By Angie Georgeff
You can judge a book by its cover, its title, its author, the reviews or word of mouth. I have just finished reading “The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books” by Edward Wilson-Lee.
Since I work at the library and frequently catalog books, I was instantly attracted to this book by its title. The reviews made up my mind.
Christopher Columbus had only two children. Naturally, his elder son Diego inherited the titles and most of the wealth Columbus had accumulated. His younger—and illegitimate—son Hernando inherited his father’s vision and drive. “The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books” is Hernando’s biography.
Even more than his father, Hernando was a Renaissance man. His twin passions, however, were information and organization.
During the 51 years of his life, Hernando scoured the bookstores of 16th century Europe to build a library of 15,370 books and more than 3,000 printed images. His goal was a universal library, with books about all subjects in all languages.
What’s more, Hernando developed what we would call a card catalog in order to make the knowledge contained in his books readily available to the curious.
Hernando put a great deal of thought into the organization of his library, but his idea for protecting his precious books from those who might be tempted to abscond with them makes me cringe. Scholars would be separated from the books they were reading by a metal grate.
The spaces between the bars were large enough for readers to turn the pages, but not big enough for the book to pass through. Thankfully, we live in a time when books are more easily and inexpensively obtained.
The latest selection for Reese’s Book Club is Kiley Reid’s debut novel “Such a Fun Age.” Alix Chamberlain is a successful entrepreneur facing a minor crisis. Needing someone to watch her toddler daughter late one night, she calls her babysitter at the last minute.
Although Emira is dressed up and attending a friend’s birthday party, she obliges Alix and takes Briar to an upscale grocery store. Seeing a black woman with a white child, a security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar. A crowd gathers and Kelley, a concerned white bystander, films the confrontation as Emira’s emotions run the gamut from annoyance to fear and anger.
Kelley emails the video to Emira, but she has been humiliated and would prefer to put the incident behind her.
Alix, however, is outraged and eager to right the wrong. She forges ahead without bothering to consult Emira and determine her wishes. Meanwhile, Emira starts to date Kelley, who unbeknownst to her shares a painful history with Alix.