Above: The Art of Embroidery: Inspirational Stitches, Textures, and Surfaces by Françoise Tellier-Loumagne.
Read (or listen) along with us. #AlabamaChaninBookClub
(Updated March 10, 2023)
The Italian Edition: 1973-2023:
First off, Italo Calvino.
The Castle of Crossed Destinies was written in 1973 and the first of Calvino’s books that Natalie read (about a decade later in 1983). She spent the next few years reading through Calvino: Italian Folk Tales, The Baron in the Trees, Difficult Loves, and so many more— loving both the structure and whimsical freedom of the stories and words. Italo Calvino passed away in 1985, two short years after Natalie’s discovery of his work.
Last year, dreaming about Italy, she decided to try listening to Calvino—in Italian: Le città invisibili (Invisible Cities) and the more recently purchased Il castello dei destini incrociati (The Castle of Crossed Destinies). Italo Calvino became her new bi-lingual, cross-disciplinary teacher. In a lovely essay from 2022, Jhumpa Lahiri describes Calvino’s crafting of language as “an expressive kingdom belonging only to him.” The essay is a beautiful read and, at the same time, sheds insight on Lahiri’s own bi-lingual works: “Why Is Italo Calvino So Beloved Outside Italy?: On the Translatability and “Secret Essence” of Calvino’s Language”
And now it seems that Italo Calvino is everywhere. On March 6th, 2023, The New Yorker published “The Worlds of Italo Calvino,” by Merve Emre (there is a short audio listen included at the same link). This 2014 article from The Guardian has been circulating as well. It connects Calvino to Oulipo, a Paris-based group of creators who played with the structure of mathematics in combination with the freedoms of words and creativity.
Timing is everything, and it seems to be the time to read, listen, and savor Calvino. For those who love to judge a book by its cover, the Italo Calvino collection (or much of it) has been repackaged in what Merve Emre describes as a “pure-white cover [with] a curious shape cut into it.” Today, many book outlets bundle Invisible Cities with the inspiring The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt from the 99% Invisible podcast.
Secondly, Jhumpa Lahiri, and another favorite Italian-born book from last year.
Whereabouts is a quiet, poetic journey through a city, life, and life in relation to a city. This is Lahiri’s first book written in Italian, originally titled “Dove mi trovo,” and then translated to English—her primary language for writing. The audio book is available here and read by Susan Vinciotti Bonito. We see a beautiful connection between Lahiri’s structure of language and Calvino structure of mathematics.
Also, for the lovers of books and fashion: The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri.P.S.: We obviously love the juxtaposition of mathematics, craft, geometry, and sewing (not to compare ourselves with the genius of Italo Calvino, rather as simple adoration). In synchronicity, we have the new Noto Collection that includes a pattern called the “Siena”; Calvino was born in the city of Siena, Italy.
The Late 2022 & Early 2023 List:
Trust by Hernan Diaz
Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami
Matrix by Lauren Groff
The Christie Affair by Nina de Gramont
The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
I’m Glad My Mother Died by Jennette McCurdy
(Reading again) The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison
And this New Yorker article about the book.
“How to Set & Hold Boundaries” with Melissa Urban. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you stream.
“The Science of Happiness” with Arthur Brooks and Peter Attia. Listen here or on your favorite streaming platform.
Living by Jenny Holzer is a publication of “Truisms” which artist Jenny Holzer wrote anonymously, shared, and continues to share publicly as sheets of paper adhered to phone booths, marquee signs, projected onto buildings, and large-format letters trailing airplanes.
“Turn soft and lovely any time you have a chance”
“All things are delicately interconnected”
“Life is not a rehearsal”
“It is in your self-interest to find a way to be very tender”
Purchase a limited-edition copy of Living here. Learn more about Holzer’s work and life here. Explore some of her iconic Truisms via the Museum of Modern Art and Archives of Women Artists Research & Exhibitions.
Beautiful, honest, raw, and inspiring, Finding Me, written and read by Viola Davis is a treasure. Davis won a Grammy Award for her narration of the book—earning her the well deserved “EGOT” status (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony). Listen on Libro.fm and support your local bookstore.
Cassandra Speaks by Elizabeth Lesser: “When women are storytellers, the human story changes.” A book that we return to over and over again—words matter, language matter, how we speak (and listen) to one another matters. Listen to Cassandra Speaks on Librio.fm.
How to Tell a Story: The Essential Guide to Memorable Storytelling from The Moth by Meg Bowles, Catherine Burns, Jenifer Hixson, Sarah Austin Jenness, and Kate Tellers. Congratulations to our friends at The Moth for their newest book landing on The New York Times Best Sellers list. Read our interview with Catherine Burns, our Alabama sister and Artistic Director of The Moth, here.
Woo Who? May Wilson from New Day Films:
When her husband informs her, after 40 years of marriage, that his future plans no longer include her, May Wilson, age 60, former “wife-mother-housekeeper-cook” and a grandmother, moves to New York City and discovers an independent life of her own for the first time in which the art, that had once been a hobby, becomes central. —New Day Films
Paired with this book: Ray Johnson c/o, an exploration of the collage and pop artist’s collection at The Chicago Institute of Art.Learn more about the life and work of Ray Johnson, “New York’s most famous unknown artist,” and friend of May Wilson.
In Orwell’s Roses, Rebecca Solnit offers an endearing portrait of George Orwell, the radical twentieth-century dystopian novelist who displays a capacity for hope through the act of planting and tending to his roses.
A beloved favorite for all of us at Alabama Chanin and The School of Making, A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit is a series of autobiographical essays that explore navigation, an ever-present theme in the human experience. The path toward knowing oneself is most often found when we approach the unfamiliar terrains of wilderness, relationships, and life with open hearts and a sense of wonder.
One of Natalie’s favorite reads, Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life, written and read by Lulu Miller, makes taxonomy and intriguing science. Miller is a Peabody Award-winning science journalist and co-host of the beloved Radiolab podcast. Listen on Libro.fm and support your local bookstore.
The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion: 250 Years of Design by Madelief Hohé and the Peabody Essex Museum. (Full disclosure: Alabama Chanin and Natalie Chanin are very honored to have been included in this book. Congratulations to our friends at the Peabody Essex Museum on receiving the Richard Martin Exhibition Award from the Costume Society of America for this exhibition. Tour Made It: The Women who Revolutionized Fashion online here.
Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson previously uncollected writings from the ecologist, biologist, and inspiring human, Rachel Carson. Also read, “The Right Way to Remember Rachel Carson” by Jill Lepore for The New Yorker. Listen: The Kitchen Sisters Present podcast, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, kitchensisters.org, or wherever you prefer to stream. Read: Hidden Kitchens: Stories, Recipes, and More from NPR’s the Kitchen Sisters. Listen to select stories from the series here. Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, “The Kitchen Sisters”, are radio producers, historians, and storytellers who have been recording the lives, recipes, and journeys—in and out of the kitchen—that have shaped today’s culture. Learn more about The Kitchen Sisters and explore their vast body of work and latest projects.
Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours: Adapted to Zoology, Botany, Chemistry, Minerology, Anatomy, and the Arts by Patrick Syme, is the book Charles Darwin referenced to describe the colors he saw in nature during his voyage sailing around the world from 1831–1836 aboard the H.M.S Beagle. Read more about “The Book that Colored Charles Darwin’s World” via The New Yorker.
On Color by David Scott Kastan and Stephen Farthing
Pantone: The 20th Century in Color by Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker
Josef Albers: Interaction, edited by Heinz Liesbrock and Ulrike Growe
Interaction of Color by Josef Albers
The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair
An Atlas of Rare and Familiar Colour: The Harvard Art Museums’ Forbes Pigment Collection
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