What We Are Reading Today: The Europeans by Orlando Figes

Updated 29 October 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Europeans by Orlando Figes

This is a long, involved and interesting biography of Ivan Turgenev, the singer Pauline Viardot and her husband, Louis Viardot, alongside a passionate social history of “European Culture.”

Author Orlando Figes is a British historian of Russia, and a professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.

“Figes, who previously wrote an excellent cultural history of Russia, Natasha’s Dance, now looks at Europe (at least in part) and examines the growth in writing and publishing, popular and classical music, and painting,” said a review in goodreads.com.

“One of Figes’ themes is that art became democratized and available to the growing middle class through books that became cheaper and more widely available, the growth of postcards and photography, which made reproductions of fine art similarly available, and the concomitant increase in music — both popular and classical,” said the review.

“This is a fascinating historical biography, with an interesting historical background. With the inclusion of Turgenev, just about every author of the period is mentioned and this book,” the review added.

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What We Are Reading Today: Manhattan by Jennifer Thermes

Updated 08 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Manhattan by Jennifer Thermes

  • This volume is a rich, multilayered creation worth leisurely exploration

This is an excellent book about the history of Manhattan island, staring with the indigenous tribes who lived there.

Jennifer Thermes’ illustrated chronicle of the history of Manhattan “is filled with a series of loose-limbed, eye-pleasing maps that trace the island’s transformation from the natural landscape of the native Lenape people to the newly built Dutch and English colony to the gridded American metropolis of the early 19th century and so on until the current day,” said a review in The New York Times.

It added: “Thermes has a gift not only for rendering delicate watercolor, colored pencil and ink illustrations but for narrating history in a way that inspires wonder. How terrifying it must have been to live through the Great Fire of 1835! And how exciting it must have been to ride that first subway in 1904!”

The review said: “Just like Manhattan itself, this volume is a rich, multilayered creation worth leisurely exploration. And it will give all children growing up in New York City a new perspective on their hometown.”