Wishlist Wednesday :

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Wishlist Wednesday is a meme hosted by Pen to Paper, where bloggers get the chance to show which books they’ve added to their wishlist this week.

The book that I am currently eager to get my hands on, is Rereadings by Anne Fadiman:

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The book isn’t actually written by Fadiman. She is the editor and this is a collection of essays written by seventeen different writers, each talking about one book that they love to re-read.

Synopsis

Is a book the same book–or a reader the same reader–the second time around? The seventeen authors in this witty and poignant collection of essays all agree on the answer: Never.

The editor of Rereadings is Anne Fadiman, and readers of her bestselling book Ex Libris will find this volume especially satisfying. Her chosen authors include Sven Birkerts, Allegra Goodman, Vivian Gornick, Patricia Hampl, Phillip Lopate, and Luc Sante; the objects of their literary affections range from Pride and Prejudice to Sue Barton, Student Nurse.

These essays are not conventional literary criticism; they are about relationships. Rereadings reveals at least as much about the reader as about the book: each is a miniature memoir that focuses on that most interesting of topics, the protean nature of love. And as every bibliophile knows, no love is more life-changing than the love of a book.

I re-read my favourite books all the time. I don’t feel as if I have properly experienced a book that I like unless I read it a few times. So yeah, I can’t wait to read this book and to meet other folk who think like me.

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Daily Trivia : A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities was first published in serial form on this date ( April 30th ) in 1859. It appeared in the first issue of a new weekly journal, All the Year Round, which Dickens founded himself.

A Tale of Two Cities was on the front page of the first issue, and thanks to Dickens’ popularity, it sold 125,000 copies. Dickens was so encouraged by its success that he also serialized Great Expectations in the journal, beginning in December of 1860.

Dickens published All the Year Round until his death in 1870. After that time, his son, Charles Dickens Jr., took up the reins, editing the journal until 1895. During its 36-year run, it featured the work of Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and several others.

A Tale of Two Cities begins in the most intriguing fashion:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …”

How many books do you read in a year?

I have no idea. I have never made a list or counted the books I read. I could easily do that but I doubt that it would really be reflective of my reading because I would only count the books that I finish.

And I spend quite a bit of my reading time dipping into books and reading them in bits and pieces and not really bothering about finishing them. I finish all the fiction I read. I finish all biographies and memoirs.

But there are books on science or travel or maybe a collection of essays or letters that I tend to only read a chapter or two at a time. I finish them all eventually, but sometimes it takes years.

Then there’s all the time I spend re-reading my favourite books. It wouldn’t do to count them over and over, now would it?

I always want to read more than I do, but I’m not all that concerned about the number of books I read. I want to remember which books I read and what I thought of them, that is the why of this blog after all, but I don’t think the number matters.

What prompted all this reflection is this community I came across on LiveJournal called 50 book challenge, the idea being that you set out to read at least fifty books a year. That doesn’t sound like a lot of books and it isn’t, really. But I guess the kind of books you read would determine how quickly you get to that figure.

Do I read at least fifty books a year? I have no idea. It would be interesting to find out, but I don’t think I would set myself fifty or any other figure as a goal. I don’t do well with reading goals. I am very much a mood reader and I like to take my time and savour the books I read and setting a goal would just get in the way of that…

Daily Trivia : Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson near Daresbury, Cheshire, England in1832. He is best known as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass (1872).

Carroll was a gifted mathematician and photographer. He intended originally, to become a minister, but he suffered an attack of whooping cough at age 17, a late age to get that illness, and as a result he developed a stammer.

After recovering from his illness, Carroll decided that life as a minister would be too demanding. So he took up a job teaching mathematics at Christ’s College, Oxford, where he had also attended university. Carroll found the work dull and considered most of his students stupid and he wrote seriously during this time.

In 1855, he said, “I do not think I have yet written anything worthy of real publication, but I do not despair of doing so some day.” The next year he published under the famous pseudonym “Lewis Carroll” for the first time, when his poem “Solitude” appeared in a magazine called Train. The pseudonym is a play on Carroll’s real name.

Carroll always felt at ease around children. It has been rumored that his stammer would disappear while he talked with children. He was a storyteller, and he liked telling his stories to children.

He first came up with the idea for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by telling stories to the children of the dean of Christ’s College, who had a daughter named Alice.

Carroll enjoyed massive success from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and his pseudonym grew into an alter ego that became famous in its own right. Even today, more people know the legends surrounding Lewis Carroll better than they know the biography of the real man, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

The stories of Alice and her adventures in the strange wonderland have remained popular to this day. Many readers speculate on the underlying meaning of the tales, but Carroll himself said he only intended the tales as carefree fantasy and nothing more.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

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It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at
Book Journey.

After a breezy break from reality I have got back to serious reading. I picked up Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit this afternoon.

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Synopsis

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit is a dynamic history of the first decade of the Progressive era, that tumultuous time when the nation was coming unseamed and reform was in the air.

The story is told through the intense friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft—a close relationship that strengthens both men before it ruptures in 1912, when they engage in a brutal fight for the presidential nomination that divides their wives, their children, and their closest friends, while crippling the progressive wing of the Republican Party, causing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to be elected, and changing the country’s history.

The Bully Pulpit is also the story of the muckraking press, which arouses the spirit of reform that helps Roosevelt push the government to shed its laissez-faire attitude toward robber barons, corrupt politicians, and corporate exploiters of our natural resources.

The muckrakers are portrayed through the greatest group of journalists ever assembled at one magazine—Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Lincoln Steffens, and William Allen White—teamed under the mercurial genius of publisher S.S. McClure.

Goodwin’s narrative is founded upon a wealth of primary materials. The correspondence of more than four hundred letters between Roosevelt and Taft begins in their early thirties and ends only months before Roosevelt’s death.

Edith Roosevelt and Nellie Taft kept diaries. The muckrakers wrote hundreds of letters to one another, kept journals, and wrote their memoirs. The letters of Captain Archie Butt, who served as a personal aide to both Roosevelt and Taft, provide an intimate view of both men.

The Bully Pulpit is a major work of history—an examination of leadership in a rare moment of activism and reform that brought the country closer to its founding ideals.

I read about a paragraph of the prologue and I was totally sucked in. I can see this book taking over my heart and my mind the same way that Team of Rivals did. This is probably all I am going to be reading this week.

Three good books…

As I told you last week, I have been on a Wodehouse binge. Over the last three days I have read three of his books back to back while also reading a collection of his letters. I have had a thoroughly good time. The three books that I have been reading are Mike at Wrykyn,Mike and Psmith and Psmith in the City.

The first two are school stories. Wodehouse describes his time at public school as “Six years of unbroken bliss.” It is obvious from these books how much he loved being at school. These are stories about friendship, about growing up, doing silly things just for the sake of doing them and having fun.

There is plenty of cricket too. Mike, our hero is a keen cricketer and a genuinely gifted batsman, so a lot of the story and the plot in all three books revolves around cricket. This may not be to everyone’s taste but I certainly love it.

There is a cricket match at the end of all three books. Wodehouse writes each of the matches so well…you get sucked into the action and you’re reading with breathless attention, wondering what is going to happen next. It is the best kind of escapism…

The third book, Psmith in the city has our young heroes forced to go to work in a bank and hating the rigidity and the confinement of the place. This is a plot straight out of Wodehouse’s life. He too went to work at a bank after he finished school and he hated it.

He wrote books in whatever spare time he had and at the first sign of success, he left the bank. He had to struggle for another few years before he was truly successful, but he writes about it all so breezily in his letters and makes it seem like a big adventure rather than a struggle to make ends meet.

I think that is what I like most about this man. He had spirit.

Daily Trivia : Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” That’s Gabriel García Márquez born in Aracataca, Colombia in1927.

He grew up with his maternal grandparents. His grandfather was a colonel, a military hero of Colombia’s Thousand Days War, and his grandmother was a wonderful storyteller. His grandfather told him stories of the revolution, and his grandmother told stories of ghosts, curses, and magic.

García Márquez studied law at university. During his first year, he read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. He was so impressed by it that at 8 o’clock the next morning he began reading all the classic literature he could get his hands on, and eventually dropped out of school to work as a journalist, while writing stories on the side.

Just before his 23rd birthday, he traveled back to Aracataca with his mother to help her sell his grandparents’ house, and he was inspired by Aracataca to create a fictional town named Macondo, which would become the setting of his epic novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967).

In 1985, Márquez published Love in the Time of Cholera, the love story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza.

Márquez said: “People spend a lifetime thinking about how they would really like to live … I wish my life could have been like the years when I was writing Love in the Time of Cholera. I would get up at 5:30 or 6 in the morning. I need only six hours of sleep.

Then I quickly listened to the news. I would read from 6 to 8, because if I don’t read at that time I won’t get around to it anymore. I lose my rhythm. Someone would arrive at the house with fresh fish or lobster or shrimp caught nearby.

Then I would write from 8 till 1. By midday, Mercedes would go to the beach and wait for me with friends. I never quite knew who to expect; there were always people coming and going. After lunch I had a little siesta.

And when the sun started going down I would go out on the street to look for places where my characters would go, to talk to people and pick up language and atmosphere. So the next morning I would have fresh material I had brought from the streets.”

Márquez’s novels and novellas include The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975), Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981), and Memories of My Melancholy Whores (2004). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.

Daily Trivia : Elizabeth George

Elizabeth George is the the American author who’s been called “a master of the English mystery”. She was born in Warren, Ohio in1949.

The London Times recently ranked George with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie on its all-time best “masters of crime” list.

She’s the author of the Inspector Lynley series featuring a Scotland Yard detective, Inspector Thomas Lynley, 8th Earl of Asherton and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, his crime-solving partner.

Elizabeth George was originally a high school English teacher. She was selected Orange County Teacher of the Year, a tribute in part to the work she’d done with remedial students for nearly a decade.

She left education after thirteen and a half years when she sold her first novel, A Great Deliverance, to her longtime publisher Bantam Books. 

She has won the Anthony Award, the Agatha Award, and France’s Le Grand Prix de Literature Policiere for her novel A Great Deliverance, for which she was also nominated for the Edgar and the Macavity Awards. She has also been awarded Germany’s MIMI for her novel Well-Schooled in Murder

Most of her novels have been filmed by for television by the BBC and have been broadcast in the US on PBS’s Mystery.

Stacking the Shelves

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Stacking the shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews every Saturday. Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual.

I have added several books to my collection this week. They are all e-books and they are all public domain books, so I got them from Project Gutenberg which if you ask me is one of the most brilliant ideas that anyone has ever had. They have so many old books, which earlier would have gone out of print and been lost forever or only been available in a couple of places. Now every book can pretty much live undamaged forever.

Now on to the books. As I mentioned in my previous post I have been adding to my collection of P G Wodehouse. These are the treasures that I have acquired:

Mike at Wrykyn

mike and Psmith

 

the-pothunters

Prefect's uncle

white feather

little nugget

and finally

kays

They are all school stories and they are absolutely brilliant. I’m having a wonderful time reading them.

A Wodehouse binge…

I have been on a bit of a Wodehouse binge for the last couple of days. Part of the reason for this is that I have been reading P G Wodehouse : A Life in Letters and falling ever more in love with this charming, genial, incredible genius of a man.

I always thought he was a brilliant writer, but it was when I read Performing Flea...an exchange of letters between him and Bill Townend who was a close friend of his from the time they were in school together…that I began to truly appreciate the man.

Townend was a writer too and most of the letters are about the art and craft of writing, characters, plot development, language and the creative process. But there is a lot of Wodehouse the man, there as well and as I read that book, I found that I liked and admired him probably more than any other writer and definitely more than most people I know.

So reading this book has brought on a lot of nostalgia. That combined with the fact that I have recently acquired several of Wodehouse’s earliest books…the ones written before 1923; they are all past copyright and in the public domain now…has led me on a binge. I am reading all of Wodehouse’s school stories.

I began withTales of St Austins which I hadn’t read before and then I read Mike at Wrykyn, over three sleepless hours last night and now I’m five chapters into Mike and Psmith. Both of these are books that I have read before, but that does not in way diminish my enjoyment of them now.

Mike is likeable anyway, but Psmith is a wonderful character. Everyone talks of Jeeves and Wooster, but Psmith is by far my favourite Wodehouse character. He is intelligent and quirky, witty and irreverent and quite mad, while somehow also being a good person and a loyal friend. The more I read about him, the more fascinating I find him.

I think the best thing you can say about a fictional character is that you wish that person were real and that he or she was your friend. Well, I wish Psmith was my friend…

Daily Trivia : Doris Kearns Goodwin

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Famed author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was born Doris Helen Kearns in New York City, on January 4, 1943. Raised in Brooklyn, Goodwin fell “in love” with the Brooklyn Dodgers at a young age, according to her book,  Wait till next year : A memoir. She also developed an early affinity for history, politics and writing.

After earning an undergraduate degree from Colby College in Maine in 1964, Goodwin enrolled at Harvard University. During her third year of graduate school, she was awarded a White House Fellowship and, subsequently, a brief assistantship in Washington, D.C. with then Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz, a member of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration at the time. (Wirtz had previously served under John F. Kennedy.)

Around the same time, Goodwin encountered some unexpected publicity when she co-wrote an article for the magazine The New Republic, disparaging Johnson’s decision to expand U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

News of the piece traveled quickly through the White House, attracting the attention of Johnson and his staff—a situation that would typically result in the end of an era for a White House intern, or, at the very least, a slap on the wrist.

Goodwin, however, won a promotion of sorts. Months after the article’s publication, President Johnson asked Goodwin to assist him with writing his memoirs. She accepted and soon embarked on what would later become a decades-long career as a presidential biographer.

Goodwin graduated from Harvard with a Ph.D. in government in 1968. It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that she published her first book, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream (1976)—a result of her early meeting with Johnson and her ensuing analysis of his memoirs.

Her follow-up biography, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga, was released in 1987 and quickly became a best-seller. The book was later adapted for the television series, The Kennedys of Massachusetts, airing in 1990 on ABC.

In 1994, Goodwin released another presidential biography, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, which proved to be one of her biggest achievements. She won immense commercial and critical acclaim for the FDR book, culminating with the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for History.

Changing genres in the late 1990s, Goodwin released a memoir detailing her early life in Brooklyn, Wait till Next Year: A Memoir (1997).

Then came her fourth presidential biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Released in 2005, it was another literary success.

Her most recent book is The Bully Pulpit : Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden age of Journalism. It captures the Progressive Era through the broken friendship between Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft culminating in them running against each other for president in 1912.

In addition to writing, Goodwin has worked for NBC News, as a government professor at Harvard, and as a political commentator. Additionally, in 1994, she served as a consultant for a baseball documentary created by Ken Burns, The History of Baseball.

Friday Flashback : 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

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Flashback Friday is a meme hosted by Bookshelf fantasies  focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves. 

The book I have chosen this week is one that has been on my mind for the last few days. I don’t quite know why, but I have been thinking about this book a lot. I was fourteen years old when I first read it and I have read it many times since. I only stopped re reading it when I realised that I almost knew it by heart.

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“I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books…” 

This is the ultimate book about books. It is a record of a twenty year long correspondence between Helene Hanff, the afore mentioned writer with the antiquarian taste in books and Marks and Co, a second-hand book shop in London, located at 84 Charing Cross Road.

Most of the letters written on behalf of the bookshop were written by Frank Doel, who was their principal buyer. The book is made up of letters written between 1949 and 1969 and though they are primarily discussions about books, they carry all the flavour of that time, everything from post war food rationing in Britain, to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the second to the advent of television.

Helene has an abiding love for the England of English literature and hopes to see it for herself one day. In the meantime, she has her bookshop. She buys books from them because as she says, “Why should I run all the way to 17th Street to buy dirty, badly made books when I could buy clean, beautiful ones without leaving the typewriter?”

But mostly, she keeps buying books from them because she likes to have a link with London. Marx & Co. send Helene old books and Helene sends them food parcels. She is appalled to hear about the food rationing in Britain and uses some of her meagre income to send parcels of eggs and meat to her friends at the bookshop.  They write her thank you letters and send her gifts for Christmas, which are mostly books.

What makes this book so unique is Helene herself. She is a spirited soul with a wonderful sense of humour and a passionate love of books. Here are a few of my favourite quotes from the book.

“The books arrived safely. The Stevenson is so fine it embarrasses my orange-crate bookshelves. I’m almost afraid to handle such soft vellum and heavy cream coloured pages…I never knew a book could be such a joy to the touch.”

“I do love second-hand books that open to the page that some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came, he opened to ‘I hate to read new books’ and I hollered ‘Comrade!’ to whoever owned it before me.”

“I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else turned and reading passages someone long gone has called my attention to.”

“Frankie, guess who came while you were away on vacation? SAM PEPYS! …he came a week ago, stepped out of four pages of some tabloid, three honest navy-blue volumes of him; I read the tabloid over lunch and started Sam after dinner.

He says to tell you that he’s overjoyed to be here, he was previously owned by a slob who didn’t even bother to cut the pages.”

This book is a must read for anyone who loves books.

 

 

 

Still Foolin ‘Em by Billy Crystal

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This book is funny, but it also surprisingly thoughtful. This is Billy Crsytal telling you about his life, his childhood spent playing baseball and hobnobbing with some of the best jazz musicians of the day (his father was the manager of a popular record store in New York city and he also managed the first independent jazz label of its time), losing his father when he was just fifteen years old and having to grow up before he was quite ready, going off to college, meeting his future wife and marrying her when he was just twenty-three, having kids, trying to make a career as a stand up comic, his foray into TV and films, acting, directing, hosting the Oscars (he’s hosted it a record nine times), watching his daughters grow up, becoming a grand parent…all this interspersed with little insights and anecdotes about what it is like to be old.

It is Billy Crystal reflecting on his life. He is warm and funny, witty and insightful, even poignant at times. And he has clearly lived a life full of interesting people and rich with experiences of all kinds. And he writes about it with an engaging honesty that has you laughing and even crying with him a couple of times.

The book does drag in a few places and there are at least two chapters that I thought the book could have done without, but these are minor criticisms.

The book is definitely worth reading and as one reviewer on goodreads put it, if you like Billy Crystal, you will like this book.

 

Writers on Writing : Dan Brown

“Writing an informative yet compact thriller is a lot like making maple sugar candy. You have to tap hundreds of trees and boil vats and vats of raw sap …evaporate the water…and keep boiling until you’ve distilled a tiny nugget that encapsulates the essence.”

“Of course, this requires liberal use of the DELETE key. In many ways, editing yourself is the most important part of being a novelist…carving away superfluous text until your story stands crystal clear before your reader. For every page in The Da Vinci Code, I wrote 10 that ended up in the trash.”

Daily Trivia : Michel de Montaigne

“Even on the most exalted throne in the world, we are only sitting on our own rear end.” That’s French author Michel de Montaigne born near Bordeaux (1533). He was a learned man, a lawyer and a statesman.

He retired from public life in 1571 — on his 38th birthday — to begin a life of study. His chief subject was himself, and he wrote about it in a series of essays called Essais, after the French word meaning “trial” or “attempt.”

He was revolutionary in his belief that, by examining one’s own life, one could better understand the wider world and the human condition.

His best friend, the humanist scholar and poet Étienne de la Boétie died in 1563, and Montaigne missed their conversations greatly. His essays were like letters, a kind of conversation between Montaigne and an unknown correspondent; perhaps he thought of his dead friend as he wrote them.

In the essays, he wrote, “Don’t discuss yourself, for you are bound to lose; if you belittle yourself, you are believed; if you praise yourself, you are disbelieved.”

And “Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.”

And “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.”

And “I care not so much what I am to others as what I am to myself.”