Books that Made me a Historian

Elly Truitt

Elly Truitt

Long before I even knew what a historian was or did, I was fascinated by stories about the past. My grandparents indulged my endless questions about their lives in the 1920s and 1930s and my parents and older siblings made sure I had an endless supply of diverse reading material at all times. One of those books was a version of “Sleeping Beauty” illustrated in the style of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, the famous fifteenth-century Book of Hours illuminated by the Limbourg brothers. The strange clothes and the rich colors in the book captivated me, as did the idea that people might have lived in castles and spun their own thread.
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Capturing notes in words – the books that shaped the music critic

Lloyd Sachs at Grimey's.jpg

Lloyd Sachs at Grimey’s, Nashville, TN

Being that I’ve spent a good portion of my life writing about music, particularly jazz and rock, you would think I’d be able to cite any number of music books that influenced or inspired me – that convinced me it was not impossible to capture notes in words, a task Thelonious Monk (allegedly) said was about as easy as dancing about architecture.
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Coming Home to Memoir

Denise Low.jpgTeachers suggested many books for me to read when I was young, so I slogged through a canonical list of Austen, Dickens, Eliot, Hawthorne, Melville, and Maugham. These are all worthy should reads. They forced me to imagine life beyond my small town of Emporia, Kansas. The conventions of fiction—Aristotle’s unity of plot, catharsis—became familiar.

Finally, though, I took charge of my own reading list and discovered memoirs. These enraptured me. Their narrators are intimate and true, not invented characters with exaggerated beady eyes and rumpled top hats. Memoirs now populate my private shelf of books to reread.
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Finding a Place for Monstrous Nature in the Environmental Movement


Joe Heumann & Robin Murray

Even though we grew up in different regions we have always loved the natural world, hiking and camping with scouts and climbing neighbors’ trees as children. But the books we read promoted respect for animals more than a broader vision of the environment. We both fell in love with monkeys after reading Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with the Circus, horses after reading The Black Stallion and wild animals after discovering Wild Animals of North America. But as researchers, two books stood out as guides for real interdependent relationships with nonhuman nature: Ellen Swallow Richards’ Sanitation in Daily Life (1907) and Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There (1949). Continue Reading ›

Bookshop of the Month: March

In the beginning, Clarke’s Bookshop, Cape Town, started out with a shelf of new books on South Africa or published in South Africa – now that’s the main focus. Spread over two storeys are new books either published in South Africa, written by South Africans or about South Africa, as well as a second hand mix of general stuff – not just about South Africa.

Find out more about our bookshop of the month for March 

Bookshop of the Month: February

The 1853 Gallery at Salts Mill opened in 1987 just over a year after the textile mill closed and started selling an ever-expanding range of books from 1988. It was renovated by a handful of people including the owner Jonathan Silver, scouring the walls, repainting, restoring and filling it with beautiful furniture, Burmantoftsceramics and, of course, David Hockney’s pictures.

Salts Mill is an intriguing blend of both gallery and retail space; we play beautiful music down there, and keep the space full of vases of lilies. I’m not sure there is anywhere else that carries this off as well as we do. It’s a wonderful building to work in with, I think, the best views of any bookshop in the world, out on to the Moors. It’s hard on your shoes though, with all the stairs and stone floors, basically we work in a castle! Check out February’s bookshop of the month, Salts Mill, Saltaire.