Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
and Chicago’s Mansions by John Graf
Lisa Brown, Museum Guide: Loving Frank is a fictional account of the love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick during the early 1900s. I am reading it as slowly as possible because I don’t want it to end.
I also have several books of the Images of America series and I always seem to refer to Chicago’s Mansions by John Graf. In its description, it says: “While the city’s mansions are significant because of who built them, they are just as important because of who lived in them.” The book provides photos and descriptions of mansions of the South, North, and West Sides and lost mansions that unfortunately were either demolished or destroyed.
A Summer of Hummingbirds by Christopher Benfey
Samantha Chmelik, Museum Guide: Benfey’s book is part biography, part analysis of the creative process, and part social history. He explores the impact of post-Civil War life on American art and artists, including Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Reading it, I learned how artists incorporated their lives in their works.
Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland
Lise Dube-Scherr, Museum Director: I’m more than halfway through Clara and Mr. Tiffany, a historical novel with Clara Driscoll—one of Tiffany Studios’s most creative and prolific, yet little-known, designers—as its main character. It’s a good, light summer read.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
and Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
Rachel Janssen, Museum Guide: Both books are about the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Girl in Hyacinth Blue is great; it traces a fictional Vermeer painting back to the moment of the painting’s inspiration. Girl with a Pearl Earring is wonderful, too—it tells an imagined story of the creation of a real portrait by Vermeer.
Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture, by Michael Kammen
Lindsey Howald Patton, Web Editor & Writer: I picked up this book in the months after the latest flurry of Frank Gehry-designed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial controversy, so the first chapter—called “Monuments, Memorials, and Americanism”—was especially relevant. I was fascinated with Kammen’s accounts of public uproars about other D.C. memorials, landmarks I accept without a second thought, like the Greek temple-esque Lincoln monument or the minimalistic Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Mia Lopez, Museum Guide: Summer can be a great time to revisit the classics, and one of my favorites is The Great Gatsby. Widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, it tells the story of wealth and prosperity just after the Gilded Age and is full of drama and intrigue. The book has been adapted into a film premiering later this year, so be sure to read it soon!
Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson
Beth Milasius, Guest Services Assistant: Niall Ferguson is examining the economic development of Western versus Eastern culture from B.C. onward. Not exactly what you consider light summer reading, but I’m reading it now!
Bel Canto by Ann Pratchett
Jen Stapf, Membership & Marketing Coordinator: Bel Canto is a fictional book about a great opera soprano, Roxanne, who is performing at the home of a South American country’s VP when a group of terrorists take everyone hostage. It obviously caught my attention due to the opera singer thrown in the middle of this dangerous scenario. Moreover, I love how opera was a central theme throughout the entire novel. And to top it off, Lyric Opera of Chicago has commissioned this opera to be written and it will debut in Chicago in 2015.
What books are you reading this summer about art, culture, Chicago, design, history, or architecture?