What We're Reading September 2015: Recommended Reads from PVN Staff

Greg:

Historic Preservation: Caring for Our Expanding Legacy by Michael Tomlan (Springer, 2014).

This well-illustrated book offers an up-to-date synthesis of the field of historic preservation, cast as a social campaign concerned with the condition, treatment and use of the legacy of existing properties in the United States. Drawing on a wide range of research, experience and scholarship over the last fifty years, it allows us to re-think past and current ideas in preservation, challenging readers to explore how their own interests lie within the cognitive framework of the activities taking place with people who care. “Who” is involved is explored first, in such a way as to explore “why”, before examining “what” is deemed important. After that the questions of “when” and “how” to proceed are given attention.

Tamara:

The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States by Carla Yanni (University of Minnesota Press, 2007).

Elaborately conceived, grandly constructed insane asylums—ranging in appearance from classical temples to Gothic castles—were once a common sight looming on the outskirts of American towns and cities. Many of these buildings were razed long ago, and those that remain stand as grim reminders of an often cruel system. For much of the nineteenth century, however, these asylums epitomized the widely held belief among doctors and social reformers that insanity was a curable disease and that environment—architecture in particular—was the most effective means of treatment.

Laurel:

Relearning from Las Vegas edited by Aron Vinegar and Michael J. Golec (University of Minnesota Press, 2008).

Immediately on its publication in 1972, Learning from Las Vegas, by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, was hailed as a transformative work in the history and theory of architecture, liberating those in architecture who were trying to find a way out of the straitjacket of architectural orthodoxies. Resonating far beyond the professional and institutional boundaries of the field, the book contributed to a thorough rethinking of modernism and was subsequently taken up as an early manifestation and progenitor of postmodernism.

Going beyond analyzing the original text, the essays provide insights into the issues surrounding architecture, culture, and philosophy that have been influenced by Learning from Las Vegas. For the contributors, as for scholars in an array of fields, the pioneering book is as relevant to architectural debates today as it was when it was first published.

Casie:

Wicked River: The Mississippi When it Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin (Vintage, 2011). 

A riveting narrative look at one of the most colorful, dangerous, and peculiar places in America's historical landscape: the strange, wonderful, and mysterious Mississippi River of the 19th century. Beginning in the early 1800s and climaxing with the siege of Vicksburg in 1863, Wicked River brings to life a place where river pirates brushed elbows with future presidents and religious visionaries shared passage with thieves. Here is a minute-by-minute account of Natchez being flattened by a tornado; the St. Louis harbor being crushed by a massive ice floe; hidden, nefarious celebrations of Mardi Gras; and the sinking of the Sultana, the worst naval disaster in American history. Here, too, is the Mississippi itself: gorgeous, perilous, and unpredictable. Masterfully told, Wicked River is an exuberant work of Americana that portrays a forgotten society on the edge of revolutionary change.

Marisa:

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner (Penguin Books, 1987).

Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage.

Meghan:

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain Book 1) by Lloyd Alexander (Square Fish, 2006).

Since The Book of Three was first published in 1964, young readers have been enthralled by the adventures of Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper and his quest to become a hero. Taran is joined by an engaging cast of characters that includes Eilonwy, the strong-willed and sharp-tongued princess; Fflewddur Fflam, the hyperbole-prone bard; the ever-faithful Gurgi; and the curmudgeonly Doli--all of whom have become involved in an epic struggle between good and evil that shapes the fate of the legendary land of Prydain. Released over a period of five years, Lloyd Alexander's beautifully written tales not only captured children's imaginations but also garnered the highest critical praise.

What We're ReadingPVN Staff