Found the first half of 1919 at the bookstore

We stopped by a used bookstore (Prospero’s Books, fwiw) last night after dinner out, and I immediately discovered the “Weird. Old.” section, and found this:



Already fascinated by a few of the articles. I may have to start collecting old Nat Geos. And yeah, that article about the League of Nations is by William Howard Taft.

Name a Children’s Book Every Child Should Read

This post idea is from, fwiw.

Name one children’s book every child should read.  This is tough.  I grew up being read to.  I grew up reading.  Our kids get books read to them every night.  Our oldest reads himself to sleep every night after we read to him.  I’ve been stealing our family’s old children’s books from my mother’s shelves for years now (usually with her permission).  I love books.  I love board books and easy readers, chapter books and young adult novels.  I can name, off the top of my head, probably a hundred children’s books I like.  So the most difficult part of answering this question is picking just one book.

And that’s the fun of it, too.

My choice is The Tale of Custard the Dragon, by Ogden Nash, in the edition illustrated by Lynn Munsinger.

Cover of The Tale of Custard the Dragon

Here is why.  The story has a dragon in it.  That’s probably enough, for me, but I also like that the dragon is owned by a little girl, Belinda.  I like that the book is about courage in the face of danger, but also accepting your true self.  It has sympathetic characters that are still flawed (Ink, Blink, and Mustard are kind of mean, but still part of the family).  I like that Nash rhymes “window” with “Belinda” (as in “windah”).  That he rhymes “pirate” with “gyrate.”  That the poetry flows easily when read aloud.  That the pictures are delightfully detailed and whimsical.  Every child needs a little adventure, and a little whimsy, and an underdog to root for.

I give this book as a gift whenever I can.

Here it is in prose form Here it is at Amazon (for just $7.00!)

What one book would you choose?

I want to pre-order a book that doesn’t exist, but will

Here’s the deal.  I’m reading a trilogy by Robin Hobb.  It’s a fantasy series, yes, and the books are actually a bit of a trudge, but surely worth it in the end.  I have the first two in paperback.  The third—and final—book is now out in hardcover.  I don’t buy hardcover.

So, I would very much like to visit on online book retailer, find the hardcover edition of this book, and check a box that says, “Notify me when this is available in paperback.”  Submit!  When I get the email, I click on a link, I check out, I have the book, they have my money.

But nobody does that.  Not Amazon, not Borders, not Barnes & Noble.  Now, I understand that they can’t actually place a pre-order for a book that does not yet exist.  It hasn’t been announced by the publisher, it doesn’t have an ISBN number, and who knows, maybe they’ll never get around to printing a paperback version of it.

But chances are (and I’d put them at 99.99%) that this book will eventually show up in paperback form.  They could offer me the option, with the caveat that I may never get notified.  If any of those three retailers had this option, they would have just made a sale.  As it is, I’ll likely forget about it, and maybe see the book on a shelf during one of my infrequent visits to a physical bookstore.  And maybe I’ll buy it then, and maybe I won’t.

On a related note: Borders and B&N both offer lists of books coming soon.  But none of these lists are searchable.  Hello?  Of course, Amazon doesn’t seem to offer a browsable Coming Soon list, so maybe the other guys aren’t worried.

Page 123

Mark tagged me for a meme. Pick up the nearest book, turn to page 123, and post sentences 5, 6, and 7.

The nearest book to my computer is… (getting tape measure, as bookshelf 1 is about as close as bookshelf 2)… well, they are both within the margin of error, so… I give you two books.

On my left, from Home Comforts, The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson:

“Shop first for inedibles, such as paper towels and soap. Next, pick out nonperishables: canned and bottled things and anything else that you will store outside the refrigerator or freezer, such as sugar, salt, dry cereal, flour, canned and room-temperature bottled foods. Next, buy refrigerated things, such as milk, cheese, fresh meat and poultry, and fruits and vegetables.”

On my right, from Monkey, a folk novel of China by Wu Ch’eng-en, translated by Arthur Waley:

“It was now getting late, and the farm-hands set out tables and brought in several dishes of cooked tiger-flesh which they laid all sizzling in front of their master and his guest. ‘I must tell you,’ said Tripitaka, ‘that I was admitted to the Order almost as soon as I left my mother’s womb, and have never in my life indulged in meats of this kind.’ The hunter thought for a while.”

I never could stick to the directions. It was a problem in college. I’m also not going to tag anyone, because, while I recognize that it can be fun, Mark tagged all the people I know with a blog (sad, isn’t it?) and plus, I don’t do that sort of thing. What a pisser I am.

Feel free to do this on your own blog, comment on my books, or post your own Page 123 entries below.

Found a list of my favorite books

So, when I restarted this blog, a while back, I posted an entry about who I was, and for that entry I came up with a list of my favorite books. Only two of them made it into the entry, and I just came across the full list while cleaning off my desk. So here, for the edification of the Internets, is a list of my favorite books.

  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Still a delightful book, still puts me in stitches, still compels me to read it out loud to anyone who doesn’t get away fast enough.
  • Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. Bittersweet, but compellingly lovely. It’s like the best you could hope for out of a real life laced with tragedy and beauty.
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams. Very human rabbits struggling with life and death decisions. It is one of very few books I re-read every so often.
  • Juno & Juliet by Julian Gough. I fell in love with these girls, I think.
  • The Double Helix by James Watson. Sure, Watson is an ass, and Rosalind got screwed, it’s true, but this account of science being done fascinated me when I was a teenager, and started me down the wrong road to a life in science (a mistake that was corrected by my advisor in college).
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I reviewed this book for my high school AP English class (the year’s theme was “Hell”) and loved it. I understand it might be his most accessible work, but there’s no shame in that, right? Don’t forget the Cliffs Notes.
  • A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell. This book, and several of the other books Durrell wrote about his life as a naturalist, were pivotal in my interest in animals. You note my comment about a career in science above, well these books are what made me focus on animal behavior as that scientific pursuit. Alas. But still delightful books.
  • City of Baraboo by Barry Longyear. Ostensibly a sci-fi book about a circus in space, this is a delightful, well-researched book about how a circus operates, full of nostalgia and wonder. The format is a little weird, kind of like a bunch of short stories, and I gather there are two more books in the “series,” but this is the only one I have read.
  • Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. This is the source materiel for all the stories you know better, like T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, and Mary Stewart’s books. It can be a bit plodding, but the stories are all there, including my favorite, the story of Arthur’s death and the return of Excalibur to the lake. You’ll want Volume 2, as well.
  • Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. You’ll have heard of the Disney movie, The Black Cauldron, but these books are so much more. Based in Welsh mythology (hence the similarities to Tolkien), these are pre-teen, or teen fantasy novels about a boy’s rise on the strength of prophecy to save the world. These were the first (and still only) books that could reliably make me cry. Five books, all well worth it.

And some I’m not throwing out

As I was (in the previous post) tossing many of my sci-fi and fantasy books, I came across several that I wasn’t throwing out, and probably won’t ever throw out. In the interest of a little ying in my yang, here’s some of what’s not in the heap:

  • Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, which gave me weird psychedelic nightmares when I was a kid, and which I have always intended to read again as an adult.
  • Elizabeth Moon’s The Deed of Paksenarrion. It is, far and away, the best story of how a Paladin becomes one. The end is a little bittersweet, the prequel is just disappointing, but this is fine fantasy.
  • Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series. Still one of the best out there. Writes circles around Robert Jordan.
  • Brian Daley’s Star Wars: The Han Solo Adventures is still good, rollicking, swashbuckling, Star Wars fun.
  • Anne McCaffrey’s Dinosaur Planet books. Small, tight, well-written and fun. There are just two of them, and they are often overlooked in favor of her dragon books. But not to be missed.
  • Lawrence Watt-Evans’ Esthshar books, of which there are many, each standalone. These are humorous fantasy novels, I consider them to be Xanth books for grown-ups.
  • The E.T. novelization, which is an awesome, funny, enlightening read.
  • Everything I own by Connie Willis, especially To Say Nothing of the Dog.
  • Most everything by Guy Gavriel Kay. The first books I read by him were the Fionavar Tapestry books, which in the end are a little self-involved, but his stand-alone books are very good, especially The Lions of Al-Rassan, and A Song for Arbonne.
  • Ursula LeGuin’s _Earthsea_ books, so recently maligned by the SciFi Channel.
  • John Christopher’s _Tripods Trilogy_ which I read when I was twelve, and a Boy Scout, and loved, and now think might be subtly religious in tone, but I don’t know because I haven’t read them in twenty-two years and I should, so I’m keeping them.

Throwing out sci-fi/fantasy books

I know, I know. Gasp! Danny throwing away fantasy books? Well, it is happening, even as I type. I’m finally opening my boxes of books shipped from Iowa, and I am tossing some books I have carted with me for a long time, some since college!

Why? Well, I don’t have any time to read anymore, and I suspect I won’t have much until Aidan turns into a teenager (that’s when he’ll start actively avoiding me, right?). Which means I’ll have even less time to re-read anything I already own. So I am tossing those books which I might once have thought I’d re-read at some point.

Mostly I’m keeping the good stuff, and the sentimental stuff.

On the heap:

  • Everything by Robert Jordan. What a hack.
  • All of Raymond Feist’s books after the first three.
  • Everything I own of Katherine Kurtz, and Katherine Kerr, whose books I couldn’t tell apart in my memory, anyway.
  • All books by Janny Wurts. Though I enjoyed them, I can’t remember anything about them.
  • I’ve also decided to take a principled stand and junk anything I own by Orson Scott Card. He’s a fascist, a homophobe, and a good writer, but one out of three is not enough for me.
  • All 3,180 pages of Tad Williams’ Otherland series.
  • Gregory Keyes’ Age of Unreason series, though I’m keeping his first two-book series, The Waterborn and The Blackgod.
  • Other standouts on the heap include some of Brin’s more self-serving works, Star Wars fluff books, Zelazny’s books, and The Mists of Avalon which Tiffany saved. Boy, that was another bad TV adaptation.