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.