Summer Books

Frank Lloyd Wright: The Natural House: Table of Contents

A list of the profuse illustrations in “The Natural House.”

Erik Heywood keeps the outstanding blog Books and Bookshelves, where we found a lot of books we wish we’d known about sooner. Erik was nice enough to compile a list for Kaufmann Mercantile. There are peeks into the fascinating mundane of a tragic artist, a chronicle of the realities beyond romantic notions, and a page-turner on what happens when you do your homework with a notebook and a ship. His picks and a few words about reading:

1. The Natural House by Frank Lloyd Wright (pictured above and below) This book, published late in Wright’s life, squeezes a lifetime of thinking about homes and architecture into one small paperback. A fantastic distillation.

The Natural House by Frank Lloyd Wright

“The Natural House” (1974) by Frank Lloyd Wright. 

2. First Person Rural by Noel Perrin Perrin is a widely read and very witty New Yorker with an eye for the unjustly neglected. Like most New Yorkers, he fantasized about leaving the city to chase romantic notions of country life in Vermont. Unlike most New Yorkers, he actually did it. His “Person Rural” books (this is the first of a series) tell the story of living in the country (the nuances of buying a chainsaw, the pains of maple sugaring in the freezing cold) like it is.  Part of the book’s charm is that his careful instructions are aimed at a New York Times reader as if they were actually planning on living in the country, while subtly knowing that they never will.

First Person Rural by Noel Perrin. The first of a series.

Original cover for “First Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer” by Noel Perrin (1990). Photo by Erik Heywood. 

3. The Yankee Peddlers of Early America by J.R. Dolan The loosely settled American frontier depended on much-needed goods being brought to them by the traveling wagonloads of Yankee peddlers. This book gives a very readable account of their lives, their wares, and their rapidly changing times. I think this model is the future of retail.

The Yankee Peddlers of Early America: an affectionate history

“The Yankee Peddlers of Early America” (1968) by J.R. Dolan. Even the frontier needed socks. Photo by Erik Heywood.

4. Datebooks by Eva Hesse A rare look into the life and thinking of a great 20th century artist. Yale have published exact facsimiles of two vinyl-backed datebooks used by the artist in 1964 and 1965.

Eva Hess: Datebooks 1964-1965

Book of translations and transcriptions of Eva Hesse’s Datebooks from 1964/65, which are faithfully reprinted handwriting and all by Yale University Press. 

5. Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander Jerry Mander has a lot of weird and fascinating things to say about the dangers of humans ingesting artificial light from televisions, but I think the most compelling argument for the elimination of TV is summer itself.

The Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television

“Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television” (1978) by Jerry Mander.

6. F. Scott Fitzgerald and His World by Arthur Mizener The OG party monster. This richly illustrated overview, written by Fitzgerald’s first biographer, pulls the reader into the thick of Scott’s sparkling, tragic life.

Arthur Mizener: F. Scott Fitzgerald and His World

“F. Scott Fitzgerald and His World” (1972). The life and times of the man who made mint juleps inseparable from languid summer days. 

7. Darwin and the Beagle by Alan Moorehead A lot of armchair arguing still goes on about the significance of Darwin’s theories, but the 22-year-old naturalist did his homework the old-fashioned way — with a notebook and a ship. This oversized book is an amazing mix of color images and page-turning writing.

Alan Moorhead: Darwin and the Beagle.  A closer glimpse into the life of Darwin

“Darwin and the Beagle” by Alan Moorehead. What if you went on a cruise and your ideas changed the world?

I asked Erik how he knew so much about books and this is what he had to say:

“I wouldn’t really know how to define my relationship to books. I love them, and I love the things that surround them. I have a weakness for bookshops and libraries. I can think about bookshelves endlessly. I love “reading furniture” and publisher’s histories and bookmaker’s supplies and old inscriptions and other people’s bookplates. I love the smell of books. When I was a teenager and everyone else was involved in healthy outdoor exercise, I was usually laying around in the grass with an open book laying on my face, breathing in the scent of the sun-warmed pages until I felt like I was in a daze. It’s still one of my favorite things to do and I don’t ever see doing it with an e-reader.  My favorite activity is working my way around my study, letting one book lead me to another, and leading me to books I’ve never heard of, which sends me out to more bookshops. I guess that’s how I know what I know about books: I’ve learned it from other books. I think it’s the best way.”

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