I love books… I love the way they feel, the way they smell, the way they look on the shelf – colorful invitations to journeys ready for the taking; and of course I love reading them. For all these reasons, libraries have always been favorite destinations for solitary wanderings – especially when there’s a chill in the air.
While I was in graduate school I spent a great deal of time in libraries, but never as much as I would have liked… I had to work sometime! Two years later, I was starting to miss my frequent library visits. During that time I was able to catch up on books in my personal collection, but I was craving something more – the hushed sense of awe and stimulation that only a trip to the library could provide.
If a library is a treasure, New York City libraries are the motherload! The New York Public Library’s historic main location on Fifth Avenue is one of the most breathtaking and intimidating libraries I’ve ever visited… maybe just a little bit too much. This is where I am, once again, happy I live in Brooklyn – the Brooklyn Public Library’s main (Central) library has the grandeur of a great historic building and the approachability of a community gathering place.
Situated on Grand Army Plaza right next to the main entrance to Prospect Park (where the Green Market is held on Saturday mornings) and a quick walk from both the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, inspiration is everywhere. The library’s terrace is one of my favorite places to read, write, and enjoy a light lunch during the summer – inspired by the view of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch that dominates the Plaza.
In an attempt to overcome my recent bout of writer’s block, I decided to enjoy the 20 minute walk to Grand Army Plaza for an afternoon of digging around for inspiration on the library shelves. With no assignment to complete, I was able to go back through all the subjects I never had time to peruse while I was a student. After 4 hours, I was still captivated – so much so that I now have a list at least two pages long of books I want to spend more time with in the near future. Here are a few of the ones I brought home this time (the links are to find them on Amazon.com)…
1. Charlemagne’s Tablecloth: A Piquant History of Feasting, by Nichola Fletcher – I’m getting some interesting material from here for further research.
2.Fried Chicken: An American Story, by John T. Edge – Written before the current fried chicken craze began.
3. Art, Culture & Cuisine: Ancient & Medieval Gastronomy, by Phyllis Pray Bober – haven’t started this one yet, but it goes with #1.
4. American Appetite: The Coming of Age of a National Cuisine, by Leslie Brenner – some cross-over in here with my dissertation topic. What do you think? Is there really an “American Cuisine”?
Hopefully something good will come from this soon – if not, there are so many more books waiting to inspire!