Laura G's Top 10 Books Matched with Works of Visual Art

There have been so many beautiful books to come out this year that I was inspired to flex my creativity and match them with some of my favorite works of visual art. Below are 10 of my favorite titles to come out this year along with 10 works of visual art that complement the titles.

Slipping by Mohamed Keir and Intersections, Anila Quayyum Agha (2013)

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Slipping Cover Image
By Mohamed Kheir, Robin Moger (Translator)
ISBN: 9781949641165
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Two Lines Press - June 8th, 2021

Intersections was inspired by the designs found at Alhambra in Granada, a building poised at the intersection of Islamic and Western culture. The piece utilizes light and shadows to create new and fascinating spaces wherever it is installed (including Rice Gallery in 2015).

Slipping by Mohammed Kheir deals with the aftermath of the Arab Spring, a time when political ideologies intersected and clashed with tragic results. Seif, the protagonist, is on a quest to discover the magical new worlds left within these fractures. In a stunning feat of craft, Slipping creates seemingly disjointed pocket universes tied together by human beings and the haunting remnants of their long-lost connections.

A Ghost In the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa and The Voynich manuscript, Unknown (c. 1400)

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A Ghost in the Throat Cover Image
ISBN: 9781771964111
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Biblioasis - June 1st, 2021

Trying to Make Sense of the Voynich Manuscript: A Brief History - Owlcation

The Voynich manuscript, carbon-dated to the early 15th century, is the world’s most mysterious book. Barely anything is known about it: not the author nor, even, what language it’s written in. Academics have proposed that it is a woman’s health codex, most likely written by a woman.

Like the anonymous author of the Voynich manuscript, Ní Ghríofa fills her book with such esoteric details that she somehow manage to capture the breadth of the female experience: the traumas, the joys, and the desperate need to give one's self to family and strangers alike. These are two highly introspective and entrancing female texts, full of hidden knowledge.

Flesh & Blood by N. West Moss and Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed), Frida Kahlo (1932)

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Flesh & Blood: Reflections on Infertility, Family, and Creating a Bountiful Life: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781643750705
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Algonquin Books - October 12th, 2021

Henry Ford Hospital, 1932 by Frida Kahlo

Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) was painted directly after Kahlo’s miscarriage in the titular hospital. In the painting Kahlo uses surrealism to convey the sense of helplessness and vulnerability she felt.

Just like the painting, Flesh & Blood is wildly personal, allowing the reader into moments of both quiet, meditative reflection and terrifying, chaotic medical scares. Both Moss and Kahlo use art to work through their traumas, be it miscarriages, hysterectomies, or simply the daily struggles of living in a body that doesn’t quite work how it should.

In the Shadow of the Yalı by Suat Dervis and Notes for Dreamline (River), Wanda Koop (2019)

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In the Shadow of the Yali: A Novel Cover Image
By Suat Dervis, Maureen Freely (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781590510414
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Other Press - September 14th, 2021

The swaths of background color in Wanda Koop’s almost-surreal painting melt into one another, creating a striking contrast with the golden drips, which Koop refers to as “tears.” Each painting in her Dreamline series focuses on a river and the changes modernization has wrought.

In the Shadow of the Yalı also concerns a body of water - the Bosphorus Strait. This 1940’s Turkish classic was influenced directly by the author’s adolescence during the fall of the Ottoman Empire and is centered around the grand yalıs, or waterfront mansions, home to then-Constantinople’s wealthy elite. The entire book is strung with tension between the old regime and the new.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He and With the Tide, kelogsloops (2018)

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The Ones We're Meant to Find Cover Image
By Joan He
ISBN: 9781250258564
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Roaring Brook Press - May 4th, 2021

Kelogsloops “Flood” – Haven Gallery

Hieu Nguyen, better known as kelogsloops, blends realistic, abstract, and surreal art styles in his watercolor paintings to capture dream-like images. Each of his paintings feel almost like puzzle boxes - multilayered and awash with hidden details.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is filled with enough plot twists to pull you under. This character driven sci-fi revolves around two separated sisters who will do anything to reunite. While at times the book feels haunting and ethereal, like With the Tide it’s grounded with minute details you won’t notice until after they’ve impacted the picture as a whole.

The Rain Heron by Robbie Arnott and From Our Flesh, Lauren Marx (2015)

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The Rain Heron: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374539306
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: FSG Originals - February 9th, 2021

Wildlife Intertwine in Finely Rendered Mythological Worlds by Lauren Marx |  Colossal

Lauren Marx’ work is so unique, inspired by nature and her interest in mythology. In From Our Flesh the two deer form a diptych of sorts, counterbalancing each other even as they are torn apart. The result is both beautiful and admittedly gruesome, especially at the point of contact.

Like Marx, Robbie Arnott draws inspiration from mythology and nature. The Rain Heron can at times seem gory yet is also filled with moments of profound beauty and an almost idyllic calm. The two main characters, Ren and Zoe, are diametrically opposed forces who carry the story to its epic and inevitable conclusion.

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente and Avidya the Tree of Ignorance, Melissa Launay (2017)

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Comfort Me With Apples Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250816214
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Tordotcom - November 9th, 2021

Melissa Launay - Paintings for Sale | Artfinder

Avidya is the Sanskrit word for ignorance or incorrect knowledge. Melissa Launay’s gouache work depicts its Tree of Ignorance with four branches: Ego, Greed, Intolerance/Rejection, and Fear. The four women, though seemingly identical, each represent their own vice. And the rest of the comparison, dear reader, will have to be done by you.

I’m hesitant to write more because the reveal at the end of Comfort Me With Apples is so excellently spun. I will say that like Avidya this story features multiple women who may seem to be hollow copies of each other, yet haunt the reader with their differences. Comfort Me With Apples quickly tilts into a bone-chilling horror story softened only by Valente's lush, fantastical prose. This story will not bring you comfort. It comes with teeth and claws to swallow you whole, much like vice itself.

Born of No Woman by Franck Bouysse and Shepherdess with Her Flock, Jean-François Millet (1864)

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Born of No Woman: A Novel Cover Image
By Franck Bouysse, Lara Vergnaud (Translated by)
ISBN: 9781635420227
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Other Press - October 26th, 2021

Millet was known for his pastoral scenes, particularly depicting the lives of peasants in an aesthetically pleasing manner. The Parisian middle class adored his work, mostly because it allowed them to idealize the life of peasants rather than notice their struggles.

Bouysse takes his work in a different direction, exploring ethical and religious boundaries with poise. Rose's world, as it was for many 19th C peasant women, is relentlessly cruel towards such a resilient spirit. Rose herself is a stunning image of what happens when a woman is pushed too far. Like the shepherdess, she stands alone in an indifferent world that would rather romanticize her than help her.

The Valley and the Flood by Rebecca Mahoney and A Concise Passage, Rashed Al Shashai (2020)

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The Valley and the Flood Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593114353
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Razorbill - February 23rd, 2021

Land Art in the Desert: A Dramatic Exhibition Challenges Artistic Ideas -  Al-Fanar Media

Rashed Al Shashai’s A Concise Passage is installed in the small desert oasis of Al Ula in Saudi Arabia. It’s meant as a testament to the town’s history as a place of shelter along the Silk Road, however the stark slice through the middle stands out almost as a wound.

Luminous and haunting, Rebecca Mahoney's shimmering debut examines PTSD and grief through a speculative lens that resonates powerfully. Like Al Ula, Lotus Valley is a desert refuge, but it is not without its own ghosts that threaten to destroy the town. Both works examine the balance between shelter and exposure, wounds that heal and wounds that will always remain. 

Loot by Barnaby Phillips and The New Acropolis Museum, Bernard Tschumi (2009)

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Loot: Britain and the Benin Bronzes Cover Image
ISBN: 9781786079350
Availability: NOT ON OUR SHELVES. Usually Arrives in 4-7 Business Days
Published: Oneworld Publications - May 11th, 2021

Repatriation has been such a hot button topic for years, especially in regards to the famed Elgin Marbles, housed in the British Museum. When arguments against the Marbles’ homecoming were raised, particularly over cultural ownership and protection, the Acropolis Museum was built in answer. The layout is fascinating, deliberately highlighting the negative space where the missing Parthenon pieces should be.

Loot explores another famous case of stolen cultural artifacts: the Benin Bronzes. Phillips gives a nuanced account of the fall of two great empires - Britain and Benin - while looking towards a future of repatriation, justice, and a future of art and museums that is hopefully within our grasp.

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