Barrett Barrera Projects Staff Recommend Books Now Available at Left Bank Books
Whether treating yourself or a loved one, a book is a great way to explore new worlds from the safe and cozy comfort of your own home this season. Supporting the St. Louis community by buying local is icing on the cake! This holiday season, Barrett Barrera Projects staff share their recommendations for books that are currently available on the shelves or through order and in-store pick up at the Central West End literary linchpin Left Bank Books.
Susan Barrett, President
I love understanding perceptions, especially of where we feel safe, happy, in sync in the physical world, which was a draw for me to study architecture. I started Wayfinding: the Science & Mystery of How Humans Navigate the World by M. R. O’Connor in February of this year when I was traveling in the Arctic. I put it down and reread it during quarantine. What a different world we exist in. Exploring the earth seems a faraway luxury now. This book has a double meaning for me now that exploration comes from within: a perceptible reality. Understandings of conceptual physics or spirituality have come to the forefront while we rest in place. It reminds me of a chaos theory of that which is being observed is actually doing the observations. How will we collectively understand and explore our earth once we physically can again?
Kelly Peck, Vice President
I recently ordered Mary Wollsonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein from Left Bank Books. As a parent and as also having read some other nonfiction books that reference Frankenstein and the author’s personal tragedies, I wanted to revisit the story. To me, that this story came from a woman and mother is part of its allure and enduring quality. Plus, who doesn’t love a bit of the supernatural around Halloween (by far a favorite holiday in my household).
Bridget Melloy, Senior Director, projects+gallery
Jessica Baran, Director of Curatorial & Program Development
We’re fortunate to have two of the most remarkable small literary presses — Dorothy, a publishing project and Flood Editions — based here in St. Louis. I’d recommend anything from their catalogues, but their new releases this Fall are particularly remarkable.
From Dorothy: the English translations of French writer Natasha Leger’s experimental novels Exposition and The White Dress. The final two books in a triptych contemplating the subject-position and subjectivity of women artists, “Exposition” focuses on the life of Countess of Castiglione, an early experimenter with the photographic self-portrait and quite possibly the inventor the modern selfie; while “The White Dress” considers the harrowing final performance and death of Italian artist Pippa Bacca.
From Flood Editions: Knees of a Natural Man: The Selected Poetry of Henry Dumas. In 1968 Dumas, a poet now considered to be a critical figure in the Black Arts Movement, was tragically shot and killed by a transit police officer at the age of 33. His small but poignant oeuvre was reassessed posthumously — largely due to the efforts of East St. Louis poet laureate Eugene Redmond, who provides this books’ introduction — and deemed by such luminaries as Toni Morrison as “genius.” This volume re-presents this long out-of-print work at a moment that couldn’t feel more timely.
Nic Cherry, Director of Facilities & Logistics
This one is less of a recommendation, and more of sharing of excitement about The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction. I have been a longtime fan of his work from the early Sandman days (and the very personally influential Mr. Punch, take that as you will), and I’ve adored the groundbreaking American Gods, which has a special resonance as it takes place in the corner of Wisconsin where I grew up (and where the English Author now resides). I don’t know how I missed this, because this release came as a surprise to me when I discovered it on the new releases page of The Left Bank Books website.
I am excited to dive in over the weekend and immerse myself with this series of short narratives. I imagine The Neil Gaiman Reader is best accompanied with a cup of Celestial Seasons Tension Tamer Tea or perhaps a seasonal Hot Toddy… I encourage you to grab a copy and enjoy with me.
Claire Grothe, Research & Systems Manager
The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart is a mystery set in Enlightenment London, and features two female detectives investigating the murder of an acclaimed collector of natural history specimens. Elsa is a St. Louis-based mystery writer with a gift for creating amazing historical whodunits. Her first trilogy, the Li Du series, takes place in eighteenth-century China and is also available.
Eric Repice, Preparator
I highly recommend Left Bank Books staff pick/anti-racist resource, The Last Children of Mill Creek by Vivian Gibson, who grew up in Mill Creek Valley, “a working-class neighborhood of St. Louis that was razed in 1959 to build a highway, an act of racism disguised under urban renewal as ‘progress.’” I have been fascinated by this history since moving to St. Louis. The Last Children of Mill Creek focuses on the everyday lived experiences of the author’s African-American community. It is about the survival of ordinary people in the face of systemic racism.
Margaret Rieckenberg, Associate Curator
A book I have recently found both delightful and casually educational is Anatomies: A Cultural History of the Human Body by Hugh Aldersey-Williams. Written in a disjointed style that lends itself to extended reading of a few sections at a time followed by subsequent pondering, Anatomies provides chapter upon chapter—broken up by body part or region—of enlightening anecdotes that explore how the human body has been perceived throughout history, and especially within the context of the arts. The breadth of topics is vast and would appeal to many readers, and the ease of reading makes for a good book to unwind with on a chilly evening.