Category Archives: Reading

On the Bookshelf XXXI

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Othello by Shakespeare
Whenever I read Shakespeare, I kick myself for not doing it more often. So I’m trying to read at least one of his plays every month of 2015. Very doable, I think. Othello is terrific so far.

Mort by Terry Pratchett
Of all the fantasy worlds you can visit, Discworld is perhaps the funnest, and certainly the most hysterical. In Mort, Death takes an apprentice. It’s a great position – unless you have anything faintly resembling a love life. I haven’t laughed so hard at a book in ages.

How to be Free from Bitterness by Jim Wilson
“The world has two solutions. Keep the bitterness in and make yourself sick, or let it out and spread the sickness around. God’s solution is to dig up the root. Get rid of it.” A wise and helpful little read. I’ll return to it often.

A Passion for Books edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan
A bibliophile’s smorgasbord. Essays, poetry, quotes – all spread out like jam on a supersized piece of toast. If you like books, and you like reading about books (and about other people who like books), then this one is a must.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?

On the Return of a Book Lent to a Friend

by Christopher Morley

“I give hearty and humble thanks for the safe return of this book, which having endured the perils of my friend’s bookcase and the bookcases of my friend’s friends, now returns to me in reasonably good condition.

I give hearty and humble thanks that my friend did not see fit to give this book to his infant for a plaything, nor use it as an ashtray for his burning cigar, nor as a teething-ring for his mastiff.

When I lent this book I deemed it as lost; I was resigned to the business of the long parting; I never thought to look upon its pages again.

But now that my book has come back to me, I rejoice and am exceedingly glad! Bring hither the fatted morocco and let us rebind the volume and set it on the shelf of honor, for this my book was lent and is returned again.

Presently, therefore, I may return some of the books that I myself have borrowed.”

(taken from A Passion for Books, edited by Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan)

It Had Maps In It, They Said

I’ve been a fan of Discworld for several years running, but I only recently discovered Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction. His book A Slip of the Keyboard offers a wonderful glimpse inside one of the biggest, most imaginative brains to ever grace Elfland. One of my favorite bits is where he describes his first encounter with The Lord of the Rings. I believe Tolkien would smile if he were around to read it.

I can’t remember where I was when JFK was shot, but I can remember exactly where and when I was when I first read J.R.R. Tolkien. It was New Year’s Eve, 1961. I was babysitting for friends of my parents while they all went out to a party. I didn’t mind. I’d got this three-volume yacht-anchor of a book from the library that day. Boys at school had told me about it. It had maps in it, they said. This struck me at the time as a pretty good indicator of quality.

I’d waited a long time for this moment. I was that kind of kid, even then. What can I remember? I can remember the vision of beech woods in the Shire; I was a country boy, and the hobbits were walking through a landscape which, give or take the odd housing development, was pretty much the one I’d grown up in. I remember it like a movie.

There I was, sitting on this rather chilly sixties-style couch in this rather bare room; but at the edges of the carpet, the forest began. I remember the light as green, coming through the trees. I have never since then so truly had the experience of being inside the story. I can remember the click of the central heating going off and the room growing colder, but these things were happening on the horizon of my senses and weren’t relevant.

I can’t remember going home with my parents, but I do remember sitting up in bed until three a.m., still reading. I don’t recall going to sleep. I do remember waking up with the book on my chest, and finding my place, and going on reading. It took me, oh, about twenty-three hours to get to the end. (pp. 57-58)

2014 Year In Review: Fiction

1. Gone Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane
2. The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
3. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
5. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
6.  Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
7.  The Circle by Dave Eggers
8. Blindness by Jose Saramago
9. Dracula by Bram Stoker
10. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Street

Honorable Mentions:
Collected Works by Arthur Machen
Three Men and a Maid by P.G. Wodehouse
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

2014 Year In Review: Non-Fiction

1. Our Culture, What’s Left of It by Theodore Dalrymple
2. Father Hunger by Douglas Wilson
3. My Life For Yours by Douglas Wilson
4. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
5. Fidelity by Douglas Wilson
6. I Love You, Ronnie edited by Nancy Reagan
7. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
8. Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino
9. A Smarter Way to Learn Javascript by Mark Myers
10. The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe

Honorable Mentions:
The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo
The Tyranny of Cliches by Jonah Goldberg
Spoilt Rotten by Theodore Dalrymple
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose