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5 Artsy Reads

When the weather is cold, escape through art

To me, colder weather means reading, hitting the library and visiting museums. A great time for books, and a fine time for art. Period. So, without ado, here are some recommendations that blend those two worthwhile interests.

Girl With A Pearl Earring

Until January, in NYC’s Frick Collection, the inspiration for Tracy Chevalier’s surprise hit novel is on display. So, pick up a copy, read it on the train down. Then head over to see Vermeer’s stunning little masterpiece on 70th Street: what a superb way to spend your day.


John Banville’s overlooked, smart and mysterious little gem unfolds around an art historian’s cataloging of a group of paintings. Of course, as is the case with all of Banville’s works, the paintings and the narrator’s catalog point highlight much larger issues and far darker elements of plot — none of which we shall go into here!

The Birth of Venus

Florence! The Renaissance! Tumult!!! Sarah Dunant — a wonderful interviewee, by the way — made her name with this novel, and has, it seems, been writing more and more successfully ever since. And even more power to her, as this story is (eat your heart out, Dan Brown) both an interesting historical page-turner and a more down-to-brown-earth precursor to TV shows such as The Borgias and Da Vinci’s Demons.

The Girl In The Hyacinth Blue

Sorry, what can I say? I LOVE Vermeer, and Susan Vreeland’s novel makes me want to stare into the master’s still-life paintings, and lose myself in their miniaturized dramatic worlds. Hey, you can bring this novel down with you to the Frick as well, and that two-fer will become a three-fer about the great Dutch painter!

An Adultery

First off: This novel isn’t for everyone — it’s erudite, filled with ideas, and stylistically bonkers once you see how Alexander Theroux can let fly, verbally, at a moment’s notice. That said, while the narrator can be a bit of a blowhard, his tale is deft and crisp, often enough, and there is knowledge of artcraft here that’s simply amazing.

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