UW Alumni Book Club

Nancy’s Picks: Diving Deeper into Frankenstein

A legend among librarians, Nancy Pearl is well-known for her talent in helping readers find their next great read. She’s so good, she taught a class on this skill to future librarians here at the UW!

UW Alumni Book Club invited her to recommend some other books after they’d picked up “Frankenstein” this reading period. The juicy list she suggests takes a few angles on Mary Shelley’s classic gothic novel.

Dig into more spooky stories and early science fiction from the Victorian age. Explore the unconventional lives of the writers, artists and poets of Mary Shelley’s circle. Then discover modern women writers who are taking science fiction in bold new directions, as well!

“She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein”

by Lynn Fulton

Whenever I want a good introduction to a topic I look for a children’s book, and here’s a particularly good one.

“Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of
Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley”

by Charlotte Gordon

Wollstonecraft died in 1797, less than two weeks after her daughter was born, but the similarities between mother and daughter are uncanny.

“Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives”

by Daisy Hay

A fascinating look at a group of artists, writers, poets, and hangers-on who all chose to live outside the bounds of convention.

“The Mysteries of Udolpho”

by Anne Radcliffe

This late 18th century novel is often considered to be the first gothic novel—it has it all: the supernatural, the castle, and the handsome scoundrel. It’s not unlikely that Shelley read it.

“The Last Man”

by Mary Shelley

A post-apocalyptic novel set at the end of the 21st century about a world devastated by a plague. It was written in 1826, 10 years after she wrote Frankenstein.

“Frankenstein’s Dreams: A Connoisseur’s Collection
of Victorian Science Fiction”

by Michael Sims

Including works by Kipling, Shelley, Verne, and Poe, as well as many other writers unknown to most of us.

“The New Annotated Frankenstein”

edited by Leslie Klinger

A perfect book for anyone who enjoyed Frankenstein, is curious about the world the author lived in, and loves the bits and pieces of information that give depth and breadth to a work of fiction.

Some of Nancy’s favorite contemporary women science fiction writers:

  • Ursula LeGuin
  • N.K. Jemison
  • Natasha Pulley
  • Natalie Zina Walschotts
  • Octavia Butler
  • Nnedi Okorafor
  • Ann Leckie
  • Sofia Samatar
  • Kelly Link
  • Nisi Shawl

Meet Nancy Pearl

Nancy Pearl is a former UW faculty member and current UW Master of Library and Information Science advisory board member.
Nancy is widely known for her 2003 notable book “Book Lust,” which guides people through finding the right book for the right mood. During her time on faculty at the Information School, Nancy taught Readers Advisory, a course that trains new librarians in the art and science of helping patrons find their next good book. You may also recognize Nancy as the model for Archie McPhee’s quirky librarian action figure.
Nancy is the former executive director of the Washington Center for the Book at Seattle Public Library. In 2011, Library Journal selected Nancy as Librarian of the Year. In 2021, the National Book Foundation named her “Literarian,” which is awarded to an individual for a lifetime of achievement in expanding the audience for books and reading.