Archives book group, anyone? Several options & call for suggestions

I’ve been considering doing another book group, with a somewhat different format than the Reading Archives Power one we did a couple of years ago. (Wow. That was three years ago now. Time flies.) I was thinking of trying to  give myself a goal of reading one  archives-related book a month. If I turn this into a book club thing it will give me more of a commitment to really do it, and I’m sure that would be true for others. Anyone interested?

I’ve been interested in reading books about archives and the use of archives written by historians (and other non-archivists), along the lines of:

Other possibilities include books about the digital world, such as:

Or something like:

I think reading books outside our own discipline might be interesting, although of course, there are plenty of wonderful books written by archivists that I have not gotten around to reading too.

In a follow-up post I’ll ask about a different reading list–what books about archives would you must like historians to read? But for now, if you’re interested in participating in a book club for archivists, and if you have ideas about what you’d like to read, please leave a comment.

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21 thoughts on “Archives book group, anyone? Several options & call for suggestions”

  1. Great idea, Kate! I’m not sure if you’re looking for ideas on how to present/manage the book club,, but in case you are is a pretty neat model. Probably overkill, but a couple of things I enjoyed from that were choosing various folks to write commentary, to start off discussion so it’s not entirely reader-driven. Also, the website is a great resource for those who fall behind, come to the party late, read during the summer, etc.
    Thanks for doing this! I’m looking forward to some good shared reading.

  2. I would love to participate in this — several of those books are on my to-read list! Great idea.

  3. I’m in! My only concern is that I’m a slow-reader (thanks, internet, for destroying my attention span) + I will be reading other stuff for the ACA exam, so a book a month is a tall task for me.

  4. I love this idea! I have dipped into a few of these and really enjoyed them, but it would be nice to have some direction (and motivation to read!).

  5. Great idea! Many of the books on your list are on my to-read list (several on my bookshelf waiting to be cracked).

    Some takes on archives/”the archive” which might be of interest, although maybe not all be appropriate for this purpose:

    From the world of literary theory:
    -Jonathan Boulter, Melancholy and the archive : trauma, memory, and history in the contemporary novel
    -Marco Codebò, Narrating from the archive : novels, records, and bureaucrats in the modern age
    -Suzanne Keen, Romances of the archive in contemporary British fiction

    -Jonathan E. Abel, Redacted:The Archives of Censorship in Transwar Japan
    -Patrick Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance: Memory and Oblivion at the End of the First Millennium (which makes me also think of From Memory to Written Record: England 1066 – 1307 by M. T. Clanchy)
    -What was that book on the Stasi Archives? Name escapes me at the moment but I remember thinking it sounded great.

    Or we could go with the literature route:
    Jose Saramago’s All the Names or the poetry book by Kate Eichhorn called Fond (sadly not widely available, though)

    While I would highly recommend the Merewether anthology generally, I don’t think it is the best for a book group. It is a collection of extracts/articles which have been previously published. Because of its format it would be tough to discuss it as a whole. For another artworld take on The Archive I would suggest Sven Spieker’s The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy

    One more in the philosophy pile would be Memory, History, Forgetting by Paul Ricoeur but it is HUGE … so maybe just the first chapter of part II “The Documentary Phase: Archived Memory”?

  6. Re the Stasi Archives, did you mean The File?

    This isn’t the Stasi one, but it’s been on my list for a while, more of an archives-centric one, but still of possible interest: The Struggle for the Files: The Western Allies and the Return of German Archives after the Second World War

  7. Yes! I do believe that is the one I was thinking of.
    The Eckert book looks great, too. Have you heard the interview with her on New Books In History?

    Another couple to note:
    An amazon search led me to Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and Their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France by Natalie Zemon Davis, which sounds really neat.

    That made me think of Carlo Ginzburg’s Cheese and the Worms – a fantastic book based on records from an inquisition archives in Fruili (see also his “Night Battles” about witches).

    So many books to read…

  8. King Leopold’s Ghost is awesome and it reads easy (the author is a journalist by trade, I think). I don’t remember it being quite as archives-centric as some of the other books on your list, but all of Adam Hochschild’s books that I have read certainly make interesting use of a wide range of archival sources.

    If you want another unconventional history book that creatively uses archival sources, The Beauty and the Sorrow is great. It’s an ‘intimate history’ of WWI, told from the perspective of many different people:

  9. One book that I’m excited to read is:

    More, Anna. Baroque Sovereignty: Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora and the Creole Archive of Colonial Mexico. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

    It’s a bit pricy, but maybe it will be made available in libraries sometime later this year.

  10. Two more suggestions:

    Matthew Kirschenbaum’s Mechanisms

    Richard White’s Remembering Ahanagran

    Neither is specifically about archives, but I think both are well worth reading.

  11. This one: “The Struggle for the Files: The Western Allies and the Return of German Archives after the Second World War”.
    Good to have an international perspective.
    Read in in German, several years ago.


  12. Would love to join! Many of those books are on my to-read list (Reading Gleick’s The Information right now)

  13. Philip H., thanks for suggesting MELVILLE BIOGRAPHY: AN INSIDE NARRATIVE. I would be overjoyed if you discussed it because in it I contrast the corrupt reviewing in the print media with the rise of responsible reviewing in personal blogs and litblogs. In it I celebrate one particular blogger, Nicole Perine, who discovered something no Melville scholar (including me) had seen, and pay tribute to the great litblogger Daniel Green. It’s a tough book. On Twitter Nicole announces it with “STAND BY MOTHERFUCKERS.” That gives you an idea that it will not bore you.

  14. Not a book but cited in a few of the recommended titles in your post and in the comments is a short piece in the 1977 Midwestern Archivist by Howard Zinn, “Secrecy, Archives and the Public Interest”.
    Powerful thoughts on the role of the archivist as citizen vs professional from a historian’s perspective. I know we are discussing books here but I figure reading is reading.

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