watch­ing, and the effect of an enter­tain­ment ecosys­tem built on shows that seem to stream them­selves. Giv­en the ubiq­ui­ty of this kind of cov­er­age, we might be for­giv­en for sus­pect­ing that the U.S. is turn­ing into a mass of pas­sive home view­ers trans­fixed by super­nat­ur­al thrillers, dark come­dies, real­i­ty TV, teen dra­mas, etc.….

This isn’t entire­ly the case.… While oth­ers tal­ly up the num­ber of eye­balls on var­i­ous­ly-sized screens, vet­er­an polling out­fit Gallup spent part of Decem­ber 2019 ask­ing Amer­i­cans around the coun­try what they did when they went out. Among the nine activ­i­ties they listed—including movies, con­certs, sport­ing events, muse­ums, zoos, and casinos—“visiting the library remains the most com­mon cul­tur­al activ­i­ty Amer­i­cans engage in, by far,” aver­ag­ing 10.5 vis­its per year, notes Justin McCarthy at Gallup News.

To put that “by far” into per­spec­tive, those polled report­ed, on aver­age, going to the library almost twice as often as going to the movies, the sec­ond-place activ­i­ty, over the past year. But as with all such polling data, we should not draw hasty con­clu­sions with­out look­ing at specifics. Gallup breaks down the demo­graph­ics by gen­der, age, income, region, and by house­holds with and with­out chil­dren. Sur­pris­ing­ly, they found very lit­tle dif­fer­ence between the lat­ter two groups’ report­ed library trips.

Among the oth­er cat­e­gories, we find that women report­ed going to libraries almost twice as often as men; that peo­ple between 18–29 report going over twice as often as those between 50–64—perhaps due to col­lege assign­ments; and that low income house­holds report going at much high­er rates than those in high­er brack­ets. “Cost seems to be a fac­tor dri­ving these trends,” writes Brig­it Katz at Smith­son­ian. “Vis­it­ing the library is free, as are the vari­ety of ser­vices libraries offer, includ­ing Wi-Fi.”

Indeed, “29 per­cent of library-going Amer­i­cans over the age of 16 went to use com­put­ers, the inter­net or a pub­lic Wi-Fi net­work.” Libraries are places to gain access to cul­tur­al expe­ri­ences that can be cost-pro­hib­i­tive else­where: to take free class­es and enjoy free movies, music, and, yes, books. The num­ber of aver­age vis­its has remained unchanged since a sim­i­lar poll in 2001, “sug­gest­ing libraries are as pop­u­lar now as they were at the turn of the mil­len­ni­um.” Trips to the movies, on the oth­er hand, are down an aver­age of 1.3 vis­its.

Make of the data what you will in the full break­down at Gallup News. The tele­phone sur­vey has a very small sam­ple size—1,024 adults in all 50 states—which may not be at all rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the whole. Nonethe­less, McCarthy con­cludes that “despite the pro­lif­er­a­tion of dig­i­tal-based activ­i­ties over the past two decades… libraries have endured.” May they con­tin­ue to do so, and to serve the needs of all Amer­i­cans, espe­cial­ly those who might oth­er­wise have lit­tle access to the kinds of knowl­edge, infor­ma­tion, and cul­ture that libraries stew­ard.

via Smith­son­ian

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New York Pub­lic Library Announces the Top 10 Checked-Out Books of All Time

Free Col­or­ing Books from World-Class Libraries & Muse­ums: Down­load & Col­or Hun­dreds of Free Images

Libraries & Archivists Are Dig­i­tiz­ing 480,000 Books Pub­lished in 20th Cen­tu­ry That Are Secret­ly in the Pub­lic Domain

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

The Library of Congress Wants You to Help Transcribe Walt Whitman’s Poems & Letters: Almost 4000 Unpublished Documents Are Waiting

Every once in a while, a promi­nent artist will offer the advice that you should quit your day job and nev­er look back. In some fields, this may be pos­si­ble, though it’s becom­ing increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult these days, which may explain the recep­tion Bri­an Eno gets when he tells art school stu­dents “not to have a job.” Eno admits, “I rarely get asked back.” In a let­ter to his anx­ious moth­er, Gus­tave Flaubert, railed against “those bas­tard exis­tences where you sell suet all day and write poet­ry at night.” Such a life, he wrote, was “made for mediocre minds.”

Sure, if you can swing it, by all means, quit your job. Most poets through­out history—save the few with inde­pen­dent means or wealthy patrons—haven’t had the lux­u­ry. Poet­ry may nev­er pay the bills, but that shouldn’t stop a poet from writ­ing. It didn’t stop T.S. Eliot, who worked as an edi­tor (he reject­ed George Orwell’s Ani­mal Farm) and a bank clerk (he turned down a fel­low­ship from the Blooms­bury group). It did not stop William Car­los Williams, the doc­tor, nor Wal­lace Stevens, who spent his days in the insur­ance game, nor Charles Bukows­ki,  though he’d nev­er rec­om­mend it….

Then there’s ulti­mate jour­ney­man poet Walt Whit­man, who left school at 11 to get a job and var­i­ous­ly through­out his life “worked as a school teacher, print­er, news­pa­per edi­tor, jour­nal­ist, car­pen­ter, free­lance writer, civ­il ser­vant, and Union Army nurse in Wash­ing­ton D.C. dur­ing the Civ­il War,” as the Library of Con­gress (LOC) not­ed for the 200th anniver­sary of the poet’s 1819 birth. The LOC holds “the world’s largest Walt Whit­man man­u­script col­lec­tion” and last year they announced a vol­un­teer cam­paign to tran­scribe thou­sands of unpub­lished doc­u­ments.

Whit­man offered his own pos­si­bly dubi­ous advice to aspir­ing writ­ers—“don’t write poet­ry”—but he him­self nev­er stopped writ­ing, no mat­ter the demands of the day. He also advised, “it is a good plan for every young man or woman hav­ing lit­er­ary aspi­ra­tions to car­ry a pen­cil and a piece of paper and con­stant­ly jot down strik­ing events in dai­ly life. They thus acquire a vast fund of infor­ma­tion.” Whitman’s “jot­tings” include typed and hand­writ­ten let­ters, orig­i­nal copies of poems, drafts of essays and reviews, and more.

His prose is always live­ly and robust, full of exhor­ta­tions, exal­ta­tions, and admix­tures of the high lit­er­ary lan­guage and casu­al talk of city streets that were his hall­mark. Wit­ness the wild swings in tone in his brief let­ter to Abra­ham P. Leech (above) cir­ca 1881:

Friend Leech,

How d’ye do? — I have quite a han­ker­ing to hear from and see Jamaica, and the Jamaicaites. — A pres­sure of busi­ness only, has pre­vent­ed my com­ing out among the “friends of yore” and the famil­iar places which your vil­lage con­tains. –I was an hour in your vil­lage the oth­er day, but did not have time to come up and see you,–I think of com­ing up in the course of the win­ter holidays.–Farewell–and don’t for­get write to me, through the P.O.  May your kind angel hov­er in the invis­i­ble air, and lose sight of your blessed pres­ence nev­er.


There are many, many more such doc­u­ments remain­ing to be tran­scribed among the close to 4000 in the LoC’s dig­i­tized Whit­man col­lec­tion. “More than half of those have been com­plet­ed so far,” writes Men­tal Floss, and rough­ly 1860 tran­scrip­tions still need to be reviewed. Any­one can read the doc­u­ments that need approval and offi­cial­ly add them to the Whit­man archive.” This is a very wor­thy project, and it may or may not feel like work to vol­un­teer your time deci­pher­ing, read­ing, and tran­scrib­ing Whitman’s ebul­lient hand.

The ques­tion may still remain: How did Whit­man acquire the phys­i­cal and men­tal sta­mi­na to get so much excel­lent writ­ing done and still hold down steady gigs to make the rent? Per­haps a series of guides called “Man­ly Health and Train­ing” that he wrote between 1858 and 1860 hold a clue. The poet rec­om­mends rou­tine trips to the “gym­na­si­um” and a diet of meat, “to the exclu­sion of all else.” For those “stu­dents, clerks” and oth­ers “in seden­tary and men­tal employments”—including the “lit­er­ary man”—he has one word: “Up!”

As with all such pieces of advice, results may vary. Enter the two huge man­u­script archives—“Miscellaneous” and “Poetry”—at the Library of Con­gress dig­i­tal col­lec­tions and peruse, or tran­scribe, as much of Whit­man’s end­less stream of writ­ing as you like.

via Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Walt Whitman’s Unearthed Health Man­u­al, “Man­ly Health & Train­ing,” Urges Read­ers to Stand (Don’t Sit!) and Eat Plen­ty of Meat (1858)

Walt Whit­man Gives Advice to Aspir­ing Young Writ­ers: “Don’t Write Poet­ry” & Oth­er Prac­ti­cal Tips (1888)

Walt Whitman’s Poem “A Noise­less Patient Spi­der” Brought to Life in Three Ani­ma­tions

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

The Smithsonian Puts 2.8 Million High-Res Images Online and Into the Public Domain

No mat­ter how many pub­lic insti­tu­tions you vis­it in a day—schools, libraries, muse­ums, or the dread­ed DMV—you may still feel like pri­va­tized ser­vices are clos­ing in. And if you’re a fan of nation­al parks and pub­lic lands, you’re keen­ly aware they’re at risk of being eat­en up by devel­op­ers and ener­gy com­pa­nies. The com­mons are shrink­ing, a trag­ic fact that is hard­ly inevitable but, as Mat­to Milden­berg­er argues at Sci­en­tif­ic Amer­i­can, the result of some very nar­row ideas.

But we can take heart that one store of com­mon wealth has major­ly expand­ed recent­ly, and will con­tin­ue to grow each year since Jan­u­ary 1, 2019—Pub­lic Domain Day—when hun­dreds of thou­sands of works from 1923 became freely avail­able, the first time that hap­pened in 21 years. This year saw the release of thou­sands more works into the pub­lic domain from 1924, and so it will con­tin­ue ad infini­tum.

And now—as if that weren’t enough to keep us busy learn­ing about, shar­ing, adapt­ing, and repur­pos­ing the past into the future—the Smith­son­ian has released 2.8 mil­lion images into the pub­lic domain, mak­ing them search­able, share­able, and down­load­able through the museum’s Open Access plat­form.

This huge release of “high res­o­lu­tion two- and three-dimen­sion­al images from across its col­lec­tions,” notes Smith­son­ian Mag­a­zine, “is just the begin­ning. Through­out the rest of 2020, the Smith­son­ian will be rolling out anoth­er 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Insti­tu­tion con­tin­ues to dig­i­tize its col­lec­tion of 155 mil­lion items and count­ing.”

There are those who would say that these images always belonged to the pub­lic as the hold­ings of a pub­licly-fund­ed insti­tu­tion some­times called “the nation’s attic.” It’s a fair point, but shouldn’t take away from the excite­ment of the news. “Smith­son­ian” as a con­ve­nient­ly sin­gu­lar moniker actu­al­ly names “19 muse­ums, nine research cen­ters, libraries, archives, and the Nation­al Zoo,” an enor­mous col­lec­tion of art and his­toric arti­facts.

That’s quite a lot to sift through, but if you don’t know what you’re look­ing for, the site’s high­lights will direct you to one fas­ci­nat­ing image after anoth­er, from Moham­mad Ali’s 1973 head­gear to the his­toric Eliz­a­bethan por­trait of Poc­a­hon­tas, to the col­lec­tion box of the Rhode Island Anti-Slav­ery Soci­ety owned by William Lloyd Garrison’s fam­i­ly, to Walt Whit­man in 1891, as pho­tographed by the painter Thomas Eakins, to just about any­thing else you might imag­ine.

Enter the Smithsonian’s Open Access archive here and browse and search its mil­lions of new­ly-pub­lic domain images, a mas­sive col­lec­tion that may help expand the def­i­n­i­tion of com­mon knowl­edge.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pub­lic Domain Day Is Final­ly Here!: Copy­right­ed Works Have Entered the Pub­lic Domain Today for the First Time in 21 Years

The Library of Con­gress Launch­es the Nation­al Screen­ing Room, Putting Online Hun­dreds of His­toric Films

The Smith­son­ian Design Muse­um Dig­i­tizes 200,000 Objects, Giv­ing You Access to 3,000 Years of Design Inno­va­tion & His­to­ry

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

The New York Public Library Creates a List of 125 Books That They Love

The New York Pub­lic Library sure knows how to cel­e­brate a quasqui­cen­ten­ni­al. In hon­or of its own 125th anniver­sary, it’s rolling out a num­ber of treats for patrons, vis­i­tors, and those who must admire it from afar.

In addi­tion to the expect­ed author talks and live events, Patience and For­ti­tude, the icon­ic stone lions who flank the main branch’s front steps, are dis­play­ing some read­ing mate­r­i­al of their own—Toni Morrison’s 1987 nov­el Beloved and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age clas­sic The Great Gats­by, from 1925.

Donors who kick in $12.50 or more to help the library con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing such pub­lic ser­vices as ear­ly lit­er­a­cy class­es, free legal aid, and job train­ing cours­es will be reward­ed with a cheer­ful red stick­er bear­ing the easy to love slo­gan “♥ read­ing.”

The cov­er image of Ezra Jack Keats’ 1962 Calde­cott Award-win­ning pic­ture book The Snowy Day, which at 485,583 check­outs holds the title for most pop­u­lar book in the cir­cu­lat­ing col­lec­tion, graces spe­cial edi­tion Library and Metro­Cards.

And a team of librar­i­ans drew up a list of 125 books from the last 125 years that inspire a life­long love of read­ing.

The list is delib­er­ate­ly inclu­sive with regard to authors’ gen­der, race, and sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion as well as lit­er­ary genre. In addi­tion to nov­els and non-fic­tion, you’ll find mem­oir, poet­ry, fan­ta­sy, graph­ic nov­els, sci­ence fic­tion, mys­tery, short sto­ries, humor, and one children’s book, Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which the judges decid­ed “tran­scends age cat­e­gories.” (A sim­i­lar list geared toward younger read­ers will be released lat­er this year.)

The list was drawn from a pool con­tain­ing any­thing pub­lished after May 23rd, 1895, the day attor­ney John Bigelow’s plan to com­bine the resources of the Astor and Lenox libraries and the Tilden Trustin into The New York Pub­lic Library was offi­cial­ly incor­po­rat­ed.

The selec­tion cri­te­ria can be viewed here.

Obvi­ous­ly, the list—and any per­ceived omissions—will gen­er­ate pas­sion­ate debate amongst book lovers, a prospect the library rel­ish­es, though it’s enlist­ed one of its most ardent sup­port­ers, author Neil Gaiman, whose Amer­i­can Gods made the final cut, to remind any dis­grun­tled read­ers of the spir­it in which the picks were made:

The New York Pub­lic Library has put togeth­er a list of 125 books that they love—the librar­i­ans and the peo­ple in the library. That’s the cri­te­ria. You may not love them, but they do. And that’s excit­ing. The thing that gets peo­ple read­ing is love. The thing that makes peo­ple pick up books they might not oth­er­wise try, is love. It’s per­son­al rec­om­men­da­tions, the kind that are tru­ly meant. So here are 125 books that they love. And some­where on this list you will find books you’ve nev­er read, but have always meant to, or have nev­er even heard of. There are 125 chances here to change your own life, or to change some­one else’s, curat­ed by the peo­ple from one of the finest libraries in the world. Read with joy. Read with love. Read!

To real­ly get the most out of the list, tune in to the NYPL’s The Librar­i­an Is In pod­cast, which will be devot­ing an episode to one of the fea­tured titles each month.

The cur­rent episode kicks things off with co-hosts Frank Col­lerius and Rhon­da Evans’ favorites from the list:

Maus by Art Spiegel­man

Beloved by Toni Mor­ri­son

Invis­i­ble Man by Ralph Elli­son

The Haunt­ing of Hill House by Shirley Jack­son

The House of Mirth by Edith Whar­ton

Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sor­cer­er’s Stone by J.K. Rowl­ing

In Cold Blood by Tru­man Capote

Their Eyes Were Watch­ing God by Zora Neale Hurston

Read­ers, have a look at the com­plete list of the New York Pub­lic Library’s 125 Books for Adult Read­ers, and leave us a com­ment to let us know what titles you wish had been includ­ed. Or bet­ter yet, tell us which as-yet unread title you’re plan­ning to read in hon­or of the New York Pub­lic Library’s 125th year:

George Orwell, 1984

Saul Bel­low, The Adven­tures of Augie March

W.H. Auden, The Age of Anx­i­ety

Ron Cher­now, Alexan­der Hamil­ton

Erich Maria Remar­que, All Qui­et on the West­ern Front

James Pat­ter­son, Along Came a Spi­der

Michael Chabon, The Amaz­ing Adven­tures of Kava­lier & Clay

Neil Gaiman, Amer­i­can Gods

Mary Oliv­er, Amer­i­can Prim­i­tive

Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

Mag­gie Nel­son, The Arg­onauts

Sylvia Plath, Ariel

Ian McE­wan, Atone­ment

Anne Car­son, Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of Red

Toni Mor­ri­son, Beloved

Ray­mond Chan­dler, The Big Sleep

Tom Wolfe, The Bon­fire of the Van­i­ties

Eve­lyn Waugh, Brideshead Revis­it­ed

Colm Tóibín, Brook­lyn

Joseph Heller, Catch-22

J.D. Salinger, The Catch­er in the Rye

Clau­dia Rank­ine, Cit­i­zen

Sta­cy Schiff, Cleopa­tra

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

Langston Hugh­es, The Col­lect­ed Poems of Langston Hugh­es

Ter­ry Pratch­ett, The Col­or of Mag­ic

Alice Walk­er, The Col­or Pur­ple

Wal­ter Mosley, Dev­il in a Blue Dress

Erik Lar­son, The Dev­il in the White City

Frank Her­bert, Dune

Michael Ondaat­je, The Eng­lish Patient

Alyssa Cole, An Extra­or­di­nary Union

Ray Brad­bury, Fahren­heit 451

J.R. R. Tolkien, The Fel­low­ship of the Ring

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Sea­son

Ali­son Bechdel, Fun Home

George R. R. Mar­tin, A Game of Thrones

James Bald­win, Giovanni’s Room

Arund­hati Roy, The God of Small Things

Flan­nery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find

Edwin G. Bur­rows and Mike Wal­lace, Gotham

John Stein­beck, The Grapes of Wrath

F. Scott Fitzger­ald, The Great Gats­by

Mar­garet Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

J.K. Rowl­ing, Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Shirley Jack­son, The Haunt­ing of Hill House

Car­son McCullers, The Heart Is a Lone­ly Hunter

Dave Eggers, A Heart­break­ing Work of Stag­ger­ing Genius

Dou­glas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

V.S. Naipaul, A House for Mr. Biswas

Edith Whar­ton, The House of Mirth

Mar­i­lynne Robin­son, House­keep­ing

Allen Gins­berg, Howl

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Tru­man Capote, In Cold Blood

Bev­er­ly Jenk­ins, Indi­go

Jhumpa Lahiri, Inter­preter of Mal­adies

Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

Ralph Elli­son, Invis­i­ble Man

Gore Vidal, Julian

Khaled Hos­sei­ni, The Kite Run­ner

Ursu­la K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Dark­ness

Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club

Kate Atkin­son, Life After Life

Tra­cy K. Smith, Life on Mars

Vladimir Nabokov, Loli­ta

Art Spiegel­man, Maus

David Sedaris, Me Talk Pret­ty One Day

John Berendt, Mid­night in the Gar­den of Good and Evil

Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Chil­dren

Mar­tin Amis: Mon­ey

Michael Lewis: Mon­ey­ball

Jonathan Lethem, Moth­er­less Brook­lyn

Vir­ginia Woolf, Mrs. Dal­loway

Ele­na Fer­rante, My Bril­liant Friend

J.D. Robb, Naked in Death

Richard Wright, Native Son

Eliz­a­beth Strout, Olive Kit­teridge

Jack Ker­ouac, On the Road

Gabriel Gar­cía Márquez, One Hun­dred Years of Soli­tude

Jeanette Win­ter­son, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Adam John­son, The Orphan Master’s Son

Per Pet­ter­son, Out Steal­ing Hors­es

Octavia E. But­ler, Para­ble of the Sow­er

Mar­jane Satrapi, Perse­po­lis

Annie Dil­lard, Pil­grim at Tin­ker Creek

Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Com­plaint

Gra­ham Greene, The Qui­et Amer­i­can

Daphne du Mau­ri­er, Rebec­ca

Kazuo Ishig­uro, The Remains of the Day

Louise Erdrich, The Round House

Amor Towles, Rules of Civil­i­ty

Alice Munro, Run­away

John Ash­bery, Self-Por­trar­it in a Con­vex Mir­ror

Stephen King, The Shin­ing

Annie Proulx, The Ship­ping News

Rachel Car­son, Silent Spring

Nali­ni Singh, Slave to Sen­sa­tion

Joan Did­ion, Slouch­ing Towards Beth­le­hem

Leslie Fein­berg, Stone Butch Blues

John Cheev­er, The Sto­ries of John Cheev­er

Albert Camus, The Stranger

Ernest Hem­ing­way, The Sun Also Ris­es

Patri­cia High­smith, The Tal­ent­ed Mr. Rip­ley

George Saun­ders, Tenth of Decem­ber

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watch­ing God

Chin­ua Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Cix­in Liu, The Three-Body Prob­lem

Harp­er Lee, To Kill a Mock­ing­bird

Denis John­son, Train Dreams

Hen­ry James, The Turn of the Screw

Milan Kun­dera, The Unbear­able Light­ness of Being

Col­son White­head, The Under­ground Rail­road

Joseph Mitchell, Up in the Old Hotel

Jef­frey Eugenides, The Vir­gin Sui­cides

Jen­nifer Egan, A Vis­it from the Goon Squad

Isabel Wilk­er­son, The Warmth of Oth­er Suns

Alan Moore and Dave Gib­bons, Watch­men

Ray­mond Carv­er, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Don DeLil­lo, White Noise

Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Haru­ki Muraka­mi, The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle

Hilary Man­tel, Wolf Hall

Max­ine Hong Kingston, The Woman War­rior

Via Lit Hub

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New York Pub­lic Library Announces the Top 10 Checked-Out Books of All Time

The New York Pub­lic Library Lets You Down­load 180,000 Images in High Res­o­lu­tion: His­toric Pho­tographs, Maps, Let­ters & More

New York Pub­lic Library Card Now Gives You Free Access to 33 NYC Muse­ums

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s com­pa­ny The­ater of the Apes in New York City this March for her book-based vari­ety series, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain, and the world pre­miere of Greg Kotis’ new musi­cal, I AM NOBODY. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Free Coloring Books from World-Class Libraries & Museums: Download & Color Hundreds of Free Images

There are many roads to well­ness. Med­i­ta­tion, yoga, exer­cise, and healthy diet are all effec­tive ther­a­pies for bring­ing down stress lev­els. But we shouldn’t dis­count an activ­i­ty we once used to while hours away as chil­dren, and that adults by the mil­lions have tak­en to in recent years. Col­or­ing takes us out of our­selves, say experts like Doc­tor of Psy­chi­a­try Scott M. Bea, “it’s very much like a med­i­ta­tive exer­cise.” It relax­es our brain by focus­ing our atten­tion and push­ing dis­tract­ing and dis­turb­ing thoughts to the mar­gins. The low stakes make the activ­i­ty easy and plea­sur­able, qual­i­ties grown-ups don’t get to ascribe to most of what they spend their time doing.

Reduc­ing anx­i­ety is all well and good, but some art and his­to­ry lovers can’t accept just any old mass-mar­ket col­or­ing book. Luck­i­ly, a con­sor­tium of over a hun­dred muse­ums and libraries has giv­en these spe­cial cus­tomers a rea­son to stick with it. Since 2016, the annu­al #Col­or­Our­Col­lec­tions cam­paign, led by the New York Acad­e­my of Med­i­cine (NYAM), has made avail­able, for free, adult col­or­ing books. The range of images offers some­thing for every­one, from ear­ly mod­ern illus­tra­tions like the cat at the top, from Edward Topsell’s His­to­rie of Foure-Foot­ed Beast­es (1607)—courtesy of Trin­i­ty Hall Cam­bridge; to the poignant cov­er of The Suf­frag­ist, below, from July 1919, a month after U.S. women won the right to the vote (from the Hunt­ing­ton Library, Art Muse­um, and Botan­i­cal Gar­dens).

There are, unsur­pris­ing­ly, copi­ous illus­tra­tions of med­ical pro­ce­dures and anato­my, like that below from the Library at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Barcelona. There are vin­tage adver­tise­ments, “canoe-heavy con­tent” from a Cana­di­an muse­um, as Kather­ine Wu reports at Smith­son­ian, and war posters like that fur­ther down of Admi­ral Chester Nimitz ask­ing for “the stuff” to hit “the spot,” i.e. Tokyo –from the Pritzk­er Mil­i­tary Muse­um. “The only com­mon­al­i­ty shared by the thou­sands of prints and draw­ings avail­able on the NYAM web­site is their black-and-white appear­ance: The pages oth­er­wise span just about every taste and illus­tra­tive predilec­tion a col­or­ing con­nois­seur could con­jure.”

One Twit­ter fan point­ed out that the ini­tia­tive pro­vides “a great way to get to know some of the col­lec­tions held in libraries around the world.” Their enthu­si­asm is catch­ing. But note that few of the insti­tu­tions (see full col­lec­tion here) have uploaded a large quan­ti­ty of col­orable images. Most of the “col­or­ing books” con­sist of only a hand­ful of pages, some only one or two. Tak­en alto­geth­er, how­ev­er, the com­bined strength of one hun­dred insti­tu­tions, over four years (see pre­vi­ous years at the links below), adds up to many hun­dreds of pages of col­or­ing fun and relax­ation. If that’s your thing, start here. If you don’t know if it’s your thing, #Col­or­Our­Col­lec­tions is a free (minus the cost of print­er ink and paper), edu­ca­tion­al way to find out. Grab those crayons, oil pas­tels, col­ored pen­cils, etc. and calm down again the way you did when you were six years old.

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

Free Col­or­ing Books from World-Class Libraries & Muse­ums: The New York Pub­lic Library, Bodleian, Smith­son­ian & More

Free Col­or­ing Books from World-Class Libraries & Muse­ums: The Met, New York Pub­lic Library, Smith­son­ian & More

Down­load 150 Free Col­or­ing Books from Great Libraries, Muse­ums & Cul­tur­al Insti­tu­tions: The British Library, Smith­son­ian, Carnegie Hall & More

Down­load Free Col­or­ing Books from 113 Muse­ums

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

Evelyn Waugh’s “Victorian Blood Book”: A Most Strange & Macabre Illustrated Book

Most U.S. read­ers come to know Eve­lyn Waugh as the “seri­ous” writer of the saga Brideshead Revis­it­ed (and inspir­er of the 1981 minis­eries adap­ta­tion). This was also the case in 1954, when Charles Rolo wrote in the pages of The Atlantic that the nov­el “sold many more copies in the Unit­ed States than all of Waugh’s oth­er books put togeth­er.” Yet “among the lit­er­ary,” Waugh’s name evokes “a sin­gu­lar brand of com­ic genius… a riotous­ly anar­chic cos­mos, in which only the out­ra­geous can happen—and when it does hap­pen is out­ra­geous­ly divert­ing.”

The com­ic Waugh’s imag­i­na­tion “runs to… appalling and macabre inven­tions,” incor­po­rat­ing a “lunatic log­ic.” The sources of that imag­i­na­tion now reside at the Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, Austin, who hold Waugh’s man­u­scripts and 3,500-volume library.

The nov­el­ist, the Ran­som Cen­ter notes, “was an invet­er­ate col­lec­tor of things Vic­to­ri­an (and well ahead of most of his con­tem­po­raries in this regard). Undoubt­ed­ly the sin­gle most curi­ous object in the entire library is a large oblong folio decoupage book, often referred to as the ‘Vic­to­ri­an Blood Book.’”

Waugh deeply admired Vic­to­ri­an art, and espe­cial­ly “those nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry ene­mies of tech­nol­o­gy, the Pre-Raphaelites,” writes Rolo. Still, like us, he may have looked upon scrap­books like these as bizarre and mor­bid­ly humor­ous, if also pos­sessed by an unset­tling beau­ty. (One 2008 cat­a­logue described them as “weird” and “rather ele­gant but very scary.”) More than any­thing, they resem­ble the kind of thing a goth teenag­er raised on Mon­ty Python and Emi­ly Dick­in­son might put togeth­er in her bed­room late at night. Such an artist would be car­ry­ing on a long “cher­ished tra­di­tion.”

“Vic­to­ri­an scrap­book­ing,” the Ran­som Cen­ter writes, “was almost exclu­sive­ly the province of women,” a way of orga­niz­ing infor­ma­tion, although “the esthet­ic aspect” could some­times be “sec­ondary.” The “Vic­to­ri­an Blood Book,” how­ev­er, is the work of a pater­fa­mil­ias named John Bin­g­ley Gar­land, “a pros­per­ous Vic­to­ri­an busi­ness­man who moved to New­found­land, went on to become speak­er of its first Par­lia­ment, and returned to Stone Cot­tage in Dorset to end his days.”

Inscribed to Bin­g­ley’s daugh­ter Amy on Sep­tem­ber 1, 1854, the book seems to have been a wed­ding present, made with seri­ous devo­tion­al intent:

How does one “read” such an enig­mat­ic object? We under­stand­ably find ele­ments of the grotesque and sur­re­al. But our eyes view it dif­fer­ent­ly from Vic­to­ri­an ones. As Gar­land’s descen­dants have writ­ten, “our fam­i­ly does­n’t refer to…‘the Blood Book;’ we refer to it as ‘Amy’s Gift’ and in no way see it as any­thing oth­er than a pre­cious reminder of the love of fam­i­ly and Our Lord.”

The “Blood Book“ ‘s actu­al title appears to have been Duren­stein!, which is the Aus­tri­an cas­tle where Richard the Lion­heart­ed was impris­oned. Assem­bled from hun­dreds of engrav­ings, many by William Blake, it appar­ent­ly depicts “the spir­i­tu­al bat­tles encoun­tered by Chris­tians along the path of life and the ‘blood’ to Chris­t­ian sac­ri­fice.” The “blood” is red India ink. The quo­ta­tions sur­round­ing each col­lage, accord­ing to the Gar­land fam­i­ly “are encour­ag­ing one to turn to God as our Sav­iour.”

One can imag­ine the “seri­ous” Waugh look­ing on this strange object with almost rev­er­en­tial affec­tion. He lapsed into a high­ly affect­ed, reac­tionary nos­tal­gia in his lat­er peri­od, announc­ing him­self “two hun­dred years” behind the times. One con­tem­po­rary declared, “He grows more old-fash­ioned every day.” But the sav­age­ly com­ic Waugh would not have been able to approach such a bizarre piece of folk col­lage art with­out an eye toward its use as mate­r­i­al for his own “appalling and macabre inven­tions.”

See a full scanned copy of the “Vic­to­ri­an Blood Book,” and down­load high-res­o­lu­tion images, online at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas, Austin’s Har­ry Ran­som Cen­ter.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

19th-Cen­tu­ry Skele­ton Alarm Clock Remind­ed Peo­ple Dai­ly of the Short­ness of Life: An Intro­duc­tion to the Memen­to Mori

Browse The Mag­i­cal Worlds of Har­ry Houdini’s Scrap­books

A Wit­ty Dic­tio­nary of Vic­to­ri­an Slang (1909)

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

The New York Public Library Announces the Top 10 Checked-Out Books of All Time

Pub­lic libraries are unsung heroes of their com­mu­ni­ties. Many a busy work­ing adult can take their impor­tance for grant­ed. But par­ents of young chil­dren know—the library is a qui­et haven, place of won­der and dis­cov­ery, and free resource for all sorts of edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ences. Giv­en the impor­tance of libraries in kids’ lives, it’s no won­der that six of the top ten most-checked-out books—accord­ing to the New York Pub­lic Library—are children’s books.

The NYPL cal­cu­lat­ed the most checked out books in its his­to­ry in hon­or of its 125th anniver­sary. Giv­en that it hous­es the sec­ond largest col­lec­tion in the U.S., after the Library of Con­gress, and serves mil­lions in the most lin­guis­ti­cal­ly diverse city in the coun­try, its cir­cu­la­tion num­bers give us a rea­son­able sam­pling of near-uni­ver­sal tastes.

These include time­less clas­sics of children’s lit­er­a­ture: Ezra Jack Keats’ Calde­cott-win­ning The Snowy Day tops the list, “in print and in the Library’s cat­a­log con­tin­u­ous­ly since 1962”; The Cat in the Hat comes in at a close sec­ond. Where the Wild Things Are and The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar round out the list of books for the very young.

Where is the stal­wart Good­night Moon, you may ask? Here we have a juicy bit of lore:

By all mea­sures, this book should be a top check­out (in fact, it might be the top check­out) if not for an odd piece of his­to­ry: extreme­ly influ­en­tial New York Pub­lic Library children’s librar­i­an Anne Car­roll Moore hat­ed Good­night Moon when it first came out. As a result, the Library didn’t car­ry it until 1972. That lost time bumped the book off the top 10 list for now. But give it time.

For now, Mar­garet Wise Brown’s 1947 clas­sic receives hon­or­able men­tion. Clas­sic kids’ books cir­cu­late a lot because they’re wide­ly read, but also because they’re short, which leads to more turnover, the Library points out. Length of time in print is also a fac­tor, which makes the pres­ence of Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, pub­lished in 1998, par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive.

  1. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: 485,583 check­outs
  2. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss: 469,650 check­outs
  3. 1984 by George Orwell: 441,770 check­outs
  4. Where the Wild Things Are by Mau­rice Sendak: 436,016 check­outs
  5. To Kill a Mock­ing­bird by Harp­er Lee: 422,912 check­outs
  6. Char­lot­te’s Web by E.B. White: 337,948 check­outs
  7. Fahren­heit 451 by Ray Brad­bury: 316,404 check­outs
  8. How to Win Friends and Influ­ence Peo­ple by Dale Carnegie: 284,524 check­outs
  9. Har­ry Pot­ter and the Sor­cer­er’s Stone by J.K. Rowl­ing: 231,022 check­outs
  10. The Very Hun­gry Cater­pil­lar by Eric Car­le: 189,550 check­outs

Like J.K. Rowling’s mod­ern clas­sic, all of the remain­ing books on the list are novels—save out­lier How to Win Friends and Influ­ence Peo­ple by Dale Carnegie—and all are nov­els read exten­sive­ly by mid­dle and high school stu­dents, a fur­ther sign of the sig­nif­i­cance of pub­lic libraries.

Some stu­dents may only be required to read a small hand­ful of nov­els in their school career, and whether they fol­low through, and maybe go on to read more and more books, and maybe write a few books of their own, may depend upon those nov­els con­stant­ly cir­cu­lat­ing for every­one through insti­tu­tions like the New York Pub­lic Library.

See the full list above and learn more about the project at NPR and the NYPL.

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The New York Pub­lic Library Lets Patrons Check Out Ties, Brief­cas­es & Hand­bags for Job Inter­views

The New York Pub­lic Library Puts Clas­sic Sto­ries on Insta­gram: Start with Alice’s Adven­tures in Won­der­land and Read Kafka’s The Meta­mor­pho­sis Soon

What Are the Most Stolen Books? Book­store Lists Fea­ture Works by Muraka­mi, Bukows­ki, Bur­roughs, Von­negut, Ker­ouac & Palah­niuk

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

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