So, how is it that we’ve come along for more than a year without a posting dedicated entirely to books — especially since books are so central to the writing and reading life? Probably because it’s such a big topic. Well, now is the time to open that mighty can o’ worms, because it’s reading season!

"So many books, so little time."

"So many books, so little time."

In Japan, people say fall is the season for reading books. I’d guess most of us gathered here around this blog feel that books are always in season. For me, there’s no season like spring/early summer for making me want to immerse myself in a book. The love is there year-’round, but there’s something about the first arrival of warmer seasons — a time of so much promise and possibility — that makes it all the more urgent. Again, it’s all about doorways into summer — into the time of velvet nights and blazing sun, lost paths and silhouettes and icy blue shade.

I’ve always been extremely unusual as a reader/writer, because I’m such a walking contradiction. I absolutely love books — no one would deny that; but I’m also a glacially slow reader. Everyone else I know who loves books as much as I do tends to chain-read them: to devour book after book after book. I’m notorious for inching along. (A friend recently asked me with a cheerful smile, “So, what book are you going to read this year?”)

These two huge plastic drawers are also full of books waiting to be read. But the real book-trove, because of the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," is now back in Illinois: I have an entire room there stuffed with books. Oh, to have them all beneath one roof someday!

These two huge plastic drawers are also full of books waiting to be read. But the real book-trove, because of the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," is now back in Illinois: I have an entire room there stuffed with books. Oh, to have them all beneath one roof someday!

I think it has to do with how much I love books as objects. I love the idea of books. I feel better just knowing that books are around. I love the heft and feel of them, the covers and the pages, the paper quality, the way the words look on the page, those amazing things like tables of contents and forewords and dedications and title pages. . . .

When my cousin and I were little, we’d often read books together (different books, same room). It was like John Henry racing the steam drill. I’d be relishing a certain page, and he’d be zooming along, the bulk of the book steadily vanishing from his right hand and accumulating in his left. I’d enviously ask him how he did that. As he explained it, he’d sort of take in whole paragraphs at once instead of individual words. And he thought it was funny how I’d periodically declare “Cover-Staring Time” (that’s what I called it), when I’d close my book and admire the cover for awhile. [I guess that might have answered my own question: to get through the book, you have to be looking at what’s inside. . . .]

But it’s always felt so wrong to me to race through a book! There are all those beautiful words, with their sounds and nuances, and they’ve been arranged precisely as they are for a purpose. It’s always seemed crucially important to me to appreciate that purpose, to absorb everything from the text that the writer intended, and perhaps more.

My essential reference shelf: dictionaries (Oxford and Webster's), The Chicago Manual of Style, and Zimmerman's Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

My essential reference shelf: dictionaries (Oxford and Webster's), The Chicago Manual of Style, and Zimmerman's Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

Yes, two or three times over the years I’ve tried to teach myself speed-reading. I’ve read books on the subject (not just stared at their covers!), practiced the techniques and all. But when I’ve tried to apply that to a real book, I’ve inevitably slowed back down.

I’m not criticizing you, all you who read like the wind, like Hermes on roller skates. I know the beauty of what you do is that you can come back again and again to revisit the books you love. You can pass this way more than once! I do envy you . . . I want to be just like you when I grow up. I’m serious. That same friend who asked me about what book I’m going to read this year also advised me of one key to getting things read: “You have to make it a priority.” That’s true. I don’t have any fewer hours in the day than anyone else. I just don’t use enough of mine for reading. Maybe this will be the year that I can make a change!

On the other extreme, though, to give this discussion some balance: one of my high-school friends used to race through books, all the big fantasy series that abounded in that decade. We’d ask him what he thought of this one or that one, and he’d say, “Oh, I don’t know. I read it, but I didn’t pay attention to it.” So . . . maybe it’s better to just read one book a year, if you’re paying close attention to it. What do you think? You be the judge.

A famous writer whose identity escapes me now, in advising other writers, said, “Don’t read a hundred books. Instead, read your ten favorite books ten times each, really paying attention.” I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. “The mill-wheels of God’s justice turn slowly, but they grind exceeding fine.” I suppose I do that with books: I grind them exceeding fine.




Room-Staring Time! This picture shows some knickknacks on my shelf. There’s Gandalf, of course, who needs no introduction. The cross was made from wood from the maple trees at the northeast corner of our yard in Illinois, under which I sat to write the poem “Glory Day,” which I still think is my best poem. The cross is standing in a spool from my mom’s sewing basket, and the base it stands on is a piece of plank from the barn I played in as a kid. There’s a thoughtful little gargoyle, a bean-bag cat, a terra-cotta warrior and his terra-cotta horse (bought at an exhibit I saw of the real things here in Niigata). There’s a box with a dragon on the lid. And see the little goat-man? That came as a premium, attached to a plastic jug of Diet Pepsi or Coke. It’s the “Goat Man,” part of a series of plastic replicas of paranormal beings. But for me, that figure became the character Gadmus in my NaNoWriMo novel Corin Booknose. Okay–ungroink–back to our regularly-scheduled discussion:

100_0352A week or two ago, a faithful reader requested reading lists. It’s a bottomless well, an insurmountable task, but let’s go there. We have to understand from the outset that there’s no way we’ll get everything essential onto the lists. But I think we can make helpful lists of some of the very best books out there. I think I’ve talked enough for this time around: I’m going to save my own picks for next time. But feel free to start jumping in: give us a list of any reasonable length — 3, 5, a dozen, 20 books — the books that belong on the small shelf; the best books you’ve discovered in your lifetime, be it short or long. Yes, this blog lies in the native country of fantasy, but you’re not required to limit yourself to that genre. You don’t have to worry about ranking them in order (unless you want to), and I think we all agree that The Lord of the Rings and Watership Down are there already.

Have at it! What book covers should I be staring at?


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32 Responses to “Books”

  1. Catherine Says:

    _Jane Eyre_ by Charlotte Brontë. Keep in mind it’s an old book (some people don’t like those) and, well, a romance. But it’s more than that. It’s the fascinating story of a young woman who is bitingly independent out of necessity, and has to forge her own way in the world at a time when that is acceptable for women neither intellectually nor in the workforce. In the meantime, she has only one other person who truly understands her — Mr. Rochester, her eccentric employer and love interest. Unfortunately, like all good stories, their relationship can’t coast along smoothly, and therein lies the rest of the conflict. (I say this all as a speed reader who knows that she must read an important book at least twice to digest it all. I’ve read this particular book so many times that my sister can read me a passage and ten to one I’ll know exactly where in the story it is. She is currently testing me, like all good little sisters, by asking me weird trivia questions based on the subject.)

    Now, based on that, I think I’ll stop at one, because otherwise I will have a ten-paragraph treatise on the books I think are the best. 🙂

  2. fsdthreshold Says:

    Thanks, Catherine! We’re off to a great start! I’ve had students and have friends who love Jane Eyre! (My students have quite a time trying to guess how “Eyre” is spelled in English! I’ve seen everything from “Jane Air” to “Jane Ear”!) That’s just the sort of review I was hoping for: you told us something about the book, too. (I love it that you know the book that well!) Feel free to jump back in again and add to your list!
    Oh! I also wanted to say: old is fine! Here’s a quote from Clifton Fadiman I use every year in my writing classes: “Books are not rolls, to be devoured only when they are fresh.”

  3. Eunice Says:

    In the fantasy genre: _The Moorchild_ by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. (Did you EVER get around to reading that one, Fred?) The first three books of Steven R. Lawhead’s Pendragon cycle: _Taliesin_, _Merlin_, and _Arthur_. (There are actually six books in this series, but in my opinion, he would have done well to stop at the first three!) Lewis Carroll’s (of _Alice in Wonderland_ fame) lesser-known _Bruno and Sylvie_. There’s Victorian sap and piety (both of which I actually appreciate) but it’s an incredible tale that weaves unpredictably in and out of the real world and the fairy world and sometimes . . . you’re not quite sure exactly where you are! _Beauty_, _Rose Daughter_, and _Spindle’s End_ by Robin McKinley are wonderful three-dimensional retellings of fairy tales.

    For rereading over and over and over just to revel in the sense of period and place: just about anything Agatha Christie ever wrote. My favorite of hers: _The Hollow_. No one’s better for a good mystery, either.

    Best love story: _The Blue Castle_ by L. M. Montgomery of _Ann of Green Gables_ fame. Or, if you want to cry over a love story, _A Walk to Remember_ by Nicholas Sparks. This one’s unique in that it’s told from the perspective of a teenage boy. There are a couple of more light-hearted, adventure/love stories by Eva Ibbotson that I particularly like: _A Company of Swans_ and _The Morning Gift_.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Eunice! I am definitely writing all these down! (Alas, no, I still haven’t read The Moorchild, but I have it! It’s right here on my shelf! 🙂

  4. Catherine Says:

    Okay, Fred, you twisted my arm! Trouble is that I read so many books per year both out of enjoyment and also for school . . . here’s three more.

    2.) _To Kill a Mockingbird_ by Harper Lee. Humor and tragedy and a deeply moving account of prejudice and one man’s stand against it in a small Southern town in the thirties. I read it last year for American History and the end had me crying. It’s told from a small girl’s perspective; and as I mentioned in my obligatory writing assignment on it, that perspective makes the horror of the racism and the inconsistencies of the adults even more frightening when you see a little girl’s innocent reaction to it. Highly recommended.

    3.) _Wolf by the Ears_ by Ann Rinaldi. Highly acclaimed YA author of historical fiction, I find most of her books to be formulaic. But this one is different. It’s the story of Harriet, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and one of his mulatto slaves. She has to decide a.) whether to take freedom when she comes of age, and b.) whether to “pass” as a white woman or to take her freedom as a free black. In the meantime, she has a complicated relationship with her master/father, who will not admit their blood relationship but has a kindly fatherly relationship towards her even so. Whatever happened to Rinaldi’s other books? THIS ONE I recommend.

    4.) _The Snow Goose_ by Paul Gallico. Technically it’s a short story, but I have it in book form. It’s a snap to read but you’ll never forget it. It’s the story of a hunchbacked, repulsive-looking artist with a heart of gold who shelters birds from hunters on the southeastern English shore. He retreats from human contact because of the way people view his appearance. I really can’t reveal anything else without retelling the entire story, but it has its climax at the Battle of Dunkirk (and so fits in with 20th Century history, which is what I am studying this year). It’s wonderful.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I have read To Kill a Mockingbird, and I completely agree! It’s one of my all-time favorite books. It’s strange that Harper Lee stopped writing with that one book, but then, if you’re only going to write one, that’s the one to write! Your description of it (and the others) was wonderful — you could start your own book review column!

  5. Michelle Muenzler Says:

    You should never feel bad about your reading pace–it looks like you and my husband are a lot alike in that. Very slow, very deliberate readers with strong memories for what you’ve read. Unlike silly me who devours books in one bite and remembers only how much I liked it and what my strong emotional resonances were. Ah well, we are all different.

    As for books that should be on any shelf, I would put in a suggestion for most anything by Peter S. Beagle. The man is a genius, and his books reflect that. Like reading poetry and magic all at once. _The Last Unicorn_ and _The Innkeeper’s Song_ are two of my favorites, but there is also something quiet and beautiful about _A Fine & Private Place_ and _Tamsin_. They are all books of wisdom and beauty and wonder.


    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Michelle, thanks for the encouragement about my reading pace! It’s good to know there are others out there who read slowly.
      I totally agree with you about Peter S. Beagle! The Last Unicorn is one of the absolute best — that’s one I’ve read! I’ll never forget hearing him read at the World Fantasy Con in 2006!

  6. I read like Fred Says:

    That is, at a glacial pace. I think I am thinking of the same guy in high school who Fred described as reading by bulk — he devoured books, and when I would ask for the particulars he would come up blank. (Fred … no “Tobin’s Spirit Guide” to go with the Zimmerman? heh heh)
    My approach has always been to savor the work, and knowing that it is going to take me some time is probably why I am extremely picky over what I choose to read.
    My suggestions:

    “Traveller” by Richard Adams. The Civil War as seen through the eyes of Robert E. Lee’s horse, who recalls his adventures to the other animals in the stable after returning home from the fighting.

    “Guns, Germs and Steel: The History of Civilization” by UCLA professor Jared Diamond. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, it details why the Spaniards invaded and destroyed the Inca empire and not the other way ’round. A great, detailed look at the role climate, geography, the availability of animals easily domesticated and any other number of factors played into the development of civilizations. Diamond is a flaming pinko liberal, but he manages to keep this book on the level and avoids blaming whitey for everything (as some similar books I have read tend to do).

    Almost anything from David McCullough. “1776” and “John Adams” are both brilliant, as is his monstrous “TR”. Turns out Teddy Roosevelt may be Mr. America. What a life!

    Finally, “Undaunted Courage” by the late Stephen Ambrose. I am not a huge Ambrose fan, but the critics all say this is his best work. The book is about Lewis and Clark’s famous exploration with The Corps of Discovery. Excellent American History and perhaps THE book I would highly recommend to any English-competent Japanese interested in American History and the character of early America.

    (The above represents a calendar year’s worth of reading at my pace)
    I am enjoying seeing everyone’s contributions — several of you have inspired me with your nominations!

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, “I Read Like Fred”!
      Yes, you’re thinking of the same guy: a guy who played a certain game with us every week and created an extradimensional sanctuary. (I know you’re reading this, you extradimensional guy! 🙂 )
      Traveller is on my list of books I want to read ASAP! These all sound great! If you can read this much in a year, you’re doing WAY better than me!

  7. mileposter Says:

    So many books–so little time! No offense to those who read slowly, especially not to Fred, but I really do want to know what the book says in the end. While I will read slowly and savor if I can, if I’ve already renewed a library book twice and must return it, I’ll get to the end any way I can. :-/

    The ten favorite books–ten times each. Yes! Of course my very favorite books are the Chronicles of Narnia, but there are others–no time to try listing them all now. Yet I do want to mention a standout: The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer. I had borrowed a library copy from a friend (how’s that–borrowing a borrowed book!), but immediately after finishing it, I rushed to the computer and ordered my own copy online. It’s a marvelous story about loving someone who is “unlovable,” and is also very prophetic about the future direction of society in the world. Although not a specifically Christian book, it sets forth some clear Christian principles.

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      I have heard very good things about Nancy Farmer’s writing.
      Any way you can get to the end when a deadline is pressing, eh? You know, I remember in high school we had a special mini-course in a speed-reading lab. We used two different machines designed to increase our reading speed. It was fun, actually–a class in which you were supposed to sit there and read! The odd thing is, I remember the things I read in that class, lickety-split, just as well as things I read slowly at that age. Makes me want to make yet another attempt at speed reading! 🙂

  8. Chris Says:

    (This list bypasses the usual top listers, like LotR, Thomas Covenant 1st trilogy, etc. etc)

    “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” by Richard Rhodes. One of the most readable science-history books I’ve ever run across

    “Cryptonomicon” by Neal Stephenson. It has a pretty underwhelming ending, but the book was a great mix of Vonnegutesque humor, math and just fun.

    “Demon Haunted World” by Carl Sagan. The book that helped me understand the value and beauty of skepticism

    And honorable metion comes for a book I never actually read cover to cover but hated when I first got it but found I kept coming back to it over and over through the years (and I’ve since learned the author has some interesting views on non-science some on here might find difficult): “Physical Chemistry 3rd Ed.” P.W. Atkins

  9. I read like Fred Says:

    Chris — I, too, enjoyed Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World” but enjoyed his “The Dragons of Eden” just as much. As far as his novel “Contact” is concerned, if they had only made the movie closer to the book …

    Any Catholics (or those considering converting, or those interested or curious about Catholicism): Anything from Scott Hahn (especially Rome Sweet Rome and Crossing the Tiber) or, of course, The Holy Bible.

  10. Chris Says:

    I read like Fred,
    Many years ago my wife (a product of Catholic school system) and I found a great book called “Everything You Wanted to Know about the Catholic Church But Were Afraid to Ask (For Fear of Excommunication)” by Paul Williams if I recall. I can’t find our copy, it’s been years since I read that.

    I also enjoyed “A Concise History of the Catholic Church” by Bokenkotter. A nice readable trot through the Choich’s Hist’ry.

    If we’re talkin’ books on religion, over the past few years I’ve run across some really neat ones. Israel Finkelstein’s “The BIble Unearthed” and “David and Solomon” (both with co-authors) were really good. I like Ehrman’s writing style in “Misquoting Jesus” and “Lost Christianities”.

    At first I was kinda iffy on the Gandy and Freke “The Jesus Mysteries” but it was readable. Not sure if I am wholly convinced of their premises.

    And since I am not in the running for “Miss Popularity” in these parts I will confess I really liked Sam Harris’ “End of Faith”. It was well written (except for the end where he kind of goes off into eastern mysticism topics). While I like Hitchens and Dawkins their recent editions in regards to religion were a bit brusque and perhaps not handled with the aplomb I was hoping. (Not like anyone would actually expect Christopher Hitchens to softpedal anything in this regard).

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Chris!
      But you ARE in the running for “Miss Popularity” in these parts! My friend Jedibabe remarked just the other day that she really enjoys your comments, that you’re a witty guy. So there!
      (If you win, I’ll need to know your tiara size.)

  11. Gabe Dybing Says:

    Hey, you guys.

    Yes, I love lists. Thanks, Fred.

    Catherine, I totally agree with you about Jane Eyre. I’ve read that one four or five times myself and would instantly put it on any list. I also hear you about the supposed “oldness” of it. My sister tried it recently and told me she just had to quit.

    Even though Fred already did it, it just feels wrong for me to start a list without of course giving a shout out to the best ever – THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

    The Brothers Karamazov

    The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton

    Three Days to Never (or Declare) – Fred, I see Declare in your box of books to read. 🙂 These are by Tim Powers.

    Fatal Interview, Edna St. Vincent Millay

    Any one of the three novels that Paul Bowles wrote. (The Sheltering Sky, Let It Come Down, or The Spider’s House). This guy has such a weird, arresting vision and thought process.

    How the Universe Got Its Spots: A Diary of a Finite Universe in Finite Time, by Janna Levin

    Greg Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman. (Fred’s already heard me freak out about this one – one of THE BEST stories I’ve EVER read).

    Gifts, Ursula K. Le Guin

    Arrowsmith, Sinclair Lewis

    And here’s perhaps a weird one – The Night Land, William Hope Hodgson. Probably really hard and annoying for most people to READ, but this guy has such an arresting vision.

    In Cold Blood or A Tree of Night and Other Stories, Truman Capote

    And two books I haven’t returned to but read when I was really young and feel deeply influenced by: As I Lay Dying, Faulkner, and Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Thanks, Gabe! So you would recommend The Night Land over The House on the Borderland?

      Yes, Declare is in my drawer, because I remember how much you liked it. The Chesterton is also on my shelf.

  12. Scott Says:

    I can’t believe this. I haven’t talked to you guys in over 10 years and the first thing you do is dis me for how I read.

    I always thought you guys were strange because you could recite entire books or chapters from memory. Now I understand why. You don’t read books. You memorize every word of them. I would give you a 3 sentence summary of the book instead of a 20 page book report. While you were concentrating on enjoying 1 book in the library, I was enjoying the entire library.

    ANYWAY! Grrroinnk!

    I guess in order to make up for my prior speed reading, I haven’t had time to read much in the last few years (unless you count IRS Publications). My schedule is pretty busy and hectic.

    If you are into that sort of thing, try “Pub 17 Your Federal Income Tax” and “Pub 225 Farmers’ Tax Guide”. They are by the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service. They are both fascinating reading. LOL

    As for books…hmmm…let me see

    Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code” – I know this book is controversial, especially to some here. But read it as a book of fiction and it’s a darn good action adventure/mystery.

    I agree with -I Read Like Fred- that “1776” is an excellent book by David McCullough. I didn’t know that he had written one on Teddy Roosevelt. I’m going to have to track that one down.

    The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – It’s a classic story of good vs. evil. You don’t find many like these anymore. Once you pick one of her books up, you don’t want to put it down.

    Anything by Robert Heinlein – He is an excellent science fiction writer. If you are into political topics, his “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is centered around a revolution on the moon and the development of a new democracy.

    “Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers” – These are a series of books with articles on every topic under the sun. The articles are 1; 2; or 3 pages long. Hence the name “Bathroom Reader”, you can read an article appropriate to the amount of time that you have. Although, the authors note, you don’t have to read them in the bathroom. My wife accuses me of having a “Book of Useless Information” in my head. These are a printed copy of that.

    And a special shout out to “Dragonfly” by Frederic S. Durbin – I hope to see many more books by this up-and-coming author.

  13. fsdthreshold Says:

    I hope you understand that it’s highly affectionate dissing! (And if you haven’t talked to us in 10 years, don’t you deserve a little? 🙂 ) Seriously, that’s the way of great friendships: a guy walks in the door after being gone for ten years, and you all pick up exactly where you left off. So — you wanna have a D&D meeting tomorrow? Let’s do it in Finarfin’s basement. I’ll bring an extra card table, and you bring the Big R! (Ah, don’t you wish. . . .?)

    Well, I was enjoying the book COVERS in the entire library. . . .

    I also read and really enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. No, I don’t agree with all of Dan Brown’s ideas, and perhaps as a friend of mine puts it, “God’s going to scold him in the hereafter” — but I loved the parts about Leonardo’s paintings. That Leonardo was quite the trickster, and it seems quite possible that he believed a lot of what Dan Brown claims he did — though of course there’s no way to be sure, for the present, anyway. But yes, it’s a fascinating book.

    And thanks for the support of Dragonfly!

  14. fsdthreshold Says:

    Hey, everybody: Just so you don’t miss a reply, try scrolling back up through this column. I’ve discovered how to reply to individual messages, so responses from me are interspersed. I apologize that I may not always do this for every message, but I often will — thank you all for your wonderful comments and recommendations! I’m going to try my utmost to get a new posting up tonight, if possible . . . or tomorrow. Please feel free to keep recommending books here and/or there — it’s going to be a sort of Part 2 or follow-up to this post.

  15. Shieldmaiden Says:

    I read s-l-o-w-l-y too! I have always loved stories; listening to them and telling them, but I didn’t really start to read (unless it was required) until about four years ago. During the teaching year my schedule is very full, but summertime is about traveling to other worlds through great stories, and is spent by the pool in places like Middle-earth.

    I have a short list because I haven’t found and read that many great books YET. For sure I am taking notes from all of yours here, and I can’t wait to start reading them!

    At the top, since we agree that The Lord of the Rings is already there, (see how we all keep sneaking it in) I have to go with C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia. I first read them when I was ten, and they began to live in a magical place inside me. A little over a year ago I read them all again, and they were just as wonderful for me as an adult… but the magic was already there.

    Like others here, Jane Eyre and To Kill a Mockingbird are also favorites of mine. And I love anything by Jane Austen because I am a hopeful romantic.

    As far as future reading goes… I know it wasn’t asked for, but if I am putting books on my “small shelf” I would want these on there so I COULD read them. I just found that my favorite movie “Enchanted April” (1992) was first a book The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (1922) but it does have the “oldness” factor that Catherine mentioned, and it is more a womans book. I also have one I know Fred has mentioned Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees on my 09 summer reading list _if_ I finish The Silmarillion before September. And I’m spending next summer with Harry!

    My list of favorite books for children:
    The Hobbit —JRR Tolkien
    Watership Down —Richard Adams (sorry, had to)
    The Dragon of Lonely Island —Rebecca Rupp
    The Last Unicorn —Peter S. Beagle
    The Star Shard —Frederic S. Durbin
    Dangerous Island —Helen Mather-Smith Mindlin

    Fred: I loved your essential reference shelf and knickknacks! I thought Gandalf was Moses, I think it might have been the cross behind him [smiles]. Also, I wondered if you might remember suggesting a book on your blog, maybe last summer? All I have to go on is that you said an editor or someone you knew was reading it and was “in love” with Mr. C? somebody? (I can’t even remember the characters name now). Any bells ringing?

    And Scott: Yes, you are 100% right… we are all writers in some way. I loved your comment on the “Happy Birthday” post.

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      I just had to add two more children’s books I’d forgotten to mention:

      Charlotte’s Web —by E. B. White
      The Secret Garden —by Frances Hodgson Burnett

  16. fsdthreshold Says:

    Thanks, Shieldmaiden! I’m hearing Jane Eyre so often from you all that it sounds like I may have to read that one!

    You reminded me of a point I’ve been wanting to make. This is in support of your mention of the Elizabeth von Arnim story. I’m sure my pal Marquee Movies would back me up on this one, but we are totally opposed to the term “chick flick,” which is a term some guys use to dismiss movies that are about women or about feelings or may have a flower in them somewhere. In my book, there’s no such thing as a chick flick! Hey, one of my favorite stories of all time is The Thorn Birds, right? Good stories are good stories. I’ve really enjoyed such films as Fried Green Tomatoes and The Whales of August and The River and Places in the Heart. . .which would probably all get labeled as “chick flicks” by some people. So I’m betting I’d love The Enchanted April. 🙂

    On the other side of the coin, I happen to know that two female friends of mine very recently watched and enjoyed Lawrence of Arabia. If ever there was a “guy flick,” it’s that one, right? Has anyone noticed that, as nearly as I can recall, the only female who even appears in the movie is a dancing Arab girl, who is on screen for about five seconds? (I’m not sure: there may be some women in the crowd scenes when Lawrence is back in England, but you get the point.)

    Anyway, back to Shieldmaiden: if you look closely, you can see that the Gandalf statuette even has his pipe thrust through his belt. It’s clearly been designed after the Sir Ian movie version of Gandalf!

    Finally, as to your question: the book I was talking about was Lud-in-the-Mist. When a certain editor at Cricket read my recommendation of it, she ran out and bought it, read it even before I was halfway through it (is anyone surprised?), and said she was in love with the book’s main character, Master Nathaniel Chanticleer! So–if it’s in your lineup, you’ve already got that one covered!

    Thanks for the wonderful comments!

    • Jedibabe Says:

      Yes, I enjoyed it very much, and although Lawrence of Arabia would be categorized as a guys movie, it has the distinct advantage of being an old enough film that it predates the absurd, but highly entertaining, special effects that characterize most “guy flicks”. It also has a plot, another standout amongst some of todays mens movies, and I loved that it just hinted at all the seamy details… you sure don’t see that today!

      Like you said, “Good stories are good stories” but sometimes fair warnings are in order… Indiana Jones it is not. It is a great story that is wonderfully done, and it is incredibly quotable:
      “Oh! It damn well hurts… what’s the trick?”
      “Certainly it hurts, the trick, is not minding that it hurts.”

      Those of you who liked the film Lawrence of Arabia, would probably also enjoy the book I mentioned: Drinkers of the Wind. Oh, and another favorite is The Good Earth by Pearl Buck, it has nothing to do with the dessert, but I forgot to mention it before, she is another author I really enjoy. Oh- one more, then I promise to stop- 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

      Of course the ONLY way I am getting all this on my small shelf is because they are e-books that I’ve loaded onto my jump drive! 🙂 Less satisfying, but much easier to fit more on that teeny little shelf.

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      Thanks Fred: Master Nathaniel Chanticleer… that was it! My summer reading is set for at least the next few years!

      I am in total agreement with you on what makes a good story, and I loved Lawrence of Arabia! As far as Enchanted April goes, there is DEFINITELY a flower in it! I wouldn’t call the movie a “chick flick,” in fact, I don’t even think a chick would like it, but it tends to be more of a woman’s film, although some men _do_ like it very much (I know two of them, with you and Marquee Movies that would double!). I am going to read the book as soon as I get my hands on a copy, and I am sure you would like it if you enjoyed the line up you’ve mentioned. I just felt a warning was necessary, I saw what some of the guys on here thought of The Thorn Birds… it wasn’t pretty! 🙂

      Oh, and not even one female character in The Hobbit is there (unless you count the spiders)? And all the gals I know loved it… so you are right, a good story is a good story, period.

      PS- Yes, it was obvious at closer glance that I was looking at a Gandalf statuette. I just found it funny as I was reading your post that I didn’t see it at first.

  17. Chris Says:

    Since Watership Down keeps getting some fine recommendations here (and in other posts) I would like to give some reps to “Plague Dogs” by Richard Adams. I think I liked it even more than Watership Down (and I really liked WD). I think I liked the swim to the “Isle of Dog”. Seemed a great symbol for an attempt to escape forces beyond your control by seeking a dearly held dream. (I mean it makes sense that if there’s an “Isle of Man” there surely is an “Isle of Dog”, right?)

  18. Jedibabe Says:

    I certainly have many books I love, but listing them is difficult because I tend to have favorite authors, rather than just books. If I read one book and love it, I will read other books by the same author because I trust them. Otherwise, I am one of those pathetic cretins I’m sure authors must hate, who will read the last chapter of a book first to make certain I like how it ends BEFORE I read the book! I so dislike spending all that time getting attached to characters and caring about them only to have them die tragically at the end of the story! So unsatisfying.

    That being said, if I were to only be allowed ten books beyond religious texts and LOTR to occupy for the rest of my time here on earth I would have to include: Little Women, along with Jane Eyre and O Pioneer! If I’m going to read romance, it’s going to have to be old; they just got romance so much better back then.

    Anything by Farley Mowat is great; I last read Born Naked and thoroughly loved it, but Never Cry Wolf is also superb.

    Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold is such a great read for a stormy winter day, as it restores my hope of life returning and the wonder of the nature. Along the same lines, anything by Wendell Berry is great and he’s another of my favorite writers.

    I love Dr. Seuss even at my age and Fox in Socks is one of my all-time favorite books, simply because it is so much fun to read aloud, though The Lorax is my favorite Seuss book for plot (there’s a line I never thought I’d write!).

    Another of my very favorite reads is an out of print non-fiction story by the title of Drinkers of the Wind written by Carl Raswan; a wonderful account of the Bedouin people and their connection to their hearty little horses.

    And finally, I’d have to have at least one book from Madeliene L’Engle’s the Wrinkle In Time series. Oh, yes and the Narnia books as well! And Harry, I couldn’t not visit Hogwarts ever again. I guess the books will have to be very small to all fit on a small shelf!

  19. I read like Fred Says:

    I am so happy that Chris brought up The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams, which I also consider a gem. If you loved Watership Down you will love The Plague Dogs. Rowf and Snitter are great characters, and The Tod is also amazing. A real treat.

  20. Nick Says:

    _The Road_ by Cormac McCarthy.

    Another recent discovery that got me excited (as I mentioned in another post, this splendid feeling of new discovery–of finding a writer who has the vision and the chops to take you places you never knew about but would be that much the poorer for never having gone–grows rarer and rarer for us grizzled old bookreading veterans) is the short stories of Lucius Shepard.

    _Fungus the Bogeyman_ by Raymond Briggs

  21. Daylily Says:

    _Transitions_ by William Bridges (isn’t that a great name for the writer of this book?) is nonfiction, yet deals with stories, the stories of our lives. The author deals with these questions: what are the common experiences of ending one chapter and beginning another, what is it like in the “neutral zone” between chapters, and how can we live in the “neutral zone” so as to make a good transition?

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      It sounds like an interesting book! And yes, the author has quite an appropriate name! 🙂

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