Publications: Reading with a Purpose, Numbers 30 to 47

From 1925 through 1933, known under the series title Reading with a Purpose, the American Library Association produced a series of resources to support general reading on a variety of topics, for adult readers who completed formal schooling. Each publication is rich in the perspectives of scholarly authorities of its time. Read on to learn more about Reading with a Purpose!

In The Stars, by astronomer Dr. Harlow Shapley, the author introduces readers to the field of astronomy and the study of stars. In The Founders of the Republic, by U.S. historian Claude Gernade Bowers, the author identifies multiple early U.S. government founders, and he recommends recent biographies too. While in The Foreign Relations of the United States, by journalist Paul Scott Mowrer, the author explains the relationship between foreign relations and local politics, while recommending books for further reading.

In Twentieth Century Novels, by U.S. author and critic Dr. William Lyon Phelps, the author identifies outstanding examples of current U.S. novels for further personal study. While in A Study of English Drama on the Stage, by U.S. theater critic and author Walter Prichard Eaton, the author introduces a history of English language drama and he recommends other studies for further reading too.

In Good English, by English literature instructor and public librarian Virginia Cleaver Bacon, the author introduces incentives and self-study strategies for improving one’s spoken and written English communication abilities. In Adventures in Flower Gardening, by librarian and gardener Sydney Bancroft Mitchell, the author explains the benefits of recreational gardening and he recommends books for further self-study. While in French Literature, by literary critic Irving Babbitt, the author summarizes French literary history while recommending outstanding works for reading.

In The Young Child, by child development researcher Bird T. Baldwin, the author describes the new field of child development studies, and he recommends recent publications for further reading.

In the image above, in the typed note paper-clipped to the title page, readers can see that the author passed not long before publication and was therefore unable to inscribe a copy of this work.

In Interior Design, by artist and lecturer Dudley Crafts Watson, the author introduces interior design and recommends 6 additional books for further study.

In the images above, readers will notice that this installment is visually different from its predecessors. The cover features original artwork and the title page replaces the series logo with an image of a modern family room. While difficult to describe and made easier when shown with images, there are particular aesthetic delights for researchers involved in archival research or for readers of ambitious publications like Reading with a Purpose, as can be seen.

In Geography and Our Need of It, by geographer Dr. Joseph Russell Smith, the author introduces readers to his vision of geography as the study of the relationship between humans and the environment, and he recommends 6 books for further study. While in Pivotal Figures of Science, by science teacher, librarian, and writer Dr. Arthur Elmore Bostwick (A.L.A. President 1907-1908), the author introduces readers to the importance of public knowledge of science while recommending biographies of recent outstanding scientists.

In George Washington, by U.S. historian Albert Bushnell Hart, the author introduces readers to recent research about the everyday life of George Washington and he provides reading recommendations too. While in Prehistoric Man, by anthropologist Dr. George Grant MacCurdy, the author introduces readers to early human cultures and he recommends additional books for further reading.

In the images above, readers can see that the author included a bookplate from his library along with an inscription to former A.L.A. Secretary Carl H. Milam.

In The Pacific Area in International Relations, by the New Zealander economist John Bell Condliffe, the author introduces the geopolitics of large countries west of the Pacific Ocean and he recommends books to further guide readers’ self-study. While in English History, by Canadian librarian George H. Locke, the author introduces English history, while recommending histories, biographies, fiction, and poetry as sources for further information and reading.

In The Romance of Modern Exploration, by arctic explorer Fitzhugh Green Sr., the author introduces readers to the excitement of exploration in the world and the world of books, before recommending 6 books for further reading. While in The Human Body and Its Care, by physician and editor Dr. Morris Fishbein, the author introduces readers to the study of human health and he recommends books for further study too.

Careful readers will notice that, like Interior Design, The Romance of Modern Exploration features unique title page art and even more images to be found in the text.

From the sciences to the arts and humanities, the Reading with a Purpose Series was published from 1925 through 1933, with the goal of providing recommended reading on a variety of topics to support the lifelong learning of adults. In this sample of some publications from the series, readers can see both the breadth of topics and the authors’ writing styles, as well as how special collections, like archives, can hold unique samples of ephemeral information like personal inscriptions rich with personal information about the writers and their readers.

Copies Available at Your ALA Archives

Physical copies of Reading with a Purpose are available for viewing at the ALA Archives. Please view the Record Series 29/3/10 database record entry, for more information.

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Many people have been involved in the long history of A.L.A. publications and bibliographic work. Do you have any information about Reading with a Purpose participants, collaborators, publications, or beneficiaries? Please contact us through social media. We and our readers would like to read about it.

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