Hello, and welcome to book club! I’m a bit late on this but time means nothing during quarantine so let’s just say that I’m right on time, okay? And I have a fairly good excuse because a few days ago Victor broke his foot saving orphans from wild bears. That’s they way he’d like me to phrase it. In truth, I told him to kiss me and he said, “NO!” like an angry toddler and started speed walking away from me and I laughed and started speed walking after him and then he did this dumb walk to make me laugh and slipped and fell, so basically he broke his shit while I was chasing him, yelling, “LET ME LOVE YOU.” Then we were too afraid to go to the ER because of covid and twitter was like “Just find a podiatrist, you sweet idiot” and we did and turns out he has a torn tendon and is now in a boot. And now I’m basically his maid and when I was helping him get out of bed I misjudged where he was an punched him right in the face. Long story short, WE’RE GREAT HOW ARE YOU?

Aaaanyway, we’re just about to send out December’s Fantastic Strangeling Book Club Pick to you so I figured I should start up a thread discussing last month’s book. (As always, most of the discussion happens on the Fantastic Strangelings Facebook page but I always do a blog post as well in case you’re not a Facebook fan. And, as always, no rush if you haven’t finished the book. There are no deadlines in book club! The threads remain open for whenever you’re ready for it.)

Also, in case you missed it, this month’s book is The Thirty Names of Night, by Zeyn Joukhadar and it is divine. And as a special thank you to our members we’re slipping a small Fantastic Strangelings bookmark into your copy so that you can have Dorothy Barker gaze at you over your books as well:

And we do have memberships available right now so if you become a Fantastic Strangelings member this week you’ll still be able to get this book and the bookmark too.

But for now we’re discussing last month’s book, Dark Archives: A Librarian’s Investigation into the Science and History of Books Bound in Human Skin, by Megan Rosenbloom. WASN’T IT FASCINATING?

I’ll put my thoughts on her book in the comments but just a reminder that Megan is going to be doing a live zoom book club talk with us to discuss the book with me next week (yay!) so if you’re a member go look for an email that went out a few days ago that’ll let you RSVP for free. (We’ll put it on our youtube channel later if you can’t make it or are an honorary member.)

Happy reading!

24 thoughts on “Strangelings!

Read comments below or add one.


    So I was really afraid that everyone would run away from this book but most of you stuck with me even though it’s a book about books bound in human skin. I AM SO PROUD OF YOU.

    Okay, so here are my thoughts. I loved this book because it had a ton of fascinating stories and reminded me of Mary Roach. Also because I’m the kind of weird that loves true-crime and the macabre but only if it also is funny, smart or involves alcohol that I’m drinking. This had all of these but I had to bring my own rum.

    I loved the discussion about whether or not to inter or save books that are identified as being human skin because I find myself vacillating between how I feel on this as well. I went to one of those Body Worlds exhibits at the Houston Science Museum and I felt the same sort of uncertainty of whether this was totally scientific and important or totally exploitative and should be banned.

    Some of the book was a bit gross but my dad is a professional taxidermist so most of the really nasty stuff was sort of old-hat to me. (About how to tan hides…not about how to make human leather. My dad doesn’t do that. Probably.) So probably I was less squeamish than the average person and that allowed me to focus on so many parts that I loved. The research angle, especially done by a librarian, was fascinating. I loved how she explored the idea of consent, the ethics (or lack thereof) involved, and how much she focused on racism, misogyny and classism as a contributing factor to how and why human skin book-binding occurred, as well as how it removed midwives from childbirth.

    Each chapter gave me some intriguing story I immediately had to call my mom to tell her about and in the end she was like, “Just send me the book” because I guess she doesn’t like dozens of calls about grave-robbers and how we made newspapers out of mummies.

    Two stories that I wish I had more info on were the story of the Mütter Museum American Giant and the Soap Lady. I realize they are mysteries for a reason but I was ready to read a whole new book about them, and also one about Phyllis Wheatley because HOW HAD I NEVER HEARD OF HER BEFORE?

    Long story short…I really loved this strange little book. I hope you did too.

  2. I think Victor should tell people he broke his foot while saving bears from baby orphans.

  3. Well, I smashed my shoulder (and subsequently learned I have osteopenia) by tripping over a pile of laundry. I mean, by rescuing kittens from a burning building.

  4. Gawd, only you and Victor could have a story/stories like that!! Poor baby, hmm, which one 🙂

  5. Still reading … but it’s fascinating. The approach is more personal than I expected, but a welcome surprise. I don’t know what I expected from a topic like this, since anthropodermic books had never been on my radar before. That said, thus far it feels more like I’m having a one-on-one conversation with the author as she relates the experiences she’s had during research thus far. I especially enjoy the forensic side of this.

  6. I twisted my ankle, bruised both knees to the bone, and broke my arm when I was hit by a car…I mean when I was outrunning a T-Rex, last October. (Tell Victor my heart bleeeeeeeds for him.)

    I’m def putting that book on my To Read list.

  7. Now Victor can’t run away when you try and love on him, so it’s all good.

  8. So Victor equates your love like a wild bear chasing orphans, hmmmm….
    and now he’s making you wait on him hand and foot? No wonder you clocked him in the noggin (unconsciously, of course….)

  9. WILD, almost totally the same here—previously unbreakable husband broke his ankle last week and we decided it was worth it to just go to the podiatrist the next day. I seriously thought it was a weird request when I called them but they do do that.

  10. I was going to say his injury is an important reminder that any one of us can get distracted and hurt ourselves and it’s not worth it and pay attention when you go down those stairs but…wow. Only you two. I’m thinking of starting a Patreon to pay his medical bills but only if we all get to see an exact recreation of the walk that injured him (once he gets better and in safer circumstances). You in, Victor? 😉

  11. Ok I haven’t read the book yet and was curious about this Soap Lady and fell into the Mutter Museum website and learned what an ovarian dermoid cyst is and AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH unsee unsee close the tab think about kittens and waterfalls… I may never be the same. And I’m only a mildly squeamish person.

  12. Does Victor have a blog or a fan club? My wife follows you and I peak for the occasional laugh and to check out the spousal abuse. +1 for Victor today.

    (He totally should. ~ Jenny)

  13. I want to, but I’m SUCH a slow reader these days!!! I will dutifully add another book or three to my long long list…

  14. Quite a few years ago, I really jacked up an ankle slipping on a rock on our very steep (at that time) gravel driveway, whilst wheeling the garbage down to the curb.
    Not a very interesting story, is it?
    So, I REALLY jacked up my ankle by wrestling a wild bear, who was after the cat food on our porch, then Chuck Norris barges in and says, “I got this, Little Lady”, and proceeds with an unwanted intervention (Because, I TOTALLY was kicking the bear’s fuzzy butt!), grabs my ankle, instead of the bear, and gives it a twist, resulting in the very swollen, very sore, very jacked up, ankle.
    F’in’ Chuck!
    Dude owes me, big time.
    That’s my story, and I am stickin’ to it.

  15. I realize that this is very off topic but, did you ever play an oboe when you attended DMS ?

    (Nooo? ~ Jenny)

  16. i wont lie, this topic is the exact reason i chose archival studies as my track in library school. bc of the school i went to and its limited access to hands on preservation courses, i wound up pursuing the digital aspect of archiving, preserving microfilm in digital, etc, but reading this book was like a look into an alternate reality where i took the path of hands on preservation of weird and uncomfortable objects. this is also the first time i’ve been 100% caught up with the reading for strangelings.since i joined!

  17. Sidebar: was there an optional book for June I missed? I have Southern Book Club for April, Horrorstor for May, and then Girl Serpent Thorn for July

    (Hmm…Was it Lobizona? ~ Jenny)

  18. I cracked my ribs at the beginning of the pandemic while being chased by angry villagers who didn’t want to mask up at Walmart. (or while trying to beat the alarm at my office[and no, I didn’t seek medical attention. I mean-pandemic-y’all})

  19. Ok. I’m definitely picking this book up. I had read about some sick stuff the Nazis did with human skin, but I wasn’t aware anyone bound books with it. What kind of books were they? Necromancy?

    (Mainly medical books made for doctors or cautionary tales. ~ Jenny)

  20. I’m a largely ( 98.8%) fiction reader ( because real life is horrifying), and most of our other book club books have been fiction, so when I read the jacket blurb I was totally expecting some kind of dark and twisted Gothic tale. Imagine my surprise and trepidation when I realized this was, in fact, NOT fiction and is someone’s life work.
    Nevertheless, I dove in, expecting to be either too bored or too grossed out to finish it. I was hooked halfway through the first chapter and finished it in an afternoon.
    Fascinating and well written- the individual’s stories were simultaneously very interesting and very moving.
    A great read.

  21. I was reading this book last night (I got behind in book club and read the books out of order), and I gasped when I got to the part about the process of tanning. Because I went to school with that guy! (Not Jesse, but his brother Matt who is ever so fleetingly mentioned.) It was a weird feeling to be reading the chapter while she was talking about this family owned tanning business in NY…feeling ever so slowly like…she is going to the Meyer business!! My husband wanted to know if they tan human skins, which I reassured him they do not. Nice family.

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