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Thanks for the Memories

Have you ever considered writing your memoirs but don’t how to do so? If so, you must check out the Staff Picks Display in the second floor library. There you will find many books on where to begin and how to craft your memoir. Keep in mind that memoir writing will stir up a lot of emotions and one minute you’ll be laughing and the next you’ll be crying as you relive certain memories. In a way, writing a memoir is like having a second chance at life. It’s a way of reliving the past – but this time around you know the ending. To help inspire you with your writing, fictional memoirs, graphic novels, and biographies are included in the display. Many more biographies can be found in section 92 on floor 2A of the library.


For those who want to write, Taryn recommends:

Naked, Drunk and Writing by Adair Lara

You may remember Adair Lara from her days as SF Chronicle columnist - she's still hilarious and teaching a class in October on the art of memoir.

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind

Lee Gutkind is a god of creative non-fiction from essays to memoir.

Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy by Dinty W. Moore

Funny and waggish writing advice from a guy (not) named for beef stew.

Handling the Truth: on the writing of memoir by Beth Kephart

The book to read before you start writing.


For those who want to be inspired by another’s memoir, Myles recommends:

Louie, take a look at this! : my time with Huell Howser by Luis Fuerte as told to David Duron
An account of the long running California's Gold television program on California Public Broadcasting from the perspective of the camera operator, Luis Fuerte. I was a fan of the show, but I especially like this book because my grandfather was also camera operator, who worked on CBS shows like Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, and The Young and the Restless. It is interesting to read what one has to say who was not the center of attention but was there for every moment. A must read for every California's Gold fan.


For memoirs in graphic novel format, Erik recommends:

Flying Couch by Amy Kurzweil

Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges


For fictional memoirs, Kristin recommends:

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

Three generations of Polar bears share their story of growing up in East Germany during the cold war. Quirky literature at its best.


And finally, for those who keep diaries, Kristin recommends:

Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris

Forty years of secrets, gossip, and soap opera plots are recorded in David Sedaris’ diary. His wish is for the reader to read the entries at random, not cover to cover.  It will be much more enjoyable that way. And he’s right, flip though the pages and read what catches your eye and you will not be disappointed.




Posted on Oct. 5, 2017 by Kristin McCarthy

Staff Picks: Do You Believe in Magic?

There’s magic in the air of the Mechanics’ Institute Library. Wizards and witches are casting their spells on the shelves of the Staff Picks Display. There are some enchanting books waiting to be read by you. Inspired by Harry Potter’s 20th Anniversary, the staff recommendations focus on witches, wizards, alchemy and magic. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the first in the series) start there and then check out the rest.

Taryn recommends:

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
A fascinating Arthurian tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat!

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
Another vivid Arthurian tale, this one following the magician Merlin's life story.

Magical Mathematics by Persi Diaconis and Ron Graham (793.8 D536)
Behind every good magic trick there's math - get the theory behind the magic!

Heather says:

I absolutely adore V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series – start with A Darker Shade of Magic and read them in order (#2 A Gathering of Shadows; #3 A Conjuring of Light) – this series is compelling, stylish, and takes a refreshingly laissez-faire approach to gender. Its fluidity is part of its unrelenting charm, even as the world(s) crumble around the central quest of the novel. You might (over)simplify it categorically as the love child of Orlando and The Matrix – it’s far more complex than that though, so please don’t (simplify). However you describe it, it’s one of my favorite recent discoveries. Please enjoy!

The Magicians is the first in a trilogy by Lev Grossman, wherein young Quentin Coldwater attends Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy (in New York, not England). The book attempts to circumvent the comparison to Hogwarts by alluding to a Narnia-esque YA novel that Quentin and his friends are obsessed with, but this is definitely a “Hogwarts College” kind of novel, with a little Chronicles of Narnia thrown in, a hint of A Wrinkle in Time, and a soupcon of His Dark Materials… If that sounds appealing to you, dig in to this series!

Erik recommends:

The Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft : eight weird mysteries of powerful women and supernatural skill-- told in words and pictures (741.5 D219)

Lia says:

I LOVE this topic because I read a ton of fantasy books!  Here are some of my favorites featuring witches, wizards, and all that fun stuff:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik - In this Nebula Award winner, a young girl is chosen every 10 years to live with the cold, distant wizard called The Dragon.  Uprooted follows a young girl named Agnieszka, and she's sure that her best friend, Katia, will be chosen by the Dragon.  After all, Katia is the bravest, smartest, most beautiful girl in town.  But when the Dragon comes down from his tower, it's not Katia who he chooses.  In this clever, beautifully written novel Novik plays with traditional fantasy tropes, along with an interesting take on Baba Yaga stories.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines - Who could resist a book about a magical librarian?  Libriomancer follows the adventures of Isaac Vainio (librarian by day, wizard by night), who creates magic by pulling objects out of books.  In this fast paced urban fantasy, Isaac has to work together with a sword-wielding dryad to find the vampires who've kidnapped Gutenberg (yes, that Gutenberg).  This book is pure fun.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher - Butcher is one of my favorite authors, and I can't get enough of his novels about Harry Dresden, wizard and private investigator.  Working closely with the Chicago P.D., Harry Dresden investigates the oddball cases no one wants to deal with - or believe in.  In this first book of the series, the Chicago P.D. calls him in on a grisly double murder committed with black magic.  Storm Front is a beautiful marriage of urban fantasy and hard-boiled detective novels.

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin  - I firmly believe Jemisin is the best fantasy writer alive today.  In The Fifth Season she introduces us to a land called The Stillness, a continent rocked by apocalyptic earthquakes.  The only people who can stop the earthquakes are Orogenes, people born with the ability to control the near daily shakes.  In this Hugo Award winner, Jemisin confronts issues of race, power, and the things people will do to survive. 

Deb recommends:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (children's)
2017 Newbery Medal Winner
An enchanting book full of magic for those who love classic fairytales.

The Witch's Guide to Cooking with Children by Keith McGowan (children's)
"I love children. Eating them, that is. So begins this funny, nail-biting adventure."

Well Witched by Frances Hardinge (children's)
Ever wonder what happens to all those wishes made with a coin toss into a wishing well? 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis (children's)
This classic tale by C.S. Lewis will entice you to read all of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia series.

Kristin recommends:

Alchemy of Herbs –Transform Everyday Ingredients into Foods and Remedies That Heal by Rosalee de la Foret (615.321 F718) - Create your own magic in the kitchen and put that extra garlic and ginger you may have on hand at home to good use. This book has easy straight forward recipes that will help cure what ails you.

Posted on Aug. 30, 2017 by Kristin McCarthy

The Summer of Love

During the summer of 1967, if you had long hair, were suspicious of the government, and rejected consumerist values, more than likely you were in San Francisco taking part in what is now referred to as “the Summer of Love” – hippies and marijuana took over Haight Street and the Panhandle; great emphasis was placed on sharing and community; and music festivals, poetry readings and religious or meditative practices were the norm for this large group of individuals participating in counterculture activities.

Fast-forward fifty years to 2017. Many San Franciscans are (still) suspicious of the government and meditate daily; marijuana is legal; and the sharing community is now a for-profit industry dominated by companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. Regardless of the Summer of Love’s impact on the city and today’s political and economic woes, San Francisco is still a magical place to live and be part of. To read more about Haight Street, hippies, the Vietnam Peace Movement and the Summer of Love, check out the Staff Picks display.

Suggested titles include:

Season of the Witch by David Talbot

A fascinating read about the Summer of Love and the two decades that followed it

Fall of Amercia: Poems of these States 1965-1971 by Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg’s stunning volume of poetry, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry in 1973

Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by Buckminster Fuller

A tour de force of the mid-twentieth century, a pastiche set of thinking tools for handling “spaceship Earth’s” finite resources

Cannabis Cocktails by Warren Bobrow

Combining cocktails and cannabis, a hot new trend; why not learn how to be a part of it?

Midnight at the Palace by Pam Tent

The tale of how San Francisco’s counterculture drew Pam to the city and her life as a Cockette

Summer of Love by Joel Selvin

The inside story of LSD, rock & roll, free love and high times in the wild West

The Gang That Wouldn’t Write Straight by Marc Weingarten

Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion and the New Journalism Revolution

American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation: How Indian Spirituality Changed the West by Philip Goldberg

Indian spirituality in the Western world


Be sure to “turn on, tune in, drop out” at the 2nd Floor Library; check out the Summer of Love Staff Picks display.

Posted on Jul. 20, 2017 by Kristin McCarthy

Springtime in Paris

Don’t you wish you could be spending springtime in Paris?  I do!!  Unfortunately, the closest I can get to Paris this year will be through books and my imagination. Therefore, the current selection of Staff Picks will feature titles set in Paris. As Audrey Hepburn once said “Paris is always a good idea”, and it seems like the staff at the Mechanics’ Institute agrees with her because there are lots of great suggestions this month. Pick up a title or two from the 2nd floor display and transport yourself to The City of Light. If you are lucky enough to be going there yourself this year..... Please Take Me With You!!

Kristin recommends:

(700.92 L265)  Paris portraits : stories of Picasso, Matisse, Gertrude Stein, and their circle by Harriet Lane Levy  -  What fun it must have been to attend one of Gertrude Stein’s salons and to have cocktails with Hemmingway while admiring a Matisse painting or trying to figure out what it was about Picasso’s art that made it unsightly yet alluring at the same time. The stories in this book give us an insider’s look into that salon.

(641.01 L525) The sweet life in Paris : delicious adventures in the world's most glorious - and perplexing - city by David Lebovitz  - Pastry chef and cookbook author, David Lebovitz’s trials and tribulations about moving to Paris and learning how to cook in a foreign kitchen. If you enjoy his often humorous adventures in the Parisian kitchen, be sure to check out his blog.


And to quote Heather, “Please don’t ask me to tell you what my favorite thing about Paris is (it’s the multitude of carousels, mais oui). There are so many things to love, from the fashion to the food, to the language itself. Here are a few of my picks to transport you to la belle ville this Spring: 

(810.8 A513)  Americans in Paris : a literary anthology by Adam Gopnik  -  This anthology distills 300 years of writings by Americans about a city that captures our imagination, has, in the past, embodied our revolutionary spirit, and continues to influence our ideas about art, fashion, and culture. From Thomas Jefferson to Cole Porter, this mosaic of impressions attempts to show Americans’ strong reactions to the city of light.

(641.865 P232)  Paris patisseries : history, shops, recipes  photography by Christian Sarramon ; foreword by Pierre Hermé  - Ladurée is my personal favorite pastry shop in Paris, but you might also consider the delectations of La Pâtisserie des Rêves, Des Gâteaux et du Pain, or Café Pouchkine. Pictures pretty enough to eat!

(391 M334)  Queen of fashion : what Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber  -  Okay, this one’s not strictly about Paris, since Mme. Antoinette lived at Versailles, but her avante-garde sartorial selections would influence not only the Paris fashion scene of her own era – but, I would argue, established Paris as the fashion capital of the world. This is an unusual biography – a biography of clothing, and how the young Dauphine used her wardrobe to cement her political position in an era of upheaval.

(920.72 L769)  Paris and her remarkable women  by Lorraine Liscio  -  Learn about sixteen exceptional women whose lives intersected with Paris in remarkable ways and whose eventual fame depended on the city itself.

(447 J787)  Parisienne French : chic phrases, slang and style  by Rhianna Jones  -  From the publisher: “Parisienne French will have you cultured, chic and, most importantly, casually chatting with locals as if you were raised in the City of Lights. With refined phrases to express yourself at the Musée d’Orsay, posh vocabulary for catching up on this season’s couture fashion and hip slang for flirting at the hottest nightclub, you’ll effortlessly navigate the social scenes of Paris. Your new eloquent French will win over any vrai patriote, who will warmly welcome you to la vie parisienne.” I couldn’t agree more.

(305.4 B491)   How to be Parisian wherever you are : love, style, and bad habits  by Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, Sophie Mas, Caroline De Maigret  -  This book is full of high comedy – showing how the ability to take oneself unseriously is a hallmark of the French je ne sais quoi.

Taryn recommends:

(944.36 D326)  How Paris became Paris : the invention of the modern city  by Joan E. DeJean  -   What makes Paris so wonderful? Smart urban planning!

(944.36 R631)  Parisians an adventure history  by Graham Robb  -  An interesting collection of historical vignettes about the world's favorite city.

(FIC)  The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola  -  Another extraordinary installment in Zola's Rougon-Macquart series series.  This one hits you square in the stomach!

Paris is also one of Diane’s favorite cities and some of her favorite fiction books set in that beautiful city are:

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
The Paris Wife by Paula McClain
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sou is hoping to find the time to read  The Hundred Foot Journey  by Richard Morias

Erik’s Graphic Novel suggestions are:

(741.5 M214)  750 years in Paris by Vincent Mahe  and

(741.5 P971)  Cruising through the Louvre  by David Prudhomme

Erik also suggests some music to go with your reading:

Cafe de Paris [sound recording] : 75 grands succes francais  (CD Pop Cafe)

Rendezvous à Paris [sound recording]  (CD Jazz Rendezvous)

Chet Baker in Paris [sound recording] : a selection from the legendary Barclay sessions, 1955-1956  (CD Jazz Baker)

And in case you were wondering, in Paris in 2015 there were:

  • 1,784 bakeries
  • 1,124 bars and
  • 9,054 open terraces (of a bar, café, or restaurant)
  • If you were to spend each day of your life visiting a different one it would take 30 years to see them all!

Au Revoir!


Posted on Apr. 10, 2017 by Kristin McCarthy

Staff Picks: In Honor of the DaDa Bar

The Mechanics’ Institute is pleased to have as its newest tenant The Dada Bar! In anticipation of its grand opening, this round of Staff Picks will feature books about bars, drinks, and lushes, or written by lushes.

Soused authors suggested by Taryn include:

Dorothy Parker – famous for her wit, wisecracks, and blistering satire, Parker was also a noted drinker, claiming that, “ I like to have a martini, two at the most, after three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host”.

John Cheever, brilliant chronicler of American suburbia, was a champion drinker. He took to the bottle to salve pain caused by self-loathing and doubt over his sexuality.

Edgar Allen Poe - Poe fans are obsessed with his use of alcohol and opium. Were they his twin muses? Did they contribute to his death? The jury is out!

Erik suggests graphic novels that do not give you a happy buzz such as:

Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver, and

The Fade Out. Act One by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips

Kristin's book of choice is Ripe Was the Drowsy Hour by J.E. Chamberlin in which the author explores the culture and society of Oscar Wilde‘s time. “The fascination with the perverse and paradoxical and with the complex interrelationships between sorrow and joy, pleasure and pain, and beauty and truth are Chamberlin’s subjects in this engrossing work.”

You can also pick up one the lesser known pieces of works by these famous hard working/drinking authors, such as:

William Faulkner’s Knight's Gambit - six mysteries set in Yoknapatawpha county Mississippi.

Truman Capote’s Other Voices Other Rooms - Capote’s own semi-autobiographical coming of age novel.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tales of the Jazz Age - a collection of short stories taking place in the early 1920s.

The Stephen King Companion. “A book by book look at King’s books. These write ups tell the story behind the story.“  Complete with illustrations.

And here are a few drinks of choice by select authors:

Edgar Allen Poe - Eggnog. Poe’s eggnog was a family specialty passed down through generations.

Raymond Chandler - Gin Gimlet

Ian Fleming – Gin Martini

William Faulkner – Mint Julep

F. Scott Fitzgerald - Gin Rickey

Stephen King - Beer!

Hunter S. Thompson - Wild Turkey, and on occasion with Ginger Beer.

Truman Capote - Large Vodka and orange, referred to as his orange drink.

Oscar Wilde - Iced Champagne

Enjoy your reading and hope to see you soon at The Dada Bar!


Posted on Dec. 19, 2016 by Kristin McCarthy

Staff Picks: SF Literary Scene

One of the greatest things about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is its literary scene.  There are a number of independent bookstores, used bookstores, public libraries and, of course, the best membership library around, the Mechanics’ Institute.  Also, many wordsmiths call San Francisco and its expanse home.  As a way to honor and thank those authors who do live in the Bay Area, the current Staff Picks display will feature their works. A short list of selected authors can be found on top of the display bookcase. For more titles and authors please see one of our friendly and knowledgeable librarians.

Titles suggested by staff members  include:

Heather’s pick,

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
This genre-bending tale will make you laugh, will make you marvel, and will make you think. It starts off as a fantasy novel with young protagonists (think, Lev Grossman's Magicians series without the excessive exposition), but it then shifts sharply -- here's the bending of genre I mentioned -- into the characters' future, in which a billionaire is plotting to send 10% of Earth's inhabitants to space...

...but I don't want to give away too much of the plot! Trust me, this book is not your run of the mill [insert-genre-here] story -- it's wry, it's complex and original, with great dialogue and a charming cast of characters. One reviewer compared the book to something William Gibson might write, but I enjoyed this more than anything I've read by Gibson. Check it out, and you may come away with another favorite author. Charlie Jane Anders is definitely a mainstay on my must-read list!

Taryn’s picks,

As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel by Rudy Rucker
Rudy Rucker is a writer/mathematician who is a computer scientist and master of science-fiction who received the Philip K. Dick Award twice. What's he doing writing an historical novel? You'll just have to find out!

Mary : a novel by Janis Cooke Newman
A juicy portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln - a woman hungry for love, shopping, and a little understanding. Very much "fictionalized" but still fun!

Richard Brautigan's Trout fishing in America, The pill versus the Springhill mine disaster, and In watermelon sugar
Mind blowing - try it!

Erik picks two works by Gene Luen Yang. A graphic novelist from Oakland: Boxers and Saints.

Kristin’s pick, Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond. A foggy beach, a lost child, life changing in an instant, all are major factors in this enthralling story from Michelle Richmond.

Sou’s pick is Epitaph for a Peach by David Mas Masumoto. She loved every page of this book!

Posted on May. 23, 2016 by Kristin McCarthy

Staff Picks - All Things Irish


In conjunction with the Voices of the Easter Rising 1916 event taking place on April 28th in the 2nd Floor Library, April’s Staff Picks are related to all things Irish. Works by Colm Tóibín, James Joyce, Roddy Doyle, Tana French, and others are on the Staff Pick’s display waiting to be read. Need some inspiration? How about:

Beowulf: a new verse translation/ Seamus Heaney. “Seamus Heaney rocked the world of epic poetry with this new translation. His personality and gift with words make this ancient tale shine!”. Recommended by Taryn.

The Death of the Heart / Elizabeth Brown. “Likened to Henry James, this novel is one of Bowen’s best. An orphan has her innocence dashed upon coming to live with relatives in London. Prepare yourself for a deft psychological character study and exposé of what lies beneath the superficial lives of the well-to-do.” Another great pick from Taryn.

If Detective Fiction is your thing, then try Benjamin Black’s Christine Falls. Complex characters in a dark suspenseful plot will keep you interested until the final page. Benjamin Black is also the nom de plume of John Banville who won the Booker Prize for his novel The Sea, in which the main character deals with love, loss, and the power of memory. Read them both and see which style of Banville’s writing you prefer.

The armchair traveler may want to sit back and relax with a Guinness and explore Ireland from the comfort of their own home with a copy of Christopher Somerville’s Walking in Ireland: 50 walks through the heart of Ireland.

For the Foodie, Pat Whelan’s An Irish Butcher Shop inspires chefs to make all kinds of Irish entrées and sides, as well as the traditional corned beef and cabbage dish.

For the Fairy Tale lover, check out Oscar Wilde’s The Fisherman and His Soul and Other Fairy Tales.  A collection of short stories that are deceptively simple and teach us to treat others with love and kindness, a must read for everyone.

Speaking of Oscar Wilde, we at the Mechanics’ Institute, thought it would be fun to imagine what books the author of The Picture of Dorian Gray and ultimate narcissist would be reading in this day and age. Here’s what we came up with:

The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell.

The Wizard of Oz and Other Narcissists: Coping with the One Way Relationship in Love, Work and Family by Eleanor Payson.

The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weissberger. The ultimate self-interested boss, she makes assistants and designers cower with just a look.

Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was obsessed with the frivolous narcissism of the jazz age. Many of his characters are co-dependent and unhealthy for each other.

American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis. Patrick Bateman is infamous for his psychopathic selfishness and murderous cruelty.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Astrid’s tale of her eccentric, tyrannical mother and all around cold parent.

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Tom Ripley is a narcissistic sociopath scorned by the jet-setting crowd. He will stop at nothing to fit in with that crowd.

Middlemarch by George Eliot. Rosamund, the materialistic sister in Middlemarch nearly destroys her husband.

All of these titles will be available to check out from the Staff Pick’s Display in the 2nd Floor Library.

Posted on Apr. 6, 2016 by Kristin McCarthy

Staff Picks: Love Notes


Love is in the air at the Mechanics' Institute. February’s Staff Picks are devoted to love and romance.

Heather recommends The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.

“The fact that the great Martin Scorsese - known for films teeming with violence, crime, and gang identity - translated this book into a film should tell you all you need to know about the very real dangers of falling in love with the wrong person during the Gilded Age.  This romance, set in high society 1870's New York, is masterfully written, and the plot twists and turns like an episode of whichever Shonda Rimes show is your favorite right now. I like my romance with a dash of bitters, so if you do too, pick up The Age of Innocence, and be thankful that you can marry (or divorce) whomever you want to.”

Taryn recommends The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

“Tight corsets and Victorian muffled passion - seriously, one of the best novels I've read.”

Heather and Kristin both recommend How the French Invented Love by Marilyn Yalom.

“ A seductive and fascinating read on how the French concept of love developed and changed over the years while never losing the unique elements that make romance in France different from anywhere else in the world.”

Curious about the science behind what makes us love?  Checkout Why we love : the nature and chemistry of romantic love by Helen Fisher. Helen offers radical new answers to the age-old questions: "What is love?", "Why do we fall in love?" and, "How can we keep love alive?"

Don’t have time to read? Love graphic novels? Check out Gareth Hinds' adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, The most excellent and lamentable tragedy of Romeo & Juliet : a play by William Shakespeare. Classic comics more to your liking? Try Walt Disney’s Valentine’s Classics.

Into memoirs? Try Gloria Vanderbilt’s It Seemed Important at the Time. Read about Gloria’s steamy affairs and decided for yourself if Truman Capote’s character, Holly Golightly, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was based on her.

There are plenty more lovely books to choose from.... stop by the Staff Picks Display on the second floor library and find your own true love!


Posted on Feb. 16, 2016 by Kristin McCarthy

Staff Picks: Artists & Architects


As the Fall Arts Season begins in the Bay Area, the staff at the Mechanics' Institute shares with its members their favorite books on Artists and Architects. If you can’t make it out to your favorite museum this fall or are looking to learn more about your favorite artists, check out the September Staff Picks display.

Kevin recommends The Guerrilla Girls’ Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art (704.042 G935)

The Guerilla Girls are a group of artist activists who rethink art history from a feminist perspective. They present their message with intelligence, wit, and guerrilla masks!

Craig recommends The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett (92 W275)

Published in the late 1980s just after Warhol’s unexpected death, this hefty work is over 800 pages long. It’s a fascinating look inside the head of the somewhat mysterious personality. This book is a veritable who’s who (and where) of the 1980s. For example, Warhol comments on Bianca and Mick Jagger’s ugly split, Truman Capote’s passing, crushes on rock stars, celebrity parties, and catty remarks about friends and foes, all observed and written about with Warhol’s trademark deadpan charm.


Heather recommends Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse by Stanley Meisler (759.4 M515)

You may know something about the School of Paris, a group of painters and sculptors-including greats such as Modigliani and Chagall-who emigrated between the two World Wars and dominated the Montparnasse art scene. But have you heard of Chaim Soutine? Many School of Paris painters considered him to be their most talented contemporary. Soutine was intense, the archetypal tortured artist, and this shows in his demented landscapes, which first captured my attention during a visit to Musee de L’Orangerie in Paris. This book explores the short, tumultuous life of one of the most quietly influential artists of the Twentieth Century. You can see one of his paintings closer to home at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (The Russian, Portrait of Woman), or ask a librarian to help you find images of my favorite landscapes, “Arbre Couche”, online.

Taryn recommends Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty by Mark A. Wilson (720.92 M84w)

In this gorgeously illustrated book you’ll learn so much about the talented lady who recently won AIA’s Gold Medal for excellence.

and Bernard Maybeck: Architect of Elegance by Mark A. Wilson (720.92 M46wi)

This author, who is a regular speaker at The Mechanics’ Institute hits a home run with this beautiful volume.

and Enamored with Place: As Woman and As Architect by Wendy Bertrand (720.92 B551)

Written by a Mechanics Institute member, this is a good read, memoir, travel, architecture and interesting relationships all in one book!

Diane recommends, for the fiction readers, Loving Frank by Nancy Horan and The Women by T.C. Boyle.

Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect of renown, who built houses of enduring beauty and style –many of which I have toured and loved. However, he was also a man who was selfish, egotistical, and a womanizer. The novels, Loving Frank and The Women explore Wright’s fascinating personal life through the women who loved him.

and Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Louis Comfort Tiffany designed and created beautiful stained glass creations (windows, lamps, etc.) that were first featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Unknown until the late 20th Century, Clara Driscoll was the actual designer behind many of the iconic Tiffany lampshade designs including the Daffodil and Dragonfly designs. Clara and Mr.Tiffany relates Clara’s story and her relationship with Mr. Tiffany in the early 1900’s as a valuable, but dispensable (because she was a woman), artist in the Tiffany workshop.

Kristin also recommends for the fiction readers The Great Man by Kate Christensen

This book focuses on the mostly female survivors of a fictional New York painter whose art and life were built around dominating women. In different ways, all of these women come to terms with what the painter turned their lives into. It’s a bittersweet read.

and The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

An unusual and interesting historical novel based on the creation of what is considered to be one of the finest medieval tapestries of the same name (Lady and the Unicorn). Tracy Chevalier gives her readers a sense of place and insight into the complex world of tapestry weaving.

Posted on Sep. 14, 2015 by Kristin McCarthy