Today I took myself off to a Large Book Retailer as I had a lovely gift card given to my by the Street Pastor at Christmas. With the lovely gift card I got some lovely books to add to my Christmas Reading Pile. I got Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope, both in support of my Reading Old Books campaign in 2013. I also got Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, because Gibson is generally brilliant and I’ve been looking for that one. Finally, I caved to the pull of a large epic in the winter and got Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. More books! Very exciting.
Since I’m generally having an afternoon off, I am now going to put down my computer, sip my freshly brewed decaf cinnamon coffee, and begin The Casual Vacancy. I will report on J.K. Rowling’s adult fiction soon.
Back to the bookshop today. Other books I got for Christmas, ones I haven’t mentioned yet:
1. The Walking Dead Compendium 1. From YBro, a graphic novel. It appears to have zombies from the title.
2. God Knows my Size, by Harvey Yoder. From my Detroit Cousin. It appears to be a memoir of the work of God in some woman’s life.
3. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. From RABro, a Murakami novel I’ve not yet read. How exciting.
4. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell. From RABro. Mitchell wrote Cloud Atlas which I thought brilliant and so have been avoiding the movie.
5. Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel. From RABro. The sequel that won the Booker. I quite liked Wolf Hall so quite looking forward to this one.
I’m actually quite looking forward to ALL my Christmas books. Books to read. Very exciting. I’ll just go and read then.
RABro got me The Casual Vacancy for Christmas. This is very exciting. I’m looking forward to it, despite the indifferent to negative reviews I’ve seen. I don’t necessarily trust reviewers any more, particularly when they get their copy of a much anticipated book and have a deadline in less than a day. Sometimes one must savour a book, not barrel through it looking for something to say in a review.
I re-read the Potter series during Advent as an escape from reality. Potter is a very handy escape series. It can take a week to read, and one can profitably read and re-read the books. That is to say, I can read and re-read the books. I’m not sure about everyone else. I think I’ve heard of other people re-reading Potter, so I think it is more than just me. I think Rowling will turn out to be a good writer, because she writes even when she doesn’t need to — she has enough money just from Potter and movies — but because she likes to tell stories. I think this is important.
I’m still enjoying The Elegance of the Hedgehog so it will be at least a day before I turn to Ms Rowling’s latest work. I’ll tell you if the reviewers had anything useful to say when I’m done.
I got two great coffee mugs for Christmas. They have different messages on them. I think they go together quite well.
The first one I got from 1Mom. We laughed at the mug’s message because, well, its what we do. That’s it over there. 1Mom and I are temperamentally similar. We relate to the message.
This mug I got from RABro. It also made me smile because it is the stiff upper lip thing and I like the variants on this wartime poster that have appeared in the last year or so. In internet-speak, it has become a bit of a meme. And the red goes with the accent colours in my apartment.
The mugs kind of go together. They balance each other. I think they’ll get along nicely on my shelf.
I requested and received The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary for Christmas from RABro. This book is set in Paris, and is translated from the French. (All you readers of French out there might want to read it in the original.) I am enjoying it very much. It is hard to describe exactly what the book is about. Philosophy. The meaning of life. Deep thoughts by unlikely people. All these phrases might describe the book. You should just go and find it and read it. It is a few years old at this point, but you can find it at large bookshops and probably also at small independent bookshops as well. It is lovely. Go find it. Now.
What books did you get for Christmas?
I got two books from 1Mom for Christmas that she categorized as books on the aftereffects of war. One is The Ash Garden by Dennis Bock, set in Ontario and Japan. The other is The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. From my perusal of summaries and my memory of the movie of The Reader, both are about the effects of war on teens or children who grow up in the shadow of conflict. This is interesting for many reasons and has been a side interest of mine, but not one I’ve followed up on in my reading of books on the wars. I’ve more focussed on grown-ups in the wars, people who were in the conflict or who refused to join the army or things like that. I think that interest comes from my ADad and AGrandfather who served in very different ways in the second and first war respectively. ADad was in the air force. His father, my AGrandfather was a conscientious objector who served as a stretcher-bearer on the front. I’ve only recently started to see bits and pieces about this kind of service in the first war, and it was nuts. My grandfather never ever talked about it. Ever.
Fiction is an interesting way into the way the world looks for people on the inside of an historical event. Well researched, well imagined historical fiction provides a window into another time and place. I’m looking forward to my books on the aftereffects of war.
As noted last year, the twelve days of Christmas are days AFTER Christmas. Counting differs among people, but I usually count day 1 as starting Christmas Day at sundown, so here we are on the first day of Christmas, St. Stephen’s day, the day Good King Wenceslas went out.
For some seasonal theological reading, I got myself St. Athanasius On the Incarnation, from the Popular Patristics Series. This particular translation was done in the mid-twentieth century by “a religious of C.S.M.V.” This particular female religious was a correspondent of C.S. Lewis, and he wrote the introduction to this translation. I must confess that so far I’ve only read the introduction, and feel I could profitably stop and just meditate on it for a while. I’ve read bits and pieces of Lewis’s introduction to OTI before. If you google something like “Lewis reading old books” you’ll find lots of blogs and other pages that quote extensively from this short essay. Just get the book and read the whole introduction. It rocks. Basically it is about the importance of reading old books as well as new books. This is a subject which was dear to C.S. Lewis’s heart and recurs throughout his educational and literary criticism essays and books. We should, Lewis suggests, read two old books for every one new one. It isn’t clear what Lewis defines as “old” but certainly it means something other than the best-seller list and current-year prize-winners. It may begin with the backlist of authors, but it certainly extends to authors who are dead, and have been dead for some time.
I’ve decided that I need to somehow define an “old” book so that I am trying to do a one old and one new book ratio in my reading for 2013. Note the word “try”. For a complete and better-thought-through set of 2013 Reading Resolutions, tune into this blog on the seventh day of Christmastide. Have you thought about your Reading Resolutions? Do tell.
Today it is officially almost Christmas. You can say Merry Christmas and I won’t yell at you in my head that it is still Advent, not Christmas. Yesterday night was 1Fam Christmas. Today I hit the road to go to AFam Christmas. I will return for the 12 days of Christmas to report on things like what books I got for Christmas, and reading in 2012.
I work in retail, in a bookshop. This means that Christmas music plays continually in the store from the first week of December. Mercifully I’m only there 4 days a week; however, I sit under one of the sound system speakers. I notice when songs are played again and again. I notice that there are days when it seems like the radio station plays only their selections for the Worst Versions of Christmas Songs Ever. And by today, December 21, I am Not Interested in hearing any of their Christmas music any longer. At first we joked and made predictions for the song of the day. (Example: “Holly Jolly Christmas,” 4 times by 5 o’clock.) Now we just make snide remarks about the versions and singing ability of some soloists.
I have to tell you that my least favourite of all the Christmas songs ever is “Santa Baby” first recorded in 1953 or so. Ick. I quite like the carol “O Holy Night” but am afraid that there are some particularly terrible versions of this floating around out there, that feature aging sopranos missing their notes.
What about you? What Christmas song do you hate? What song do you like, but hate to hear massacred in the various recorded versions?
Yesterday I began the 12 Days of Christmas song-fest with some puppets and a person. Today we continue with talking animals who mostly sing the original lyrics.
Talking Animals Sing 12 Days
The year-end round-ups have begun — top news stories, best sports plays, top 2011 _____, where the blank can be filled in with almost anything. Because this is a blog about books, I’ll do a top reads of 2011 list. I’m afraid I’m rather reluctant to do this before the year ends. Why? Because I might read something in the next 4 days that is better than anything else I’ve read yet this year! Because I’ll mostly be reading fiction in the next four days (holidays), I’ll begin by looking at the non-fiction reads of 2011.
This year I didn’t read a lot of non-fiction that stood out as Really Good. That’s not to say that it was all bad or uninteresting or unimportant. I used the word “Dense” a lot in my notes. This doesn’t mean dense as in stupid, but dense as in packed with stuff, lots of ideas per page. Dense books are often difficult to read the first time, but make more sense the second time through. I can’t say whether this is the case for any of the books on my list this year as I’ve not yet re-read them. It does mean that I’ll award the “Densest Book of 2011” to one of the books.
I’m still thinking of other awards I’ll give out. I think that “Most Personally Helpful” and “Most likely to be Passed Out To Others” will be awarded. I’m not sure if I’ll give a “Most likely to be gotten rid of before I move” title to any of the non-fiction I read this year. I’ll have to look again. There may yet be something in that category. Look for the “Densest Book of 2011” award, to be announced tomorrow.