Every November, a few weeks after the Frankfurt book fair, Mladinska knjiga organizes a small fair called “Frankfurt after Frankfurt”, showing a small selection of recently published books. I went to see it a few days ago, and noticed a few interesting books:
Patrick J. Geary: The Myth of Nations: The Medieval Origins of Europe. Princeton UP, 2003.
Nowadays we are often inclined to think that this or that specific present-day European nation originated in this or that set of early medieval tribes/peoples/etc. This book argues that this is a very inaccurate view that has more to do with nationalist romanticism than with historical fact. I have already wondered occasionally if our views on national origins in the middle ages aren't a little oversimplified, and this looks like just the book I should read to learn more about this subject.
Ray Villard, Lynette R. Cook: Infinite Worlds: An Illustrated Voyage to Planets beyond Our Sun. University of California Press, 2005.
A nice illustrated book (on good heavy paper) on the subject of planets outside our solar system. Several such planets have been discovered in recent years. There are several fascinating illustrations showing what the view from the surface of some of these planets might look like.
Kay Slocum: Medieval Civilisation. Laurence King Publishing, 2005.
This is basically a college textbook on medieval history. It looks interesting, thorough, and well organized. I wonder if it's appropriate for me to read college-level textbooks in fields where I am a complete layman, but the introduction of this book does seem to suggest that the book could be interesting for a lay reader as well. I wasn't terribly keen on medieval history in secondary school, and so I've forgotten much of what I had learnt at the time; I often toy with the idea of reading some introduction to this period.
Wieland Schmied: Hundertwasser. Taschen, 2005.
A handsome book about Hundertwasser's life and work, with many illustrations. As a bonus, the price seems remarkably low for a coffee-table book (it's true that it isn't as large as many coffee-table books, however). I like Hundertwasser's wacky, variegated style, and it would be nice to have a book about him. However, on the other hand, I am of course aware that I am a pathetic philistine with absolutely no understanding of art, and so I always feel pangs of remorse after I buy any book about art: should I really own such a book? Is it not mere vanity, mere pretentiousness, for a person such as me to buy a book such as this? Wouldn't it be better to leave the book alone, to be bought by somebody who will be able to appreciate its artistic value, while I ought to save my money for some book that will not go above my head?
Incidentally, while we're on the subject of Hundertwasser, Taschen also published a Catalogue Raisonné of Hunderwasser's work, also edited by Schmied, 2 vols., 1792 pages, sold on Amazon for the princely sum of $750
They also had a few books from the Clay Sanskrit Library, a series of bilingual editions of classical Indian texts (Sanskrit (transliterated into the Latin alphabet) on the left, English translation on the right) — i.e. a similar concept as the Loeb Classical Library, and indeed the books are exactly the same size. I'm not sure if I'm going to be buying any of these or not. I'm afraid that Indian literary tradition will be too foreign to me, and therefore these books will be too hard to read. Besides, they don't seem to contain much in the way of notes or commentaries. And they are being published at too quick a pace — I can barely keep up with I Tatti Renaissance Library's three or four volumes per year, but the Clay Sanskrit Library means to publish 100 volumes within five years (and indeed have already published 18 volumes this year). This will include a complete Ramayana in 8 volumes and the Mahabharata in 32 volumes (incidentally, public-domain translations of both are available on the wonderful sacred-texts.com web site). The CSL Ramayana is based on the Princeton University Press translation by Robert Goldman et al.
Steven Roger Fischer: A History of Reading. Reaktion Books, 2004.
Luigi Albertini: The Origins of the War of 1914. Enigma Books, 2005.
A massive three-volume study of the origins of the First World War, reprinted from the original edition (Oxford University Press, 1952–57), which is now scarce and expensive. Albertini lived early enough that he was able to personally interview some of the people involved in the events of 1914. I heard about his work in David Fromkin's excellent book about the same subject, Europe's Last Summer. I'm not entirely sure if I want to read a 2280-page study of the origins of WW1, but given Amazon's massive discount (the entire three-volume set would cost $60 and would ship as a single item), I am sorely tempted.
Gavriel D. Rosenfeld: The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism. Cambridge UP, 2005.
Quite a few works of fiction (books, movies, etc.) are set in an alternative history in which Hitler's Germany won the Second World War (e.g. Robert Harris' Fatherland, which I read this summer). This book is a study of these alternative histories. It certainly sounds like an intriguing subject, and I'm amazed that a 536-page hardcover from Cambridge UP sells for a mere $20 from amazon.
I'm not sure which, if any, of these books I'll eventually get around to buying and reading, but it's nice to be at least aware of their existence. It makes me feel that my trip to the fair has not been in vain.