Sunday, April 20, 2014

COFFEE TABLE BOOK: American Cool by Joel Dinerstein


I visited the American Cool Exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in D.C. last week. The exhibition is a collection of portraits of one hundred individuals who were chosen as “cultural icons” during their respective eras in American history. 

I enjoyed the exhibition very much, recognized nearly all of the faces, and knew a little something about the individuals as well. I was rather pleased with myself for being so familiar with the cool crowd. My excitement led me to the gift shop and where I was happy to find American Cool, the book! 

 American Cool section of the gift shop

One notable thing about the selected few is that they are all are considered celebrities. It does not include scientists, presidents, ect. I’ve singled out a few of the individuals that are relatable in the day to day dealings of Reading Has Purpose. I couldn't help but give you a preview of who you’ll find in the book! 

Frederick Douglass
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass touched me in all kinds of ways. I highly recommend the book and am somewhat disappointed with myself for not having visited his home which is now a National Historic site in Washington, D.C.

Jack Johnson
Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson  has been on my to-read since I spotted it in someone’s home a couple of years ago. I finally bumped it to high priority and it should find its way to my mailbox this week. 

Bessie Smith was familiar to me because shortly before attending the exhibition, I had added Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday to my to-read list. The book was written by Angela Davis who is also an American Cool selection.

Miles Davis is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and the author of Miles, the best autobiography I’ve read to date. I never have much to say about Miles Davis. I just tell people to read his book. It’s all there. It’s all there!  I learned from American Cool, the book, that Miles Davis composed a soundtrack in honor of Jack Johnson. And it has one awesome album cover!

Malcolm X
The Autobiography of Malcolm X is high priority on my to-read list. After attending an event with the authors of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X, I became more interested in reading it than I had previously been. I already have the autobiography in my possession.

Zora Neale Hurston wrote what is certainly one of the most beautiful love stories ever when she penned Their Eyes Were Watching God. Since reading that book, love doesn’t look the same way to me. And I thank Zora Neale Hurston for that.  

James Baldwin
I read The Fire Next Time last year and underlined nearly every sentence in the book! It is on my list of books to re-read but I will read a few of his other books first. New York Live Arts is celebrating James Baldwin who they describe as an “overlooked American writer who is arguably the most profound and imperative voice of the twentieth century.” The celebration will include a series of live events from Apr 23 - Apr 27, 2014.

If you’re on the fence regarding the value of coffee table books, sit this one out and watch it do its job in no time!  

UPDATED 6/7/2014: I finally visited the Frederick Douglass house in May 2014! 

Affiliate Links
American Cool on Amazon

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass on Amazon

Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson on Amazon

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday on Amazon

View all by Angela Y Davis on Amazon

Tribute to Jack Johnson (Album) on Amazon

Miles: The Autobiography on Amazon

The Autobiography of Malcolm X on Amazon

View all by Hurston on Amazon

View all by Baldwin on Amazon

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