Welcome to our Ten Book Challenge where our favorite authors share some of their most beloved and memorable reads—from the books with their favorite covers and best opening lines, to the reads they gift and the bookstores they frequent. This is a peek into your favorite authors’ perfect bowl of literary comfort food. We hope you discover something delicious!
The Personal Librarian by co-author team Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray is not your everyday historical fiction novel. It gives a woman the place in history she deserves, spotlighting her luminous career and highlighting her immense achievements, while also sharing her secret and personal inner world in a setting that would have been hostile towards her if her identity was revealed.
And the woman in question is Belle de Costa Greene. The true story behind The Personal Librarian: Hired by J.P. Morgan in 1905 to serve as his personal librarian, Belle was the creator of the Morgan Library’s famous manuscript collection, and she became one of the most powerful people in the art world, and one of history’s most prominent librarians.
But Belle was hiding a secret: she was shielding her Black identity and “passing” for white.
In its glowing starred review, Booklist said, “Every element of this blockbuster historical novel is compelling and revelatory, beginning with the bedazzling protagonist based with awestruck care on Belle da Costa Greene. . . Benedict and Murray do splendidly right by Belle in this captivating and profoundly enlightening portrayal.” Even while writing this novel, Benedict and Murray found themselves profoundly changed by Belle’s story. As they researched, edited, and discussed the issues of Belle’s time, they forged a friendship both women describe as transformative.
Read on to see the books that influenced author Victoria Christopher Murray in her life most. Want more? Read our exclusive interview with Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray about The Personal Librarian >>
The Book . . .
I last bought/am currently reading: The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
I recommend to everyone: Yellow Wife by Sadeqa Johnson
That was my favorite to read last year, and why: Becoming by Michelle Obama because Michelle Obama is my hero.
Whose author I would love to have lunch with: Uhhh…Becoming…Michelle Obama.
That made me realize language had power: Every book I’ve read has taught me the power of language for different reasons.
That made me laugh out loud—or cry—while reading it: Baggage Claim by David E. Talbert
That has the most gorgeous cover: It’s Complicated by Portia Cosby.
With the best opening line: “I killed a man when I was seven years old.” – Waking with Enemies by Eric Jerome Dickey
Bookstore that I frequent/is my favorite: Any store that sells books is my favorite. If I see a bookstore, I’m going inside.
Bonus: I wrote and wish I could rewrite: Temptation, my first novel. I’d love the chance to rewrite that book now because I’ve learned so much more about writing.
Want more? Read our exclusive interview with Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray about The Personal Librarian >>