When I read about the death of fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld the other day, my first thought was “what happens to his books?”. To be honest, I don’t know much about the German tycoon other than the reports from a few years ago that claimed he was a bibliophile and serious book collector. There were numerous web stories that featured the same set of photographs of Lagerfeld in one of his homes with an impressive library. What caught my attention at the time was not the number of books that he owned, but how they were shelved. If you examine the images, you will note that all of the books are shelved horizontally. According to the reports, Lagerfeld did so not for aesthetic reasons, but so that he would not need to tilt his head to read the titles. It must be annoying to try and remove a book at the bottom of a stack, especially on a high shelf. Well, it’s not Karl’s problem anymore.
Michele Gentile is the owner and manager of a bookstore/café in the small southern Italian town of Polla near Salerno. For many years, Gentile has been quietly using a community-minded system called libri sospeso or suspended books in his Ex Libris Bookshop. The process encourages customers to buy two books and leave one for a bookshop visitor who can’t afford a purchase. The concept is based on a practice that began during World War II when Italians would pay for two coffees instead of one and cover the cost for the next customer.
Gentile recently garnered media attention by adding a new program to his shop. Now he provides free books to local children who bring in discarded bottle and cans. Along with this program, he also has organized neighborhood kids to collect bottles, plastic and metal for recycling, and then he uses the cash to buy books for local elementary schools.
Way back in the 20th century I spent considerable time visiting London. While I was there I occasionally popped into the random pub to quench my thirst with a pint or two of real ale. As a foreigner, it was sometimes difficult choosing a pub. Now London-based writer Ana Kinsella has created the perfect online game to help discover that special drinking establishment.
A Pint in London is a narrative-led, web-based game taking the player on a multiple choice trip around London in search of the perfect pint. It’s an uncomplicated game that’s simple to use, but fun and full of surprises. The game’s sometimes circular narrative offers multiple routes and options for players on their journeys around London in search of a good pint depending on mood, time of day, and geography.
You can play A Pint in London for free right here.
The 1964 World’s Fair was a two-year event centered on peace, understanding, and apparently, pop-up books. Released in 1963, Peter and Wendy See the New York World’s Fair shows two children, Peter and Wendy, – no relation to Peter Pan or Wendy Darling – enjoying the sights of the fair, including the famed Sinclair Oil “Dinoland” and the Unisphere, a sculpture that many will remember from the film Men in Black.
Mary Pillsbury, ill. Fred Ottenheimer, Peter and Wendy See the New York World’s Fair: In Pop-Up Action Pictures (New York: Spertus Publishing Company, 
One of my most valued possessions during my childhood was a globe that sat on a table next to my bed. I spent countless hours traveling around the world on that globe imagining all of the places that I would visit. To this day, I am enamored of globes and maps. I can still spend hours daydreaming about my next travels.
So, it will come as no surprise that I swooned when I ran across the handmade globes by London-based cartographer/ceramicist Loraine Rutt. Her porcelain, ceramic, and wood creations are absolutely amazing. You can see more on her website The Little Globe Co, but here are some fine examples of her work.
Awhile ago I shared a story about the imminent big move for New York City’s historic Center for Fiction from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Well, it has finally happened and the new site’s grand opening is on Tuesday February 19th. The inauguration of the new facility comes almost two centuries from the opening of the original Mercantile Library, which became the Center for Fiction in 2008.
The Center for Fiction is the only literary facility in the country devoted solely to the genre. Founded in 1820 as The New York Mercantile Library in lower Manhattan, the Center was originally a lending library for mercantile workers and grew to be one of America’s largest libraries during the 19th century. The Library moved multiple times over the years to different locations across Manhattan, with trustees building a new eight-story home for the facility at 17 East 47th Street in 1932. The Mercantile Library re-branded as The Center for Fiction in 2008 and later sold its building on East 47th Street.
Brooklyn’s new Center for Fiction supports emerging new writers, offers a large bookshop, a cafe, writers’ workshops, and much more. It’s open to the public, but members get access to reading rooms, a terrace, and writers’ studios. The Center promises to have an expanded online presence with videos, podcasts, virtual workshops, and original fiction content.
I recently spotted a fantastic new edition of Neil Gaiman’s madcap fantasy novel Anansi Boys issued by the folks at the Folio Society press. This exciting version is packed with dynamic illustrations by the American artist Francis Vallejo (see video below) and has a fascinating introduction by the Afrofuturist author Nalo Hopkinson. It’s a bit pricey, but well worth the investment for collectors and Neil Gaiman fans.