Reading Wednesday

Book Review The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray

Last spring while we were visiting New York City ( I love NY!) we visited the Morgan Library for the first time. Oh my, I was intrigued. Following that visit several people asked if I had read The Personal Librarian? What? No, I hadn’t. And now that I have, I can’t wait to return and visit the Morgan Library again the next time I am in New York. Here is my Book Review The Personal Llibrarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray.


This is the story of the life of Belle De Costa Greene, the Personal Librarian of J.P. Morgan and first director of the Morgan Library. Greene was incredibly intelligent, well-read, personable, beautiful, savvy and an amazing business women for the time. She was all of these things that made her successful and indispensible to J.P. Morgan for years. But she also carried a secret, one that if found out she would lose everything. She was black.

Turn of the Century

At the turn of the century, no black women, or man for that matter, held a more powerful position than Belle de Costa Greene. And everyday she fretted over the secret she carried. Born to a fair skin mother and father…her parents split when her mother insisted they all live as white. Belle’s father disappeared and Belle, her mother and her siblings moved to New York, changed their names, and began a life that was a lie…living as white.

J.P. Morgan

It’s unclear if Morgan ever knew this secret. It’s assumed others in the circle did but kept quiet. And somehow Belle rose through the social ranks and lived a life that others of her race could not even dream about.

Before her death, Belle burnt all of her correspondence in an effort to keep the secret beyond the grave. But eventually it became common knowledge. This book is written with both facts from other historic documents, and a healthy dose of fiction. But it’s an intriguing story of the lengths someone with so much intelligence and gifts had to endure to be successful.

I look forward to visiting the Morgan Library again. Thank you for reading my Book Review The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray.

See last week’s book review Women Talking by Miriam Toews. And be sure to see our 2023 Reading Round Up...our favorite books from the past year.

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  • Reply Ann Hedreen

    Laureen, I happen to (finally) be reading Short Nights of the Shadowcatcher, Tim Egan’s book about the photographer Edward S. Curtis, and it includes a fascinating chapter about JP Morgan, who was Curtis’s patron, and Belle de Costa Greene. I’ll put The Personal Librarian on my list!

    August 24, 2023 at 3:48 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Enjoyed both those! If you get to NYC the Morgan Library is astonishing!

      August 25, 2023 at 5:05 pm

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