Working in a book store affords me the chance to (sometimes literally) stumble across books I wouldn’t ordinarily seek out. How To Read Churches caught my eye partly because I have a layman’s interest in architecture, but also from a research point of view. I often find myself grasping for words when describing buildings in my fiction, so what better resource than a book on Gothic, Byzantine and Classical architectural styles?
How To Read Churches has lots of illustrations and different sections covering materials used in construction. In addition to architectural movements the author gives a little history, contained in simple bite-sized yet informative call outs. The book also covers the philosophy and conceptual ideas behind churches, describing the way architects imbue buildings with numeric and symbolic importance.
There’s often a feeling of style over content with a lot of illustrated books, but this chunky little tome has a lot packed into it – Denis R. McNamara squeezes an index and a glossary in to the 256 pages. The book is solely concerned with Christian architecture, however there are other books in the range including How To Read Buildings.
This book would be a great addition to any holiday spent in Italy, where church visits are almost mandatory, but equally any city visit where there’s a Cathedral. As a resource to a writer (especially Fantasy or Gothic) it’s something worth having on the shelf to refer to time and again, especially if you’re worried about authenticity (Anyone who’s read K.J. Parker’s novels will be aware of just how priceless authenticity is).