The Door Before

N. D. Wilson (Random House)

Ten years after the publication of100 Cupboards (the first book of a trilogy that also includes Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King), N. D. Wilson is giving us a prequel. Like the other volumes in the series, this one is pitched at readers ages 8 to 12, but the writing is so sharp, a grown-up reading the book aloud to a listening child (or two or three) will not be bored. Of his protagonist, Hyacinth Smith, Wilson writes, “She didn’t feel gifted. She just . . . noticed things other people missed.” I suspect that Wilson is also speaking for himself here, whether he knows or not, and the self-portrait is accurate.

Ties That Bound: Founding First Ladies and Slaves

Marie Jenkins Schwartz (University of Chicago Press)

That America’s Founding Fathers were slave owners hardly comes as news. Attempts to explain that unpalatable truth away are as misguided as accounts in which this finally becomes the only truth left standing. Marie Jenkins Schwartz brings to life the everyday realities of the society from which the United States emerged—especially the lives of women, children, and slaves. Morally passionate, rich in humanity, this is essential reading for anyone who genuinely seeks to understand the history of our nation.

Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past

Paul Shaw (Yale University Press)

I’m terrible at identifying typefaces, but that doesn’t mean I’m indifferent to them. On the contrary: To me, each has its own flavor, agreeable or not, piquant or banal, seductive or off-putting. Paul Shaw’s superbly illustrated book covers a huge range of typefaces in 16 categories (e.g., “inscriptional letters,” “Blackletter,” “late Victorian types,” and “humanist sans serifs”). Put this book on a coffee table and pick it up for a few minutes at a time. And if you have any designers, art directors, or such in the family, this would be a perfect gift.

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