Paris: Portrait of a City by Jean-Claude Gautrand

The spectacular breadth and quality of the iconography spawned by Paris is, alone, a demonstration of the importance of this city in human culture.

Taschen has published an imposing photographic portrait of Paris, bolstered by an excellent text. It is a volume indispensable to anyone who wants a definitive – or as definitive as one can be in the limited space of 572 pages – iconographic recounting of the last 150 years in the life of Paris. Continue reading Paris: Portrait of a City by Jean-Claude Gautrand

Heyday by Kurt Andersen

Heyday takes place in the annus mirabilis of 1848. In fact, it is as enveloping an immersion into that time as many of us will ever get.

The 1840s are an era often neglected and misunderstood, glossed over by our history survey courses as they rush from the “Age of Federalism” to the Civil War; or, in the case of European history, that is dispensed with along with the whole nineteenth century with a couple of words about the Industrial Revolution and the creation of nation-states. What Andersen understands, and brilliantly conveys, is the depth of this pivotal, exciting, genuinely revolutionary – in several ways – point in history.

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The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal, a British potter, describes the collection of netsuke, Japanese miniature sculptures, belonging to his uncle that he will one day inherit. Thus begins a journey through history, following the collection, that takes us from 1870s Paris to early twentieth-century Vienna and finally back to Tokyo.

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The Mysteries of Paris

June 19th, 1842 was a Sunday, like today. At the time, the bottom of the front page of the French dailies was occupied by a novel in serial form. On this day, the Journal des Débat Politiques et Littéraires, a popular Parisian daily, published the first installment of a tremendously important work of literature that is all but unknown in the English-speaking world today.

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