QUESTIONS for the Avid Reader Part II
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Club Read mostly discusses fiction, with a few notable exceptions. Outside the world of non fiction though, there are other forms of writing besides the novel.
Do you read poetry, plays, sagas, or any other form of expression besides the novel? What is it about them that speaks to you?
edited for grammar
I went to the theatre a lot in my teens and student years, and read quite a lot of plays then as well. That’s tailed off rather, mostly because I got out of the play-going habit when I moved to a non-English-speaking country, and became much more interested in going to concerts.
I'm not a heavy reader of nonfiction, although I seem to be reading more than previous years. I enjoy reading about literature (i.e. tragedy, the Gothic, regional literature, popular literature, a specific author's lit, Scandinavian crime lit and so on). Of the most recent purchased nonfiction the topics are: forensics, race, secularism, essays, women in early America, evil, trees, Michelle Obama's memoir and Madeline Albright's book (part memoir) on Fascism.
I don't tend to read plays except for the occasional Shakespeare. I sometimes like essays if it's an author I've read other places and want to give a try. And poetry is one of those things I keep trying to like but haven't really connected with. I think my problem with poetry is that it isn't the same skill as sitting down to read a novel for an hour, and that is always how I approach it.
As I gain more knowledge of the life and times of that era then the plays and poetry certainly do speak to me. The interesting thing is to have an understanding of what people read and to witness at first hand, as it were the individual voices in the development of literature. I have discovered some beautiful writing and reading chronologically it is like reading history in the making.
Non-fiction is actually more my focus than fiction. Even with my re-reads (largely fiction), I still read just a touch more non-fiction than fiction, discard the re-reads and the ration is about 60-40 in favor of non-fiction. For me it's easier to pick out non-fiction I'll enjoy, because so long as I'm getting information from the book it can have some issues (extremely dry, going down rabbit holes, getting away from the point, etc...). When I read too much mediocre fiction I start to feel burnt out on reading in general. History has been my happy place since I was a kid, but any non-fiction feeds that desire for new information and interesting facts that I can repeat to people and use to win quizzes.
i read some philosophy and some therapy/counselling things too - in their own way doing some of the same. my path to poetry was really validated by training as a counsellor. i also like memoirs and bios/autobios, especially of poets. And also of course reading a lot more spirituality and religious writing - Buddhist, Daoist, Christian, Islamic - which is intimately connected with poetry.
image from Book Riot
Most of us here in one way or another keep lists of what we have read.
However, do you keep lists of what you intend to read? How do you, or do you, organize them? Do you carry them with you "just in case"?
If you do keep lists, do you actually follow them, or do you just like the process of making them?
I do quite often remember to look at it when I'm book-browsing, but it's rather tip-of-the-iceberg - I currently have some 23 open items on the list, and about 30 already crossed off. So I doubt if it accounts for more than 7 or 8 books a year.
>21 SassyLassy: Lord of the flies on the road would be a great title for an experimental novel!
I have a separate LT account for books I'd like to acquire. It is over 800 titles I think, some of them I'll never buy nor read, I know it but can't find the strength to cross them off...
And now that I live far from bookshops, I find myself planning more carefully my visits there. I am starting a list for "must buy" books for next time I'll go (sometimes in June), and I am considering as well making a list of books I would like to buy second-hand, in order to look more thoroughly to them next time I visit used book bookshops.
And of course, I usually don't follow my list, at least not completely, not buying all the "must buy" books (because, after all, looking at the book, it is not as "must" as I thought) and buying a few unplanned books that "must" be bought...
I do not carry my lists with me. I have just been persuaded to get a smart phone or rather a friend insisted in giving me her old phone and so I feel obliged to use it a little, but I am so familiar with my lists that if I am browsing in a book shop (very rare these days) then if I see a book on my list it leaps out at me.
I think I have answered the question about whether I use my lists. I admit to getting much pleasure in crossing through the books I have read from my lists.
For newer books, both fiction and non-fiction, I use a combination of library and amazon wish lists. I do find with new books that if I don't read them pretty close to the moment that they are published and being talked about, my interest wains. So I clear out those lists periodically.
I also used to enter books "TBR" into my LT library, but I haven't been using that for the past few years as I find the library and amazon a little more convenient since I can also access the books there.
There are so many books I want to read that I can become paralyzed by the options. So, I use various GR & LT groups group reads and challenges to narrow the options to a reasonable number. They are listed in my CR thread (which I do update, even if I have stopped posting reviews) and also copy into a notebook I carry with me.
I am fairly good about choosing the 2-3 books I read each month from these lists.
I keep a list of reads coming out (usually off NYT br, or discussions here, and go to my indie on that date to see if its in, I also keep a list of books I want for gifts
Finally I have been keeping a reading journal since jr high. Now i just write the title, author and rating., helps me keep track of what im reading Going back through those old lists gives me ideas of what i want to reread
The lists I do maintain tend more toward the reference end of the spectrum. I have a list of the books I own that I have not yet read in a Google spreadsheet, and I have a "TBR wishlist" where I record books that sound interesting to me and that I might want to read. I also keep series lists in a notebook that lives in my purse, since I cannot guarantee I will always have internet connectivity when I am trying to figure out which book comes next in the series I am looking at (and of course the publishers don't want to put numbers on them or anything like that).
Anything else seems like a duplication of effort, though I used to enjoy making records and lists for their own sake. I used to imagine some beloved granddaughter finding my lists and devoting her life to reading through it, charmed by my brief and pithy notes on each.
Jesus. What a fantasy. Kids just throw that stuff away now.
Though I did read through my own gramma's Jules Verne collection after she died. Got a glimpse of her inner yearning for adventure. I like to imagine her in heaven devouring the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
For TBRs - not much. I do have a page in my Book Stats spreadsheet (which I created/borrowed from Roni and modified in order to make tracking, and posting on LT, easier) for Currently Reading which contains a bunch of books that either I started and put aside or I intended to start soon (soon has stretched to 2+ years in a couple cases...). It does also contain what I'm reading now, if I get to updating the spreadsheet before I finish the book. And because I don't always do that, I now keep notes on my phone of what I started when - and have now started reviewing in there, just because I always have it with me.
The other thing I'll do is, if I _know_ I'll be reading this book next (sometimes several nexts - that's usually a series), I'll put in a future reading date when I think I'll be finished with the current book. That brings it to the top of the list, in my ebook app (Calibre Companion), so it's easy to find. I use that most often when I'm starting a several-book series and don't want to bother searching for the next one, just want it handed to me.
I don't plan out my reading, other than series and the like; like others here, if I'm told to read something (even if it's me doing the telling) I'm more likely to read something (anything!) else. I've never been successful with a book club, and even shared reads of favorite books on LT don't work well. I have, and have not (re)read, the first three books in the Dick Francis shared read - they're sitting on my desk so I could pick them up any time, but between January and now I haven't managed it yet...
I think, in a very real sense, my list of "things I intend to read" exists on my actual TBR bookshelves, as well as in a slightly less concrete form as to "to read" collection/tag on LT. I fully intend to read every one of those 900 books! Really! I also have an LT wishlist full of books that I may or may not ever actually acquire and read, but certainly want to. That list is ever-expanding and is now even bigger than my list of owned but unread books. And since I can access it via the LibraryThing app, and I almost always have my phone with me, I guess it's true that I do carry it with me "just in case." It's certainly come in handy in bookstores and at library sales.
(It is possible I might have a slight problem, but you guys all understand. I know you do. :))
But I'm going to read all of them! Allllll of them! This is a completely realistic goal! I swear! :)
That was the angle I used for my now-defunct reading blog. I see it's still visible. Maybe I'll get back to it sometime, but it cuts into my reading time. https://thegrimreader.blogspot.com
Outside of that, I am really really bad at following reading plans. So I quit making lists - I just read whatever comes up. I used to buy books that I felt I may want to read, I had cut that considerably (the library is a great thing) and I am trying to work through some of my books. Kinda.
ETA: Oh dear I just tallied up the number of books I added to LT last year and it will probably surprise no one that it was greater than the number I read.
and unmanagement is how it (that age) got so near this way. and unmanagement may be my way with book lists really.
When I use the calculator from >50 bragan: I try to add in a fudge factor to account for rereads and future additions to my TBR and TBR wishlist, but it's all guesswork in the end.
>58 raton-liseur: Ha! They seem to know their audience! I think my ad blocker saved me from that one, at least.
Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay by F H Varley, 1921, oil on canvas
image from National Gallery of Canada
Weather seems to be unseasonable over vast swathes of our various countries.
Does such weather affect what you are reading, or for that matter, your actual reading routines?
No, weather does not influence my reading in any way, except that I tend to be involved in the story much more on sultry days. I made the mistake of reading Faulkner's The Unvanquished during a hot humid spell, and it was like drowning in molasses.
I've had a few oddities, though not recently - reading an Alaska story while I'm roasting doesn't actually cool me off any, but it distracts me. And similarly reading a desert or jungle story while shivering under a couch throw makes me forget I'm freezing, somewhat.
Usually no, but the time of the year might: I'm more likely to read something "wintery" - that takes place in winter, that features snow, etc. - in winter, for example.
or for that matter, your actual reading routines?
Not on a day-to-day basis now that I don't live in a house with a garden anymore. When I did, I was more likely to read in bed under the duvet in winter (when the house got pretty cold), on the sofa under a blanket for most of the year, and outside in the garden or in the living-room with the door wide open when the weather was nice.
Occasionally, when I can be bothered, I take a book to the park.
Some people read less in the summer when they spend more time doing outdoorsy things - gardening, hiking, etc. - and cosy up with a book in winter. This has never been the case with me.
I read most in February and March which I suspect reflects a downturn in social activities (post Christmas/New Year and before Easter). Rounding out the top five we have September, October and November which is Spring here. Not sure what explains that.
(Sidenote: It's really clear which are the 11 months I was out of work and the following 8 months where I was working on a casual basis.)
I don't believe the weather affects what I am reading - I have to consider how I might test that hypothesis empirically ;-).
Changes in weather around here usually have a time-base much shorter than the time it takes (even me) to read a book, so there’s not much obvious influence - maybe I would pick something light like a crime story for an afternoon sitting on the balcony, but that’s as far as it would go. I don’t think I consciously match the theme of books I’m reading with the current weather, but there could be subconscious filtering going on. Who knows...?
My numbers still usually seem to have a dip in summer, although the difference is less than it used to be when I was working. So there obviously is a seasonal effect, even though I’d have expected it to be the other way - my most focussed reading tends to get done when I’m travelling, away from the distractions of home, and I travel more in summer than in winter. Concerts, cinema and TV also tend to be winter activities, so I don’t know when I get to read all those books.
Maybe the expected heat wave in parts of Europe will answer part of what I was wondering, which is, whether a change in weather from the expected alters reading plans. For example, if you are expecting a long hot summer, and have selected books accordingly, and then the weather persists in rain and fog, what happens to your reading plans? Also, if winter suddenly becomes mild and sunny, does your normal winter fare veer to the lighter?
My reading projects are not season related. The summer means that I do not walk as much (too hot) so I tend to read more - if I do not get distracted with something else (last summer I ended up listening to old time radio dramas for most of the summer instead of reading for example). I seem to be starting some bigger reading projects around the summer but that has more to do with how busy I am at work (everyone on vacation slows down things) than with the season per se.
I usually read indoors, though I am not adverse to reading out of doors. I rarely make extensive reading plans, so a change in the expected weather isn't likely to have a major impact on what I choose to pick up to read. I will say I probably read slightly less when the weather is extremely hot and humid, but we don't usually have long stretches of weather like that in NH, and I do have access to air conditioning.
>79 rhian_of_oz: Even though the city library is a 20-minute tram ride away where I live now, I never read library books on the way home: I think that still comes from the hard lessons of childhood, when you could only get three books out at once and our branch library was only open at coming-home-from-school time about twice a week. Finishing the first book whilst walking home meant there was a serious danger of hitting an Out Of Books error before the next fix was available.
>81 nohrt4me2: Since the 1st of July it’s illegal to have a phone in your hand whilst cycling here in the Netherlands - I wonder if that means we’ll see more teenagers reading books whilst cycling...?
>82 thorold: The library only let you have three books at once?! Horror! Mine let you check out 15 at a time, so I'd go with a backpack and fill that up, as well as the basket on my bike. Sometimes it took a little cramming, but I always managed it.
Going back to reading and seasons, I caught myself today rushing to finish a long book before going on a trip so that I could post a review here. Instead of doing the sensible thing and saving it to read whilst sitting around in airports. Oh well, there are more long books where that one came from...
"In fact, when I finally shuffle off this mortal coil, you will have to pry a book out of my cold, dead hands." Michael Cart
What will happen to all your books once you have left this world? Have you arranged an organized disposition of them; do you hope to take them with you; is there a plan?
If nothing formal is in place, what do you think will happen to your lovingly acquired books?
What would you like to happen to them?
Thanks to lisapeet for the idea behind this question. Thanks also for the question of whether now that the topic has come up, will you be inspired to "put a plan in place"?
What will happen to the books on my Kindle? Hmmm.
I think of my favorite books, and realize that they will not all be favorites of others. I have notes as to which dear friend will get what, which books need to go to the rare book seller, which ones need to be donated to schools. ; all others are up for grabs and I assume will line the bookshelve in our local Goodwills.
My siblings would be the ones sorting things and they might argue over my comics (particularly the Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge collections and Pogo). Otherwise the vast majority would just go to the library book sale, which is fine by me. Hard to say if the nieces or nephews would be interested in much. Obviously they'd be fools not to scrabble over the books since it's an excellent and varied collection, but there's no accounting for taste!
In general I'm not concerned about what happens to any of my possessions. If my teacup collection goes to a niece or nephew, great, if they all go to Goodwill that's okay as well. There are personal papers (journals, letters) I keep in case a niece or nephew is as interested in (or nosy about) that kind of record as I am, but I know that's luck of the draw. My mom kept all her journals even though I think she'd have slightly preferred we burned them all when she died, so you never know when someone keeps an item just for themselves or some future goal.
There are strict rules about what you can be cremated with. Ditto what can be placed in a grave with your ashes. I wanted to place my mother's copy of Jane Eyre under her urn, but the sexton would not allow it.
Also, if you are making an organ donation, the body is usually sent directly from the donation center to the crematorium, and there is not time to go get the book.
You can place items in a coffin to be buried at the discretion of the funeral director.
You can, of course, burn a book and scatter the ashes on top of a grave or pour a libation as long as you're discreet. But I opted to keep my mom's copy of Jane Eyre.
Fun fact: In some states, you can designate a couple acres of your property as a family cemetery, which portion of the land is not taxable.
It is a problem for us 20th century people. People born in the 21st century will probably have everything digitalised if they are lucky enough to still have a habitable planet when their time is up.
I started digitizing my "can't live without" books on my Kindle and donating the physical ones.
I’ve always had a little dream in the back of my mind that something like that could happen to my library. Even if it’s unlikely that anyone would want to turn my apartment into a museum, maybe the library could be donated in toto to one or other of the places of learning that keep asking me for money...
Totally unrealistic, of course: I’m not a famous Victorian intellectual (contrary to what some of my friends claim), the collection is far too random to be interesting as a whole for anyone except myself, and there’s little in it that has any rarity value. And quite a lot of the books have already been thrown out once by academic libraries, they aren’t likely to want them back.
I think what I’ll really do (in “a few years’ time”, i.e. probably not until too late) is pick out books that really could be interesting for specialists and offer those to relevant organisations or to anyone in the family who shows signs of being interested. The rest can be thinned out as and when I need to move house. Given the state of the secondhand market at the moment, the chaff will most likely end up going in bulk to a charity or a house clearance firm anyway, so I don’t think thinning it out ahead of time will help anyone much, except by creating gaps that will be filled by new books...
The only thing I care about, I've told them, is that the books don't end up in a dumpster somewhere, and if they do, I will come back and haunt them all. (I don't believe in ghosts, but if I have to, I will start doing so just so I can follow through on this threat.) Fortunately, they are all great respecters of books, so I am confident no haunting will be required.
Answer to the question: No idea, probably donated to the library booksale (from which many of them came) after my family culls through them.
My 96 year old grandma recently passed away. My mom went through her things and brought me the book that was on her nightstand and that she was presumably reading when she died, a large print edition of Anne of Green Gables. I've added it to my shelves and it means a lot to me to have it.
Books and reading were an important part of my mom's and my relationship, and her relationship to reading helped form mine, but I had to separate out my feelings about that from her physical books. Much as I would have loved that literary ideal of merging our libraries, the fact is that I already have a big house full of books—a large number of them not yet read—so any of hers that I took would be more about sentimental value than a plan to read them. And my capacity for sentiment is... waning, I guess, as I grow older and the deaths around me begin to ramp up. Being surrounded by her books would have been lovely, but in practice they would be just so many more things—to move whenever we leave this house, or for someone else to deal with when I die or go to a nursing home. So the thought I finally sat with and was OK with was the same thing I got to when I had to clear out all her art supplies and sketchbooks and paintings from her garage (much of which didn't really appeal to me aesthetically)—these gave her an enormous amount of pleasure, and that was their job. I don't need to be responsible for them after that. I kept a few inscribed books, a few rarities and signed editions, and a few that I just couldn't part with. A handful, really. The rest went to the local Friends of the Library for their book sale. (I wrote an entire essay on this at Bloom, if anyone wants to read it—please don't feel obligated to do so, though. I'm not here for the self promotion.)
So as far as MY books... If I drop dead before my husband—which is doubtful but lord knows anything can happen—I'm pretty sure he won't touch them. Which means either way, whoever goes first, my son will end up having to deal with them. Sorry, kiddo. He's a big reader, though maybe not a bibliophile the way I am... but I can't even guess how he'll feel about my books and everything else down the line. Right now he's in med school and has zero head space for thinking about this kind of thing, so I wouldn't even ask him. But he does know that I don't care what happens to any of my stuff after I'm gone. It can go to the library, to his friends, to my friends, whatever. I don't love the idea of burdening him with it all, but the books are probably the most straightforward of all my stuff. I do think that eventually we/I will want to leave this house, which will mean downsizing, so I'll be forced to deal with some of this then. I don't have the extra energy or bandwidth to do anything about it right now, though, so for that reason and many more I'm hoping for a bunch more good decades.
I expect my books would be mostly dumped on a charity bookshop, and I'm OK with that. They've given me a lot of pleasure reading them and looking at them (like most of you, no doubt, I just love seeing lots of books around the house), but I'm not precious about wanting my kids to hold on to them. They may or may not be into reading when they get older, and if they are they'll no doubt have their own book mountains they want to get through. What seems like a really interesting collection to me now will probably feel outdated in years to come, even if it's just that the jackets and editions that start to feel their age, both in terms of quality and style.
My mother was terrific at sorting/getting rid of things before she and my father downsized. I know this is something I need to think about, but I haven't got around to acting yet.
I've been involved with sorting out my cousin's stuff (died with no will on the other side of the country), and I can definitely say clearing out is no fun. The less stuff there is, the easier on your loved ones.
I thought I'd throw a question in here while SassyLassy is otherwise occupied. Here is probably is one of the first questions used on the original Questions for the Avid Reader or an early precursor but I always find the answers interesting.
Can you name a book or books which disturbed you in a way that made you think outside your box or question your assumptions....(as opposed to, say, something from the horror genre). Name the book or books and talk about how it affected you.
From the Oxford dictionary: adjective
upsetting or disquieting; dismaying
To get you thinking, I will note that one of the frequent answers back all those years ago was We Need to Talk about Kevin.
Two books read in the 80s disturbed me profoundly because they touched on the personal. Of these two, Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood was the most powerful and has been re-read many times since then. The other is Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs by Albert Speer. I read this book after watching the movie; I remember being disturbed because I identified with Speer at one point.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison disturbed me when I first read it.
Lolita put my off Nabokov (except for his literary essays). Both of these books contain violence against young girls, of course. While the Morrison has stayed with me, the Nabokov has not.
The Triumph of the Spider Monkey and Zombie and others by Joyce Carol Oates, the disturbance is less the murders than the exposure to the humanity of the serial killers. I do not shy away from disturbing books and I love JCO because in so many books she intentionally uses disturbance to manipulate the reader.
And yes, the Lionel Shriver book was disturbing and I had many conversations across the bookstore counter with many readers. We needed to talk about Kevin, so to speak.
A interesting and disturbing recent read which has been reviewed by Nickelini and myself, and relates to all of the above, I think:
Evil: The Science Behind Humanity’s Dark side by Julia Shaw
My head has evolved some resistance to being disturbed, so the book that comes to mind is my high school reading of 1984. At the time I had some sort of cowboy view on life where anyone could find a way to get out of anything. Then I read the later part of this and realized Winston was doomed and there was nothing he could do about it. He really couldn’t answer 2+2.
I wonder if it makes a difference if one picks up a book expecting to be disturbed/shocked? (I wondered why I hadn't listed more nonfiction)
will second handmaids tale a book I have been unable to reread (and can't watch the show)
>111 avaland: At this point in my life, I avoid those books I think will piss me off.
that has been my mo for quite a while. I get that we should read books to get differing opinions, but Im old enough to have heard them all and would rather read something that will give me some enjoyment
I know there are others, but that's the one that comes to mind first and foremost. The Handmaid's Tale was also really disturbing—I haven't watched the show, just read the book many years ago.
I've made it a point to keep reading work that throws me out of my box. Much as I love a good comfort read, I also feel like it's in my best interest to stay compassionate, aware, and unsettled, because that's how the world goes (side by side with being full of wonder and beauty).
Interestingly, We Need to Talk About Kevin left me a little high and dry—and I had a high schooler when I read it. It always felt a bit like a thought exercise to me, and never really hit me where i lived.
Been a Stienbeck fan ever since. A while back, I think on Readerville, we had a thread devoted to his work and managed to go through most of them. Rereading it as an adult was enjoyable; I know I misssed a ton when I was younger, but could see lots of places that had shocked me to the core.
I find the ideas in this short novel profoundly disturbing and find myself thinking about it from time to time.
Thinking about your question, I would say The Merchants of Grain and Diet for a Small Planet, which made me think about food resources in a completely new way, and in a different sphere, The Wretched of the Earth and Shake Hands with the Devil. While fiction can be incredibly illustrative and moving, nonfiction in your sense of disturbing is often more powerful for me.
Mary Cassatt Women Reading c1900, from the Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York, as seen in Women Readers in French Painting 1870-1890
It's Labour Day week-end. As the school year starts, it's the an introduction to reading for many children. One of the best predictors of reading success is having people in your world who read - seeing people engaged in reading and finding enjoyment in it.
Looking back, did you have such people in your world? If so, how did it shape your ideas on reading?
After I learned to read I mostly wanted to read comics (I had specifically been waiting eagerly to be able to read Asterix myself). My parents always read chapter books to us, both before bed and during the day, and that was an ideal method of consumption to me. Only during the summer and on trips everyone would be sitting around with a novel which served as peer pressure for me to start reading them as well around age 8. I still love my comics though.
On the other hand, I find it interesting that my parents didn't recommend books to me very much. If I asked they would, but the specific recommendations were pretty few and far between. They saw I was reading plenty, so just didn't get involved. My mom only started recommending more after I got sick and had to stop working.
If my parents influenced my reading, I don’t really know in what way. I never saw them read and I don’t think my dad actually read (or reads) much of anything not related to the task at hand. My mother would read some novels and I would notice books scattered around the house, often Jewish authors. So I wonder what influenced me. Two things come to mind. First, my sister. She wasn’t a big reader, but she read some would always talk about what was going on in school and she loved some of her literature teachers and would talk about what they were reading and discussing for class. I relished this, sort of unconsciously. Four years later I would have some of these same teachers and answers questions based off my sisters stories instead of from what the teacher was telling us. The second is that I somehow grew up with a sort of Jewish mythology that Jews were scholars, or should be. I really embraced The Chosen - the movie. I think as a kid I had some annoyance related to this and my not reading, that I wanted, in a way, to be some kind of scholar, but whenever I tried reading a book, I got bored. Eventually later in high school I did start reading for fun. I’ll credit those teachers (especially my 10th grade teacher, a Mrs. Richardson). The the real answer to this question is mostly mysterious to me.
Local and school librarians probably had the most impact on my reading choices until high school. Then it was my 12th grade English teacher.
I don't know that anyone ever encouraged me to read; in fact, I was often chided for reading too much. But reading was always my drug of choice, and it still is.
It was probably a knife-edge chance whether I would grow up to be an obsessive reader or a lifelong book-hater, after all that. Anything in between was clearly impossible...
Publishers print more books than the market can physically handle to create visual impact, filling bookshop shelves and ensuring good end of year sales. Every rentrée littéraire is defined by this sense of overproduction. During the 2014 rentrée littéraire, 607 books were released. Most works are only sold for a few weeks and half of these titles are left unsold, later recycled into shipping boxes.
Every year, the rentrée littéraire is the chance to discover new French authors. So why not take the time to peruse around a bookshop or two!"
The rentrée in France really feels like its a time for books.
I came from a poor working class family where people reading was the exception rather than the rule. My mum did read novels and so there were books around the house, my dad only read the newspaper. My education at a large comprehensive school which had a good library kindled my interest in reading and fortunately once hooked I have never stopped reading.
My mother read some as a child and adolescent as I have her copy of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and several other books. I do not think she was a reader, per se. Growing up, I saw her flip through the occasional magazine but that's about it. To be honest, she didn't get all that much time to sit down. However, she volunteered to catalog all the donated books for the new elementary school's library (the "library" a back wall of the kindergarten classroom), so I went along to help, but I also read every book on that wall (I really had an insatiable appetite).
Books provided a window to a much bigger world, but also allowed me a certain measure of time "alone" for an introvert in a congested household.
I'm told my mom thought I had memorized the kids books we had at home beacuse I would read them to myself, and then discovered I was reading when I went to kindergarten & read to my classmates before school started. Been reading ever since.
I grew up in a household full of books. My parents read aloud to us daily, and some of the books were loved so much they fell apart. We also had a magazine rack full of comics, also falling apart and taped back together. We received books for gifts and special treats, and had subscriptions to kids magazines and then teen mags. Our local branch library was within walking distance, and we checked out books there weekly. After it closed, the bookmobile took its place and my dad took us there every Friday after school. I still own some of the books I had as a kid and that my dad gave to me.
Does anyone else remember those Arrow and Tab book clubs from Scholastic? My mom gave us money and we bought books from them. The kids in our classroom could hardly wait to see the teacher walk into the room with that Scholastic box! Yippee!!
Neither of my parents were (or are today) book readers, and my sisters aren't big book readers either. To be fair my parents worked very hard so there probably wasn't much time for books. My Dad has always enjoyed reading the newspaper, and my mum prefers magazines. I do remember my parents being very encouraging of my love of books, and there were always plenty of new titles in the house for me to get through.
Mind you, she may have well come to believe she created a monster, as it was difficult throughout my childhood to ever get me to put my book down and do anything else.
My dad, on the other hand, never read very much, although he did eventually develop something of a taste for Stephen King.
I was very much encouraged to read -- and then my being good at it was taken for granted, I think - in some ways as a boy i was steered from certain things (at the moment I'm reading The Secret Garden which I was definitely stopped from reading (as it was "for girls" and in fact I was enthused precisely by how the girls at school loved it)). As I got older i was definitely encouraged to go out and do things, not read. Partly the times interfered too -- all my friends saw Dickens say as dull, and I now wish i had read him, but it was also a sense of the future, suddenly there were computers, and somehow a lot was seen as old fashioned that I wish i had read now, and much that might have been avoided would have been. Science fiction was a stop gap. I wasted so much time reading-wise.
Question 8: What do you read besides fiction?
These days I read about half fiction and half histories/memoirs. I don't read nearly enough poetry.
Question 9: Do you keep lists of books to be read?
I keep a list for about a third of my reading. What I mean is, I alternate between 1) going out and buying a new book to read; 2) reading a book that's already in my house; and 3) reading from a (relatively) short TBR list. These are the next books in series I'm in the midst of, books I've been given as gifts and books I've purchased and decided to read sooner (goes on this list) rather than later (goes into the general population on my bookshelves). Thereby, a third of the books I read come from that list.
Question 10: Does weather affect your reading?
I read more in the winter because I spend more time outdoors. Nothing particularly relevatory there!
Question 11: What will happen to my books when I'm gone?
Well, I'm hoping my wife will still be on hand to read them. Or she can do what she wants with them. But, I guess the answer to the question is, I have no specific plan at this time.
Question 12: Can you name a book or books which disturbed you in a way that made you think outside your box or question your assumptions.
Offhand, I book that comes to mind is Geek Love, because it was the strongest description of pure evil I can recall in a novel, and because the source of that evil was still able to attract unrestricted love from an otherwise insightful person.
Question 13: Did you have people in your life who read to you?
Oh, yes. My mother read to me several times a week, at least, when I was little. Dr. Seuss was a highlight. Also, sometimes I'd ask her if we could look at the dictionary. I liked the words that had those little drawings next to them. So I developed a love for storytelling and language, but also a love for the words themselves.
OK, I think that catches me up!
I have hazy memories of my dad sitting on the floor with me teaching me to read when I was four or so, and they both always encouraged me to read widely and over my head—none of the many books in our house were off-limits to me. My dad, especially, would give me books when I was younger and want to talk about them—some educational (but interesting) like History Begins at Sumer, but also lots of great kids' classics and poetry starting early (thank you, parents!). I was never lacking for books. And there were also lots of journalism- and criticism-heavy periodicals around the house, the New Yorker and New York Review of Books and the NY Times Book Review, so I grew up reading those as well, and I know that's the reason I'm a good writer now. Later in life, in my teens and after, my mom was a great source of books, and was constantly giving me something to read or recommending something.
I know how privileged I was—both for having that start in my reading life and for living in a milieu where my friends read as well. I went to good schools and while I received a pretty crappy education, all things considered, I did have a whole reading cohort that modeled that kind of thing for me for life, so I've always been drawn to fellow curious readers and always been able to surround myself with them.
And of course I did the same for my kid—all of the above—and he turned out to be a reader who enjoys the act for the fun of it (maybe not just now, because he's in med school and all he reads is class material, but he always has enjoyed reading and I'm sure will again).
Mistress Mary has just met the Robin and Mr Weatherstaff, and how I wish I’d had such healing confirmed back then. Not altogether absent but hidden in some ways.
image on Pinterest from Barnes and Noble
Thinking back on the classics canon when you were a child, which books would you still select to prepare a child for higher education?
Are there books once recommended for children you feel have not stood up over the years? Which would you drop?
Would you replace classics with "...more contemporary works, with more readable language, which focus on current issues—global climate change, refugee crises, etc."?
And a heartfelt plea: "...there are so many books to choose from, how does one choose?!
Frankly, discussing the books--literary elements, theme, plot, character development, historical context--seemed more important than which books.
Required reading: I loved Alice in Wonderland and Lord of the Flies. I despised The Scarlet Letter and Great Expectations.
On my own: I remember being a big fan of Lois Lenski and Edward Eager in grade school, the Boxcar Children, the Borrowers, and boys adventure books like My Side of the Mountain. I
They still hold up for me, but whether they speak to kids now, no idea.
I loved Tom Swift (Jr) and Rick Brant, but on rereading as an adult find them repetitive and corny - and stupid, in the same way kids in Saturday morning cartoons are stupid (they're always splitting the party, for instance). Which doesn't make them bad for kids, maybe, I can't judge - especially since it greatly depends on the kid.
I also agree that talking about the books, both before (I think you'll like this, what are you looking for in a book) and after (what did you think of that, did you notice the themes in it, historical context, etc) is at least as important as the books themselves. Especially since thinking about what makes a book good or bad is the best lead to deciding which book(s) to read next, and what sort of books you (the individual, in this case the middle schooler) actually likes and enjoys reading and derives benefit from. Whether the benefit is just a pleasant time, or actually learning something, or...I don't know, being safely scared - again, that's up to the kid what they want.
As to “children’s classics” - that’s another tricky one, since the canon there seems to differ a lot from one country to another, and books seem to achieve “classic” status in less than a generation. I suppose the canon is defined by teachers and librarians, not parents, who stopped reading new children’s books far too long ago.
As an adult helping a child to pick books, I’m sure you have an obligation not to limit them to what you liked yourself, and to exercise a bit of (hindsight) judgment in steering them away from the more rubbishy side of what you enjoyed. But they’re always going to end up reading a lot of rubbish as well as the good stuff, and it probably won’t do them any harm. What matters is that they should be open to trying different kinds of books with different contexts and messages, not constantly buried in one safe groove. And, as >149 jjmcgaffey: says, talk about what they are reading, with you or with their friends.
I don’t think it’s helpful to say “I hated Lord of the flies” - or loved it - because someone one or two generations younger than you is going to come to it with a whole different range of feelings and expectations. But it’s fair enough to warn the child about to read it that it was written by someone who didn’t know the first thing about optics...
If I were actually asked to recommend books for a young person about to go off to college, then I suppose Porterhouse Blue, Decline and Fall, and The history man would give them a realistic idea of what to expect ;-)
She also threatened to punish me for something once by taking away my library card. I was aghast. :)
Based on my own experience as a kid, it seems to me best to just let them read whatever they want to read. Nothing turned me off a book more effectively than being told I had to read it, and I'm quite sure some irreparable damage was done to my ability to appreciate certain things at all that way. I think even having books recommended to me by adults immediately made me kind of suspicious of them.
On the other hand, I'm not sure I had any irreparable damage done by reading older stuff that doesn't hold up.
I also was not aware of any canon of children's lit. I read whatever I could find or whatever I was assigned in school to read. I read Jane Eyre first as a Classics Comic and Little Women abridged in one of those editions similar to Donna Parker and Annette Funicello series books (some will know what I mean).
Of course, I was aware of classic children's lit when my children were young, but I let them read whatever they wanted, which included some classics. But, more often than not, they included fairy tales, robot books (thanks to Asimov), and fantasies.
Given that the question refers to preparing a child for higher education, I take it we are referring to books to be read in high school or maybe going back as far as junior high (or middle school). Just thinking back to the "classics" that made strong positive impressions on me throughout grades, say 6 through 12, I would say that Treasure Island, Johnny Tremain, A Wrinkle in Time (maybe more grammar school), Catcher in the Rye, The Sun Also Rises (you need a good teacher for that one), Fahrenheit 451 and/or the Martian Chronicles, To Kill a Mockingbird, Huck Finn and The Chosen are books from the classics shelf that come to mind quickly and that I would recommend to students to read.
I think it would be a fine idea to mix in more contemporary works, certainly. Working in books with particularly immediate themes (climate change, etc.) I think would be best accomplished with curricula that integrate course studies such as tandem teaching between literature and social studies courses, for example.
Looking back over my list, I see that it's mostly male and white, author-wise. I Know Why the Caged Bird sings comes to mind as a work that would fit in well with a high school curriculum. I read My Antonia in junior high but it didn't move me. I think that was too early for that book. I've never read Alcott. Generally speaking, I would say my list needs to be improved in the diversity department.
I tossed as many interesting books his way as I could—a lot mentioned here (yes to Johnny Tremain and The Chosen)—also The Phantom Tollbooth when he was a bit younger and and Ender's Game, Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life, and J.G. Ballard's Empire of the Sun when he was in middle school. Those are the ones that come to mind right away—there were plenty more.
>155 lisapeet: s it is about learning to read and discuss critically,
Yes yes yes! Everyone should do this with their kids early; your questions are good; keep them open ended nd refer to your child's own experiences. (as long as they allow other opinions and dont get arrogant and bratty about their pet theories! geesh....
oh and btw if you are running a book club, and you pull out the publishers guide for a book and assign questions, in 5 minutes I'll be late for the door, if you know what I mean! Im not sure I'd even use some of them with kids!
In a way my temptation to list books is a reflection of my prejudices in seeing this and of my experience and regret I guess in a way.
But yes, read critically, think critically and nowadays be prepared for the situations that is not responded to at the same level of honest engagement (especially in reference to liberal arts, humanities) -- but the tactics and expectations of jobs, of sellers, of complaints processes -- in some of which, I find, sounding like you get the whole development of culture thing can actually make you problematic (and I often think some sectors of society are intent on demonstrating the destruction of / irrelevance of such values). Too cynical? -- but then i have had a doctor assure me a long time ago that my arts degree was a "ten a penny" thing, and, well, of course it is best not to go into those details. So an understanding of the practical articulation of the best things you learn with power and modern life. It may be a bit late saying this in socio-political current circumstances, or learning it.
Encourage them to read freely - follow their hearts and interests -- flag up areas of neglect, including fundamental works to how we all got here. And yes daring to let them learn stories in abridgements if they wish but also that it is ok to read the real thing. Open to how their style may be different to our own, let them develop their own. Let them do other things, obviously - they may not want to read for all sorts of reasons, let it be there open, but approach the things needed in other ways -- talking, presentations, movies, tv, radio, games, sport, art, doing art, museums, music, galleries, countryside, time on their own not having to do all this - or anything, towns, travel -- all as resources allow and always distinguishing love from fear, allowing appreciation of that - even if unspoken. Writing, if they want, and however.
Higher education also means university to me -- i suppose that may mean different emphases, someone doing science my wish to have focus in their own time on arts awareness? They may not, but of course I feel it may help. Vice versa too. Having gone to a very academic school and also having had other experience at the end of that the whole university thing may come with a range of experience from high flyers that are already defining their reading and engaging very fully to those with more limited experience and confidence. either way I think it helps to challenge assumptions, especially of areas of interest and help engage -- there were definitely people I met at uni who were not very engaged with reading, including of their own subject. In a way are we not asking what may prepare children for adulthood - and nothing can except to prepare to meet challenge and build awareness of works that help. (edit - and open hearted inclusivity and connection to society)
You all know these things, its me working through, fighting a wish to list books and also understading my own journey.
For me poetry is huge as a way to learn - I always loved it but did not develop it as I wish as someone with a bent for it. Mad. There's all sorts of poetry. Some people raise their eyes at the idea -- fine for them, but I'd suggest it has been fundamental across many societies since the year dot that very much of their deepest wisdom was passed on poetically, often orally. i think that i could have lost my way with it, given I love it as do and have some ability with it, is symptomatic of our times and our own losing track -- and so sharing that in some way, what it is that is often invisible in the day but that poetry is one way to touch, letting people know it is there, and in many forms and maybe a broad view of what it is, what it touches and how it is relevant to them in their way, I think gives people options in our current way of life, and compensations. Could be songs or music or just the way they like things, even if that is to definitely say they hate poetry.
Biographies too (and auto). history -- and learning how despite all that wisdom we keep messing up, and maybe deliberately not allowing ourselves not to repeat the mistakes, how maybe there are some that benefit from that -- and maybe one day we'll get a bit better at a world being in line with its best, for everyone.
Books, hell yeah. Books!
whatever helps them discover and follow their hearts and interest -- and at the same time gives perspective and considerations to balance and not trap in one dimensional views -- and a lot of that has to come from approach.
So, hey, now I don't feel like listing my personal list. Hope this is not a rant and it is a first essay, so please don't pull it apart too much. But oh, yes that is just it, allowing for a healthy view of the provisionality of just about everything we 'know', but how the Golden Rule is so called for very good reason, but allowing to bathe in the wonders of what they find helps them, and through that may help their others too.
Open also to how the very best thing may be to be able to sit alone quietly in a room, or by a stream, or on a bus, but in the moment. Books or no books.
I think like many others have said there's little point in dragging a horse to water when it comes to books. Yes, I'd love if my kids naturally selected all the 'important' books as their own reading material, and I still sadly try to 'encourage' every now and again by planting a classic in their Christmas stockings, but I think the best way to create natural readers is to let them find their own genres and authors.
My kids are at the late primary / early secondary (high) school stage, so I'm delighted to see my eldest being introduced to a bit of Shakespeare, etc. I definitely see a difference from when I was at school in that secondary schools now seem to offer more contemporary books than we read. Kids do seem to pick up much more modern authors to read in this generation, whereas my generation was still reading books that were several decades old, so I think there is more of a disconnect in terms of the breadth of literacy language they are exposed to. Perhaps there is therefore more of a need of 'bridging' contemporary books.
I'm not sure I'd get rid of any, but when I've gone back and read some classics with my kids I've been surprised at how challenging some of the wording is. It makes me wonder whether I fully understood them when I read them as a kid or not.
We all know that certain books need to be read at a certain time. Do books also have their own kind of atmosphere or locale, in which they should be read? For example, could you read the journals of Robert Scott, Robert Falcon Scott Journals, Captain Scott's Last Expedition on a beach?
Well, obviously, Scott Fitzgerald has to be read in suitably opulent surroundings, and Scott Adams is at his best photocopied and taped to a cubicle wall. But I don’t know if it would be possible to read the poet Richard Scott whilst cruising the backstreets of Soho late at night... :-)
In real life, I’ve found that it’s often more interesting to read books linked to a particular place in anticipation of going there, or afterwards whilst you’re still processing what you’ve seen.
Over-literal choice of reading to match the setting can even backfire: there’s every chance it makes you focus on the unpleasant contemporary things that weren’t in the book and shatters a few illusions, not to mention the risk that you make yourself look like the most superficial kind of tourist if someone spots you with your Penguin Jane Eyre in Haworth or Death in Venice on the Rialto. For travel reading, I normally only pick books with local associations if I didn’t know about them before going there. I’d no idea before visiting Volterra some years ago that DH Lawrence had written a travel book about Etruscan places (and I might not have found it very interesting if I had known...) but it was really fun to read it on the spot with a sense of discovery.
As you say, mood matters, but it’s not very easy to work out how: sometimes it feels right to be reading a book that reflects where you are and what you’re doing, and sometimes you want the opposite. Rather than the area you’re in, it probably makes more difference whom you’re with, how tired you are from what you’ve been doing, when it gets dark, and all those other trivial things. Sometimes you have long tranquil afternoons in the garden to read long tranquil 19th century novels, sometimes you just have the odd moment to yourself to leaf through a poetry collection or read a couple of chapters of a crime story.
I've actually experienced the opposite effect - I read Trustee from the Toolroom for the first time in a New England B&B, and now the feel of that place and the feel of the book are entwined for me. I've reread it several times, in my West Coast home, and I still feel like I'm in New England when I'm not paying attention - as much or more than I feel I'm in the Pacific islands (or any other of the various settings of that book).
That would actually be a fun thread, where you could ask for book suggestions based on where you're going or what you're doing. For instance, in November I'm going to Charleston for the first time—what would be a good book to accompany me or set my mental stage?
Needless to say, no-one’s done Charleston. It looks as though the most popular books set there are mysteries by Laura Childs. Several people have urged me to read Harlan Greene, but I didn’t like the one of his books I tried - my comment at the time was “John Boy Walton writing in the style of Andrew Holleran”.
I really don't have any need or drive to read books in specific settings, and I don't feel any sense of displacement when I make what others consider strange choices. My parents used to read The Long Winter to us during particularly hot summers, and claimed this cooled them down, but I've never had that work for me. While I'm reading, I'm reading, and though in fiction I might get deeply attached to characters, I don't live in the book to that extent (barring reading Asterix comics when I was a kid, perhaps!).
(Or, in other words, kind of what rocketjk just said. :))
I have read books for trips that I take, but like others, I travel in the book; I usually don't choose a book based on destination.
For now, however
Drowning from Obsession by Thomas Wightman
How do you feel about the use of books to create other objects or images? Does it bother you for instance to see botanical prints from the nineteenth century torn out of books and made into framed pictures? How about cutting books up, as in the image above; stacking books to made lamps... you get the picture.
in other words, does an older book have an intrinsic value in itself, to be preserved, or does its use in other forms preserve something which may otherwise have been destined for a scrap pile?
Books with important marginalia, rare copies, and the like should be preserved. I'd also like to see used books in good shape go to prison or school libraries, or libraries in needy areas. I have some physical books I keep for personal reasons that I wouldn't cut up.
But recycling old books into art or pulp, not a problem for me.
Sometimes people would bring in boxes of books, hoping for store credit or sometimes even just to donate, but the books would be so damaged--torn up, water curled, moldy--that I couldn't even put them in the dollar rack. People would say, "Well, I hate to throw books away. What should I do with these?" My little joke (well I thought was funny) was to say, "The technical term in the book business for books like these is 'recycling.'" I felt that if people were so concerned with having the kind of respect for books that would keep them from wanting to throw them out, maybe they would have enough respect not to crack the spines or leave them in the attic for 30 years to mold. Anyway, there are enough copies of The Gemini Contenders on the planet. It's OK to recycle one once in a while. :)
On the other hand, cutting out and selling illustrations is a menace, as it makes some very interesting topographic or scientific books almost impossible to find complete (until the book is worth almost as much as the set of prints...). But it’s been going on for so long that there’s not much you can do about it.
I’m not a fan of Instagram book art — once you’ve made lovely things like the one in >183 SassyLassy: and taken the perfect photograph of them, they’re not likely to be much use to you, so you probably stick them in the general waste and they don’t get recycled properly. Not to mention all the kids who are thereby inspired to take a scalpel to grandma’s Folio Society editions and make a mess of it.
BTW - the artist in >183 SassyLassy: has surely missed a trick by carving up Angel pavement, pretty much a landlocked book as far as I can remember. Edgar Allan Poe would have been more to the point.
I didn't even notice what book it was. I read Angel Pavement a long time ago and really enjoyed it, not that that really adds anything to the conversation at hand. Squirrel!
I help with our library booksale, including breakdown - the unsold books theoretically go to Goodwill or equivalent, but given the way they're handled (literally dumped into one of those huge boxes on a pallet), I suspect they mostly just get recycled. And this is very sad but there's nothing that can be done about it so I keep helping.
And there is no excuse for the framed prints taken from a book - unless the book was already destroyed and they saved those pages (unlikely). I can think of dozens of ways of getting those prints without destroying the book, all of which include either someone thinking about this at the very beginning of the book's life and making extra prints, or modern scanning and printing techniques (so really not helpful for most cases). But the amazing books destroyed for decoration's sake - ugh. It's as bad as taxidermy and trophy rooms.
I am tempted to artificially borrow all the books from the library so that they won't be thrown away, but it might not be in line with the librayrian ethics.
Sorry, my post is a bit off-topic, but those "book-birds" are a heartache each time I come here...
For those who aren't averse to the idea, there are some cool examples here.
This touches a bit on weeding in libraries, which is super necessary to make room for books that are current, in demand, and hold up-to-date information. It freaks people right out, especially when a library does a mass weed. There's a really predictable cycle to library news when someone discovers that their local library has discarded a bunch of books—a practice that any good library will undertake regularly—and alerts the press, resulting in a lot of public fuss. Which is why current weeding practice suggests collection development librarians do it frequently, to avoid the dumpsters-full-of-books red flag. So not to discount anyone's gut reaction, but I feel like making art from discarded books is actually a cool way to repurpose them, maybe especially in a library.
Oh, one more cool book art thing while I'm thinking about it—almost ten years ago, but a great (in my eyes) example of repurposing (in this case, a locker full of white supremacist books donated to artists to have their way with and turned into a traveling display): Fine Art Of Book Destruction On Display At Library.
Oh, boy. Censorship and destruction is OK as long as they're of ideas WE don't like.
Honestly, I want to know what those a-holes are doing and thinking, just as I am happy to have businesses fly Confederate flags so I can avoid shopping there.
I think there are certain books that MUST always be available in a public library: A copy of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Federalist Papers, state constitutions, the Bible, the Quran, the Book of Mormon, "Das Kapital," " Mein Kampf," "Huckleberry Finn," etc. We are not a free society unless we have access to works that have shaped the world, for good or ill.
Public libraries have no business "donating" books to artists who will make a mockery of the ideas within them, awful as they might be. It smacks of state-sponsored censorship.
The Montana Human Rights Network was now faced with the thorny question of how to dispose of the books and still come out smelling like a rose. They feared if they pulped or burned the books outright they would appear to be violating the church’s freedom of speech. The Network instead opted to send boxed sets of all 13 titles to Holocaust museums, human rights groups, law enforcement organizations, and academic libraries. But this still left them with thousands of books. A member of the Network contacted Helena-area artist Tim Holmes about creating an art exhibit with the books to provoke discussion about racism, anti-Semitism, and intolerance. Holmes contacted the Holter Musuem of Art, and, by January 2008, 60 artworks created from the white supremacist books were displayed in the first showing of what became Speaking Volumes: Transforming Hate.
I totally agree with you about books destroyed for decoration sake, books with rare maps and beautiful prints is a travesty (esp if its done to library books, whether local ones or at places like the Library of Congress. Those are usually taken to sell and unfortunately there are many buyers.
Yes older books do have intrincic value. They are part of our collective history and culture and should be saved. I collect chidrens illustrated books (from 1890-1929) and cringe at the thought of anyone cutting them up. . I know where my collection will go to, in the hopes they will go to people who appreciate them.
And it's only 9:45. I don't think this day could get better.
I do love my books and I am attached to many of them for a number of reasons, but I am far more discriminating about that now. More recently, I have found that sharing the books I read with people I know is often as pleasant as having them on a nearby shelf.
I have thrown away my old Scholastic juvenile titles from the early 60s (they were yellow and falling apart). Have I ever cut up a book? NO! (unless you count making Readers Digest magazines into Christmas trees -- surely, that is where all the book art originates from, don't you think?)
I try not to express this much, because I know it's irrational, and people who make art out of books aren't generally doing anything remotely morally wrong, and there are good arguments for not turning physical books into items of worship or fetishization or whatever. And I've gotten better at not wincing too much. But the gut reaction is the gut reaction.
The image doesn't really relate other than it shows some of the many odd spots those great book finds can be made.
Image from a Sotheby's catalogue for their Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History auction featuring "remarkable works from the golden age of Dutch cartography".
with apologies to Baroness Orczy
We seek them here, we seek them there,
We readers seek them everywhere!
It is in heaven? Is it in hell?
Where is that damn elusive book we yell.
Readers find books just about anywhere. Some of the best finds are when we are not really expecting that title in that place, some are perfect for whatever place we find ourselves.
What is your own favourite book acquisition story?
Back in the 90s, there was a book that had recently come out that I really wanted, because I loved both of the co-authors. But I was a poor college student, and even as the kind of person who would rather buy books than food, I couldn't justify shelling out the cover price for a hardback.
Then a friend of mine took me to the giant $5-for-a-bag-of-books library sale an hour away in the nearest good-sized city. Because, hey, even I could justify spending $5! Needless to say, I had a fine old time grabbing all kinds of old paperbacks and things and stuffing them into my grocery bag. And as all that grabbing went on and space on the tables was freed up, library volunteers were bringing out more books and putting them down wherever there was room.
And as I stood there in front of some random table, like some sort of beautiful bibliophile's miracle, a hand reached out and set down the very book I had been so wistfully longing for, directly in front of me.
And that is how I got my copy of Good Omens. A novel that features a bibliophile miracle-worker. I dunno, maybe I should be thanking him. :)
BTW the recent series is pretty darn good!
agree about loving not being a starving student, or a starving newlywed. I collect children's illustrated books from the early 20th century and before. Its been nice to be able to get what I want. Tho i do eed to watch that since I am a Retiree and don't want to be a starving one!
I think my favourite (silliest) book-finding story is from when I was living in York in the 80s. By any sane standards, York is something of a secondhand book paradise, but for some reason I used to get the train to Leeds from time to time and do the bookshops there. One Saturday I found a rather decayed Complete Works of Thackeray in the basement of a bookshop there. Thackeray was then (probably still is) very out of fashion, but I’d got interested in him through reading a couple of biographies, and wanted to go beyond the two or three well-known novels. I asked the bookseller what he wanted for it — he looked at me as if I wasn’t quite right in the head, then said I could have it for twenty pounds. Being a thrifty postgrad, I haggled a bit, and we ended up at ten pounds, with a free cardboard box and some cord thrown in, provided I took it away with me there and then. Which I did, and I managed to get it back to the station, onto the train, and then home from the station at the other end (a good half hour’s walk). The twenty-six volumes weigh in at about 15kg, so I’ve no idea how I managed to carry it all that way (but I’m sure I was too mean to get a taxi). I’m surprised I didn’t injure myself...
But I did go on to read most of it, with some pleasure, even if it did leave a trail of decayed bits of binding whenever you took one of the volumes off the shelf. And I’ve still got it sitting on an upper shelf.
I was with a friend here in Tokyo and we went to a neighborhood called Jimbocho which is famous for its curry restaurants, bookshops and sports shops. We went there to get some mountaineering gear for myself but it happened to be that at the time they were having their used book festival. The bookshops in Jimbocho are all used book stores but not in the sense of finding a copy of Lord of the Flies at a discount. More like rare books that are hundreds of years old, made of parchment, or indexes from the 1920s about the current tax system.
However, new hiking clothing in hand, we were walking back to the station when I noticed a shelf sitting outside that said 2 books for 100 yen, basically 50 American cents for a book! Impossible to pass up such a wonderful deal we stopped to peruse the shelves. I found nothing for myself that I hadn't already read but I passed on a lot of recommendations to my friend. We go inside to pay when we find ourselves entering an adult video shop. Walls of bare-breasted, legs spread open, naked ladies all around us as we paid 4 dollars for 8 books.
Why an adult video store also happened to be selling used books I'm not sure as to why but we got a great deal!
image from the roxbury arts group website
Many of us on LT may have writing requirements at work, many of us write for our own personal satisfaction, some of us have even had the thrill of being published.
Whether you write currently or not, if you could write whatever you wanted, and had a generous publisher when it came to paper quality, illustrations, maps, photographs, diagrams, basically whatever you could dream of, what would you write?
So, I thought of your generous publisher and thought what they could be generous with might be time and some security. But then that may not be key, though it feels like it may be space to seek. What I thought I might like from them is belief - not misplaced. And in a way that might be to be loved, in many of its forms, even just respected.
And that is what I'd like to write, in whatever form - love. To show it, its paths and knots - and to show it feeling through (in the moment, dance in it) and maybe a bit Hitchcock-like show the absurd found in deafness to it whilst it abounds. Show maybe my own absurdity and that redemptions are possible. As in all that I'd have to work more on having it close, in feeling it, making it, without being kidded the way the world does all the time that it is a distraction from real life. As if. It's where we're at all the time, even when we cut ourselves off from it or cut others off, and always making mistakes in it, and not recognising other songs of it.
If we did that, whatever we write, it will shine through to someone.
(Today I will be especially sounding like someone in that adult education class in Good Will Hunting) (Vince? Vinnie?)
poetry, memoir (to make sense), prose fictions, screenplay/s
The only fit and proper way to take advantage of such impossibly ideal writing conditions would be a project in the spirit of Borges’s Pierre Menard. Perhaps to spend a few years writing new versions, identical in every way with the original, of “Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend”, which is the only work of English fiction(*) of a standing worthy to be compared to Don Quixote.
(*) OK, if anyone says “Mrs Dalloway”, I won’t fight them...
I’m a recovering poet (in the same sense as “recovering alcoholic” — you never entirely get over it), so the main danger if I were let loose with the freedom to publish anything would be a poetry collection. But I’ve also toyed with the idea of a travel book, or an epistolary novel based on my time as a complaints-handler (although professional discretion would probably put the lid on that — I wouldn’t want to find myself making fun of our actual clients, some of whom were differently-sane in very odd ways).
I think I have too many insecurities to answer this question. Anyway, it would be deeply personal, that alternate reality where I actually write. Perhaps non-autobiographical personal essays of some sort.
Which is to say, if someone offered me money for these stories, they probably still wouldn't get written.
I have never had dreams of being a writer despite every once in a while being hit with really good novel ideas (usually based on my own life). However, I have dabbled with the idea of translating and my fantasy always involves a publisher allowing me to choose the books I want to translate and gives me all the time in the world to do it (so I can keep my day job) and of course I am always given priority rights from the author, whom I also become great collaborators with. Obviously.
I've wrote short stories when I was a teen, as most of the teens, I guess. But I don't picture myself writting a book that would be worth publishing, I am probably not creative enough and that partly explains why I like reading fiction so much.
But translating, yes! That would be a dream come true. Starting with some children or teen books I think. Unfortunately, my understanding of languages is probably too empirical to be a good translator.
So, if I was offered the opportunity, I would need a lot of time, and a good training!
The dream publication would combine photography and poetry, I think, with interesting cut out windows in pages preceding the work that put a different spin on the pieces.
As to what I would like to write - well of course it is reviews because it is what I do write, but can't think who would want to read them. They are best left shared on Librarything.
I used also to be a keen black and white photographer and back in the early 1970's I might have dreamt of having my photographs published, but when digital photography came on the scene I just lost interest.
>222 thorold: i think there is a way i have to get over being a 'poet' just to be me, and see what happens writing-wise, i sometimes think i see something similar in others. For me this is in part due to general disbelief and humour at me in lots of others, leading to frustration and uncharacteristic self assertion in claiming what i do at times, together with other factors, like having doctor once tell me my arts degree, indeed all arts degrees, was a 'ten-a-penny' thing and that i needed to be taught how to think. My writing was not encouraged and I think some arts type knowledge/thinking is seen by some as dangerous.
and i think for us all, go for it with creativity, it gives so much to ourselves and others.
1596 map of Newfoundland
In keeping with the generosity in Question 18 above, given an unlimited budget, as a holiday gift to yourself, what three documents would you like to have most? You needn't limit yourself to books; there are maps, musical scores, ephemera, letters and more, even counterfeits.
This is difficult. A few years ago I’d have come up with a list very easily, and it would just have been a matter of deleting the last 497 items to reduce it to the specified number. But the older I get, the less I seem to be interested in possessing things. I was reading last week about Alma Mahler escaping across Europe with the manuscript of Bruckner’s 3rd symphony in her luggage and it struck me how I’d hate to have that kind of responsibility. If some unique and irreplaceable item like that landed in my lap, I think my first instinct would be to donate it to a museum or library where it could be kept safe and scholars would have access to it.
Trying to suspend that thought and answer the question in the spirit it was asked in:
- a map like the one in the picture, but of somewhere warmer and with an “X” to mark the location of the treasure
- the manuscript of a previously unknown work by Franz Schubert
- the passport of a country of my choice, whichever one doesn’t seem to be indulging in a crazy act of political self-destruction this week
What can one do with only three documents? Perhaps one is a library card? Perhaps a second gets me into the Vatican library...or, as I just discovered, Lambeth Palace library in London? But I’ll need to learn a bunch of languages in odd faded handwritings to make use of all that. Anyway, a complete works of Nabokov would keep me busy for a year, maybe longer. I’ll take that - in some user-friendly form, please
i did think of complete works of Sappho from the Library of Alexandria (translated of course, for me), or the dead sea scrolls that went up in smoke, the missing parts of Parmenides or any of empedocles and others, but I'm not sure. Maybe a sort of ring of Gyges update that might show that part of my personality that will click with folk, or show it in them so i can connect, but hide me from anyone else, sort of passport /visa to communion with souls (a document, I get it) -- it would have to go wrong though, maybe as then you stop actually seeking as you're given it and gradually you sink into a sea of sleepers? have to in part to hide from all those that get you now? or a double process, you have to hide but your wits have gone anyway so it is taken from you too, you seized the grail wrong, again -- so, better, something that gives you power to help those you understand, but without harm, service.
Or maybe just a blank page and time and access to whatever writing I need, and time?
Perhaps also the correspondence of Elizabeth Gaskell, and all the original illustrations for Dinotopia.
A first edition of Lord Jim, signed by Conrad
A round trip ticket on the Tesla time machine so I can finally have that glass of wine and dinner with Philip Roth I've been yearning for for about 40 years
(Now I'm going to cheat and combine several . . . ) A complete set of my four grandparents' original birth certificates (such may not exist for my paternal grandparents, Jews born in Czarist Russia), marriage certificates and U.S. naturalization papers (again, this would be for my paternal grandparents; my maternal grandparents were the children of immigrants, born in the U.S.).
Question #18: I have a pretty dreamy job already, writing about libraries for a living full-time. But if I could jump ship and land in another role, I'd love to write longform nonfiction, essays, and reviews for journals like The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, the Atlantic, etc. Which is, obviously, about the class act publications, but also being paid to research something in depth and write long. That would be awfully fun.
#19: What would be my unlimited budget gift to myself? I don't really know. I'm not really a collector of rarities, first editions, inscribed copies, etc. One of the ancient Mappa Mundi maps would be cool, or some old cabinet of wonders engravings. I wouldn't mind an original Alexander von Humboldt or Charles Darwin drawing, but I don't think those are exactly on the market, so… I'll say I'd like more bookshelves. Built-ins, please.
Time now for those who haven't already found it to move on over to this 2020 thread: https://www.librarything.com/topic/314237, which is off to a roaring start.