This extraordinary facsimile of The Book of Kells (Thames & Hudson, $95) harks back to a time when books were rare and unique. They stood for knowledge, riches, and artistry, and none more so than the Book of Kells. The original 8th-century manuscript is housed in the library of Trinity College, Dublin, where hundreds of thousands of people come to see it every year, but you can peruse this edition whenever you like. Overseen by Bernard Meehan, Trinity Library’s Keeper of Manuscripts, the publication beautifully presents 250 color illustrations, with crisp details that capture the intricacy of the illuminations. Meehan’s fascinating commentary offers insight on the manuscript’s context, creation, and artists; interprets its symbols and themes; and traces the wide influence of its art. Anna Thorn
Name of the Wind is a classic trickster tale, except that the trickster gets to tell the story. We first meet Qvothe, a surprisingly likable rogue, as an unassuming innkeeper; but as he relates the astonishing events of his past we begin to wonder who he really is. The world that unfolds as he tells his story is full of adventure, magic and music. The magic (which is more like alchemy than wand-waving) somehow feels as real as science, while still maintaining its wonder. In the sequel, A Wise Man’s Fear, the stories of the past and the present begin to merge. Now, I am eagerly awaiting the final volume of the trilogy.
We’ve all heard of Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and Hansel and Gretel; but have you heard of Goldflower, Donkeyskin or The Juniper Tree? Tatar’s amazing collection of Classic Fairy Tales can be read as a collection of bedtime stories or as a scholarly work that analyzes folktales from around the world. The 44 stories selected fall into 6 categories and range in time from the 5th century to the present day. Each tale begins with a short analysis followed by 4 or 5 versions from different places and periods. The book ends with a superb collection of essays dealing with the evolution and meaning of folktales from Bruno Bettelheim, Aarne and Thompson, and many more.