SAM Libraries: Book(s) of the Month Club

When I was first asked to write something for this blog, I immediately thought about our incredible library collections and my desire to highlight at least some of the interesting resources we have.

The “book of the month” idea also came to mind. Dependent upon your age and where you grew up, you might have been a subscriber to the Book of the Month Club ©, a book-by-mail service begun in 1926. My mother, an elementary school teacher, signed me up for the Children’s Book of the Month Club ™ as soon as I could read. I’d like to take a page from the BOMC’s playbook and feature a book or books from our library collections each month on this blog. We don’t have mail-order services, but our libraries are all open to the public for reference use. Our hours and other information are available here.

Book Blitz Month
According to several “holiday observances” sites, January is, among other things, Book Blitz Month.* (Wow, how did I get so lucky?) Generally, this observance encourages us all to read voraciously throughout the month. That’s wonderful, but any of you who know art books know that they are anything but quick reads. We’ll be lucky if we get through one book this month!

Abrams’ How to Read… Series
Rather than focus on an esoteric product of a dissertation, I’d like to start this off by looking at a series of books that one could read in a short amount of time. Harry N. Abrams Inc., publisher extraordinaire of art and illustrated books, began the How to Read… series in 2004. In short, beautifully illustrated text entries, these works provide readers with clues to the “rich system of symbols, themes, and motifs that often eludes modern museum-goers.” Books in this series “not only help the viewer to understand the significant details of a picture but also explains the relationship with similar imagery in other works.”

Books in this series include: How to Read a Painting edited by Patrick De Rynck (2004), How to Read a Modern Painting by Jon Thompson (2006), How to Read a Photograph by Ian Jeffrey (2009), How to Read Bible Stories and Myths in Art also by Patrick De Rynck (2009), and the forthcoming How to Read Italian Renaissance Painting by Stefano Zuffi (2010). All of these, including the Zuffi book when it arrives, are available in the Dorothy Stimson Bullitt Library’s reference collection.

how to read a book painting book cover  how to read a modern painting book cover  how to read a photograph book cover  how to read bible stories and myths in art book cover  how to read italian renaissance painting book cover

National Soup Month and Andy Warhol
warhol soup boxesJanuary is also National Soup Month. We’re all really excited about the upcoming exhibition love fear pleasure lust pain glamour death — Andy Warhol Media Works in May 2010. Although we won’t see any of these in the exhibition, I always think of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans when I conjure the image of soup in my head (bet you didn’t think I could tie art to soup, did you?) We have a number of great books and videos on Warhol in the library, including Andy Warhol: Campbell’s Soup Boxes (Paris: Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, 2000).

I’d be especially interested to hear from those of you who’ve read/purused/used any of these books. I’d like to know how they might have augmented or enhanced an art-looking experience. If you’d like to see other items in our library collections, please visit our online library catalogue, which is also available by going to and choosing Museum Libraries under the Visit tab.

Traci Timmons, Librarian

*By the way, January is also: Bath Safety Month, International Creativity Month, National Be On-Purpose Month, National Clean Up Your Computer Month, National Hot Tea Month and Oatmeal Month, among many, many others.