Summer Reading

It’s Sum-Sum-Summertime, and the reading is Easy! This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase books that you should take on vacation—or that take you on a vacation, immersing you in places far-flung (or around the corner).

Vacations say a lot about individuals. They signal class and economic standing and reveal aspirations and goals. Getting Away from It All: Vacations and Identity, by Karen Stein, insists that vacations are about more than just taking time off to relax and rejuvenate—they are about having some time to work on the person one wants to be. Where to read this book: On a flight somewhere.

In Real Philly History, Real Fast: Fascinating Facts and Interesting Oddities about the City’s Heroes and Historic Sites, Jim Murphy provides an original tour of the city. He highlights artistic gems including the Dream Garden Tiffany mosaic and Isaiah Zagar’s glittering Magic Gardens. He profiles intriguing historical figures from military leader Commodore Barry to civil rights heroes like Lucretia Mott. Murphy also explores neighborhoods from Chinatown to the Italian Market and the unique architectural details of Carpenters’ Hall and the PSFS building. Where to read this book: On SEPTA, or while waiting on line for a soft pretzel.

Artists of Wyeth Country: Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, and Andrew Wyeth, by W. Barksdale Maynard offers admirers of the Brandywine Tradition a chance to literally follow in these artists’ footsteps. Maynard provides six in-depth walking and driving tours that allow readers to visit the places the Wyeths and Pyle painted in Chadds Ford, PA. As he explains, Andrew Wyeth’s artistic process was influenced by Henry David Thoreau’s nature-worship and by simply walking daily. Maps, aerial photographs, as well as glorious full-color images and artworks of the landscape (many never reproduced before) illustrate the text. Where to read this book: While tracing the artists footsteps.

Using archival materials and interviews with former Negro League players, baseball historian Rich Westcott chronicles the catcher’s life and remarkable career in Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher. He also provides an in-depth look at Philadelphia Negro League history. Westcott traces Mackey’s childhood in Texas as the son of sharecroppers to his success on the baseball diamond where he displayed extraordinary defensive skills and an exceptional ability to hit and to handle pitchers. Where to read this book: In the bleachers during a rain delay.

Intended as a guide for the everyday gardener, The Winterthur Garden Guide: Color for Every Season, by Linda Eirhart offers practical advice—season by season—for achieving the succession of bloom developed by Henry Francis du Pont in his garden. This handy book highlights the design principles that guided du Pont and introduces practical flowers, shrubs, and trees that have stood the test of time—native and non-native, common as well as unusual. Lavishly illustrated, with new color photography, this handbook features close-ups of individual plants as well as sweeping vistas throughout. Where to read this book: In your backyard, or at Winterthur (a worthwhile garden to visit!)

A compilation of a dozen of his fascinating articles showcasing the Keystone State, Pennsylvania Stories—Well Told, by William Ecenbarger, observes that in the quirky state of Pennsylvania, the town of Mauch Chunk changed its name to Jim Thorpe—even though the famous American-Indian athlete never set foot in it. He goes driving with Pennsylvania native John Updike in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania. And he highlights just what makes Pennsylvania both eccentric and great, providing a delightfully intriguing read for natives and curious outsiders alike. Where to read this book: During a road trip through the great state of Pennsylvania.

Follow the contemporary path of a historic naturalist with Travels of William Bartram Reconsidered, by Mark Dion, a contemporary artist. Commissioned for the landmark John Bartram house at Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, the “Travels Reconsidered” exhibition and Dion’s 21st-century journey that produced it are evoked in this book filled with copious photographs, drawings, and texts. Combining humor and seriousness, this book beautifully documents an artistic collaboration across more than two centuries. Where to read this book: On the Schuylkill Banks.

Need more ideas? Our website features dozens of our wonderful books, from Boathouse Row, stories of the Schuykill River, and Fishing in the Delaware Valley, to guides to the area’s gardens and Fairmount Park as well as where to go take a hike. We also have books on Archeaology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution, Monument Lab, the Hidden City, and of course, Murals, Murals, Murals.

Happy Reading!

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