We queried our growing community of Facebook friends for suggestions on art and museum-related books that would make for engaging summer reading. If you are in the market for a book to tuck into your carry-on bag or beach tote, perhaps one of these will strike your fancy.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and has received “rave reviews from antiques folks” for its tale of an orphaned boy who is drawn into the art world by a captivating painting that reminds him of his deceased mother. (Little, Brown & Co., 2013, $30)
Killer Stuff and Tons of Money: An Insider’s Look at the World of Flea Markets, Antiques, and Collecting by Maureen Stanton was recommended as a “quick and fun read [that offers a] good look in the trenches of the antiques market.” (Penguin, 2012, $16)
The Hare with the Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal chronicles de Wall’s inheritance of Japanese netsuke figurines that testify to his family’s trails in Nazi-occupied Austria. The curator of ceramics at the Victoria & Albert Museum, de Wall brings a insider’s prospective to this “funny and elegant” memoir. (Picador, 2011, $16)
At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson “gives a history of all of the domestic objects that we take for granted” and is a “great mix of popular and accessible material culture” with “some really insightful nuggets” for those in the field. (Anchor, 2011, $15.95)
Up and Down Stairs: History of the Country House Servant by Jeremy Musson is a “great read” and a “perfect primer for those venturing to Winterthur” to see the Downton Abbey costume exhibition. (John Murray, 2010, $15.95)
Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova weaves art history and painting together in fine fashion in a novel that describes a psychiatrist and amateur artist who provides care to a renowned painter convicted ofattacking a canvas at the National Gallery of Art. (Back Bay Books, 2010, $15.95)
Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World by Timothy Brook is a “quick, evocative book” that uses a selection Vermeer’s paintings to “observe the emergence of the modern, interconnected world.” (Bloomsbury Press, 2008, $18)
The Architecture of Diplomacy: The British Ambassador’s Residence in Washington by Anthony Sheldon and Daniel Collins describes the beautifully wrought building that is the capital’s “closest thing to Downton Abbey.” (Flammarion, 2014, $65)
Start with a House, Finish with a Collection by Leslie Anne Miller with Alexandra Kirtley may have too much physical heft for an ideal getaway read, but the content is well worth the weight. For those of us who enjoy reading about the inner workings of collectors’ minds as they progress along the path of acquisitions, this is an exceptional opportunity to gain insight into the formation of a top-flight antiques collection.
While the book is finely wrought and features the beautiful photography of Gavin Ashworth, one would be remiss to dismiss it as a mere coffee table book. Not only is Ms. Miller’s commentary sincere, entertaining, and engaging, the addition of Ms. Kirtley’s catalogue entries on select works from the collection provides noteworthy value and interest for the Americana scholar.
Ms. Miller, the daughter and granddaughter of collectors, shared this journey with her “husband, collecting partner and best friend” Richard Worley, who “grew up antique deprived” yet shared in building a “warm, wonderful home” that they “love and live in comfortably.” You will surely admire their accomplishments while also sharing Ms. Miller’s conclusion that the greatest benefit of dedicating twenty-seven years to an avocation is the “treasure trove of experiences and relationships that are important in our lives.”
Perhaps the members of the Decorative Arts Trust will have the good fortune of visiting Ms. Miller and Mr. Worley’s remarkable collection during a future symposium! (Scala, 2014, $75.00)