What readers think of The Personal Librarian, plus links to write your own review.

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Personal Librarian

by Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray X
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2021, 352 pages

    Jun 2022, 352 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers
Buy This Book

About this Book


Page 4 of 11
There are currently 88 reader reviews for The Personal Librarian
Order Reviews by:

Write your own review!

Cindy R

Morgan's Librarian
I'm sure most of you are unfamiliar with the person written about in THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN (Berkley) by authors, Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. She happens to be one of the most interesting people I've ever read about, and I believe you will find her intriguing too.

In 1905, at the age of twenty-one, Belle da Costa Green was hired by financier, steel, railroad and electric power magnate, J.P. Morgan to become his personal librarian for the collection he wanted to build. He entrusted her completely, to negotiate for and buy millions of dollars worth of manuscripts, books and art for Morgan. She told Morgan, who was willing to pay any price for important works, that her goal was to make his library "pre-eminent, especially for incunabula, manuscripts, bindings and the classics." Acquiring rare and valuable items was a way wealthy families showed off their status. Belle was immediately welcomed into New York society and was soon mingling with Astors, Vanderbilts, Carnegies and other members of the "swells."

But from the very beginning, Belle had a secret. It was a secret that if discovered would crumble down and destroy her and her family, who she provided for. I'm not going to give away the secret, but the whole story is true, with some literary license, and truly amazing.

Belle was a trailblazer as a single, successful career woman in the early in the early 1900's. THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN deals family, sacrifice, truth and lies. A definite must read.
Power Reviewer
Wendy F. (Kalamazoo, MI)

The Personal Librarian
What a lovely story of hidden history! I loved learning about Belle and the writing was excellent. I have read many of Marie Benedict's novels and enjoyed them all. This time she teamed up with Victoria Christopher Murray to tell the story of Belle de Costa Greene, J.P. Morgan's personal librarian, who is an African American woman presenting as white. The constant trepidation that she feels being concerned that she will be found out and how she was able to make herself so successful in the art world make a tempting tale.
Florrie C. (Indianapolis, IN)

A worthy read
Kudos to Marie Benedict for once again plucking a little-known but fascinating woman from relative historical obscurity and giving her a platform. Belle's struggles in renouncing her own race for another and the challenges she faces not just as a woman in a man's domain but a minority in a majority world is compelling and particularly timely in the current environment. Clearly, Ms. Benedict and her co-author Victoria Christopher Murray have an agenda beyond Belle's life story, as they explain to the reader in their Author's Notes. While at times, that agenda appears a bit contrived, we can never be reminded too many times of racial injustice and its terrible human costs. The Personal Librarian is a worthy read.
Susan W. (Berkley, MI)

This book is a winner
I rarely give a "five star rating" to a book, but I have not enjoyed a book this much for quite some time. The Personal Librarian is a treasure. It was as captivating as a good novel, and at the same time I was learning about the J. P. Morgan Library and its librarian. I had never heard of Belle da Costa Greene, so I enjoyed learning about her life; it was a pleasant coincidence to do so during Black History Month.

Sometimes books with two authors have awkward moments. This book did not. The passages that were obviously nonfiction, such as descriptions of art, books, or architecture, fit into the narration seamlessly, and even though I was often not familiar with the information, I was not bored. The Epilogue was the only part of the book that felt inconsistent to me. It seemed stilted, not so true to Belle's voice, although it might have been my own discomfort with the politics around me that colored my interpretation of it as I read.

I would highly recommend this book to a reader who doesn't necessarily enjoy nonfiction as strongly as to someone who enjoys reading about history.
Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)

"My Personal Historical Fiction Author"
Once again, Marie Benedict has not disappointed in her latest book "The Personal Librarian". She is joined in this book by Victoria Christopher Murray one of this country's top African American contemporary authors.

The main character in this book is Belle da Costa Green who, through high academic prowess and perseverance, becomes "The Personal Librarian" to J.P. Morgan. And so her journey begins to curate both books and art for the greatest library ever assembled for the wealthiest and most influential industrialist of the times. Through her climb of this corporate ladder, in a field that was not one that women aspired, we meet individuals who Belle interacts with on both a professional and personal level. And although her professional life was groundbreaking for that time, it is her personal life that we are drawn into. It is a familial conflict which can determine her future. And it is that conflict that weighs heavy on Belle along with putting a very bright spotlight on the mores and racial and social justice issues then and now.

This is the third of Ms. Benedict's books that I have read and I am hooked. Thank you, Marie Benedict, for highlighting women who made great strides during times when a woman's place was strictly in the home!
Ilene M. (Longmont, CO)

Well done!
Wonderfully written book about a fascinating woman in American history. It is also a condemnation of the racial discrimination that has plagued our history. Bravo for Marie Benedict having the understanding that she could not write this book by herself. Adding Victoria Christopher Murray as the co-author gives authenticity to the feelings of the protagonist. This is my introduction to Marie Benedict as an author. Now I want to read more of the books that she has written about unsung women heroes.
Jackie H

Intellect, Passion and Sacrifice
Knowing nothing of J. P. Morgan’s Library or personal librarian, I was intrigued by the title. Written by two authors, one white, one black, created an authentic look at the cost/benefit of “passing”. Professionally and socially, Belle was able to dramatically succeed through her intellect, passion and perseverance for the printed word and for visual art. Belle was able to effectively deal with the business associates who sought to use her for their personal gain and as she weighed responses to questions to avoid spilling her deepest secret. The family dynamics, both immediate and extended, were interesting. Especially interesting was the pressure from the mother for her to succeed while seemingly content for the mediocrity for the other children. This is sure to be on the agenda for book clubs across the country.
Jessamyn R. (Fayetteville, NC)

Better than a Fairytale: a real Belle, enchanting library and its (sometimes) monstrous owner
Once I got into the story of Belle da Costa Greene, I was swept away - and knowing that she was real made it an even more enticing. I came to love the heroine's balance of professional chutzpah and vulnerable heart, and the vibrant depictions of life in the gilded age (with attention to those not in the stratospheric heights of wealth). I think this would be an excellent book club book: there's something for everyone to identify with or want to discuss from professional identity, to romance and subverting societal expectation around sexual morality, to books as objects of art and reverence, to the U.S.'s complicated history of race relations at the core of the novel.

Beyond the Book:
  Belle da Costa Greene

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Exiles
    by Jane Harper
    Our First Impressions readers were thrilled to return to the world of Jane Harper's protagonist ...
  • Book Jacket: Spice Road
    Spice Road
    by Maiya Ibrahim
    Imani is a Shield, a warrior who is renowned for her fighting abilities and for her iron dagger, ...
  • Book Jacket: A Mystery of Mysteries
    A Mystery of Mysteries
    by Mark Dawidziak
    Edgar Allan Poe biographers have an advantage over other writers because they don't have to come up ...
  • Book Jacket: Moonrise Over New Jessup
    Moonrise Over New Jessup
    by Jamila Minnicks
    Jamila Minnicks' debut novel Moonrise Over New Jessup received the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Nurse's Secret
by Amanda Skenandore
A fascinating historical novel based on the little-known story of America's first nursing school.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Russian Doll
    by Kristen Loesch

    A haunting epic of betrayal, revenge, and redemption following three generations of Russian women.

  • Book Jacket

    The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise
    by Colleen Oakley

    A “wildly surprising, entertaining ride of a novel.”
    —Jodi Picoult

Win This Book
Win Last House Before the Mountain

Last House Before the Mountain by Monika Helfer

A spellbinding, internationally bestselling family saga set in a fractured rural village in WWI Austria.



Solve this clue:

R Peter T P P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.