Forthwith and Away
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I will give this a try for 2017 hoping that my health can keep me steady and my eyes permit.
My reading interests are wide. I like to do a mix with little advance planning. One leads to another in a seemingly random way.
I like to give priority to books that I already have although a new book may come out that attracts my interest. I have recorded abut 1,300 books that I own in my LibraryThing library but I have quite a few more to yet add. The mix will probably include some classics, history and literature. I feel that music is my second language but other than a good biography, it does not lend itself well to words. I did play professionally for a few years but I cannot describe with words.
My academic background is in Psychology and Math. and I have worked in broadcasting while in graduate school. Several years were spent in Human Resources, Employee Benefits and Compensation and I have been teaching an on-line course through the IFEBP and The Wharton School as academic partner for about twelve years. Psychology tells us that if we publicly share our intentions for a new year we are much less likely to keep them. Therefore, I will discreetly commit but do not tell, will you not?
I have been hooked on The Great Courses with their Guide Books and also find myself working through those. I may jump off to read one of their recommended books at times or comment on one of those. These make me want to read the original sources.
We all have so many distractions now. I can look around at my own books but also there is the television with some significant programs. We are seeing a golden age of better television from around the world. I may add a comment about that now and then if you promise to keep reading anyway.
Good luck and steadiness of purpose to everyone in 2017. I look forward to your reads and suggestions.
Welcome! I'm looking forward to watching your reading this year. Feel free to visit our threads and jump into conversations - we're pretty friendly!
Hi Michael! I'm looking forward to following your reading in 2017. I am a professor in the Department of Management & Organizations at the University of Iowa. I teach mostly leadership/organizational behavior courses, but I have some background in human resources as well, and I do reading in psychology to sprinkle into my classes as well.
I am part of the group.
I love being part of the group.
I love the friendships bestowed upon my by dint of my membership of this wonderful fellowship.
I love that race and creed and gender and age and sexuality and nationality make absolutely no difference to our being a valued member of the group.
Thank you for also being part of the group.
Well then, I need to get on with this after being distracted by a number of fine television programs after pulling the cable, The Great Courses, professional/teaching work and my latest distraction of Ancestry.com. There are many sources of education and entertainment. Possibly, this is the richest period for the wide availability of quality affordable pursuits. I seem to be in a hurry to take it all in.
Note: All of the books that I will note come from my own personal library unless otherwise noted. I find that the book as an object or digital possession is relevant to the long form reading or even listening. I may make a brief mention of other long form sources.
Actually after going through the Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages, Late Middle Ages and the Great Minds of the Medieval World Great Courses, it was time to give another read to
1. Chaucer by Peter Ackroyd
It was the first of his biography series. My wife is now reading and praising his biography of Alfred Hitchcock. I have several of Ackroyd's books because of his to the point writing and deep research. I read this in the hardcover first American Edition. It has several helpful illustrations that are carefully tied into the text. Because Chaucer was a court favorite, there are some telling biographical details that are available. I have several Medieval books in my home library and I am now stimulated to give those a go this year mixed in with so many other interests.
Then, I just gave away nearly 100 Human Resources/Management types of books but kept back a small number. One of those that I finally just got around to read is
2. The World According to Peter Drucker by Jack Beatty
I am not a fan of this advocacy of privatization and outsourcing, nor do I generally have much tolerance for the crop of management/leadership gurus. Many of their trend of the week books are quite forgettable. Their books might fill one TED talk. I do admire and gather at the feet of the late Dr. Deming and went through his Deming Library series some years ago. He actually offers thought and proves his ideas. Also, I recently met and heard a presentation Ram Charan and he actually has substance. I am referring to the top business consultant and author and not the more googled Indian actor of the same name.
Anyway, this book was a way to read about Drucker's analytical work and surprisingly a number of critical comments without suffering from his actual books. In fairness, he generally does not offer solutions. He instead tries to look ahead and analyze both what stays the same and what changes. The book follows his many published books and articles somewhat in sequence. It does a good job of organizing his works with brief biographical insights. With his early life, his mistrust and view of limited government is more understandable.
If you can recommend a Drucker book of note, I would appreciate your comments.
I read this in the first edition hardcover.
3. The Story of England by the reliable Christopher Hibbert was next in my stack of shame (unread or needing to read again books).
I do think that the experience of reading is affected by the object of the book or device. In this case, this is a beautiful artfully presented book by the British publisher Phaidon. They are rightfully famous for their beautiful art/design books. This book is printed on heavy semi-gloss paper and contains a generous amount of color illustrations. The book is light enough to hold with pleasure in the hand. The illustrations are frustratingly small though so have your Oxford English Dictionary magnifying glass handy. The illustrations are worth a pause.
We can rely on the writing of Christopher Hibbert. He moves through English history with his usual command. He always seems to have a talent for including enticing detail for a lively but informed read. This is popular history and no apologies are needed. When he reaches the inevitable Henry VIII, he seems to tire and even get aggravated. This is well-worn territory and clichés are hard to avoid. He shows a royal devotion and with the breadth of the subject and limit of pages, he can be excused for barely mentioning the break away of the American colonies.
Having recently completed The Great Courses set of lectures on "The Story of the Bible" by Luke Timothy Johnson, who was a former monk and taught at a near-by abbey, I felt the need to talk it over with friends. The name Bart D. Ehrman was brought to my attention. He also has courses from The Great Courses. I located a debate that he had done (among several) on YouTube. Then, I decided that it was time to read his book that I have in my home library:
4. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.
Mr. Ehrman was an evangelical Christian who now questions the Bible in profound ways. He is a scholar who has studied the development of The New Testament. He writes about the history of the compilation of The New Testament and the thousands of changes/differences among surviving documents. He, as did Mr. Johnson present many difficulties in trying to recover what the original words were in the books of The New testament. Mr. Johnson looked at both the Old and New Testament and emphasized the tremendous challenges in the various translations. Both extensively examine the role of the scribes. Even though, this was not a terribly lengthy book, I took a slow and deliberate reading. Now, I need to get back with those friends and have another talk.
"Today's veterans often come home to find that although they're willing to die for their country, they're not sure how to live for it. It's hard to know how to live for a country that regularly tears itself apart along every possible ethnic and demographic boundary."
These are powerful thoughts from one of our fine contemporary writers.
5. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
is a new book by the author of the modern classic The Perfect Storm. This new book consists of four long form pieces dealing with the deep feelings and reactions of people facing war or natural disasters. How do people respond and why do people respond so differently? How do we treat returning Veterans and how can we do better? Do not expect the usual bumper sticker simplicity in addressing these questions in this book.
If you are not shielded from our current public "discourse" today, which would be excusable, the damages to our own "Tribe" are incalculable.
I read this in the First Edition hardback published by the Hatchett Book Group and signed by the author.
6. The Secret History by Procopius
This is a book which would have been fatal had it been released while the author was still living. It was written about 550 AD and not revealed until long after the author had died. It was found in 14th century manuscripts and not printed until 1623.
The book itself is quite a scandal. Procopius was a close aid to the great Byzantine General Belisarius. The focus is on the last vestiges of Roman power in the west and the relatively thriving Byzantine surviving in what was the Eastern Roman empire.
Procopius also covers the doings of the household of Justinian. The treacheries of Antonina, the wife of Belisarius, and Theodora, the wife of Justinian, are covered in lurid detail. The stories of lurid activities are breathlessly told. One story leads into another even more horrid. The irony is that Procopius wrote works of great admiration of these same people that were made available. In those works, these same characters could do no wrong. All the time, he was keeping a secret accounting of what they were really like.
It is almost an ancient stream of consciousness style. It is like he hurried to recount what he claimed to know before it was too late. There are several characters and it requires the reader to keep an alert accounting.
I read this in a beautiful Folio cloth bound book printed on Monument Wove Paper in 1990. It has a number of full color illustrations and comes in a slipcase.
>11 Forthwith: It's a fascinating history, isn't it? I also read The Bible Doesn't Say That: 40 Biblical Mistranslations, Misconceptions, and other Misunderstandings by Joel Hoffman as well as John Shelby Spong's Biblical Literalism: The Gentile Heresy last year, both more on interpreting what we have in terms of the most recent research on Biblical language and content rather than the history of compiling and translating the Bible but both fascinating. Karen Armstrong's The Bible: A Biography focuses on the development of the Bible, while In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles Over Translating the Bible by Peter Thuesen focuses on more recent developments.
Thanks for the detail ronincats. Karen Armstrong is certainly a well known scholar in these matters. We seem to still slowly make new discoveries. Archeology is having some exciting times especially with the aid of technical advancements. They approach this with much more of a methodical approach now.
Archeology itself had it's own scandal though. I attended a talk by a locally based archeologist, Alan Kaiser, when he released his new book. He did some detective work and found a serious and intriguing misattribution. His book was titled Archeology, Sexism, and Scandal As I mentioned in my brief review, this would make an excellent documentary. We have to consider the "findings" with a very critical eye.
I am going to view a couple of The Great Courses by Ehrman on similar matters.
"Misguided religion, tyranny, and absurd laws every where depress and afflict mankind. Here we have in some measure regained the ancient dignity of our species; our laws are simple and just, we are a race of cultivators, our cultivation is unrestrained, and therefore every thing is prosperous and flourishing."
This was written in the mid 1700s by a French immigrant in Pennsylvania.
7. Letters From An American Farmer by J. Hector St. John De Crevecoeur
The characters are fictional but the elegant descriptions about life in America before the revolution is vivid and rings true. The book takes the form of twelve letters to a friend in Europe describing life on an American farm before the revolution. It is a classic piece of early American literature. Later letters are written in a darker tone as the effects of the British-American conflict intensify. He also writes from Charleston about slavery. The book was not published until he returned to Europe for a period in 1782. It was quite popular in Europe at that time as interest about America was high.
My own ancestor arrived in Philadelphia in 1841 from France and this gives me an almost personal view of life at that time. This book is a great pleasure to slowly read and savor. Put a nice cup of tea within reach and enjoy.
Note: I may seem a bit over enthused by books at times but I have the habit of getting through every book. Therefore, I try to choose those books with a subject of some interest by a writer of some reputation to avoid the dread of being stuck on a ramshackle boat across the sea.
I read this in my limited edition fully leather bound book with silk endpapers and ribbon with gold edging published through The American Revolution Bicentennial Administration by The Franklin Library as part of their 100 Greatest Masterpieces of American Literature series. In my view, this series was the finest achievement of The Franklin Library. I have the full original set and many of their publications including their wonderful 100 Greatest Classical Recordings of all time from their Franklin Mint Record Society. Those are bound in very sturdy elegant leather cases. Some of their later publications were of lower quality.
Yes, it is a kind of prequel to de Tocqueville and an often overlooked classic.
It really is a good read but don't get caught up too much in his talk about snakes. It is like Moby Dick with the whales but at least much more succinct.
It is time for an unusual book or Libretto, if you will.
8. A Presidential Miscellany by Lewis Lapham
This is a collection Lapham's Quarterly style of well miscellany. It focuses as the title indicates on our varied collection of Presidents. What were some of their names assigned by The Secret Service? What was the source of income and sum of assets for some Presidents? What ones came from the Ivy League and what ones did not graduate from college? Does that help? According to their website this is now "out of stock."
This is the fifth of "The Thornwillow Libretto" series of fiction and non-fiction pieces. It tries to revive the art of the printed book to an art object. These are printed on letterpress so hard that the print impact comes almost clear through the page. These are limited editions with a high number. These remind me of a Folio Society Special letterpress limited series some years ago.
The conversation will be whether this is this about the picture or the frame. Certainly the physical book that is sold in the usual best seller rack is tawdry. The covers are distasteful. So, is this kind of publication a solution? Is it desperate attempt to give extra value for the printed book? With a high limited press run, I would not think that these would be an investment. Is it a coffee table book for small coffee tables?
Ask me again in a couple of hundred years. Cheers though now for a small American stationer daring to do letterpress.
"In an atmosphere of incomprehension and frustration people take recourse to art as something that can transcend political divisions."
Leonard Forster, British scholar og the German language and literature
Well, all righty then.
I timely turned to:
9. The Meeting at Telgte by Gunter Grass
This is a delightful work of the art of character and language. How could I be reading a work about a fictional meeting of actual German poets at the later stages of getting a peace agreement after the thirty years war?
Yes, it is a brisk page turner. Grass creates this meeting in some ways as a reflection of his own experiences with Hans Richter and the Group 47 - a loose invitation only group of German writers trying to reconstruct German literature after WWII. Grass creatively takes us back 300 years earlier to an imagined meeting of poets trying to cleanse the German language of foreign influences in anticipation of the end of the then seemingly endless thirty years war. This could have been an art for art's sake academic exercise but in the hands of Grass it is a lively look at the realities of creating poetry.
With the help of iHeart Radio's Bach channel, I did - needed - to take my recourse to art. Then, I realized that I flew into the capable hands of a former SS Officer. So I returned to the state of incomprehension. Maybe, I can finally handle "Peeling the Onion" that sits lonely on my shelf but I am not ready for "The Tin Drum." Not again.
I have had this leather bound first edition since the publication in 1981 and finally set my eyes within it. The language is wonderful. This version was translated with great style by Ralph Manheim. The frame worthy illustrations are by Frederick Schneider. If this wasn't such an object of craft itself, I would be tearing and hanging these illustrations prominently.
"There was nothing left to cackle in Telgte."
I have been quiet as of late (except for groans from pain from both a severe E-Coli infection and blood clot)- silenced by a lengthy set of illnesses and hospitalization. I find it too difficult to concentrate on good writing while in significant paid. Perhaps some can use it for palliative care but I fail to do so. Now I may slowly take to some pages.
Well, I am still trying to completely recover I just have not had the ability to concentrate on a long form work until now. We will see how my stamina goes. Once, I started this, I could not put it down.
10. Who Lost Russia" How the World Entered a New Cold War by Peter Conradi
Plan on a comfortable chair. While still trying to get through two serious illnesses, I finally took on reading the uncorrected proof of what will become a major book release. First, this is a journalistic achievement of the highest order. The author, Peter Conradi, who also co-wrote "The King's Speech" which was made into an Oscar winning film starring Colin Firth in a subtle performance. Mr. Conradi is the foreign editor of the British "The Sunday Times." If you spend much time on social media or cable "news" after reading this, you will wonder why. This book is actual journalism. You as a reader are respected to follow the story and form your own thoughts.
I started the book last evening and at 2:00 am, I was still at it regretting that I had the biological need to sleep. Up early this morning, I was back at it until the end of the 343 pages of the manuscript.
The first third of the book looks deeply at the relationship of the West, with a focus on the United States, with Russia starting in the 1990s and covering the breakup of the Soviet Union. Should the West have bailed out Russia in a sort of Marshall Plan? (Of course, Mr. Conradi, like most Western Europeans is generous with American tax money.) With the rampant levels of corruption in Russia, would that have had any effect?
The second third looks at the 2000 decade and the third examines very closely the most current relationship including the election of Donald Trump as President. Some detail is provided about the cyber-war aimed at the United States and the legions of paid Russians "commenting" and posting alternative news.
With each American administration, there is a different style and substance. It is striking how much the person influences our history.
Reading a long detailed and lively piece of journalism brings into focus the daily bits of information into a coherent and important story. Mr. Conradi gently suggests some interpretation but lets the sometimes alarming facts inform your own views and opinions.
>24 Forthwith: Forthwith - Hope your recovery goes smoothly and soon brings your focus and energy back.
Your reviews are fascinating. Thank you!
It was a quiet film that I think will be considered a classic at some time. The casting was especially done with care, in my view.
How did they get funding for a film without a car chase or an appearance from The Power Rangers?
The writing style of this book could have been almost too strong to read but it guides you through an embarrassing history provoking only your thoughts. It is for mature readers.
Well, I thank you for your kind thoughts. I hope that you find your reading to be rewarding.
11. Montaigne by Stefan Zweig
What is this? A modern sincere book? Wait. Where is the attitude? Why is he so collected in his thoughts?
Author Stefan Zweig (of recent filmmaker Wes Anderson "Grand Budapest Hotel" fame) found an old musty set of the Essays of Montaigne in the cellar of his refuge when he moved to Brazil. He had read this earlier in his life but like others, he found some intellectual angle. Now, he met the man. You can feel the excitement as he finds a brotherhood over four centuries. Here finally is the whole man who is keeping his own free thoughts during a life surrounded with ideology; make that violent ideology.
This new found partner was not enough. Zweig and his wife soon took their own lives as they viewed the world disintegrating from the glories of the Renaissance into the horrors of the 1940s. How could that be given up? This could be read as hope even if it was his last.
"The outside world can take nothing from you and cannot unhinge you, as long as you do not allow yourself to be disturbed."
Zweig, Stefan. Montaigne (Pushkin Collection) (Kindle Locations 413-414). Steerforth Press. Kindle Edition.
Please read it as a book of hope and tribute.
>27 Forthwith: I loved the casting, especially all the actors from Pride and Prejudice who showed up!
12. The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine by Nathan Thrall
As the world reacts to the latest horror of victims in Syria, should we look or turn away in despair? Do we even have a contributing role?
Nathan Thrall has looked and deeply into the political activity and the economic effects behind terrible human suffering in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
This book starts with a lengthy essay outlining the conflict and many efforts to bring peace through many years followed by shorter focused articles about particular processes and places such as Gaza. This could not have been an easy book to have written and a more difficult book to have lived. it is not an easy book to read. Is it our duty? If we read novels for insight into human character, this is a non-fiction look into the darkest recesses of human character. It is not novel in today's world.
One thread through the book is the detailed line of American Presidents and diplomatic efforts to influence some construct for peace. These efforts have been earnest but naïve even with years of expertise. Agreements from Camp David to Oslo are examined and American diplomatic views are grouped and examined.
The American defense expenditures with this conflict alone are staggering. What do we have to show for this? Has this advanced much beyond an uneasy status quo? What kind of country is Israel becoming in the eyes of the world? How will demographic changes affect the region? Is a so-called two-state solution viable any longer?
The author argues that only force such as serious sanctions on Israel tied to political mandates will get real progress toward Palestinian independence and eventual peace. Another alternative is more of the same.
> 31 Forthwith -
Does Nathan Thrall make any distinctions between what the people of Israel actually want vs what the government has decided for them? Or do the majority not want two states?
13. Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf
I found that her last book was quite readable compared to some other modern novels. Yes, there are bits of the stream of consciousness but they certainly do not get you lost for pages. So what do we have here? It could have been a sort of drawing room comedy but that was abruptly halted with a snake choking on a toad.
I will say it. It reads like a modern abridged Shakespeare lite using modern language.
I am committed or will be unless I get serious about the TBR list. I read this in my 1974 Folio Society edition. It was printed in Letterpress with lovely lithographs by Gillian Barlow and an Introduction by Quintin Bell. The Mellotex Matt Cartridge paper, cloth binding and paper sides are looking as fresh and new as when I purchased it 43 years ago. I will secure a hat so I can tip it in honor of the slipcase.
"Does Nathan Thrall make any distinctions between what the people of Israel actually want vs what the government has decided for them? Or do the majority not want two states?"
The focus of the book is on the various proposals of the leaders. However, he does have a Chapter dated July 2013 addressing the question of having more than one state but not full independence for a second. He cites a 2013 television report addressing whether a two state solution was still seen as possible. Representatives interviewed across the political spectrum in the report indicated doubt that it was viable. He does indicate that Benjamin Netanyahu did voice a level of support for a two state solution. He later added that most Israeli Jews would find a two state solution acceptable but were not confident that it could be achieved.
Later Chapters written in 2014 and 2016 are highly critical of the lack of advancement in finding a solution.
Of course, as the book reports developments through several years many ideas and proposals are presented. This is obviously a very complex subject. I am reading from an uncorrected advance readers edition and cannot directly report a quote that may also be in the final release set for May.
> Forthwith - Thanks for two state details. A compassionate solution would be welcome.
What should we read next? How do we select our books to read?
I tend to prefer drawing from my personal library even if it is an occasional re-read. Then, I come upon something that seems interesting and I start clicking or swiping the plastic. If I have a rule about this, I haven't yet found it.
In this time of division, should we watch that cable news program that we know that we despise? Should we not only start but actually commit to finish a book that we find most disagreeable? How will we ever be able to talk with each other?
The Editor of The New York Times Book Review has some thoughts on this.
14. The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson
I did wait until the day after Easter to go through and read this. It really tries to give a sort of non-supernatural rendering of the Four Gospels. This was Jefferson's second effort at the project. He spent just two evenings on an earlier shorter version. When he retired to Monticello, he got at it in earnest. He actually preferred that Dr. Priestley take it on. Jefferson shied away from addressing his own personal views of religion and at one point intended this work to be used for educating American Indians. Jefferson certainly took four translations and earnestly literally cut and paste the selections although it seems a bit odd that he is listed as the Author rather than Editor.
Actually, one evening I entered the Jefferson Library collection in it's own room at The Library of Congress in near silence at a private event. Walking around his collection used to start that Library (or other copies of the works that were destroyed in the fire) I found quite moving and a kind of meditative experience.
Recently walking in and around Monticello where he did this work was intriguing and an experience that I highly recommend. There is so much of Jefferson still in that estate.
The book ends thusly:
63. There laid they Jesus, 64. And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. THE END
Jefferson, Thomas. The Jefferson Bible (pp. 132-133). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.
Here is a brief look at the work.
15. The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For by David McCullough
This is the anticipated book just released yesterday. It consists of several speeches made through the years by Mr. McCullough.
Although, I read it straight through, it might be better to read a selection every few days. There are lessons here for us. I suspect that, like me, you will want to share this book with your family. Young people should especially be exposed to these thoughts and observations.
Unlike in England, historians in the U.S. are little known and are thought to be cast members of "Ice Road Truckers."
Here David McCullough takes questions about his book.
The time to give this a read is now. Don't be a blockhead.
When Abigail Adams learned that her son John Quincy was a bit inflated with himself she wrote him thusly:
" That your whole time has been spent in the company of men of literature and science. How unpardonable would it have been in you to have turned out a blockhead."
16. Thucydides: The Reinvention of History by Donald Kagan
A few points:
- Thucydides (T) did write history, unlike Herodotus, by leaving out the gods as players.
- T intended his work to be used as a lesson for the future of how the actors behaved in social groups.
- T considered the Peloponnesian War as a very significant story to tell and more important than the Persian War.
- The author considers T as a revisionist and subject to favoritism toward Pericles.
- The author offers a detailed analysis of differences of the treatment of the view that war was inevitable (view of Pericles and T).
Taking a critical view of Pericles as a General and the reporting of T is certainly a formidable challenge but Mr. Kagan is well equipped to present a critical view.
This is a detailed political/military history and a lack of knowledge of the events described can result in a laborious read at times. Using the imagination and substituting Russia for Sparta and the United States for Athens can bring forth vivid images of the Cold War. The biographical details and looking at the democracy are attention grabbing.
This would be an excellent companion for those who are still required to study The Peloponnesian War for their professional training. The general reader could also gain insight with a critical look at history itself.
Is objectivity possible and if so how can it be achieved/trusted? Is history a science and if so in what way? With the current rage about "fake news" this study can offer thoughts about our recording of historical and current events, especially political. As physicists talk about our very limited perception of what is real, we are back to an old game show: "Who Do You Trust?"
Here is an excellent talk by Mr, Kagan as recorded by C-Span's Book TV.
I am finding that I enjoy having 2-3 books in some stage of completion at any given time. Sometimes a switch in centuries and styles seems to even enhance the writer's perspectives. One of those books may be one of the magisterial (daunting and long - very long) works. After earlier attempts, I have decided to start The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Because this work is notable both for the still historical interest as well as the literary quality, I will take on the full Eight Volume 1983 FS Edition with selected Footnotes. Reading this alone is unwelcome for me so I will lean on the new Great Courses set of lectures just focused on this work. It is tempting to try an unabridged version but I fear that the literary quality would suffer.
I have set no time goal on this. I read his wonderful compiled journals and could feel deeply his physical suffering and exhaustion while writing his epic work. This calls out for a good slow read.
We have two cats with different temperaments so why not two books at a time?
Wow, that's an ambitious thing to tackle. I'll be interesting in tracking your thoughts on them.
I may place a few comments after each Volume with the Chapter numbers indicated. Many versions are in six volumes. Because many of my books are collectables, I do not annotate in the books themselves and sometimes keep separate notes. It can be difficult when reading 19th century and earlier works to keep the names of the characters straight, especially Dickens! Trollope can be more kind to modern readers.
I am reading Cranford and The Go-Between now. They are both classic works of literature with differing weight.
17. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
This book written about a small English village starting in 1842 is delicate and charming. Kindness and dignity are the guiding candles in the dimness of the near poverty life. Be careful about lighting more than one candle at a time. Don't let one candle burn in excess of the second candle. People might think that you only regularly burn one at a time. The characters are vividly drawn and become as members of your own family. You can always sense the passing nature of the village culture as modernity presses upon the village.
The book was originally written with just what later became the first two chapters. More was wanted and over about three years it was gradually developed into a full book. It was originally included in Charles Dickens' periodical. There is what could have been an inside joke when there is a bit of a dispute on Dr. Johnson versus Dickens as a worthy author. The pace is leisurely but pleasurable.
I am also re-watching the acclaimed BBC television series "Cranford" starring Dame Judi Dench. The casting is wonderful. The series of about five episodes rather quickly takes in the other Cranford novels. The characters are represented nicely and much of the dialog is taken from the books. I would advise first reading one or more of the books first since the television series almost immediately moves so relatively fast in the plots.
Actually both the books and the series can be enjoyed separately as rewarding entertainment.
18. The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley
It was the best of times. It was...
Almost as famous as the Dickens opening line, L. P. Hartley started The Go-Between thusly:
"THE PAST is a foreign country: they do things differently there."
Hartley, L.P.. The Go-Between (New York Review Books Classics) (p. 17). New York Review Books. Kindle Edition.
The action of the novel is set in a warm 1900 as it is recalled many years later. Was 1900 so different from the 1950s? Certainly in many ways the culture was quite different. Were people different? Was character different? The main character may have to explain that as the book ends.
This novel tells a story in a literary manner. Simply put, the writing carries you along. It does drag a bit about 1/3 of the way along but soon picks up and carries you along until the very end, well almost. I wonder how this would have been received without the final chapter. Does he just exhaust the story? As we now say, is it too much information?
19. The History of Rasselas: Prince of Abbissinia by Samuel Johnson
This work is sometimes simply referred to as Rasselas.
In "Cranford" it is a clash of wills as Johnson V. Dickens plays out without resolution. Rather than read the Boswell biography or even a Dickens, I decided to give some time to Rasselas. Actually, Johnson just took a couple of weeks to write it to help with expenses of his mother's funeral. He is not as sarcastic as Candide but he is impatient to hear more about things like poetry but keep it in abbreviated form.
Is happiness in a Paradise Valley or is it just outside the Valley? Is it wherever we are? Do we need the right brand of toothpaste to achieve happiness? Maybe, at least we can hum the jingle to get that bright smile.
“There is so much infelicity,” said the poet, “in the world, that scarce any man has leisure from his own distresses to estimate the comparative happiness of others. Knowledge is certainly one of the means of pleasure, as is confessed by the natural desire which every mind feels of increasing its ideas.
Johnson, Samuel. The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (Kindle Locations 392-394). Издательство Aegitas. Kindle Edition.
20. In Love by Alfred Hayes
This is another of the found works published by "The New York Review of Books." The Go-Between that I read and mentioned above was another. I could easily read many more books just with their imprint and be richly rewarded. This is literature that starts off an interesting, not so common as expected, opening chapter. It then gets into internal thoughts of a man and woman about each other and themselves.
The author has written screenplays and as evident in this book has authored one for The Alfred Hitchcock mystery television series. There is certainly growing suspense with more than one false clue.
It has a film noir quality of the 1930s and is set in unnamed New York. With today's explicit books, this may have lost some shock value but it should be read knowing that the author shows restraint for the popular expectations of the 1950s.
I have also been intrigued lately by looking through the catalog of the small British publishing house, the Pushkin Press. One of their books recently was shortlisted for the 2017 Booker Prize for literature. Their listing of the international authors is worth reviewing on their website. Let me know if you recommend one of their works.
Note, I am in no way affiliated with any publisher. I am just excited to see such a lively selection of classic and contemporary books. Just as television is in an age of quality and variety, books are still the best source for television and film.
Well finally, I have been able to copy an image on this site. This was unnecessarily difficult. Anyway, this is a photograph taken about 1880 of my great grandfather's home that are in this picture. Yes, I have some pieces from the home. My grandfather was raised there along with my great aunts and uncles. I visited many times in the home. I will post a few other interior shots.
This might be appropriate for a Victorian Novel posting sometime.
Incredible photograph and the entryway is fairly astonishing!
m.belljackson Thanks for the comment. I will post a few more of these interior pictures. The actual original photographs are much better than my scan. They are on heavy canvas material backing. This is how the Victorian influence affected the American style of the 1880s. I also like to go through the many family photographs showing the dress of the day. Without air-conditioning, they must have been quite uncomfortable. One formal photograph especially shows the whole family in the fashions of the time.
21. Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer
Read this if you are able to risk your stress level increasing. It is very detailed and utterly convincing reporting by this "The New Yorker" writer about the behind the scenes systematic manipulation of our politics in the broad sense. Because of the lack of IRS enforcement, a few extremely wealthy individuals can target their funds behind "educational" think tanks and foundations without revealing who is behind it and pretending to be politically neutral. They can even deduct the Dark Money from the little to nil taxes that they pay. They extended this to select universities to build a growing extreme libertarian movement. In just a very few years they have turned a former "democracy" into an oligarchy. About one third of the public is already solidly behind the movement and another third (according to their own estimate) are available to be swayed. Politicians are mere putty in their hands. Although, this focuses on the far right, the left also now depends on "big money." The corruption of ideas movement has led to voters (of those remaining who are still allowed to vote) voting against their own economic interest. The Dark Money is spent simply to increase the income and power of the contributors while hiding behind their motivations and identity. The goal is to as completely shut down the government except to protect the property rights of the extreme wealthy at no cost to them with no regard at all for anyone else. This includes open abuse of the environment. They are well on their way.
Great Review and your warning is on target.
Did the author address why The Left has moved to the Dark Money - sellout of values or is it the only way left to compete with the billionaires of the right - ?
Re: voters > I've written to a couple of liberal sites asking that they set up Mobile Voter Registration vans or buses. They would appear at Libraries, Churches, Community & Shopping Centers, etc., at regular monthly intervals. So far, the left here in Madison, Wisconsin, mostly just wants to complain about what the right is/isn't doing rather than solve the problem.
Actually, according to David Axelrod as referenced in the book in passing, they were surprised about the massive amount of Dark Money and their intents for over two years still held out hope for ordinary political compromise. The focus is almost entirely on the far right as indicated in the title with very little reference to the response on the left. The Left worked from the Wall Street crowd while the right depended on the energy and gambling riches generally. Those in the middle were and are just left out. The Dark Money is now greater and has more influence than the political parties. I would not look for either political party for leadership. Instead, peer behind the opaque curtain.
The book is a very detailed documented report on the behind the scenes why, how and who.
22. Lincoln in Indiana by Brian R. Dirck
Haven't we had enough already? Where do we even start reading about Abraham Lincoln?
Since, I live just a few miles from Lincoln's Indiana farm, this always gets my attention. We even have the favorite restaurant still going as Indiana's oldest that Lincoln visited when it was a stagecoach stop. (You must try the family style fried chicken!) However, those outside of Indiana do not associate Lincoln with the State.
I would suggest taking a look at this new book by Brian R. Dirck. Lincoln spent nearly a quarter of his life in Indiana. Many of his biographers spend a very small amount of time even mentioning this period in his life. This was the time when his most unguarded character forming was done from about age 7 to 21.
Very little documentation is available and Lincoln himself did not really want to talk about it. However his former law partner and close friend, William Herndon, rushed about after Lincoln's death and tried to interview anyone who may have known Lincoln during his Indiana years. Many of those people were poor and had little education. Their recollections were not always articulate or trustworthy and probably would be edited out for "60 Minutes." However, there are a few facts and documentation from which to build. The death of Lincoln's mother, the influence of his step-mother, his relationship with his father are telling events in his life. The historical evidence is wonderfully compiled by William Bartlet in his book "There I Grew Up." This new book is an excellent companion to the Bartlet book. Bartlet is the foremost living historical expert on this period of Lincoln's life. I have had the good fortune to be along with him as he hosted a tour to Springfield, IL focusing on Lincoln. We enjoyed hearing tales of Lincoln's life and seeing the actual historical locations and at other area historical events.
The Dirck book places the historical evidence in the context of Indiana life of the time. He carefully places the Lincoln life into that context as a good story teller can do. I would recommend this book for a one sitting read appropriate for the whole family. It would be a good book to discuss with younger members of the family. Actually, the hardships endured are a lesson for all of us.
I am fortunate to have the first hard copy edition of each book autographed by each of the respective authors. I hope that neither book gets lost in the weight and volume of books on Lincoln.
23. Astrophysics For People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
This is the new book by the foremost living communicator of the Space Sciences. It is intended for those newly interested in this field or those wanting to review and/or catch up a bit on what is now known.
It reads like he started by putting down a timeline from The Big Bang including terms and definitions and then going back and personalizing it by adding a connecting narrative and off the cuff quips. The effect is to make a very technical short outline somewhat conversational. Actually, a modern citizen would probably find this a kind of obligation to read. I read this on the Kindle edition and ended up using the highlighter function more than a physical highlighter could have handled. One color for terms and definitions. You get the picture.
Anyone in this field or those with a fundamental knowledge would not find this of much worth unless the quips are inside humor of note.
24. Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting On the Road to Recovery by Cathryn Jakobson Ramon
This book was just published a week or so ago. As I sit now in serious lower back pain, I could hardly wait to see what a non-medical investigative reporter found about this topic. The book is basically divided into two sections by covering the many surgical treatments with a discouraging range of results followed by the range of non-surgical solutions. This book is sure to be denounced by some in the medical community and it is inherently controversial. It advocates a multi-disciplinary approach involving intense physical exercise and even mental control model. The current fee for service insurance reimbursement process is not friendly toward this model.
I found the book to be discouraging although a few glimmers of hope were found especially in major urban areas. This book should be read very critically, if at all. The pain goes on for so many.
25. Augustus Carp, Esq., By Himself: Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man by Henry Howarth Bashford
This is a British satire released in 1924 after it was hidden during the life of the author. The writer was a physician who wrote other more serious works but was not interested in letting this one get out. What would the neighbors think?
Anthony Burgess recalled reading the book and helped bring it back to attention.
The humor is dry and the plot and characters are quite absurd as you might expect. I cannot anyone making a film out of this except perhaps Peter Greenaway.
It is an enjoyable romp if you like British satire as I do.
I read this in my 1988 Folio Society Edition set in Monotype Bell using Edinburgh Antique paper. This edition contains a generous number of David Eccles drawings which add immensely to the book.
26. Inside the Head of Bruno Schulz by Maxim Biller
This is a literary dance written as though Bruno Schulz would have written it. Schulz left beautiful works of the imagination and was struck down by a Nazi Officer in 1942. Schulz had two books of short stories and had written one novel that was apparently destroyed. There are two stories of his death but each is tragic.
Maxim Biller writes in the style of Schulz. Many writers have acknowledged the influence of Schulz including Phillip Roth, John Updike and J. M. Coetzee.
Included in the book are two of Schulz's stories: Birds and Cinnamon Shops. The blending of reality and dreams is masterful.
Translating a work of the imagination and high literary language could not have been an easy task. Anthea Bell took on that project with this work.
Holding a physical book can be a fullness of pleasure. This edition is beautifully done. The reader holds a full work of art. The cover drawing was done by Dan Hillier. The Colorplan White Paper cover is done with French flaps. This paperback book would be at home on a shelf of very fine hardcover books.
Note: posting pictures on this site has been hit and mostly miss. It seems unduly complicated.
Nice review, Michael, I never heard of Maxim Biller.
Maybe this can help you with the images: http://www.librarything.com/wiki/index.php/Basic_HTML_/_How_to_do_Fancy_Things_i...
FAMeulstee Thank you for the link for posting images.
Here is a photo of the book cover and the description of Mr. Biller from the book.
"Maxim Biller is a critically acclaimed novelist, short story writer and journalist. He was born in Prague in 1960, but emigrated with his family to Germany in 1970 and now lives in Berlin. He is the author of several story collections - with two stories published in 'The New Yorker' - and two novels, 'Ersa' and 'The Daughter.' He is also a columnist for the 'Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung' and 'Die Zeit,' and a recipient of the Theodor Wolff Prize, one of the most prestigious German awards in journalism"
After a round of frustration, here is an additional photograph of my great-grandfather and grandfather's home interior and family photograph taken in the 1880s. The young boy at the foot of my great-grandfather is my grandfather - the "baby" of the family.
27. Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors
This is the first of the author's books translated into English. The author is a Danish lady who writes like a contemporary Virginia Wolfe.
The plot is thin but the inner life of modern isolation sums up the book. I did not find it as knee slapping hilarious as reviewers have indicated. The characters are well drawn but tedious. I was glad to reach the last page.
This book was recently shortlisted for the 2017 Booker Prize. I wonder why.
28. Late Fame by Arthur Schnitzler
This was a work just recently published from the author's surviving estate papers. The author died in 1931. His papers were to be burned by the Nazis but we're rescued and protected by the British. He was part of a group that met in Vienna. The members included Zweig and Freud. Schnitzel wrote as well as practiced medicine. Indications are that he felt the tension between art and science.
The story was sad as intended. It tells of an old man who in his young years had a book of poetry published. Long forgotten until a young admirer claimed him to be a poetic giant.
You might guess how this will turn out and you will probably be right. The pleasure, though, is the journey of well drawn characters. Some of these resemble real characters of his own literary group.
The Pushkin Press edition includes a brief analysis and insight into the author and the estate documents relating to this book.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.