One Book One Read 2023

One Book One Read - Reader's Guide (2023)

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Library Announces One Book, One Read -The Personal Librarian

The Fulton County Library System is pleased to announce the title for the 2nd Annual, One Book, One Read a county-wide book club with the…

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ABOUT THE BOOK

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture on the New York society scene and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps build a world-class collection.

But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle's complexion isn't dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lives.

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ABOUT ONE BOOK ONE READ

The Fulton County Library System is pleased to announce the title for the 2nd Annual, One Book, One Read a county-wide book club with the aim of getting as many people across Fulton County reading, talking about, and engaging with the same book.  The goal is to promote conversations, community building, and literacy all while having fun with your friends, family, and neighbors.

The Library System’s One Book, One Read program will kick off June 1st with The Personal Librarian by Victoria Christopher Murphy and Marie Benedict. It's the remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, the personal librarian to J. P. Morgan and the curator of The Morgan Library who was secretly passing as a white woman.

Following the success of the first-ever One Book, One Read program in Fulton County in 2022, the story of Belle da Costa Greene felt like a perfect follow-up to last year's Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.

One of the many cultural marvels of New York City is The Morgan Library and Museum. Founded in 1906, it began not as the renowned public institution we know today, but as the extravagant private library of John Pierpont Morgan. And there was only one person the famously difficult and mercurial financier trusted with his collection of rare paintings, manuscripts, and books: his personal librarian, a woman in her twenties named Belle da Costa Greene.

Belle was tasked with singlehandedly curating Morgan’s collection, housed in a lavish townhouse off East 36th Street. Through her efforts, she became one of the most powerful people in the art world and one of history’s most prominent librarians. But unbeknownst to her employer, friends, and many admirers, Belle was hiding a secret that would have destroyed it all—she was a Black woman “passing” for white.

Critics have hailed the book as "a captivating and profoundly enlightening portrayal.” – Booklist (starred review), “an excellent piece of historical fiction that many readers will find hard to put down.” –Library Journal (starred review) and share that “This does fine justice to a remarkable historical figure.” –Publishers Weekly

The Library System, with support from the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library Foundation, is pleased to share a special visit with the authors on Saturday, September 30th at the Central Library in downtown Atlanta.  Both authors will be on hand to discuss the book, answer audience questions and take part in the book signing following the talk.  Books will be available for purchase through ACapella Books during the event.

Interested in joining a library branch book club?  Simply visit your local library to learn more about their individual Book Club readings of The Personal Librarian, then join us at the Central Library, in downtown Atlanta for the culmination of this exciting event.

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