Tämä viestiketju jatkaa tätä viestiketjua: QUESTIONS FOR THE AVID READER, Part 2.

Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: QUESTIONS FOR THE AVID READER, Part 3.

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

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Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 7:15am

And so it continues....

Question 17: NONFICTION: History (begins msg#2)
Question 18: TOMES, FAT BOOKS, DOOR-STOPPERS….(begins msg#73)
Question 19: THE PLEASURES OF PHYSICAL BOOKS (begins msg#119)
Question 20: PANDEMIC READING (begins msg#167)
Question 21: SHORT STORIES (begins msg#211)
Question 22: CLASSIC CHARACTERS (begins msg#237)
Question 23: REQUIRED READING (begins msg#264)

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 2:12pm


There are several kinds of histories. Here is a convenient list of types to get you thinking:

Political history: the story of government, political leaders, electoral activities, the making of policy, and the interaction of branches of government

Diplomatic history: the study of the relations between nations, diplomats, and ideas of diplomacy

Social history: the study of ways and customs, of family, education, children, demography (population change), and voluntary institutions (churches, for example)

Cultural history: the study of language and its uses, of the arts and literature, sport, and entertainment, in constructing cultural categories

Economic history: the study of how an entire system of production and consumption (or of any of its parts) works, of markets, industry, credit, and working people at all levels of the system

Intellectual history: the study of ideology and epistemology, analyzing how ideas affect human actions and how the material world affects human ideas


Here is also a link to an interesting piece in Slate on academic histories vs popular histories.

Do you read & enjoy histories? Do you prefer to read a range of different kinds of history or are you hooked on just one kind, say, military history or art history? Do you prefer specific periods of history, or have a focus to your historical reading? Do you read the hardcore stuff or the more “popular” stuff ? (These questions are just to get you thinking). Please share with us your historical interests and, as always, please mention some of your favorite or more interesting books.

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 2:27pm

My response is not going to be very thought- or conversation-provoking, I'm afraid. I love to read history. I'd say about a third of the books I read are histories of one sort or another. But I like all kinds, and can't really point to a favorite or most frequently read type. I like them well written, of course, and I guess I'd say that I prefer the more modern style "literary" history to the older, generally drier, more "academic" type.

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 2:55pm

>3 rocketjk: Do you have some titles you might recommend to others? Do you follow certain historians at all?

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 3:52pm

I like biographies, autobiographies, hagiographies, and memoirs. I am reading Edith Sitwell's facetious bio of Queen Victoria. It's pretty fun.

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 3:56pm

>5 nohrt4me2: Hmm. Always ahead of the game. I set aside biographies, memoirs ...etc as a separate topic from histories (I've got another 35 weeks of questions to cover!)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 16, 2020, 4:42pm

Cool!! Great topic!

Im interested in Social history, Cultural history and intellectual history. However I never really thought about separating thos out because in my mind they are all interwined, along with geograpy, anthropology, archeaology, travel......Like rocketjt, Id say at least half of my non fiction reads are about how they all interact.

A few fav authors who do a great job of weaving all these different topics together:

Barbara Tuchman

Daniel Boorstin

Joseph Ellis

Doris Helen Kearns Goodwin

Dava Sobel

David McCullough

Tony Horwitz

I will come back with fav books

Another idea for a topic - matching fiction with non. Since I was a kid, I'd read a novel or historic fiction which would get me thinking wanting to know more to find a non fiction, leading to other novels.....still do it!

huhtikuu 16, 2020, 5:58pm

>4 avaland: Well, I don't know that I "follow" certain historians, in terms of reading everything they write when it comes out, but I do agree with >7 cindydavid4: regarding David McCullough and Joseph Ellis in particular. In terms of military history, I've only read Antony Beevor's history of the Spanish Civil War, The Battle for Spain, but I thought it was excellent and I'm looking forward to getting to more of his works. I read Tuchman's The Guns of August quite a few years ago and found it fascinating.

In the next day or so I will scroll through my reading over the past several years to see what rings a bell in my mind as being particularly good. Cheers!

I'll add to my original post on this topic more specifically to say that I also enjoy reading histories that were written many years ago. Although you have to read such books a "there's probably more recent research" grain of salt, I like them because they kind of tell two stories. One is the history being described, but the other is the perspectives of the time the book was written, which often differ from the perspectives of our own time. For example, not long ago I read The Life of Andrew Jackson by Marquis James. This book earned James a Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1938. In it, James not only defends Jackson as a "benign" slave owner, he actually delivers a defense of the institution of slavery itself! I'm not saying that he just explains what the defense was. I'm saying that he, himself, provides this defense clearly as his own opinion. So I not only learned a heck of a lot about Andrew Jackson and his times in this book, I also learned that an historian could win a Pulitzer Prize in 1938 for a book that includes a defense of the institution of slavery, some 73 years after the Emancipation Proclamation!

Those aren't the only sorts of histories I like, obviously (see my comment above regarding Ellis and McCullough), but they are an interesting part of my reading rotation.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 16, 2020, 6:36pm

I like those too, as well as early travel narratives The ones by Richard Halliburton are well written and fascinating (just have to skip lots of racist and misogynist language) His books tell the history of the age; Unfortunatly he died trying to sail in a Chinese junk from Hong Kong to SF. He was only 39. Last message 'HAVING WONDERFUL TIME WISH YOU WERE HERE INSTEAD OF ME.” Actually there is a very good article about him in smithsonian

Which reminds me of an excellent book by a decent historian Bill Bryson One Summer: America, 1927

(I used to like his travel books but his humor somehow changed to being very very judgemenatl like Paul Theroux. But his histories are good)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 2:53am

>4 avaland: This book earned James a
Pulitzer Prize for Biography in 1938. In it, James not only defends Jackson as a "benign" slave owner, he actually delivers a defense of the institution of slavery itself! I'm not saying that he just explains what the defense was. I'm saying that he, himself, provides this defense clearly as his own opinion. So I not only learned a heck of a lot about Andrew Jackson and his times in this book, I also learned that an historian could win a Pulitzer Prize in 1938 for a book that includes a defense of the institution of slavery, some 73 years after the Emancipation Proclamation!


huhtikuu 16, 2020, 6:44pm

>6 avaland: Oops. I like reading David McCullough. I enjoyed The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris. Also have had on my TBR list The Edge of the World: How the North Sea Made Us What We Are by Michael Pye. I also read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, but it's mostly lies and exaggerations.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 16, 2020, 10:33pm

> 7 I don't mean to be pedantic, but those are what might be called "popular histories", and are not always trustworthy. There's nothing wrong with that if it is known, of course. I don't mean to disparage them altogether; they are great fun to read.

I have a daughter-in-law who is an historian. The history she reads--and writes--is that dryer kind, although interesting to me quite often. Her topic is American education and youth organizations in the decade 1900-1910: I hope I have represented that fairly. She has a chapter in a textbook on the Women's Suffrage movement, so it must be broader than I have said.

Oh, some of those books you mention are probably reasonably authoritative. But Jared Diamond is not, for example, although I have enjoyed reading him. My son says the scholarly chief criticism is that he picks and chooses in history what will prove his thesis, and leaves out things that don't. I loved Guns, Germs, and Steel, but I am disappointed to know that it isn't a complete look. I understand there are printed reviews which undertake to explain this. I don't know enough to do it. I can tell you that my son easily gave me a list of civilizations that did not match the theses of the book. (He is an Anthropologist/Archaeologist. His wife is the Historian)

huhtikuu 17, 2020, 1:26am

Saw the question and realized I needed to think about it more. I come back and two of my recent favorites are listed - less popular works by very well known authors - >9 cindydavid4: mentions Bill Bryon’s One Summer, America 1927 and >11 nohrt4me2: mentions David McCullough’s The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris. These are both terrific oblique views of history - the bigger world through a smaller lens and really well done. Another was a history of the study of Stonehenge, a kind of cultural history that became a history of the English scientific awakening, and the quirky and wonderful missteps along the way. I’ll have to look it up. (Why does the name Rosemary Hill pop up in my mind?)

I’m very attached to certain kinds of history books, which I find my comfort reads. I like authors who simplify the larger world in nice holdable stories. Of course, I know there are limitations and bias and room to manipulate or be overvalue a source or cherry pick and these histories come from one limited perspective and are, ultimately very misleading. But these well-done big-histories were what first gave me a world story. And I’m very attached to them.

I loved history in high school and college. I hated when high school teachers would say don’t worry about the dates. How can you make connections if you don’t have dates? I really enjoy making connections, and seeing things I thought I knew from a different light. As a reader I like history books of many different kinds, but always lean towards ones that just tell a story. (I’ve become more critical of them lately, however). Unfortunately, I don’t read them as much now because they’re no longer easily new me. Sorry, the information is new, of course. But the styles aren’t. I’ve begun to find popular history books repetitive in style and harder to enjoy.

huhtikuu 17, 2020, 1:32am

The Stonehenge book is Stonehenge (Wonders of the World) by Rosemary Hill. My review is one of the three on the book page.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 17, 2020, 2:55am

>6 avaland: I admit that a lot of my historical reading is via biography and those "popular" historians in >7 cindydavid4:. Although I never thought of Tuchman as a "popular historian." I think of her as an academic historian whose works are widely read among the general public.

One academic historian who has done much research on everyday lives of women in history, is Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Her A Midwife's Tale is very detailed, but Ulrich pulls important trends of daily life out of basic, mundane documents in Revolutionary Era America.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 17, 2020, 11:09am

I’m fairly omnivorous as far as history goes: I tend to get irritated by writers at the most popular end of the scale (books without footnotes), but I’m fine with popular works by serious scholars (Mary Beard, Simon Schama, etc.).

I have read quite a lot of industrial/transportation history (less recently than a decade or so ago), which tends to be written by people who are better at research than they are at narrative (with some honourable exceptions, like L T C Rolt). Generally speaking I go for serious-looking books about topics that catch my fancy, especially if they involve railways or bicycles. But I have been known to bring back totally random things from the library: last year there were books about the social history of time-measurement and about bathrooms, among other delights...

But I’ve been getting more interested in reading rather more mainstream political/social history lately. Some relevant names there include the old Marxists Eric Hobsbawm and Christopher Hill and, more recently, the Aussie Germanist Christopher Clark. The two doorstep-sized histories I’ve really enjoyed lately have been Jonathan Israel’s The Dutch republic and Geoffrey Parker’s (third!) biography of Philip II, Imprudent king.

On the fun side, Arturo Perez-Reverte’s Una historia de España in 98 newspaper columns gave me a lot to giggle about last year...

huhtikuu 17, 2020, 10:44am

my degree was history joint hons, so obviously i know it all - or more precisely how little i do know and how no good its been to me career-wise, except great for my MA. doing it jointly means lots of frustration i didn't do enough on particular things (especially english revolution/civil war) but I do tend to over generalise at the drop of a hat (which more particulars may help me with). For a number of years i wanted to read back through all the reading i just did bits of - but for a much longer time i stopped reading it at all (I couldn't do it). Only in the last few years has any real hankering and action to read it returned at all - and that mostly for social history, intellectual history and medieval (which was not my period) and early modern (my first year not part of the degree), oh and I suppose interest in the ancients never really went away (which was A levels).

Last year I started to read God's englishman but it resonated with where we were and the idea of a protracted problem ending up getting solved that way meant I put it down not far in.

One of my first year essays was on the witch craze and I bumped into a copy of Christina Larner's enemies of God about the scottish hunts in the library, but am only two chapters in, but it's brought back a lot. Not least a theme of some experiences of mental health being not unlike an Inquisition. It's flagged up others to read including Dulumeau on intellectual side of it and my wondering if having had Dante if solidifying imagination in that way (and more) made it necessary to start finding the evil one's work, and maybe the rise of reading/printing had an impact . . . like if we read of those things we must be able to find them (I know many other factors), but i sometimes think if we make faith concrete in cathedrals we may seek to make other belief concrete, and with science if we were/are drive increasingly to make beliefs concrete.

But with all I need to read of other things I m not sure how much I'll manage - I would like to read more that I missed of the Reformation. Then there is also the fact my reading lists come from about thirty years ago, so no doubt there is lots new out there.

huhtikuu 17, 2020, 2:25pm

I enjoy cultural history and social history, as well as biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. I admit that I like the popular stuff.

My husband reads the hard core stuff though and fairly inhales it all! He reads political and military history too. Makes sense, he was a history and poli sci major!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 17, 2020, 9:31pm

I've read everything from popular works to textbooks (at least, it was a book we used in school) to some more academic ones - but dryer usually means less satisfying to read, for me. I learn a lot but I don't enjoy the experience, which makes me less likely to read another.

I love histories about a subject - that is, a history that follows the development of understanding about something (paleontology, time and time-tracking, code-breaking are three subjects I've read about recently). It's fascinating seeing what was standard belief and how it slowly modified itself to current understanding. Far too many of the popular books that appear to be that sort of thing, though, turn into gossip about the people involved - I'm interested in what (person) discovered and understood; unless it affects their study I don't really care that they were having an affair or committing petty theft or whatever. And I really don't care that there were rumors of same! Boring.

I can't quite fit my preferred "science history" into any of the categories you give above. Cultural, social, economic, sometimes military - it partakes of multiple but doesn't fit completely into any of them.

The Stonehenge book is a BB for me - a book about Stonehenge would be mildly interesting, a book about the study of Stonehenge sounds fascinating.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 10:44am

History. Note: when trying to do an overview through nearly 60 years of reading, I realize that a helluvalot of books have passed through my hands, so I apologize in advance for the wordy response. I have developed specific interests, but my reading is very wholistic—one book often leading to another—a web of reading over the years. I am interested primarily in people, so mostly social and cultural history, but such histories are not written in a vacuum.

Some random histories I have enjoyed before I became more focused:

Africans: The History of a Continent by John Illife (1995) (a fascinating way to do a history!)
A Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes (1986, Australia)
A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman (1978, 14th Century)
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William Shirer (1981)
The Structures of Everyday Life: Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century Volume 1 of Fredrick Braudel’s trilogy (1982)

Other random reading, off the top of my head, has included histories of religion; the Victorian era and three books on tuberculosis and John Illife’s 2006 book on the history of Aids.

I was an English major thus my love of literary histories of one kind or another. One of my early faves from the 1980s was Literature in America: An Illustrated History by Peter Conn. I loved it because he illustrated it with art works from the periods he was discussing; it was fascinating to see the correlation (enough to forgive him for the lack of women in the literary history). My minors were in Art History (with a focus on the neglected women artists) and Women’s Studies. I don’t read much of the former these days, except perhaps as related to historical dress/fashion, and the history of color or textiles. The latter, women’s studies, informs most of my historical reading.

My main interests in social and cultural historical reading have been early American history, specifically, early New England history. Authors I have enjoyed and who come easily to mind are Mary Beth Norton, Elaine Showalter, Nancy Cott, Thomas Dublin, Laurel Thaxter Ulrich and, yes, Sarah Vowell (Read Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates and you'll never look at the Puritans quite the same again! All historically accurate). Sub-topics related to this —but not limited entirely to New England—include:

Witchcraft (Salem, Gloucester or other). I think Mary Beth Norton’s book on Salem is the best of the many I have read. However, Marilynn Roach’s book is great if you want a chronological, day-by-day presentation. I have not read the Schiff book, but it's my impression it doesn't add anything new to the conversation, but perhaps is more easily readable (I'm kind of Salem-ed out, if you know what I mean)

Slavery/Indentured servitude. Reasonably recent histories to recommend include Wendy Warren’s New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America and Ira Berlin’s The Long Emancipation: The Demise of Slavery in the United States (the latter very succinct)

The Industrial Revolution: Thomas Dublin’s works.

Somewhere around the turn of the century, I began to get interested in family history and it turns out, as suspected, my entire family history is entwined with all the 400 years of New England, nearly all immigrants having come in the first half of 17th century, a tangled and overlapping mess (thank the gods that I reproduced outside that antiquated gene pool). Thus all my previous (and continuing) reading as noted above has become amazingly relevant, helpful and sometimes more than a little disturbing:-)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 12:43pm

Anyone mention Nell Painter's The History of White People? Excellent!

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 12:51pm

>11 nohrt4me2: I also read How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, but it's mostly lies and exaggerations.

I read it for the history of the early church and found it fascinating. Some of it made sense, but yeah after reading more about the history I realized how much exaggerations were in it

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 1:10pm

>12 sallypursell: Oh, some of those books you mention are probably reasonably authoritative. But Jared Diamond is not, for example, although I have enjoyed reading him. My son says the scholarly chief criticism is that he picks and chooses in history what will prove his thesis, and leaves out things that don't. I loved Guns, Germs, and Steel, but I am disappointed to know that it isn't a complete look.

Interesting, I came very late to that book; suspect if I had read it earlier I would have accepted much of it, but reading it now it was so blatant how much was missing.

>12 sallypursell: I don't mean to be pedantic, but those are what might be called "popular histories", and are not always trustworthy. There's nothing wrong with that if it is known, of course. I don't mean to disparage them altogether; they are great fun to read.

The authors I mentioned above I consider historians in the sense of their research. I know some are popular some are academic, but being popuar doesn't make them bad, and being academic doesn't make them good.

Oh btw, I envy your son and wife - if I could have made a living being an historian or archaeologist I would have! Been hooked on history since Jr Hi when a wonderful social studies teacher inspired me to learn more. Have been very lucky to have had good history teachers. I'd be interested in what books they are reading in their fields

While I enjoy different topics in history, Im esp fascinated by early civilizations and pre conquest cultures around the world. One area I am really weak on is African history - I know that is a huge topic, but wonder if any of you have reading suggestions in the area.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 1:22pm

>20 avaland:
Africans: The History of a Continent by John Illife (1995) (a fascinating way to do a history!)

Aha! thanks!

Im also interested in history before and just after WWI (1885-1920s) One of my faves is 1913 The year before the storm The author focuses not on political world but the world of arts. Starting in January of that year, he summarizes what is happening in Europe society, while name dropping artists, politicians and writers of all kinds. Very facsinating, and moving as well. might be good when reading Guns of August so you see what else is happening.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 1:32pm

>20 avaland: Somewhere around the turn of the century, I began to get interested in family history

I did this starting back in 2000 after my mom passed away. I already knew both my parent's families came from the Pale in the early 1900s and any one left was wiped out in the early 40s by the Nazis. My parents didn't really talk about that time period. What I didn't realize until delving more is that some of our familie survive and how many cousins I have that I didn't know about On my dads side, the oldest cousin hooked up with me (the youngest cousin) to do a thorough search and it was amazing. Another cousin when to the shetyl where we came from for an extensive visit - fascinating and horrifying at the same time..

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 2:27pm

>21 nohrt4me2: I have the Painter, but haven't read it.

>24 cindydavid4: How interesting! Did you make contact with your 'cousins' (assuming the cousins are not close cousins) via DNA on Ancestry?

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 2:52pm

Q: Reading History

I love reading history, but at this stage of my life it must have a strong narrative. There is no room anything overly-academic right now. Favourite historical topics include the movement of people (for example, the people moving from the left side of the Pacific into the South Paciic), disease, Medieval & Renaissance, and art. For the most part, I focus on Italy and England, but western Europe in general. I don't have any books to recommend because everyone seems to be looking for particulars and niches.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 3:26pm

>27 Nickelini: Ah, but you can certainly tell us about some of your favorite history books!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 5:02pm

>26 avaland: Nope, the old fashioned way: the internet!! lets you build your tree and invite others to join in. As it grew we realized there were a few branches we didn't know about. Further searching and talking to some of our elderly cousins found the missing pieces! Great fun!

One big regret is that I didn't get to this earlier. I already know some of the histories, both my parents come from large families so often heard stories about our aunts and uncles. But they all passed before I got interested. Would have liked to talk to them.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 3:38pm

>27 Nickelini: I am also a fan of Medival and Renaissance! I'd be interested to see what you have. Most of my books are pre 2000 so I could use some newer reads!

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 4:07pm

>28 avaland:, >30 cindydavid4:

I think my favourite was Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King, but checking the publication date, I see it was from 2000, so not new.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 5:00pm

>31 Nickelini: I have that, and keep wanting to read it...maybe I'll pick it up now.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 5:07pm

I read that too. He has one about michaelango that i had wanted to read.

I have a lot of Norman Cantor, and Giles - when I get a chance Ill list some of the titles.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 5:12pm

I read that too. He has one about michaelango that i had wanted to read.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 5:12pm

Any fans of Simon Schama? I haven't read him as extensively as I'd like, but I started his Citizens, about the French Revolution, a few years back and it was great—I somehow lost track of reading it, even though it's still in the lineup on my bedside table, and would really like to tackle it again.

To actually answer the question, I love histories, though haven't read as extensively as I'd like—mostly smaller focus subjects like New York history, music and jazz histories, etc. I'm sure I'll remember more at 3 a.m.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 5:27pm

Im also fascinated with architecture from that time period. Taschen published some amazing full page photo volumes focusing on different countries.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 5:28pm

I love reading history, but I find it very hard to describe what I like, though I know exactly what it is when I see it. I like historical biographies and social/cultural history. I tend toward American and Western European locales - probably because they are most readily available in English (I don't think much nonfiction is translated, is it?). I love stories of exploration and adversity as well.

I don't worry too much about every book being the epitome of scholarly research, because I know that all history is biased, even highly academic work. Also, academic work goes through noticeable trends as well, so can't be called "correct" ever - can it?

I try to just read broadly and remember that all writing has inherent bias. It works for me.

Off the top of my head, some of my favorite authors on these subjects are:
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Barbara Tuchman
Antonia Fraser
Megan Marshall
David McCullough
Daniel James Brown

I actually just started THe British are Coming by Rick Atkinson which won the Pulitzer and is the start of a trilogy about the Revolutionary war. It's very good so far.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 6:29pm

As I promised (threatened?) above, I looked back over my last 5+ years of reading and made note of my favorite histories/biographies during that span. For better or worse, here's the list. I tried to put them into some sort of category groupings. I'm not sure, though, what conclusions can be made from the list about my reading preferences along these lines:

World History
Pogrom: Kishinev and The Tilt of History by Steven J. Zipperstein
Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation by Laura Silber and Allan Little
Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion by Charles Townshend
The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals by Richard Plant

Groucho: the Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx by Stefan Kanfer
Still Talking by Joan Rivers
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen

Military/War History
The Ciano Diaries 1939-1943: the Complete, Unabridged Diaries of Count Galeazzo Ciano, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, 1936-1943 by Conte Galeazzo Ciano
The Guns of Cedar Creek by Thomas A. Lewis (U.S. Civil War)

U.S. History
The Longest Debate: a Legislative History of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by Charles W. Whalen and Barbara Whalen
Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty by John M. Barry
The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis
When Tenants Claimed the City: the Struggle for Citizenship in New York Housing by Roberta Gold
The Grandma Stubblefield Rose: The Life of Susan Stubblefield, 1811-1895 by Edna Beth Tuttle and Dennie Burke Willis (local Mendocino County history)

Hank Greenberg: the Story of My Life by Hank Greenberg with Ira Berkow
Casey Stengel: Baseball's Greatest Character by Marty Appel

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 8:20pm

Ok, a few choice titles and authors from my shelves

A Medieval Miscellany Beautifully made with illuminated manuscrpts and letters from the people of the time

Professor and the Madman the development of the Oxford English dictionary. fascinating, first book from Simon Winchester who has gone on to write other very interesting reads

Anything by Antonia Fraser esp Mary Queen of Scots However I did not care for Marie Antionette - felt like an info dump, which is too bad because her work is usually better than that

Interesting history of the calendar by David Ewing Duncan

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 18, 2020, 8:52pm

>38 rocketjk: the Roger Williams book appeals because I remember finding him interesting in classes, but can’t really remember anything about him.

I looked over my history tagged and it’s a complete mish mash of stuff. A lot of biographical stuff tagged “history”

One thing I learned reading about history is I really like a good biography, and, even more, audiobiographies and memoirs. This actually pulled me away from reading normal history books and towards more contemporary memoirs.

Another thing I learned is that history books make great audiobooks for a commute...and memoirs are often better in audio then as text.

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 9:29pm

For a long time I avoided bios and memoirs - to me they fit into two categories: digging the dirt and flinging mud at the subject or making it into a hagiography. Lately tho I have been pleasantly surprised by some that really are quite readable, and tell the story of the time period covered. A few favs


Becoming Dr Seuss

Desert Queen

Marmee and Louisa

huhtikuu 18, 2020, 11:56pm

History isn't one of my main reading topics, although I do dip in and out of it. I have a soft spot for fun, breezy popular volumes that take some central conceit and use it to explore quirky corners of history, like Bill Bryson's At Home or Steven Johnson's How We Got to Now. And I'm usually happy to read about the history of science. If we're counting recent history, I'm a sucker for books about the history of the space program.

huhtikuu 19, 2020, 4:20am

I read history books that complement the subject in which I have an interest.
They are really background reading so that I can put my other reading into some sort of context. I usually enjoy the history books I read. My main interest at the moment in Elizabethan literature and so looking back at the books I have read during the last year, which are in the history genre they are:

Playgoing in Shakespeare's London Andrew Gurr
Shakespeare and the drama of his time Martin Wiggins
The Spanish Armada Colin Martin

And my other abiding interest:
The Making of Jazz: a comprehensive history James Lincoln Collier

I rarely pick up a history book out of general interest, but have made an exception for How to change the world Eric Hobsbawm

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 19, 2020, 5:00am

nvm double post

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 19, 2020, 4:54am

As I was scanning my shelves I made a discovery of a book by a fav author that I don't think I actually read Out of the Flames by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. I have read several of their work, usually centered around book collecting. This looks fascinating, and Ill start reading it today. (someone here was interested in learning more about the Reformation; this book might just fit the bill and has an extensive bibliography for further reading)

BTW Nancy Goldstone also wrote The Four Queens about four sisters who ruled in Europe, of Sicily, France, Germany and England in the 13th century. a book I highly recommend.

huhtikuu 19, 2020, 6:52am

>37 japaul22: That's the third mention of Ulrich. I've read all of her books except for the Mormon one. Did you know that a long time ago PBS made a dramatized version of A Midwife's Tale? It was very good (I bought the DVD).

>40 dchaikin:, >41 cindydavid4: I thought biography/memoir a large enough category on its own to do it some other week.

>43 baswood: Jazz, another interest you share with Michael, although he listens to it more than he reads it :-)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2020, 12:45am

double post

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 19, 2020, 11:14am

>46 avaland: sorry, i knew that

I remember loving the tv series Connections with James Burke (reminded me of Daniel Boorsteins books but with a lot more humor) and read some of the book as well. He definitely made history popular, tho not sure if he was an academic historian as well

huhtikuu 19, 2020, 11:37am

>40 dchaikin: As you mentioned memoirs, I left off of my list Speak to Me, Dance with Me, Agnes de Mille's fascinating memoir about her early career as a dancer and choreographer. Not a "contemporary memoir" by any means, but quite well written and very interesting. My review is on the book's work page.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 19, 2020, 7:45pm

>47 cindydavid4: I loved Burke and Connections at one time. Read a couple of his books

>49 rocketjk: thanks! Noting. My last two “histories” that stand out were biographies. One on Simon Bolivar and the other Chernow’s Hamilton. But, I just finished a terrific memoir with more recent history (The Yellow House on New Orleans East) and then started another memoir (Educated), which has kept me entertained so far.

>46 avaland: there’s just no clean division... they overlap. History sometimes is just a bunch of biographies- see Plutarch’s Lives. But I’m trying to limit my biography/memoir input...

huhtikuu 19, 2020, 8:03pm

It is difficult because all of mine also over lap with history. But we are talking about memoirs and bios next week and we can make the connections then

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 2020, 9:48am

History is my happy reading place. I've been focused on history reading since I was a kid, in part because it was always one of my dad's interests and perhaps in part because I watched a little too much Rocky and Bullwinkle and read too much Pogo. The more you know about history, the more jokes you get.

I don't mind it getting very dry and I try to take the books by non-historians with a grain of salt. I'll read just about anything, though 20th century military histories aren't usually my style. The ancient world, WWI, the West Virginia Mine Wars, and social histories are my sweet spots.

A recent favorite read was Silver, Sword, and Stone: Three Crucibles in the Latin American Story.
The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty by Caroline Alexander
The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman
How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman
Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
1914: The Year the World Ended by Paul Ham
Life, Work, and Rebellion in the Coal Fields by David Alan Corbin
Black Land, Red Land: Daily Life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber

huhtikuu 21, 2020, 6:19am

>50 dchaikin: Yeah, I know. I really do. There are no truly clean-edged categories or genre.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 22, 2020, 1:13am

Much of my history reading started after I read an historic fiction novel, and knew I had to get the whole story. Such was the case with my four volume The History of the Plantagents by Thomas Costain. One of my favorite historical fiction authors is Sharon Kay Penman; her books about the Plantegents, starting with Here Be Dragons hooked me into the world of Wales and England, enough to send me on a trip to visit the sites from the book (she generously responded to my letter askng for an itinerary with a 4 pg letter of must sees!) So while we were in London I happened upon this four volume hardback set a in a bookstore that I had to have. My poor husband dragged this set around with us on and off trains and busses. When we got home, he happened to discover that they were printed in the US and he didn't have to break his back! Ah well, he forgave me fortunately, and the books were an excellent companion read to Penmans books, and I have recommended them to many people interested in the history of thats time.

And from history back to historical fiction - this all lead to my love of the medieval mysteries of Caedfael by Ellis Peters, leading to one of my favorite adaptations with Derek Jacobi as the title character. And after reading Penman's When Christ and His Saints Slept feel the need to reread the Caedfael books since they take place in the same time period. and so the loop continues!

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 1:47pm

>43 baswood: I looked for The History of Jazz and, wow, James Lincoln Collier has written a lot of books.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 1:48pm

I tend to get my history more from essays than entire books. Also, I buy history books and then don't read them. Ones I have read and liked include The heavens and the earth : a political history of the space age by Walter A. McDougall, a 1985 book on the decisions that had governed the use of space to that point. Won a Pulitzer, but might be a bit dated now. Also Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson, which gets cited a lot in political discussions.

Does anyone have views on the Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press? Lois has liked a few of those, and they have 100+ history titles.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 2:10pm

>56 dukedom_enough: I read Fascism: a very short introduction recently, I don’t know how typical that is. It seemed to be aimed very much at undergraduates who need to get into a subject as efficiently as possible for this week’s essay. No question of dumbing-down, compression seems to be achieved by leaving out all the breathing spaces, and of course redirecting you to all the most important texts. Not much fun for the purely recreational reader, perhaps.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 2:15pm

>56 dukedom_enough: having read all of two (on Druids and Wittgenstein). I think they are dependent on the author. What they’re trying to do is very difficult, so you should expect some misses. The one I read on Wittgenstein was by an author who didn’t think he has all that much to offer - leading to a quirky take. I put my exploration of W on hold afterwards. I would gladly read more of them if they were on topics I was already looking into, but also I haven’t searched them out.

huhtikuu 22, 2020, 7:04pm

My college degree is in Anthropology/Archaeology. I read art books as I have an ancestor, Titian Vecellio, in my family tree. I had studied and taught about the ancient Maya and been to some of the sites. I have been to archaeology sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury as well as others so read what I can find on them. I even watch Ancient Aliens because of the history. I have A New Discovery of Vast Country in America by Father Louis Hennepin written in 1698 and translated in 1903. I have VOL l and ll that need to be returned to the library when it reopens. My son has his shop on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis and Minneapolis is in Hennepin County.

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 3:41am

Rereading what I just wrote below I'm not sure I made any sort of contribution to the thread and its rather rambly but since I wrote quite a bit I'll keep the post.


As a poster mentioned above I like to read narrative history if I'm going to read history. Anything else and I feel like I'm reading a textbook and since I'm terrible at memorizing historical dates and names, the effect is lost on me. It's better to read a narrative so that I can at least feel and understand the time period.

The only history I read is about Japan and it's mostly about Japan's role in WWII. But I've still read very little. I mostly read historical fiction about the time period rather than actual history books. In terms of history I guess I can say I've only read the following.

John Hersey : Hiroshima
Kenzaburo Oe : Hiroshima Notes
Takashi Nagai : The Bells of Nagasaki
Takeshi Kaiko : Into a Black Sun
Hiroo Onoda : No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War
Shohei Ooka : Taken Captive: A Japanese POW's Story
Iris Chang : The Rape Of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust Of World War II
George W Prange : At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor *still currently reading
Kazuo Sakamaki : I Attacked Pearl Harbor: The True Story of America's POW #1 *TBR pile
Lester I. Tenney : My Hitch in Hell *TBR pile
Gordon W. Prange : God's Samurai: Lead Pilot at Pearl Harbor *TBR pile

Now that I've made this list I can see I don't read history at all. Instead, you can see that most of these are first witness accounts that have a narrative style. Only the Prange is academic (fantastic book) but still written in a wonderful prose and story manner, and the Hersey I read too long ago to remember exactly but I'm sure it's much more of a narrative style. The Iris Chang book would be an exception as well as it is certainly considered academic but she doesn't try to be neutral at all in her arguments.

Aren't history texts supposed to be neutral in opinion?

But I remember now that I do have three history texts in my hands.

Wanting to know more about comfort women but finding absolutely no narrative style texts on it, I bought three books but the two with subtitles are so dense and too academic. The Sarah Soh book in particular I could barely read through the introduction. I don't know if it's my lack of experience with academic history texts or if it's just her writing style but her paragraphs don't seem to lead naturally to the next paragraph and she seems to contradict herself every few pages. But this book is one of the books to read if reading about comfort women apparently so I feel like it's just me. But it's not? Hard to tell.

Yoshiaki Yoshimi : Comfort Women
C. Sarah Soh : The Comfort Women: Sexual Violence and Postcolonial Memory in Korea and Japan
Todd A. Henry : Assimilating Seoul: Japanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945

I do still own a book I read for a college class, "Religion and Rebellion in Modern East Asia" that was fantastic and definitely a proper history text: Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyo by Ian Reader.

Not about Japan, there is one historian I like who writes about Chinese history, Jonathan D. Spence, who manages to make tax documents sound fascinating. Seriously his The Death of Woman Wang is basically the history of a village in China as documented by its tax records.

Another good Chinese history book?
Paul A. Cohen : History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth

I do think its important to note though that these Chinese texts were books I had to read in college for an Asian history course. Otherwise I never would have searched them out myself although I have read and purchased more Spence since then.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 23, 2020, 5:31am

Just for fun, a few very niche history-related books I've enjoyed and have on my shelves, none of them especially recent:

The conquest of the air: the romance of aerial navigation (1902) by John Alexander
- Who could resist a popular history of aviation published the year before the Wright brothers made their first flight?

The Water-drinkers (1968) by Norman Longmate
- The history of the Temperance movement in Britain, written by someone who isn't really able to take the Victorians quite seriously. (Since Longmate's previous book was called King Cholera, you have to suspect a deliberate joke in the title, too.)

The wooden world: an anatomy of the Georgian navy (1988) by N A M Rodger
- Most naval history is written by military historians, but Rodger's interest is in economic and social history, he treats the navy as the first really big industrial organisation and tries to trace how it really worked. Fascinating background for fans of Hornblower and Jack Aubrey.

Das Liegerad (1996; The recumbent bicycle) by Gunnar Fehlau
- A wonderful history of the eccentrics and hobbyists who have been pursuing the "next big thing" in cycling since the 1920s. Would be worth it just for the part about the garden-shed engineers in East Germany who had to make everything from stuff they could find lying around, right down to the tyres.

The Waterloo and City Railway (2001) by John C Gilham
- a 450-page history of an underground line that is barely 1.5 miles long, which somehow never seems to be going into unnecessary detail.

Railwaywomen (2005) by Helena Wojtczak
- a self-published book that grew out of a thesis, digging out the unexpectedly rich and varied history of women workers on railways in Britain. I was interested in this because I knew my grandmother had been one of the women recruited to work on the railways in the First World War, but it turns out that there's a lot more to it than that.

Railroads in the African American experience (2011) by Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.
- in a similar vein to the previous one, but this time a book that grew out of an essay commissioned to accompany a collection of old photos. And possibly the most implausible author-name in my library, but a really interesting account of how the rail industry affected the lives of black Americans, in good and bad ways.

Henry Petroski's books would come in this category as well, but they are so well-known they don't really count!

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 7:00am

>56 dukedom_enough:, >57 thorold:, >58 dchaikin: I've only read four of the Oxford "Very Short Introduction" books and I like them when I am only look for just that. Perhaps only The Gothic: A Very Short Introduction was a history. The others were: Bestsellers, Consciousness, and Tragedy. With the exception of Consciousness, I read the Bestsellers one due to my interest in cultural history and the other two, Gothic & Tragedy, as background, as I was self-studying both subjects in literature (a study I am now reminded is incomplete, as I have some further reading on that still kicking about)

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 7:02am

>61 thorold: That's an interesting list. Always fascinating to see what niches others wander into.

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 7:21am

>57 thorold: Thanks. Didn't occur to me that these would be meant for undergrads.

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 7:22am

>58 dchaikin: I can see that the wrong author could do a great disservice to a subject.

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 7:24am

So many amazing lists here.

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 7:33am

>60 lilisin: i wouldn't say you don't read history, you just perfer history from first hand acoounts and even primary sources. Speaking of Japanese history that reminds me I still need to find a Japanese book on the shogun era for my planned reread of Taiko.

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 8:41am

>60 lilisin: I also read first person narratives and defiitely include these as history. Ones on my shelf include: Interview with History, Eyewitness to History, Letters of a Nation, Witness to a Century AI read these a few decades ago; might be interesting to reread these, get a different perspecitve over time.

For a devastating short story about Japan, read Ken Liu's the man who ended historyin his short story collection Paper Menagerie. I had no idea about this horrifying incident, tho you probably do.

I was fascinated with China since reading The Good Earth in jr high. Among the history books I have loved: Wild Swan, Daughter of Confucius Then there is an amazing historical fiction The Court of the Lion

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 23, 2020, 9:01am

On Fridays, Hourly History has free downloads of books mainly of an historical person. I have for example: George Washington, Peter the Great, Mary Queen of Scots, and many more on my Kindle.

huhtikuu 23, 2020, 2:01pm

>69 mnleona: I have some Hourly History books too. They give an overview of a topic, and then leave it up to the reader if he or she wants more detail. I recently read one on Mata Hari, and also I have Hemingway and many others on my Kindle as well. My husband has enjoyed some of the short ones on different aspects of history.

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 2:10am

>67 stretch:

Ah yes, first-hand accounts is exactly the type of history I enjoy. It's funny but I've read very little from the shogun era even though I would like to read more. I can't even think of one book where I'd be able to start. Rereading Taiko sounds fantastic; it's one of my favorite reads!

>68 cindydavid4:

I guess I was concerned that the first-hand accounts was leading to much into memoir territory which avaland specifically stated would be a category in itself later. The two feel different but are they really?

I haven't read that particular story but I have read about the human experimentation in fiction form. Horrible isn't it?

I have almost picked up Wild Swan so many times! I will bring it home eventually!

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 2:41am

>71 lilisin: wow that didn't occur to me at all. But I think it is different from a memoir its a irst hand acccount of an historic event. but avaland can make that call :)

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 5:38am

Question 18: Heavy tomes, fat books, door-stoppers, omnibuses…. We’ve all read them. We can find them in all fiction genres and in most nonfiction subjects. They have a solid presence in our libraries, and perhaps an equal presence in our minds. Are you drawn to them? Do you avoid them? Why? Can you remember your first? Do you have a favorite? Tell us about your relationship with LARGE books, and a few of your reading experiences—good or bad—with them.

Notes: For the purpose of this question, let’s define these books as over 500 pages of story or for nonfiction: over 500 pages of subject (minus end matter). And we will define an omnibus as a work that contains several works by the same author which had previously been published separately and which you read cover to cover like any other tome

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 24, 2020, 8:31am

I have been trying to finish Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd and someday I will finish. I like the book, I just keep putting it aside.

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 9:55am

I don't think I have ever read an omnibus outside of those Lucia and Mapp stories that were published in one volume. Don't know if it was 500 pages. My interest always starts to wane.

Read the Joe Pitt vampire novels and The Strain series in one go. They were not published in an omnibus, though. They were entertaining.

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 10:39am

In light of Ducks, Newburyport...

I have no strict opinion on big books that need to be big. Of course, a common complaint is about books that are too big. Author’s don’t like to edit out their babies. But tomes do intimidate, and take a lot more time, and leave me feeling, in their midst, like a very slow reader. My silly optimism that I will read everything takes a hard reality check and sometimes leaves me feeling I won’t read anything.

So, for me, they require structure, a road through where I can see the end. I plan them in and, hopefully, at a slow pace, and then try to maintain that pace.

I think novels should, ideally, have a reason to be big. They shouldn’t just be an author who kept writing, but there should be an atmosphere they are generating, and impact they are working towards where the length is part. Sometimes that’s true and sometimes it isn’t. Nonfiction is more about getting the information in. I suspect brevity is a difficult necessity in nonfiction of the type where an author dedicated years of effort. But less so when an author is summarizing what they already mostly know.

(Now, I feel i need to self-analyze my use of overlong posts...)

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 10:40am

I have no problem tackling large tomes of nonfiction, I have many in history, science, and even the minutia of soccer tactics. Some of my favorite books are multivolume door stoppers. But I'm hesitant to read 500+ pages in fiction. I don't actively avoid them, but the idea of being in one story for so long makes the part of my brain that reads 4 or 5 books at once itch.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 24, 2020, 10:43am

>75 nohrt4me2: I have that Lucia and Mapp omnibus, too. I've been gradually reading through those books, but I've been ordering the individual books online instead of cracking open the omnibus. I find those big volumes a bit too clunky to carry around and read from. I also had for a while the 2-volume hardcover omnibus of C.P. Snow's "Strangers and Brothers" series. I've gradually reading through that series, too, but as with the Lucia books, I took to ordering the individual volumes in paperback form. Eventually, the hardcover ominbus edition went back to my used bookstore, where I had originally found them. I actually sold those books, which really came as a surprise to me.

As for other big, heavy tomes, I remember reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer when I was a kid and just racing through it. I don't know if you count The Lord of the Rings, as it's a trilogy, but as something that takes a while but kept me absorbed all the way through. In other words, I read the whole thing straight through as if it were one book.

I guess you could count The Naked and the Dead in this category, and I certainly found that to be an absorbing reading experience whose length counted in its favor rather than as a hurdle.

I may think of some others later, but the doorstop type book that I've read and enjoyed very much most recently is We, the Drowned, a wonderful novel detailing several generations of a Danish fishing town, by Carsten Jensen.

To answer the topic's most basic question, I guess I wouldn't say that I either avoid or am especially attracted to larger, longer books. Sometimes they just fill the bill, though. Every once in a while I feel like sinking into a singular, long reading world, whether fiction or non-fiction, and staying there for a while.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 24, 2020, 11:17am

>76 dchaikin: I think novels should, ideally, have a reason to be big.

Definitely! I get frustrated by authors who in their world building get carried away and wont let an editor touch it. Same goes for a series; three or four are usually my limit (see the latest Mantel book at 800 pgs, it was an excellent ending to the saga, but it really could have used editing)

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 11:13am

On the whole, I'd say I prefer short books: the fat ones tend to stay on the shelf for years. But once I get into a very thick book, there is something rather reassuring about it. Possibly that's why I've been reading so many in the last few weeks.

— I've just finished the third of four omnibus parts of Dorothy Richardson's Pilgrimage (originally 13 books, around 2200 pages in all)
— Last week I was reading The Quincunx (1200 pages, probably about three times longer than it needs to be)
— Two weeks ago I finished the first of seven parts (750 pages) of J J Voskuil's 5000-page novel of office life, Het Bureau. I'm probably going to continue with that.

Long novels still on the TBR shelf include Malena es un nombre de tango (760 pages in Spanish: what was I thinking?) and Birds without wings (800 pages). So I'm supplied for a few more weeks of lockdown...

(I'm also still working my way through Zola's sequence of 20 Rougon-Macquart novels, but they don't count for this because I don't have any omnibuses, I've been reading mostly ebooks, although some individual novels are perhaps over 500pp).

Most nineteenth-century English novels are well over 500pp — Middlemarch is about 900 in Penguin, Little Dorrit is a bit longer than that even — but I've never really thought of them as long books somehow.

I think the first big omnibus I had was made out of tinplate and painted red a complete Jane Austen. It's since been replaced by Folio Society editions, but I read through all the novels several times before throwing it out. Others I've had since childhood include two H.G. Wells omnibuses (Complete short stories in one; A quartette of comedies in the other) and John Buchan's The adventures of Sir Edward Leithen.

A lot of history books (Q17) cross the 500 page threshold (although some of them turn out to include 300 pages of notes and appendices). One I finished eighteen months ago was The Dutch republic : its rise, greatness, and fall, 1477-1806, which is 1130 pages of text, and took me a few months to read, on and off.

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 11:21am

>78 rocketjk: I'd forgotten Strangers and brothers. I think I've only got one odd part of that, but I do have the four-part omnibus version of A dance to the music of time, which I've read a couple of times, and I've got Simon Raven's Alms for oblivion sequence in a mixture of loose volumes and omnibuses. I prefer reading it in separate parts, but the omnibus looks neater on the shelf!

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 11:21am

It took me three tries to finally get hooked on Birds without wings, but oh it was worth it!! Reread it several times (think my fav scene is the love making dinner with walking candles (on the backs of turtles) Also liked his Corelli's Mandolin, don't think it was as big. The ending tho, I threw the book against the wall, I was so mad.

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 11:27am

>76 dchaikin: >79 cindydavid4: What about the category of novels that would have been even bigger if the author hadn't been prevented from continuing?

I can think of The good soldier Svejk, which was showing no sign of ever finishing when Hašek died (a bit short of 800 pp in English), and Werner Bräunig's East German epic Rummelplatz, the first 700-page part of a planned trilogy abandoned when it was obvious the censors would never let it be published. But there are probably a lot more.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 24, 2020, 1:28pm

oh I loved Hasek!!! Another one is Suite Francais The author planned the book to be in 5 parts. She was murdered by the Nazis with it only half complete. A few years back her daughters discovered a bag that had been pushed aside and never opened It contained those chapters, plus notes for others. The current book is from the two completed chapters

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 1:34pm

>80 thorold: That was a very clever cross-out comment, quite in line with my quirky mind!

Re the question at hand: I have some omnibus books, such as The Big Book of Female Detectives and Masterpieces in Miniature by Agatha Christie and several Christie compilations, such as Five Hercule Poirot Novels and Five Miss Marple Novels. I also have the complete Chronicles of Narnia in one huge paperback. I also have the Mapp and Lucia books in one volume, and the first three Armistead Maupin books in one volume.

I tend to read these in chunks, rather than straight through, and come back to them at intervals. They do not lend themselves well to travel though.

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 2:18pm

I love long books. I find them more immersive and like to have lots of time for character development. Some of my favorite books are long like Anna Karenina, In Search of Lost Time, Middlemarch, Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, Bleak House, The Count of Monte Cristo, Lonesome Dove. i also love long historical fiction like all of Sharon Kay Penman's books which tend to be in the 800-900 page range, or CJ Sansom's historical mysteries. More recent fiction that is long that I've liked include Ducks, Newburyport, The Overstory, Pachinko.

I actually strongly dislike short stories. I almost always feel dissatisfied. The length of a book doesn't scare me away. I've read plenty of very short books that feel much longer than a well-crafted 900 page books.

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 2:39pm

In theory, I like big, fat books just fine and am not the least bit intimidated by them.

In practice, I fear I am all too often likely to pass over them in favor of shorter volumes. If I can finish three short books in the time it would take me to read one giant one, I feel like I'm accomplishing more on the never-ending, impossible task of making my way through the TBR shelves.

I am aware of precisely how pointless and irrational that is.

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 4:13pm

I much prefer to buy the shorter books than an omnibus (someone gave me an Anne Tyler one that I just ignore; its too big)

Now I dont mind a short storie omnibus - got a collection of O'Henry, Saki, Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clark, Egdar Allen Poe. We read lots of short stories from those in Jr Hi and that got me hooked. But I agree, sometimes they are not very satisfying, and I want more. And there are some authors that do short stories much better than others.

>86 japaul22: Oh another Penman fan! Just got her lastest,about the Kingdom of Jerusalem; been busy with Mantel's books, but I think thats the next one for me to read

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 24, 2020, 5:19pm

I liked The Finishing School about as much as The Goldfinch.

I like long and short books. I don't think that says much about me.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 24, 2020, 5:54pm

Are you drawn to them? Do you avoid them? Why?
Neither really. There was definitely a very long period in my life where I did a lot of reading challenges, so that pushed me towards shorter works. But other than that I don't actively avoid them. In recent years, I've made an effort to set aside time, usually on vacations to read a long work.

Can you remember your first?
It was porbaly something like Aesop's Fables of Grimm's Fairy Tales...?

Do you have a favorite?
The Brothers Karamazov, Moby-Dick, or, The Whale, East of Eden, The Satanic Verses

A Suitable Boy, The Power Broker, The Tale of Genji, Ulysses, The Recognitions, Bleak House, Middlemarch, Underworld, Time Regained, Buddenbrooks, House of Leaves, A Brief History of Seven Killings, Battle Royale, Wives and Daughters, Germinal

And lots more!

huhtikuu 24, 2020, 9:39pm

Some of my favourite books have been chunksters -- Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Thorn Birds (anyone watching Seth Meyers?) -- too lazy to look up the others. Even now, I'm picking my way through the Decameron (although I'm only reading the abridged suggestions, so not sure if it's still going to be over 500 pgs). But I generally do not like long books, and I definitely avoid them. I love the 250 page novel. I have lots of chunksters in my TBR stacks, but I don't plan to start them until after I retire. And now that my investments have plummeted in value, I'm not sure I'll ever retire.

In summary, even though I've loved some long books, and certainly read lots, NO, not a fan. Get an editor and tighten up your story.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 25, 2020, 8:44am

Are you drawn to them? Do you avoid them? Why?

These days I think I avoid them, as there are several unfinished, just more on that great pile -- but having said that last year I've read both Reality and Catafalque by Peter Kingsley that are big but very readable.

Sometimes in physical book form I baulk at the weight as I like to read lying on my back, though having said that do that less too at the moment.

But at the moment they just seem like a big commitment, and I am thinking I don't get far with them. I was loving The Kingdom which I think is quite big, reading on kindle, but when I moved last year i lost my thread. I'm again not getting far with big poems or large collecteds, I'm not focussed as I can sometimes be.

Can you remember your first?

Probably Watership Down and then the Plague Dogs as a kid. I gave up on The Lord of the Rings as Sam and Frodo approached Mordor, it was annoying me somehow, I've skipped through bits since but never wanted to read it all, my judgement may be wrong. I was 11 and probably trying to grow up.

Do you have a favourite?

would Great expectations count? Maybe that or A prayer for Owen Meaney. Non fiction-wise those Kingsley books. Dune might count, not as fond of it now, but at 19 read the first six twice.

Anna Karenina of course, not tried war and peace yet. I prefer Crime and Punishment to The Brothers Karamazov.

I've put down Infinite Jest twice after about 400 pages, I don't like how it makes me feel. I loved Gravity's Rainbow but it also is hard to say I love it overall.

I'm thinking i am more impatient now than i was. But also gave up on Shogun as a teen and there are others, its not that I get bored, so much as maybe change and/or bore myself or want to chase something else. And there are many distractions.

Yet at the same time it seems not like me to let these books go like this, and mostly maybe I don' think I have. something about my reading seems to need to be in sympathy somehow with how I feel at the time, and this makes me feel a bad reader in some eyes. (is it like a claustrophobia of tone, wary of being stuck? - and maybe its my own problem.)

huhtikuu 25, 2020, 10:32am

>92 tonikat: Oh, wow. Gravity's Rainbow! How did I forget that one. It took me about 6 months to read that book, but I did love it.

I also loved Don Quixote, which is pretty hefty.

huhtikuu 25, 2020, 1:00pm

>93 rocketjk: six months is about right, a rollercoaster

I think I've said that before

I also let go of tons of other books, so maybe its not heft.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 26, 2020, 12:47pm

Once I would have thought nothing of reading a large book like any number of the classics that have already been mentioned. I am one who still loves the feel of a book in my hand; it's part of the experience: the weight of it in my hand, the smell and feel of the paper, the turning of the pages... arthritis prevents me from reading some extra large tomes. It did not stop me from reading Joyce Carol Oates's "Gothics" most of which were over 500 pages. They are some of my favorite books. In fact, now that I think about it, a fair number of my favorites are over 500 pages. Doctor Zhivago and Middlemarch comes to mind.

I read Paul Scott's "Raj Quartet" as an very large paperback omnibus. The Far Pavilions was certainly a doorstopper, and also quite a lot of fiction I read in decades past; off the top of my head: The Young Lions, and The Winds of War (that last, over 800 pages); The March to Quebec and The Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts. More recently it might have been an Ian Rankin crime novel. I don't think I really paid attention to the size of a book until more recently.

With regards to nonfiction, some of the memoirs I have listened to unbridged on audio would qualify, and some of the histories.

Now that I'm older, I often think: I can read this one 800 page book OR, I can read these two or three other books in the same amount of time. Life can be short and I seem to be choosing the more books, less pages, as I don't see any tomes in the pile (unless it's a crime novel, but that's like eating candy).

NOTE: Touchstones aren't working. I'll come back and fix those later.

huhtikuu 26, 2020, 1:40pm

The Far Pavilions is one of my fav books of all times. Reread it alot over the years, but the ending is oh so perfect.

Ian Pears is one of my fav writers, instance of the fingerpost is huge, but i liked it. btw he has many smaller art mystery books that might appeal to art lovers and/or mystery readers

huhtikuu 26, 2020, 8:09pm

Completely forgot about this, was reminded of it on another thread, The Journeyer a HF account of Marco Polos travels including suggestions about the parts he skipped. Its over 1000 pages, but remember reading it traveling in Europe on trains and such so lots of time.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 27, 2020, 1:27am

>56 dukedom_enough: One of the things I like about the Very Short Introductions is that they can* give you a good overview of the debates on a particular subject. I find some histories frustrating if they take a particular angle and don't explain what the other possible angles and approaches are. As a generalist reader who may not read another book on the subject, I would rather know 'there is a debate around whether the root causes of EVENT were mainly X, Y or Z' than read a devastatingly intelligent explanation of why it was actually Y.

*as >58 dchaikin: says, dependent on the author

I second >60 lilisin:'s recommendation of History in Three Keys and Jonathan D Spence. Spence wrote some big historical overviews but his micro-histories are fascinating - Lilisin have you read The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci? Probably my favourite.

I also agree with >76 dchaikin: on books needing to have a reason to be big. I have a particular dislike of histories which make themselves chunky by not leaving out any element of research. I have a memory of picking up a big Hitler biography which a friend was reading, opening it at random and getting a description of the marks he got at school in different subjects.

I think the key for big books is momentum. I am reading War and Peace at the moment and it doesn't *feel* like a big book because it's a smooth read, lots of things happen, and I think too because the individual chapters are short. Shorter books can feel much more of a slog if the pace sags.

I do have a fondness for short books which pack a lot into a few words, which you often have to read quite slowly to pick up everything that's being said - eg Penelope Fitzgerald.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 10:36am

>73 avaland: QUESTION 18

Funny that this question pops up now, as I've just finished The Mirror and the Light, at 882 pages a tome by anybody's standards. It, along with Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies, never felt tome like however. They were more like a total immersive experience from which you didn't want to emerge.

As someone who has always read a lot of nineteenth century fiction, be it English, Scottish, French or Russian, I love a good fat book that promises to take me away from the world. When I was a child, it seems the only fiction in the house was nineteenth century, and I never really comfortably moved out of that century. In the last few years, I've started to move into South American fiction, starting Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands last night. Using avaland's definition, it just qualifies for a tome. Naturally, this means that quantity suffers, but that only bothers me if I let myself compare myself to some of the more prolific readers here, regretting that that used to be me and is no longer.

As for omnibuses, I had some as a child and loved the idea. Currently I have five novels of Robert Louis Stevenson in an omnibus edition as well as individual copies, and also have The Complete Richard Hannay, but I now seem to prefer individual editions.

As far as history goes, fat books don't intimidate me as I like a lot of detail. In addition to Jonathan Spence mentioned above, I would add Simon Schama, Frank Dikotter and Roderick MacFarquhar as authors whose huge books I have enjoyed.

At the other end of the scale, I am also a fan of short stories, admiring an author's ability to condense so much into so few pages.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 27, 2020, 11:15am

>98 wandering_star: I think the key for big books is momentum

Oh yes - its why I was able to read Hillary Mantels latest so fast, with some exceptions, it just kept moving me to keep reading

Speaking of which, the Memory Palace is frequently used in the Wolf Hall trilogy and Ive always been interested in it, so that book sounds right up my alley

Checking the reviews tho, it seems like it is more about Ricci, and his discovery of chinese culture than it is explaining about his device. Think I'd still like to read it tho.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 11:34am

>99 SassyLassy: Naturally, this means that quantity suffers, but that only bothers me if I let myself compare myself to some of the more prolific readers here, regretting that that used to be me and is no longer.

Oh pls don't do that!! I don't read half what I used to but Im just glad to be reading good books. Life and other things get in the way and take our time. A reader is a reader no matter how many book you read in a year :)

I have not heard of Dora Flor but if you are intersted in SA history, Isabelle Allende has several HF books you might like. Her family came from Chile (yes she is distantly related to Salvador her family lived their for generations, until the coup which sent them to the US. Eva Luna and House of Spirits tells the story of her family with magic realism that works. She also has a memoir Paula About her daughter who died many years ago.

Happy reading!

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 12:05pm

I'm neither drawn to very long books nor do I avoid them. They just exist and sometimes I read them. First was probably reading all of The Once and Future King books straight through.

It all just depends on the author whether the book works or not, with fiction at least. A good number of my very long reads are history works where the length is vital. My favorite long novels have been Middlemarch by George Eliot, Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, and Rebels and Traitors by Lindsey Davis. It seems like it's harder for modern authors to make it worth but every sentence of Rebels and Traitors is important. I really liked Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell as well.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 27, 2020, 1:05pm

I'm really drawn to big books, and I'm not even sure why... particularly big print books, which are SO impractical for me—back in my commuting days I'd routinely be reading with one hand in a crowded subway, holding on to a pole with the other, which is hard on the wrists in the best of circumstances. And I'm also very much of a short story fan, with that need for efficiency and tight writing. But there's something about a big fat book—fiction or nonfiction—and the opportunity to live in the narrative for an extended period of time, that I find delicious.

As to whether I stick with it, I tend to finish most books I start, though every so often my attention gets dragged away—usually by something I have to read for work purposes—and then gets lost. I'm thinking of Ninth Street Women, which I read about 3/4 of for my book club last summer and then had something else I needed to jump on, and after a certain point I never picked it back up again. No fault of the book's, other than that every time I did go back to it, I didn't feel like I'd been thrown out of the narrative at all—so in a way, the author's adroitness at juggling such a broad topic (multiple subjects, and decades of art and world history) took away some of that urgency to get back to the book before I forgot what was going on. I could easily pick it up again next month (and probably should—it was very good) without feeling like I'd lost the thread.

A few big books I did finish semi-recently include Wolf Hall, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, The Weight of Ink all of them ebooks... there might be a few other ebooks in there that I never noticed whether they were 500+ pages.

Some on my shelves that I've been gazing at yearningly, waiting for the time that I can really dig in: The Children's Book, By Gaslight (HUGE mofo!), Citizens, The Greenlanders, and I know there are more but I'm too lazy to go downstairs and look. And I'm sure a lot of ebooks that qualify, but it's not quite the same when they don't make your wrists hurt, is it? Something about a big doorstop of a print book just makes me happy.

Oh, and The Mirror and the Light, of course.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 27, 2020, 2:27pm

>92 tonikat: It is funny that you should mention Watership Down and The Plague Dogs because I also read them years ago. Their titles have been rattling around in my head lately for some reason.

>99 SassyLassy: >101 cindydavid4: My reading tastes have changed over time too. When I look back at my journal of books I have read, dating back to 1977, I am sometimes amazed. Sometimes I look at a title and wonder what that book was about, as I cannot recall it! FYI, sometimes I also feel intimidated by the kinds of books others in our threads are reading.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 2:32pm

>102 mabith: I read Once and Future King in HS at a very low moment in my life. I already know about the sword in the stone, didn't realize there was more There is a paragraph when Arthur asks Merlin, what does one do when sad, that stopped me in my tracks and I've used it over time during other low moments. Reread the book many times. BTW White wrote a final chapter years later, The Book of Merlin pn Arthurs last night on earth, with merlin and the animals discussing why war making is part of human character. Its really quite lovely, towards the end.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 2:37pm

>104 LadyoftheLodge: When I actually got started on the internet twenty years ago, I was searching for books and happened to run into Table Talk book salon on The Atlantic. Oh my talk about intimidated - I thought I was well read but the people who populated that place amazed me! I was hooked and found myself getting into the discussions and reading books and authors I never would have chosen on my own. I still do that (which is why Im here) and not intimidated - just usually fascinated by the things i don't know and must learn But I do know how you feel. Just keep on reading and learning.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 27, 2020, 2:49pm

Question 18

Big books: Are you drawn to them? Do you avoid them? Why? Can you remember your first? Do you have a favorite?

On the shelves where I keep my favorite novels, longer books are more common than on my tbr shelves. There's just something so satisfying about getting to spend more time in the world of a well-crafted novel. And yet, it's much easier to start a shorter novel than a longer one. It feels like a safer gamble. A bad book that isn't bad enough to abandon, but isn't good enough to really enjoy is a terrible thing to be stuck with.

I can't remember my first tome. Probably Little Women. I read indiscriminately throughout my childhood. I did read The Brothers Karamazov when I was fourteen and I was insufferable about it. And I was too young to appreciate that the main theme wasn't, "Which brother is the hottest?"

I have several favorites, some of which have already been mentioned here. Foucault's Pendulum is a favorite, no doubt largely because I read it while living in Paris and a rainy winter in Paris are the ideal circumstances for reading that book. And because the second time I read it, it was an entirely different book, while remaining at heart a thriller. I also have a fond place in my heart for Tigana, a fantasy novel by Guy Gavriel Kay and for Middlemarch, because Casaubon is such a fantastic villain and, like Dorothea, I would have fallen for him in my twenties. Of course, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë is a perfect novel.

huhtikuu 27, 2020, 8:00pm

>103 lisapeet: The Greenlanders is amazing! And that's a book that definitely needs to be as big as it is because you can live with the characters for a long period of time.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 28, 2020, 5:08am

I'm amused to discover that most of my chunksters are space opera - a lot of David Weber's stuff is over 1000 pages. It never feels long when I'm reading, though, I'm swept along. I was surprised to learn that Guns, Germs, and Steel is actually (just) _under_ 500 pages - that one felt like it took forever to read. So did Empire Express, which is almost 800 pages. This question is making me look at my Read books and add a lot of pagination! I have been marking ones I've read in the last couple years - if I didn't have the page count, I'd get it when I logged it as read and reviewed it - but I've only been tracking pages for those couple years so earlier reads often don't have them.

I have quite a few omnibuses, which I have read (reread) - I don't usually buy an omnibus first, I buy it after I've decided I like the series (which means I've read most if not all of the books individually first). I will read an omnibus straight through, often, especially if it's a series (as opposed to "books by author", like Three by Tey). When it's random books, I often like one or two and reread those while mostly ignoring the rest. The advantage of omnibuses is that one large book takes up less horizontal space on a shelf than several paperbacks. That's becoming less and less important nowadays, for me, though.

If there's a book by an author I like, I'll generally read it. The size has little effect on my wanting to start a book. If I'm reading in paper (which I do less and less these days), it does affect my choices - the largest books are uncomfortable to read, though I will read them at the table (with a stand to prop them up). That works better for non-fiction than fiction, though. And if I'm reading on my phone, there often comes a time when I'm looking at the progress bar and groaning because I'm still not half-way through...It's also harder (not impossible, but harder) to put down an ebook for a while and then go back to it. So size affects my wanting to _finish_ a book more than wanting to _start_one.

I have no idea what my first large book was; likely I read it before I was 11, and I lost all my library that I had at that point. Hmmm, actually - nope, the one book I still have from then is only 352 (or so) pages (Swiss Family Robinson). It might have been Little Women, or The Return of the King (the other two in that series are just under 500, that one's just over)...I really don't know.

I can't recall anything about a reading experience with a large book or omnibus that differed from any other book - I've slogged my way through short books and whizzed through chunksters. It depends on the writing and the story or information.

huhtikuu 28, 2020, 6:24am

Do any of you "older" readers who read though the 60s and 70s, think there are LESS large books than there used to be? Just wondering if it seems that contemporary books tend generally to be smaller (in content). Do we think that is more about what editors/publishers are looking for, or is that what the authors are coming up with? And if, you think there is less generally, could it be a bi-product of the digital age....

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 28, 2020, 7:22am

Oh my goodness yes. I was reading a lot of sci fi/fan esp in the 70s. most of the books were smaller, and yet they were quite satisfying . Looking back to the classics of the 60s, I can think of a few large books (Dune and Lord of the Rings), but they were not the usual. Im not sure if its the authors or publishers pushing these, but I do think there is a reluctance to edit - many editors seem afraid to cut books by a famous writer (GRRM, looking at you) which has caused some book bloat. Ultimately readers know what they want - if a story and writing are good enough, the readers won't mind how many pages the book has, no matter what the genre.

>109 jjmcgaffey: I'm amused to discover that most of my chunksters are space opera - a lot of David Weber's stuff is over 1000 pages. It never feels long when I'm reading, though, I'm swept along. ...I can't recall anything about a reading experience with a large book or omnibus that differed from any other book - I've slogged my way through short books and whizzed through chunksters. It depends on the writing and the story or information.

I feel the same way; I honestly didn't think of Possession and Mirror and the Light in terms of number of pages because the story and writing were so good it was natural for me to just keep reading. In fact for the latter, I reread it immediately; I didn't want to leave that world,

huhtikuu 28, 2020, 7:21am

In SF, at least, books have gotten a _lot_ larger. Most of the 60s-70s books are in the 150-200 page range; most of the latest ones are in the 400-1000 range. No idea about literary books. Mysteries may have gotten a little larger, but nothing like the expansion in SF. Ditto romances (the monthly stuff is about the same size, the individually-published ones have gotten a bit bigger).

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 28, 2020, 10:32am

>110 avaland:

I went down the list of most popular books on LT until I got bored, charting length (my copy if I have one, first Amazon hit if I don't) against first publication date (as charted in CK). The first 100 look more or less like this:

No very obvious trend, except that popular books in the sub-200-page range all come from the mid-20th century.
Omitted from the chart: Homer, Cervantes and Shakespeare. LOTR is counted as a single book, Narnia is split.

Update: I saw there were a lot of chunky reads in the second hundred, so I went up to and including 200 in the list (Candide, ironically!):

Books in the top 200 over 500pp:
Date Length Title
1862 1488 ‪Les Misérables
1869 1296 ‪War and Peace
1844 1276 ‪The Count of Monte Cristo
1615 1229 ‪The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
2000 1216 ‪A Storm of Swords
1957 1192 ‪Atlas Shrugged
1955 1178 ‪The Lord of the Rings
2005 1104 ‪A Feast for Crows
1936 1056 ‪Gone with the Wind
1998 1040 ‪A Clash of Kings
2004 1024 ‪Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
1615 992 ‪Don Quixote
1989 976 ‪The Pillars of the Earth
1880 944 ‪The Brothers Karamazov
2005 909 ‪The Historian
2003 896 ‪Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
1965 896 ‪Dune
1877 864 ‪Anna Karenina
1991 850 ‪Outlander
1996 831 ‪A Game of Thrones
2007 784 ‪Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
1922 783 ‪Ulysses
2008 756 ‪Breaking Dawn
2000 736 ‪Angels & Demons
1851 720 ‪Moby Dick
1943 720 ‪The Fountainhead
-800 704 ‪The Iliad
2005 704 ‪Eldest
1399 656 ‪The Canterbury Tales
2005 652 ‪Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
2006 649 ‪The Girl Who Played with Fire
2007 629 ‪Eclipse
2005 608 ‪The Book Thief
2001 608 ‪American Gods
1839 608 ‪Oliver Twist
1952 601 ‪East of Eden
2007 576 ‪The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
1866 565 ‪Crime and Punishment
2006 563 ‪New Moon
2002 560 ‪Middlesex: A Novel
2000 548 ‪The Amber Spyglass
2003 546 ‪The Time Traveler's Wife
1998 545 ‪The Poisonwood Bible
2005 544 ‪Twilight
1859 544 ‪A Tale of Two Cities
2003 544 ‪A Short History of Nearly Everything
2002 528 ‪Eragon
1997 512 ‪Memoirs of a Geisha
1990 512 ‪Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
1977 512 ‪The Shining
2009 510 ‪The Lost Symbol
2001 506 ‪The Shadow of the Wind

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 28, 2020, 9:51am

Sorry, backtracking. I was not reading in the 60’s (not born yet) or 70’s. However, in my rush to answer, I missed a fun part of the question.

My first big book must have been The Once and Future King by T.H. White, which I read in 10th grade. But the first one that felt like a tome was The Outline of History, Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind (two volumes) by H. G. Wells, which I read as senior in hs, while not reading my history text book. It’s from 1919, although my edition was updated in 1949. When I gave Wells’ quirky explanation for what I think was the Indian Rebellion in 1957 (as in India), I got zero credit for my answer. (True to Wells, but ridiculous.). It’s one of the first books on my reading list, once I started keeping track.

huhtikuu 28, 2020, 9:51am

huhtikuu 28, 2020, 9:01pm

>98 wandering_star:

I've heard of it and I believe you've recommended it to me before but I have not read it yet. The only Spence I have on my TBR right now so the next I'll read will be The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution.

huhtikuu 29, 2020, 6:42am

>122 Perhaps we can blame the 90s 1. Neal Stephenson and 2. Robert Jordan (then Goodkind, Martin...etc)

>113 thorold: That's fab! I'm going to have to come back to that....

>114 dchaikin: I think it's fab that you started your reading list in high school. I read Fielding's Tom Jones one of those years and that was certainly a tome.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2020, 7:48am

Question 19: The Pleasures of Physical Books

Entranced by the cover art? The feel of the book in your hands? (the heft of a tome? the slimness of a novella?) The smell, feel or sound of turning pages? The look of the books lined up on your shelves or piled messily on a table or the floor? Have you ever bought a book, or taken one home from the library, because of the cover art? Tell us about your relationship with the physical book.

This question is inspired by comments made by nohrt4me2.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 9:30am

I have a random association with covers and acquisition, since I’m mostly interested in acquiring the text. But once I acquire them, I begin to develop a kind of relationship to the physical book. I don’t know that I’m aware of smell, but I certainly notice aesthetics on how they look in the shelf or a table and how they feel while I’m reading them. I have a lot of affection for little hardcovers or small well-made paperbacks. And I like how my books look on the shelf after I’ve read them. I’ve developed a strong preference for the physical book over an ebook.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 10:59am

I love physical books. Of course, it's nice to read a book with a really lovely old cover from time to time, but what really entrances me is an older book's history. Where did I get it? Does it have a personal history of some sort for me? Bought on vacation, maybe, or given to me by a good friend, or found in a particularly interesting bookshop or flea market, maybe. Plus, if I bought the book used, who owned it before I acquired it? Most often, of course, that last question can't be answered. You buy a book in a used bookshop and it doesn't have any sort of inscription, then who's to know what it's story is? But it still has a story, though. Mystery is OK, too. But I have occasionally run an online search for the name of a book's previous owner, as per the written inscription, and found out some interesting things about their lives. Not every book has that sort of aura, of course. Sometimes you just buy a book new at a bookstore and it sits around on your shelves for awhile and then, if it's lucky, you read it. But that's OK. Not every child has to be a special child.

>120 dchaikin: "I certainly notice aesthetics on how they look in the shelf or a table and how they feel while I’m reading them. . . . But once I acquire them, I begin to develop a kind of relationship to the physical book."

Yes, this, absolutely for me, too, which makes it difficult for me to let loose of books once they've been in my house, even after I've read them. Honestly, I've never even tried to read an e-book. It just doesn't appeal to me. That's not a judgement, though. To each his/her own, sez I.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 11:53am

Q19 Shelf-porn

There's not much about books I don't like, apart from the space they take up.

I love the convenience and instant gratification of ebooks, I love the permanence and security of physical books on the shelf, I can enjoy the mustiness of old books as much as the solvent smell of new ones, I can take pleasure in books with a history — known to me or not — and in books that have yet to reveal their secrets to anybody (even to me, if they end up spending a decade on the TBR shelf...). I like the way the spine titles on German books go the wrong way, I like three-stripe Penguin covers, and plain French covers and the inappropriate covers of sixties and seventies paperbacks; I like books that fight back and books that crumble at the touch; I like slim volumes of poetry as much as I like those heavyweight history books that wake you with a crash when they slip out of your fingers; I like standing on a kick-stool looking for an elusive line of poetry, and I like reading something from cover to cover...

... I don't know. We can all go on like that for ever. Most of us have been brought up to love and respect books as objects and for what they contain, and we're probably all within a generation or two of one or more of the big three book-worshipping religions. I sometimes wish I didn't have all that mental baggage and I could persuade myself that all I need is a paper copy of one really great book for the digital apocalypse, but I don't think it's going to happen as long as long as I have the means to live in an apartment-library and the health to enjoy it.

>119 cindydavid4: Usually it's a disaster when the artist bases the cover design on the words of the title without reading the book: that one is so clever that it almost seems to get away with it.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2020, 11:59am

>122 thorold: yes, really a great pun on the title - tho I think she would have known something about the plot in order to put it all together. (excellent book btw, one of the few of this type that did not fall into the way too twee category for me. Actually it reads like a Jane Gardam nove)

toukokuu 1, 2020, 12:59pm

Q19 Shelf-porn

I'd be surprised if most of us weren't deeply attached, in some way, to the books on our shelves.

There's nothing quite like a well-constructed book. You know, the one with the pleasing proportions, the well-constructed book, the one where the pages are smooth and creamy, the margins balanced and generous (but not too generous), that novel with the gorgeous end-papers or a dust jacket with a particularly good design. Who doesn't keep these books even when the contents are just average or choose the more beautiful book when deciding which books to keep before a move or ill-considered purge?

And who hasn't been disappointed to receive a book or to find a book in a bookstore only to notice the stingy margins or the cheap, less-than-opaque paper? Who hasn't set a book in a box to donate or trade in to the used bookstore because of it's movie poster cover or the cheap feel of the cardboard binding?

That aside, I find that I value the copy of a book that I've read over a nicer one and like the worn well-read condition of some of my favorite books. They are a part of the memory of that book after all and a physical manifestation of my reading life. Which is why we do peer behind people being interviewed or posing for pictures to see the titles behind them. Of course we judge each other on our bookshelves, hopefully with curiosity and kindness.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2020, 1:49pm

The physical aspects of the book arent all that important to me. I do love a good cover, prestine pages with wide margins, but its the text I read that is important. However I am disappointed to find a book that has been written or drawn on, highlighted (don't mind a little but its often too much) binding cracked pages torn.....I will still read it if I can't find a better copy, but still disappointing

>19 jjmcgaffey: That aside, I find that I value the copy of a book that I've read over a nicer one and like the worn well-read condition of some of my favorite books. They are a part of the memory of that book after all and a physical manifestation of my reading life.

Exactly. I have several books like that, well read and well worn like a fav pair of jeans, and each one is indeed a physical manifestation of my reading life. Every year or so I go through my books and purge ones that I don't care for. I have done this often enough that I look at what i have left and no, they all stay. they are all me (heck I even have the book we used for western lit class in HS)

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2020, 1:58pm

>124 RidgewayGirl: I find that I value the copy of a book that I've read over a nicer one and like the worn well-read condition of some of my favorite books

I think I've posted this cover image before, but it was some time ago:

Most of the additional cover-art was created by previous users of the book.
(Admittedly, it's not a book I've needed to consult often since the invention of the scientific pocket calculator)

toukokuu 1, 2020, 2:20pm

I thought so and just checked - there is #bookslut

I've realised there are some books I have on kindle that I regret not having physically to cradle and have take up yet more room, like I desire having them, why, to look at their pages - not to just book pose and leave lying, 'why yes I did read that'. And if a nice edition interface with their substance - nothing better than a book that's been loved into being lovely - at present I have a crush on faces of love its deckle edges and good paper presenting such beauty and dreams of Shiraz, rose gardens, wine and good poetry . . . and I yearn to have some of my Rumi in physical editions, I nearly said 'the real thing' . . . this Hafez crush my have started a year ago and I've spoken of it before, I'm not obsessional or anything, just saying.

Have you seen Interstellar - star bookcase in that movie with interesting relationship dynamic between father and daughter, books separating them and also bringing them together. Wouldn't be the same if he just kindled.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 2:35pm

>124 RidgewayGirl: I never buy a book with a movie cover (although I admit I like to watch adaptations of books)

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 1, 2020, 2:41pm

>127 tonikat: my dad and I also bonded with books, I still have many of his that we shared. And yeah I dont see that working on Kindle. But what worries me more is what happens to all the emails and photos we take by the hundred - are they ever saved? The days of finding letters of parents and other relatives is fading along with the stories they tell abut themselves and their lives. Going through my dads and later my moms papers I found letters they wrote to each other, letters their siblings wrote to them; we lose something of ourselves when we lose that.

oh and way back when, on the Atantics Table Talk was a thread titled Book Sluts, where we of course talked books!

>128 avaland: I never buy a book with a movie cover (although I admit I like to watch adaptations of books)

Same way. I also avoid Oprah labels, or at least used to; I think I actually have a few now.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 2, 2020, 1:17pm

>129 cindydavid4: changes, very true

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 2, 2020, 12:38pm

I got rid of most of my physical books. One more thing to dust, and I find that holding a book (vs. a Kindle) is less ergonomic. I also like the Kindle because every book can now be a BIG PRINT book, which is something I increasingly need.

I do have some books I hang onto as artifacts or totems: My mother's copy of Jane Eyre rescued from her high school library. My great-grandfather's copy of Emma (what did that crusty old farmer think of that story??) A very fragile copy of The Once and Future King, which I will open at random and read for 30 minutes when I am anxious and freaked out (can't do that with a Kindle). A few books that still smell like my Gramma's house that I keep in a box so I can sniff them occasionally. (TMI?)

I really like pulp fiction cover art, and I like to study it for its own sake. Movie covers are the least interesting, but covers are kind of mini-critiques of the book, if you think about it. They usually tip you off about intended audience, genre, writing style, and plot points.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 5:39pm

I like my Kindle for the convenience of traveling with it, and I often stick it into my purse just to have something to read with me at all times. That being said, I also love the physical books. I enjoy the papery, old-book smell of used books, and have quite a few on my shelves.

Sometimes I just "hang out" with my books and browse through my shelves, picking up books and reading through them at random. My cats like books too, and they hang out with me when I am hanging out with my books.

I still own some books from my childhood, and they are like old friends. I still do not understand my need to acquire more books, as I would have to live to be quite old in order to read them all. Apparently, I am not alone in this. I have been like that since I was a kid, and never seem to have quite enough books; there is always one more to be acquired. They are more faithful than people.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 7:19pm

While I appreciate good cover design, I never really developed much of an affinity for physical books. Growing up my friends and I only got Mass Market Paperbacks, and we'd only buy a single copy of the book, so we could pass it around. And if it was one we all wanted to read we'd tear out chapters to pass around. Needless to say if books ever got back to us in one piece they weren't anything to look at. So to me books were never objects to be held and revered, but the contents were. I did have an extensive collection of physical books but as I have switched over to reading primarily e-books, that has dwindled to the absolute keepers and what was left of the old TBR.

All that being said I do like that Kobo uses book covers on the screen saver rather than generic stationary items (although was a big fan of the pencils on the Kindle). I get to enjoy the cover art albeit in black and white. To me that is a win-win.

toukokuu 1, 2020, 8:27pm

Question 19: The Pleasures of Physical Books

Like >121 rocketjk:, I love the idea of a book passing through many different hands (shelves?) - I always try and find a secondhand bookshop or swap shelf when I am on holiday, and I write my initials and location in the books I read so that if they are ever acquired by someone else, they will know one little thing about that volume’s history.

I bought Waterland because of the cover art. I don’t remember ever having such a strong attraction to the cover of a book before or since, although of course there’s a lot of ‘that looks intriguing’. I like the way that you can recognise some publishers or series from the way the spines look. When I was younger, Foyles bookshop in London used to shelve books by publisher. At the time I found it inconvenient, because I would be looking for a specific book. Now I wish they still did that as there are some publisher’s shelves I would spend a lot more time with. I love the feel of the covers of NYRB classics (no other books feel like them).

I also like the convenience of ebooks - if a book’s not working for me I always have another one. I will never again get stuck on holiday with nothing to read because of bad weather or flight cancellations. I tend to read comic books on my iPad because the physical objects aren’t very portable.

I don’t mind books that have been written in, as long as there’s not so much of it that it distracts from the text. I once finished a terrible book (I was on a train and it was before ereaders) to find a rant from a previous reader on the back page. I recognised a kindred spirit!

If I found I had two copies of a book, I’d probably keep the one in better condition rather than the one I’d physically read. But years ago I stole my boyfriend’s copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance because it was really important that I had that particular physical book, rather than buying a new one (I can’t remember why - but I can still picture the book).

toukokuu 2, 2020, 12:28am

I have a lot of physical books - three walls of books, plus all the boxes under my (loft) bed. I've read far less than half of them, though. One wall, the SF (speculative fiction) section, I've read most or all of them, and I'm having a hard time deciding whether to let them go. The other two - assorted genres and non-fiction subjects - I've read fewer of them, though still a good many. The ones under my bed I haven't read, or can't remember what I thought of them when I read them.

I'm far more interested in the words than in the object that holds them. There are physical books I dislike (flimsy, smelly, ugly cover); there are physical books I like, but when they're not unpleasant I tend to look through them rather than at them. I have a few illustrated books (a Greg Hildebrandt Robin Hood), but even those the image and the book itself is secondary to the story in it.

I do have a few books that are important objects - but in those cases, they're important aside from being books. That is - I haven't read my copy of Swiss Family Robinson in probably 30-40 years, and have no great interest in doing so; the fact that it's the book that was in a car accident with me, and the only book I brought with me when we were evacuated from Iran, is what's important. Similarly, my big book of Mother Goose rhymes that my grandmother gave me is important because of being that gift; the contents, the bookishness of it, is far less important.

As I said above, I have a lot of SF books I love and am keeping - but I'm reading the stories, about 90% of the time, on my phone (I don't have a dedicated ereader - or I do, but I don't use it. My phone is always with me). That's why my practical side is trying to convince me to get rid of the paper copies. Right now I'm distracting it with my heaps of BOMBs, which really do need to be read and (mostly) got rid of - but even those, I find one I really like and immediately go find an e-copy so I can get rid of the paper one.

So in answer to the question - no, not really. I love books, but it's the contents that matter, and ebooks have the important part and are a lot easier to store. And easier to change the cover if the one I got I really hate! (And I can edit away the typos, too...though I don't, I only mark them so I _could_ if I ever got around to it.)

toukokuu 2, 2020, 9:32am

Oh god yeah, I love physical books. I generally have a thing for paper—stationery and cards, stickers, stamps, collageables, paper samples, ephemera in general—which is wholly asexual but I think of it as a kink like any other, something that gave me outsized pleasure when I was little and loved to read and write and draw, and has stayed with me as a source of immediate gratification.

I have many, many books and periodicals all over my house. I love looking at them from wherever I'm sitting—and it's not an ownership thing, just the fact of them. They're comforting. Nor is it about having wonderful editions, necessarily, though I do have some of those—most of what I own are either galleys/ARCs or were bought second-hand or inherited. I like ebooks too, and read a lot of them… they were eminently practical when I used to commute (remember that?). But I've often, say, grabbed a print galley when I already had the e-galley, just because it's pretty.

I'm very receptive to cover art—I'm a visual artist and was an illustration major back in the day—and yes, have often picked up a book because I was attracted to the graphics. I also use covers as a kind of semiotics for what I do and don't want to try when I'm looking at galleys (either physically or in a lineup of e-galleys on Edelweiss or NetGalley). I gravitate toward literary fiction and comics, narrative nonfiction, small/indie press books, and the like, and there's a whole shorthand I've learned for choosing them based on covers alone.
I also hate movie covers. Usually I can avoid them, but when I ordered a copy of Harriet the Spy a few years back and it came with the loathsome tie-in cover, I printed out a version of the original on my crappy home printer and glued it on, and as bad as the reproduction is it's still 100x better.

And actually the one thing I always feel a lack of with e-books is being able to see the cover as I read (and I always look at what other people are reading on the subway and wish I could see what they're reading in e, though maybe it's fortunate that I can't). An e-reader that displayed the cover of the book you're reading on its back seems like something that would be relatively easy to invent, but maybe there's not a great market for it. I'd buy one, though.

Also definitely feel-oriented—love heft, as mentioned in my last entry here, and also a small, well made book. I've always said NYRBs have the best handfeel (like mouthfeel in food) in publishing, something about the ratio of size to weight to cover stock… they just feel right when you hold and read them.

I'm not super into the smell, maybe because I buy second-hand so much that they're often vaguely mildewy and who needs to stick their nose in that—but I DO love the way issues of Granta used to smell. I can still remember cracking open my first one that came in the mail, where it was and how it smelled and how it's synonymous with the whole opening out of my literary world, from being someone who just read a lot of books to someone who sought out a certain reading experience.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 2, 2020, 1:13pm

>135 jjmcgaffey: I do have a few books that are important objects - but in those cases, they're important aside from being books. That is - I haven't read my copy of Swiss Family Robinson in probably 30-40 years, and have no great interest in doing so; the fact that it's the book that was in a car accident with me, and the only book I brought with me when we were evacuated from Iran, is what's important. Similarly, my big book of Mother Goose rhymes that my grandmother gave me is important because of being that gift; the contents, the bookishness of it, is far less important.

Yes, and over the years as I have been parring down my shelves, its those kind of books that have meaning to my life that still remain, and will remain with me.

Leading to another question - book collecting. Do you keep a collection of books in a particular category (does not have to be rare or first editions, just something like Golden Books or Everything Micky) What made you want to collect them. Wonder How do you go about finding your books (used stores, internet sites) pre internet what was your favorite used book discovere, where you keep them, how do you display them

toukokuu 2, 2020, 1:12pm

>136 lisapeet: Usually I can avoid them, but when I ordered a copy of Harriet the Spy a few years back and it came with the loathsome tie-in cover, I printed out a version of the original on my crappy home printer and glued it on, and as bad as the reproduction is it's still 100x better.

Ha! never gone that far, but I'll remember to do that next time I happen upon one!

toukokuu 2, 2020, 1:49pm

Question 19: The Pleasures of Physical Books

Entranced by the cover art? The feel of the book in your hands? (the heft of a tome? the slimness of a novella?) The smell, feel or sound of turning pages? The look of the books lined up on your shelves or piled messily on a table or the floor? Have you ever bought a book, or taken one home from the library, because of the cover art? Tell us about your relationship with the physical book.

Of course. My love of art is equal to my love of the word. I always buy the most attractive copy of the book that I can find. I will buy duplicates if a fetching edition crosses my path. As >136 lisapeet: says above, I too have a fetish for paper & stationary in general.

I've never read an e-book. It's not that I'm against them, but I've just decided to read all my paper books first before I start investing. The problem is that I continue to buy paper books, and it's unlikely that I'll get through all of them in my lifetime.

toukokuu 2, 2020, 1:52pm

>132 LadyoftheLodge:

Sometimes I just "hang out" with my books and browse through my shelves, picking up books and reading through them at random. My cats like books too, and they hang out with me when I am hanging out with my books.

I love doing that too, although my cat doesn't usually participate. She prefers to plop herself down and have a nap on top of the puzzle my husband is working on.

toukokuu 2, 2020, 1:59pm

>128 avaland:

I never buy a book with a movie cover (although I admit I like to watch adaptations of books)

Never? While I agree that movie covers are generally awful, it isn't necessarily so. Here are some of my favourite movie-cover editions:

There are also several good movie tie-in covers for The Hours

toukokuu 2, 2020, 2:11pm

those are cool, but older (btw the author of Enchanted April also wrote a ton of other books about her life in Germany pre WWI as a wife to a pastor, as well as the novel Christopher and Columbus

toukokuu 2, 2020, 2:21pm

>141 Nickelini: It's also quite fun when your cover is for a film that everyone has forgotten:

toukokuu 2, 2020, 2:26pm

Regarding move tie-in covers, generally I avoid them if possible, but I don't avoid them for any philosophical reason, particularly. When I owned a used bookstore, I simply went by shelving the copy of a book in the best physical condition, regardless of cover. But I would not carry novelizations based on movie scripts. At that, I absolutely drew the line. Speaking of movie tie-in covers, I have to say that my favorite book is Conrad's Lord Jim. I remember eagerly renting and watching the movie version, that stars Peter O'Toole in the title roll and James Mason as well. Oh, my goodness, but that movie is putrid. I remember reading once that the definition of a dry martini is a shot of gin with an olive in it, waved in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. The relationship that martini has with vermouth is about the same relationship that the Lord Jim movie has with the novel of the same name. So, all that said, as Lord Jim is my favorite book, I own 12 different copies of it. It's the only book of which I have purposely assembled a small collection. And so, all that being said, one of my very favorite covers among my pulp paperback Jims, is this one:

toukokuu 2, 2020, 4:56pm

>136 lisapeet: just a great post

This has been a fun series of responses to Q19, all through.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 4, 2020, 3:06pm

>136 lisapeet: I am so with much of what you said in that post. It's a paper thing (I had a stationary and journal) thing for a long time, but also pads of paper, both drawing and lined (I'm fond of the long skinny 'reporter' notebooks and I'm fairly certain one can call my thing for graph paper, a romance. We never seem to have enough books or paper for me at home growing up.

Then, there are the covers... (here are just a few....)

(that first one is plaid cloth over boards and that last book is a tome, 950 gilt-edged pages, bought for 25¢ in the early 70s*). Covers could certainly be a topic in and of itself, but I'll just say that I appreciate an attractive cover (my tastes vary quite a lot) but I seldom buy a book because of the cover; I might pick one up though because of a cover....

Mostly, the love of physical books is because I am also "feel-oriented". I think my fave might be the feel of a slim paperback novella, done with nice paper ....

*I just now realized I had not put this book in my library! (had to scan the cover!) Lots of editions of this.

toukokuu 5, 2020, 12:54am

>23 cindydavid4: I never meant to imply that I don't read popular history. Some of it is so very enjoyable. I guess I am so wary of them because I myself is weak in the field of History. I have never cared about who was reigning or battles. Of course they are important, but not for what interests me.

I am most interested in social and cultural histories, as well as intellectual history and the history of science. It was hard reading, but a wonderful book I read was The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. It is Speculative fiction, about using time travel to study history, and an accidental immersion in one of the plague epidemics in English history. It seemed really realistic, and I would love to hear a historian's view of the book.

I loved a book I read last year on a history of a Plague epidemic in Hawaii in the years 1899 and 1900. It was Plague and Fire: Battling Black Death and the 1900 Burning of Honolulu's Chinatown by James C Mohr. I also read a good history of the Molokai Leprosarium. That was The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai by John Tayman.

I think it was two years ago that I read a book about the competition and prize for the design of a properly-working ship's clock. I can't remember the title, but I think the history of science and technology is my favorite.

I have taken note of a lot of the books and authors in the posts previous. I plan to increase the number of books about history that I read.

>23 cindydavid4: My son and daughter-in-law are very happy to be working in their fields. He hasn't found a tenure-track position, though. They have lived frugally because for some years they were both in graduate school. Since then they have often lived on one income while the other wrote the dissertation. By now it is a habit to live frugally. We are very fortunate to have them living and working in our own city. They had to move to Memphis for four years at one time because they couldn't find even one good job for themselves in St. Louis.

toukokuu 5, 2020, 1:00am

>147 sallypursell: I suspect the one about the ship's clock was Longitude by Dava Sobel. I read that and liked it a lot. If it wasn't, I want to know what you did read because I'd like to read that...

toukokuu 5, 2020, 1:04am

>29 cindydavid4: I've been having a great time doing Ancestry research, too. I found my mother's last-living aunt, a full sister to my grandmother, but she didn't know much that I didn't. It was still fun to visit her and her kids. I've been referred to multiple cousins both by paper records and through DNA matches. The funniest thing is that I can't find anything except a marriage license in documenting my father's grandfather. Even the census disagrees which state he was born in, either Tennessee or Texas. Lots of people with his last name in Texas, but I just can't find a connection anywhere, and he doesn't show up in any census until he married my great-grandmother. Very odd. I wonder if it was a real name, or if he was on the run from something.

toukokuu 5, 2020, 7:54am

Yep, I'm a paper book lover too. I'm not sure covers overly influence my purchases, as I tend to be drawn by the author or a title I've been looking out for, but a nice cover is a bonus. I love looking at the books on my shelves, and have a few shelves in a prominent hallway that allow me to display my books front-facing rather than spine-facing.

I'm possibly more influenced by font than imagery. A cover with in your face large, bold, square font tends to put me off - I expect (rightly or wrongly) that it's not my kind of genre (e.g. the types of covers you find on crime novels, for instance).

toukokuu 5, 2020, 8:02am

Physical books? Yes yes and yes.

I like grabbing a book by the bottom of the spine and using my thumb to flip through the pages really fast as that new or old book smell whiffs right past. I also like the sound of those pages flopping by. It's very satisfying. Everything about a book is just physically pleasing to my hands and eyes. I like comparing where I've left my bookmark at the end of a reading session compared to where it was at the beginning. I like choosing between different editions to find the one most pleasing to my bookshelves and I love standing in front of my bookshelves while brushing my teeth or other activity and glancing over the book titles, whether read or unread.

I just love books in their physical form. It's a fact.

toukokuu 5, 2020, 8:39am

A few books I picked up from street vendors (when they still existed—I have a feeling they've all been pushed out of NYC now) or secondhand shops for a few bucks, just because I liked the covers so much:


toukokuu 5, 2020, 12:07pm

>146 avaland: Are you also a map person? I love maps and map books—which, to keep on topic, always have foxy covers.

toukokuu 5, 2020, 12:45pm

>147 sallypursell: I am most interested in social and cultural histories, as well as intellectual history and the history of science.

We share that interest, which is why I am interested to hear what your son and daughter in law are reading!

I read Doomsday book ages ago and loved it. Speculative fiction is fun She also wrote a wonderful book that covers similar themes, plus just being a lot of funTo Say Nothing about the Dog (not to be confused with Jeromes book of the same name).

Another plague book that might interest you Polio: an American Story Really well researched and written, very readable. Not only is it the history of the race for a vaccine, but the story of how fundraising started, with the formation of March of Dimes, leading to MD Telethons and the like.

Are you talking abuot Longitude? Another wonderful book by Dava Sobel, loved it (esp as I was in England at the time and was able to visit Greenwich and see the clock!) (oops, someone beat me to that :) anyway She also wrote Galileo's Daughter a book with the letters they wrote to each other and the history of Galileos search for truth.

toukokuu 5, 2020, 1:07pm

>152 lisapeet: That Calvino cover is terrific!

>153 lisapeet: Not so much a map person.

>29 cindydavid4:, >149 sallypursell: Perhaps we need an ancestry exploration thread:-)

toukokuu 5, 2020, 2:52pm

possibly, but how would that relate to books?

toukokuu 5, 2020, 5:01pm

>156 cindydavid4: I don’t want to distract anymore on this thread. Give me a day or so and I’ll make a thread and see🤓

toukokuu 5, 2020, 7:22pm

np :)

toukokuu 6, 2020, 8:44am

I love having physical books around me. I like filling up my house with shelves and shelves of my past and future reading. It's comforting, somehow. It's a bit like living inside a physical representation of my own brain. Also, it makes for good insulation!

I don't do e-books at all, not because I have anything against them in principle, but more on the basis that I'm in enough trouble just being able to mail-order physical books too easily. If I start indulging in the ability to buy any book that sounds interesting instantly with the touch of a button and without even having to worry about whether I have shelf space for it... Well, I already have over 900 physical books on the TBR, and I have no doubt my e-book stash would balloon to many times that. It's a ridiculous prospect, and best avoided. Plus, like Nickelini, I have the feeling that I really ought to read all my paper ones before I start buying e-books, and that is obviously never going to happen. (There are some other reasons, too, but that is really reason enough.)

>124 RidgewayGirl: And who hasn't been disappointed to receive a book or to find a book in a bookstore only to notice the stingy margins or the cheap, less-than-opaque paper? Who hasn't set a book in a box to donate or trade in to the used bookstore because of it's movie poster cover or the cheap feel of the cardboard binding?

*raises hand* Me? I welcome the tattered, the misfit, the shoddy, the mismatched, and the cheesy-covered. All are welcome on my shelves, and I am entirely capable of feeling affection for even such unlovely volumes. But then, I have also, from time to time, had the habit of taking in ragged, sickly stray kittens, too. :)

toukokuu 7, 2020, 9:17am

>152 lisapeet: some fabulous titles here to go with the covers!

toukokuu 7, 2020, 9:32am

>160 wandering_star: I know! I've only read two of them so far, the Calvino and the bears book. Bears: A Brief History wasn't bad—good information, which I actually used for an art project a while after, and The Nonexistent Knight & the Cloven Viscount was excellent.

toukokuu 7, 2020, 2:25pm

>159 bragan: I also have been known to "rescue" tattered and misfit books. Somehow I do not want them to feel unloved. I know intellectually that sometimes books are pulped (gasp!) but I don't want to see it happening.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 7, 2020, 5:31pm

Just a general question: Any theories about why people want to have physical books around them? I feel like there is something wrong with me that I am happy to have my books live in the ether of the Kindle cloud or at the library. In fact, i am thinking of putting a whole lot of my stuff on a Web page and offering it to my family so I don't have to deal with it any more.

I also can't work up any pity for battered books. They lived, they were read, hopefully enjoyed, and they fell apart. The pulping factory makes complete sense to me. Use books to make more books or newspaper or toilet paper or something. Circle of life and all.

I mean, they're not abandoned children or kittens ...

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 7, 2020, 7:15pm

Well there is nothing wrong with yoiu at all. For me, having books around me is who I am - where Ive been, what Ive seen, who I met, what I did. My book collection is also connecting me to the ages, when these were writting, and with the illustrations and drawing you know longer see. Now Ive been much better about getting rid of books that I really don't care for, or books that have been on my shelf forever that I don't remember why I got it. I keep whats meaningful to me. YMMV :)

now, about those abandoned kittens..... :)

toukokuu 7, 2020, 8:10pm

>164 cindydavid4: Don't get me started on abandoned kittens and cats. I have two I took in after their owners died, an abandoned kitten my kid brought home when he was 10 (he is now 25), and one I confess I let in here on a sub-zero winter night who decided not to leave.

toukokuu 7, 2020, 9:06pm

0h I hear you, we've taken in several; right now we are down to three, and we'd like to keep it that low for a while. But you just never know who might be meowing at the door!

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 2020, 5:11pm

Question 20: Pandemic Reading: Part II

We are somewhere around the two months mark, plus or minus, for our pandemic-altered living. Back on April 2nd, now over a month ago, we asked how your reading been affected by the pandemic; and now we ask again. Perhaps things have changed since then...or perhaps not.

Is your reading behavior changed during the pandemic era? i.e. reading more in the evening or on weekdays instead of weekends? Squeezing it in between bouts of the news? Or more reading in the fresh air? Or are you just too sick or stressed or harried or tired to read?
What about the quality or quantity of your reading? Are you reading less? More? How about your book choice: are you reading lighter stuff? maybe darker stuff? different kinds of books from your usual? perhaps more escapism? less dystopias? more pandemic-related books? (or is that latter just coincidence?). And, lastly, has there been any difference in your book acquisition or book browsing habits at bookstores and libraries that has affected what or how you are reading?

toukokuu 8, 2020, 8:42am

Question 20:

I think I am reading a bit more, but I don't think it actually has anything to do with the pandemic. I am still working, and it's not like I was going out all that much to begin with. I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that I kind of stopped playing video games.

What I read and how I react to it seems to change in unpredictable ways, though. One day I'm reading book about novel diseases of the late 20th century and finding it genuinely interesting and not at all distressing, and the next I'm reading a novel with a character who's a germophobe and not doing super well with it because, oh, man, I do not need to be in the head of someone who's terrified of germs all the time right now! I have found that dark comedy and seafaring adventures do seems to be hitting the spot these days, for whatever that's worth. That covers a surprising amount of my reading last month, anyway.

As for my book-buying habits, well, um. Look, bookstores that are still able to take orders online really need those sales to stay in business right now, and I'm actually making time and a half for working during the pademic, and the economy needs some stimulating, and I buy books when I'm stressed and... Yeah, let's not discuss how many books I've been buying lately.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 10:44am

Reading behavior: I have less mental energy for reading. I am agitated by the way the pandemic has somehow turned into a political issue. Those of us wearing masks (I am 66 and have cancer) are getting hassled by the non-masked.

Reading material: Plague stuff is interesting right now. I am reading articles online.

Book acquisition: My husband is out of work, we are living on a frighteningly small retirement income until the unemployment kicks in, and the library is closed. It's free or low cost Kindle books right now.

P.S.. I should add that many people on here have been very generous in sending me used books!

toukokuu 8, 2020, 10:11am

Is your reading behavior changed during the pandemic era?
I have my ups and downs.
I have tried to read outside on my deck but weather has not been great. Right now it is 38* with a wind chill of 28* so no outside today.

What about the quality or quantity of your reading?
I read in the daytime because I seem to find books that are sad. I crochet at night.

And, lastly, has there been any difference in your book acquisition or book browsing habits at bookstores and libraries that has affected what or how you are reading?

I have books due at the library which is still closed but I have lots of books at home and get free ones for my Kindle so I am OK with books.

I have not gone anywhere; my kids have brought me food and I have plenty. Sunday they will bring me some milk.
Best to all.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 10:49am


Reading behaviour: I'm retired, and there are currently very few disturbances during the day: I don't seem to be checking the news as obsessively as usual (but I notice I look at local news more than world news), and I have fallen into a pretty stable rhythm where I go out to walk for an hour or so before breakfast, usually with an audiobook, I watch a film or music performance in the evening (on the exercise bike if I'm feeling virtuous), and I read most of the rest of the time. So I'm getting through more books than usual. It helps that it's been good weather: somehow it's easier to read for long periods on the balcony than it is on the sofa...

I haven't been able to change my library books since early March, and because I'm not doing any travelling I'm also reading less on the e-reader, so the proportion of physical books from the TBR pile getting read has been higher.

As I commented previously, I've got around to some very fat books that have been on the TBR forever. Otherwise, the mixture has been much as it would have been otherwise: a lot of Southern Africa for RG, several more Zolas for my Zolathon, and so on. I don't really do dystopias normally, and I haven't been inclined to seek them out now.

Book acquisition: I had a lot of books on hand at the beginning, and I was nervous about ordering stuff, thinking it was putting delivery drivers at risk unnecessarily and so on, so the few I bought to start with were ebooks, but now I've come over more to >168 bragan:'s way of thinking. And I did have a rather expensive session on ABE Books last weekend. Amongst other things(!) there should be a parcel of 17 books on its way from Berlin...

toukokuu 8, 2020, 11:16am

What has changed about my reading is that I'm doing more of it. Also, I'm not going out and buying new books, other than an occasional online order to move my reading forward in one of the series I'm in the midst of. My LT library, though, is currently at 3,123 books, probably about 70% of which I haven't read yet, so I think my supply of reading material will hold out for a while. :)

But as for the type of books I'm reading or my selection of what to read, no, I can't say there's been any change in that.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 11:23am

>163 nohrt4me2: Going back to last week's topic for a second . . .

"I also can't work up any pity for battered books. They lived, they were read, hopefully enjoyed, and they fell apart. The pulping factory makes complete sense to me. Use books to make more books or newspaper or toilet paper or something. Circle of life and all."

You'd be amazed at the condition of the books some people would bring me for store credit back when I owned my used bookstore. Torn apart, without covers, water damage, spines completely broken . . . you name it. Sometimes I'd get irritated and ask them, "Have you ever seen a book in this condition on the shelf of a decent bookstore? Or even of a thrift store?" But mostly I'd just say, "No, sorry, I can't use these." And the person would often say, "Well what should I do with them?" And I'd say, "In the used bookstore world, we have a technical name for books like these. We call them 'recycling.'" Some people would say, "Well, they're books. I hate to just throw them away." And I really do appreciate the fact that people have a certain amount of reverence for books. Mostly, I think it's a good thing. But, you know, there's a limit to all that, in my view.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 12:10pm

Oh I so get that! Ill go to my used store to the trade counter with my stash, and see someone get upset at the clerk for not taking her dusty torn paperbacks. Yikes

My reading has changed only because I have more time. Im retired, its now summer here with the first days of 100 degrees so Im not wanting to go out in the yard. So I sit in my az room filled with plants and cats and just gobble down books. Im reading thick ones (very much into A Man on a Donkey) but also picking up some of my travel books for rereading, and actually trying to make a dent in my TBR shelves. Im also rereading some fun essay collections that make me smile or send me to another place and time

Im trying to support my local indie, they have an online site where we can order books them pick them up curbside. They also have care backages where they put books together with a theme like cat lovers, desert dwellers,scary times plus some kids bags for birthdays. Wanna make sure its still around when this is all over (and I am not alone, they are very very busy these days with orders!)

toukokuu 8, 2020, 12:13pm

>173 rocketjk: We call them 'recycling.'

...except for the obscure books we knowingly bought in that condition because they seemed to be unobtainable for a sane price in any other state. I have bought a surprising number of those over the years, some of which I've replaced as I got richer and the internet came along, but by no means all.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 12:49pm

>175 thorold: This—for many years I bought used books because those were all I could afford, and I didn't care if they were in crummy shape as long as they didn't have actual mold. A few I've replaced, but most are fine with me the way they are... my Charlie Brown Christmas tree books.

And to stick with the last topic for one more minute, one thing I forgot to mention about physical print books is French flaps and deckle edges—features that people seem to be just nuts for and I couldn't care less about. I actually dislike deckle edges. They look nice but make page turning hard, at least for my old calloused fingers. And French flaps... what's the point? But I think I'm in the minority among folks who like their print books a little luxurious.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 12:50pm

>163 nohrt4me2: People are different. And while there's probably more people on a site specifically designed to catalog our books who have personal libraries that are important to them, regardless of size, it's certainly the case that many homes have no books in them, or very few, and that some of those homes are lived in by avid readers who don't have an interest in keeping books once read.

Chalk it up to the wide variety of life.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 1:38pm

>163 nohrt4me2: Oh I forgot to answer that one, but I kind of did in my original post—books aren't so much an identity thing for me as a comfort thing. I find having lots of physical books around is soothing, though that may not be the right word either. And I'm sure it goes back to my childhood, where almost every room in the house I grew up in was lined with books and my parents encouraged me to grow my own library (just about all of which was later lost due to a bad decision on my mom's part, but that's another story for another day).

But I know folks who love reading and read a lot, who just don't keep them around. For some I know it's a home environmental issue—they have asthma and it's easier to keep a dust-free house without a lot of books on shelves. A lot of people I know live in small NYC apartments, so it's also practical. But sometimes it's not just an important thing to have the physical presences around, and I can dig that.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 1:36pm

While a preschool teacher for kids with special needs I made home visits at least two times a year to see how the kids were doing at home, to see if the parents needed any help or had questions. They often asked me what they could do to help their child, and I answered read to or with them every day. Most were surprised and said they didn't have any books. I made it a point to hunt down books at yard sales to bring with me and showed them how to read them to the chi.d I also told them that the libraries were free and they can check them out. Some parents went alonog with it, but I was so sad when I'd go out to some again and again, to see kids with no books in the house. And yes the parents coud read. Just so sad to see.

another idea for a topic (tho I think it was did in the first AVID thread - how did you learn to read? Who read to you, did you have books, what or who influenced your reading?

toukokuu 8, 2020, 1:35pm

Question 20: Pandemic Reading: Part II

Not much of a change from the first go-round. My actual reading has changed because I no longer have a two-plus hour commute—that was my big reading time. I was trying to keep some morning and evening reading time inviolate in this new normal, but since mornings are when I usually take a long walk that doesn't always happen. Instead I try to get in at least a good hour or more in the evening, and steal some moments away from the computer during the course of the day. If it ever warms up enough here to sit around outside, I'll probably take breaks that way—this may finally be the year I buy outdoor furniture, which I've been saying I want to do since I moved here 16 years ago.

Quantity and quality are the same—I'm not having trouble concentrating, no reading slumps, happily, so it's pretty much business as usual. I do love a good dystopian read, and don't flinch away from reading about pandemics right now—a few friends have recommended John M. Barry's The Great Influenza and I'd really like to get a copy of that, since my library doesn't have the ebook. Much of what I'm reading right now is topical nonfiction for work, which is also good at the moment—I keep my news intake rationed, so a few deep dives into the larger cultural/political scene are welcome.

I have more than enough books here, so my buying has been at a minimum. My big guilty pleasure is clicking on cheap ebooks, both because I don't really need any more and because I really hate Amazon and its empire. But—I guess a holdover from my thrifty used book buying days—I have trouble passing up a bargain, and if I see something I wanted to read anyway for $1.99 or $2.99 I tend to just click like a cocaine-addicted lab rat. My usual book acquisition habits involve picking up galleys and discards at work, which I obviously can't do now, and I miss it so. Signed, Spoiled Rotten

toukokuu 8, 2020, 2:13pm

>175 thorold: & >176 lisapeet:: Well, of course! I'm talking about romance novels and mysteries, common stuff, with water damage and such-like.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 2:45pm

Normalizing to life with Covid threatening. Still home, still fighting lack of structure, but having some mixed success. I finished my first walk-listening-only audiobook - 12 hours of walking. My news obsession has dropped as the kill-the-poor reopening mania has left distaste. But there are other distractions. It’s amazing how I can waste a day. 😕

On the other discussion, it’s interesting to read, here, about some disinterest in Physical books. Over the last ten years my connection to physical books has plummeted. It used to be that the book I read, the actual physical book, was a sacred to me, a part of my mental development. Now it’s just another copy of another book. My issues with ebooks are that they are too hard to flip through or to remember, by sight, locations. There is a blindness that comes with them, and an associated need for mindful precision - which I would rather not worry about. I think that’s my main issue.

>176 lisapeet: i hate deckles pages. Can’t turn the darn page. And flipping pages is out of the question.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 3:20pm

>182 dchaikin: There is a blindness that comes with them

Yes! It’s astonishing the way your mind registers all kinds of auxiliary clues about where a potentially useful bit of information is in a book or a stack of paper, and how little use that is in a digital file. We used to call it “the coffee-stain principle” at work. Not just marks and stains, but things like age, colour and texture of paper, left or right page, arrangement of text on the page, whether there were any drawings nearby, how high up the stack it was. It was often astonishingly efficient, and experienced colleagues could use it to fish the right document out of a pile of thousands very quickly, but of course it wasn’t a good way to find things you’d never had to look for before. The computer would always win if you had some keywords to search for.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 4:44pm

>176 lisapeet: Lisa and Daniel, you can pass you deckle-edged, french-flapped books right over here.

Question 20: Pandemic Reading: Part II

At the beginning of this all, I was reading very little. My reading time gradually increased, reading primarily escapist entertainment.

With the changed structure to my day, I'm reading for an hour or two in the morning. Waking up at the same time as usual and using that time to read. I was also reading in the evening, but my husband and I have been sucked into watching a few episodes of The Wire in the evenings, a series that passed us by the first time round.

As for book buying, you'd think that I'd be resting on my ample tbr, but you would be wrong. I've been buying books from my local independent, using both their curbside delivery and their reservation system, in which you get the bookstore to yourself for a half hour, for browsing purposes. I've also used a few times and am very satisfied with them. I've been trying to order primarily brand new books - it seems such a sad thing for an author's new book to launch into a pandemic.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 3:53pm

>180 lisapeet: I also seem to be unable to pass up a bargain; inexpensive ebooks are also my guilty pleasure. Since the pandemic started, I seem to have acquired many more ebooks than usual.

Since we are retired from full time work, our routine has not changed a lot, and my teaching assignments are all online anyway. However, we have had to adjust our daytime exercise routine somewhat, since the YMCA is closed now. We seem to have fallen into a nice pattern of reading for several hours in the evening, just sticking with our usual reading preferences. We have stopped watching television, and that leaves a lot more time to read.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 5:03pm

Question 18: Heavy tomes, fat books, door-stoppers, omnibuses….

Are you drawn to them?
Not drawn to them in particular, but if the subject is something I'm interested, I'll read it.

Can you remember your first? No. Might have been Vanity Fair.

Do you have a favorite? A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Tell us about your relationship with LARGE books, and a few of your reading experiences—good or bad—with them. I just finished The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. It's 750+ pages.
I liked it well enough but found it a struggle to read compared to the first two parts of her Cromwell trilogy: I had at it for more almost six weeks before I finished it. I think that, like a lot of people, I've found it a bit hard to focus with everything going on in the outside world. Plus I really didn't want to say goodbye to Thomas Cromwell. It's also a lot more political in context, which isn't a bad thing but just a little more complex to stick with, especially when you've put down the book for three or four days.

>95 avaland: There was a time when I thought I would NEVER purchase a Kindle, but I share the same issues with arthritis in my hands and have moved most of my reading to the Kindle Paperwhite that I purchased about six years ago. It's hard for me to hold the heavier big hardbacks, and the problem with paperbacks is the constant pressure required to keep them open. As I get older, my eyes aren't as good as they used to be, and I also appreciate being able to adjust the font size on the Kindle. It's very light, not much heavier than a checkbook.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 4:26pm

>186 Cariola: Plus I really didn't want to say goodbye to Thomas Cromwell.

Oh yes this. The reason why I reread it almost immediatly after the initial read

My problem with Kindle , aside from not being able to flip through to find an important piced of information is the total lack of maps in non fiction. Yes I can sit in front of my tablet and pull one up, but I shouldn't need to (and since my reads are often historical its hard even online to find a map of a certain date and place)

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 4:57pm

Question 19: The Pleasures of Physical Books

Entranced by the cover art? The feel of the book in your hands? (the heft of a tome? the slimness of a novella?) The smell, feel or sound of turning pages? The look of the books lined up on your shelves or piled messily on a table or the floor? Have you ever bought a book, or taken one home from the library, because of the cover art? Tell us about your relationship with the physical book.

Oh, yes! I bought several of the Virago Modern Classics anniversary editions, and I also purchased the full set of Everyman's Library Jane Austen Novels.

Of course, there are those end papers and matching bookmarks in the dove grey Perephone Classics . . .

And this is one of the loveliest covers I own, which has some gilding in the cover design:

toukokuu 8, 2020, 4:55pm

>187 cindydavid4: I totally understand your issue with maps on Kindle. Some of the historical books I read do have them, but of course, they are hard to read. The Paperwhite is B&W only--not helpful when reading anything about art or wanting to to appreciate colorful clothing or landscapes in photos, and the quality of even B&W photos is not great. I also have a Kindle Fire that does show color, but it's heavier and harder on my hands.

I have the DVD set of Wolf Hall, based on the first two books, and plan to rewatch it this weekend. I actually taught Bring Up the Bodies in a historical fiction seminar several years ago.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 5:16pm

>187 cindydavid4: >189 Cariola:
Yes, in theory, the e-reader ought to solve the old problem of reading with one finger in the text, one in the map section and another in the endnotes, but it obviously hasn’t been worth anyone’s while to do that yet...

On the plus side, ebooks are much better for maps than audiobooks. And some of the newer, more expensive readers let you view two pages side by side, or one page plus a sheet for your handwritten notes.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 6:23pm

>187 cindydavid4: I read ebooks on my iPad, which actually makes it pretty easy to toggle between the book and something like a map or family tree, or do a search. And sometimes ebooks have that built in—Wolf Hall had something called an x-ray, so if you highlighted a name it would show you a description of who they were and, even more useful, all the instances of where that person appeared in the text. In a big fat multi-character book like that, it was REALLY helpful, particularly for the context in which that person might have shown up earlier in the novel.

But I do agree about the mental markers missing from ebooks—when I remember a particular passage in a physical book I remember where it was on the page, and I have no such orientation for ebooks. I have to cut and paste, and sometimes include a location with that if the text isn't searchable, for when I want to go back and find it again.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 6:29pm

>190 thorold: Kobo allows you to do all that in single go. I got maps bookmarked for easy lookup, footnotes popup right on the screen, and there is a quick scanning feature muchlike flipping through a book, it even rembers you place. It's about as close to your fingers as it is going to get. I've been out of the kindle world for a long time so i don't know how its done there.

>182 dchaikin: I pretty much love everything abouty ereader, I neve use to annotate physical books because finding pencil markings was such a hassle, but a page for notes and highlights makes marking things down so much better for retention and looking up. Looking for things is a thing of the past.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 6:37pm

I don't think my reading has changed any. I'm on a fairy tale kick right now, but that's mostly chance and what came up. I'm (still) not buying many books, but I am checking out ebooks from the library when I want to read something and don't have it (also normal). Pretty much SOP.

toukokuu 8, 2020, 11:44pm

>188 Cariola: I love that cover as well, too bad about the book itself :( I loved Possession and had high hopes for this one. Oh well. And yeah I love those Everyman classics, and check some of these froms Penguin Classics

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 8, 2020, 11:49pm

>189 Cariola: Oh, do you have that online anywhere? Would love to here more (btw there is a book group read of the three books on Category Challenge 2020 if youd like to add to it) I rewatched the series as well before reading the new one. Just outstanding!

toukokuu 8, 2020, 11:52pm

>193 jjmcgaffey: fairy tales? as in 'fractured fairy tales'? one of my favorite genres!

toukokuu 9, 2020, 3:27am

No, not even my usual modern retellings (standard fairy tales but told about full characters instead of the cardboard silhouettes that usually inhabit fairy tales). The Complete Fairy Tales by George MacDonald (pure fairy tales, standard form), Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (a weird modern-ish (alt-history) story with alchemists and embodied concepts, but the chapter headers are drawn from a fairy tale book - Oz-type, more or less. Unfortunately the book doesn't actually exist, I'd like to read it), and then Miss Landon and Aubranael by Charlotte E. English (elves and fairyland (and trolls, and brownies, and...) in a more-or-less Regency England - Regency romance, with complications of magic). Random choice, all three.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 2020, 3:48am

Ok, not so much fractured fairytales, as modern telling of fairy tales with fantasy and magic. Interesting - my collection includs Gregory Maguire Wicked, Mirror Mirror, Kissing the Witch, Wild Swan' The book of lost things . Most recently read The Bear and the Nightingale a reimagining of Russian fairy tales,. I need to take a look at yours!

toukokuu 9, 2020, 10:12am

>188 Cariola: Beautiful covers all, especially The Children's Book which is so tactile, it draws you right into the book itself.

I am also a fan of the standard Persephone books with their images of textiles on the inside covers (and French flaps). Each textile is selected to match the contents of the book:

Persephone lets you know about the fabric too. This is 'Farm Scene', from 1930, Crysede Ltd.

I notice lately that two of my favourite publishers, And Other Stories and Canongate, have lessened the quality of their covers, most likely in favour of economy. And Other Stories has dropped the aforementioned French flaps and gone with thinner paper for the covers. Canongate had dropped its distinctive glossy covers in favour of a sort of thin cardboard cover, which makes me think of children's school projects, but the contents are still definitely worthwhile:

toukokuu 9, 2020, 10:22am

>188 Cariola: Just watched Pride and Prejudice (2005) on TV and Wuthering Heights (1992) is next. I re-read Wuthering Heights a few weeks ago.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 2020, 12:36pm

>199 SassyLassy: I enjoyed Someone at a distance — the Persephone experience is definitely rewarding. Those Virago Barbara Pym hardbacks with textile-inspired covers are nice too, but I only have Excellent women in that format, cf >188 Cariola:.

Brown cardboard can be nice:


(Of course Schalansky is a designer who also writes novels, so she has a lot of control over how her books look)

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 10, 2020, 1:36am

>200 mnleona: Just watched Pride and Prejudice (2005) on TV and Wuthering Heights (1992) is next.

There was an excellent conversation about the 2005 P&P over at the I Love Jane Austen group a few years ago. If you're looking for some entertainment, you can find it here: Make sure you read post 64 & 72

Is the 1992 Wuthering Heights the one with Ralph Fiennes and Juliet Binoche? Not very close to the book, but still a favourite of mine. The music is so haunting.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 2020, 4:36pm

>188 Cariola:

I adore all those covers. I was so inspired by The Children's Book that I made a Pinterest board for it.

>194 cindydavid4:

I love that cover as well, too bad about the book itself :( I loved Possession and had high hopes for this one.

Interesting -- I love The Children's Book; Possession? Not so much! (It had a gorgeous cover too though)

toukokuu 9, 2020, 4:41pm

Q20 Pandemic Reading

My snail's pace of reading continues at a snail's pace, so no real difference for me. And I'm spending too much time doomscrolling the internet.

I'm always trying to read lighter books, but it rarely happens. I plan to read something breezy, but first I just have to read something else, and then I never get to the fun stuff.

toukokuu 9, 2020, 5:33pm

>167 avaland: Q20 Pandemic reading update

I can't see much real difference in my reading habits. They vary from time to time for different reasons. As far as the types of books I read, I don't see much difference EXCEPT I seem to be enjoying staying with one author for a while. I used to have author jags like this but haven't done it for several years. I'm on my third Olaf Olafsson this year, and have lined up my third Paul Yoon read (and ordered a fourth). There is something about the writing of both of these authors that I find soothing (humane? soulful? empathetic?), so perhaps that's pandemic related.

Usually, I have a great appetite for crime novels but that seems off these days. It could be just a lull; I'm trying out some new-to-me authors.

Yes, I have been liberally buying books, mostly, but not all, used copies. I did support the local bookstore with an order of 16 books (half were early reader paperbacks for the grandson) so I did my bit for the local small business, but then have bought further on ABE, Book Depository (a new Garry Disher!), and yes, a few more kid books via Amazon. We have already donated to deserving charities like the area food pantry/soup kitchen and others, and I've made nearly 200 masks that have been send to relatives, friends, two hospitals, and a large women's shelter in Boston, so I refuse to feel guilty :-)

I love to be surrounded by unread books almost as much as I like being around the books I've already read.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 2020, 8:25pm

Is your reading behavior changed during the pandemic era?
It's a little hard to say. I really burnt myself out with the quantity I read last year. I'm definitely not reading as much (which was the plan, but I'm not even reading as much as I thought I would).

Quality is varying, but suddenly I'm reading terrible fan-translated queer Asian novels. I got some hopefully less terrible, US/UK novels from the library to fill a need I didn't know I had. I'm still enjoying my longer, better books though, and in a long depressing history work right now (which is my general safe reading space).

toukokuu 9, 2020, 11:07pm

>202 Nickelini: thank you for the link to that thread, and the particular posts in it! I really enjoyed it all. And as a bonus I now want to reread P&P.

toukokuu 10, 2020, 12:50pm

related to #19 Interested in covers? Just found this link, these are amazing and I want them all!!!!

toukokuu 10, 2020, 3:29pm

>201 thorold: I'd take a James Kelman book no matter what the cover - but that one looks apt

toukokuu 10, 2020, 3:32pm

>209 SassyLassy: Still the only one I’ve read, to my shame.

toukokuu 15, 2020, 2:09pm

Question 21: Short Stories

Here, courtesy of is just one of the many definitions that exist of the short story— just to get you thinking: A short story is fictional work of prose that is shorter in length than a novel. Edgar Allan Poe, in his essay "The Philosophy of Composition," said that a short story should be read in one sitting, anywhere from a half hour to two hours. In contemporary fiction, a short story can range from 1,000 to 20,000 words. Because of the shorter length, a short story usually focuses on one plot, one main character (with a few additional minor characters), and one central theme, whereas a novel can tackle multiple plots and themes, with a variety of prominent characters. Short stories also lend themselves more to experimentation — that is, using uncommon prose styles or literary devices to tell the story. Such uncommon styles or devices might get tedious, and downright annoying, in a novel, but they may work well in a short story. NOTE: the average book page is usually around 250-300 words.

Tell us about YOUR relationship with short stories. Do you read them? Do you prefer them to other forms of fiction? Why? Do you avoid them? Do you prefer a collection of stories by the same author, or an anthology with works by multiple authors? Who are some of authors you enjoy in short story form? Are there short story collections or anthologies you have loved?

Note: we'll leave the larger "novella" form for a later date.

Inspiration for this question comes from a post by Nickelini on her own thread (used gratefully with her permission) Short story collections are difficult. The reader is constantly figuring out and building new worlds, and then stopping and starting again. There are almost always some duds, or some I don't understand, or some I just don't like.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 2020, 4:40pm

I like experimental short stories that go in interesting directions. The Fat Man in History comes to mind. Stuff by George Saunders.

I don't read a lot of short stories regularly, but I enjoy bingeing on them sometimes. I like the quick payoff.

I also like filling in backstories and details for short stories. For me, they're more participatory in some ways.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 2020, 6:38pm

Short stories work for me in two ways: they introduce me to new authors whose longer works I then want to read, and they fill in gaps and are fun side bits in the longer works of authors I already read (or, OK, new universes - but I usually _want_ them to have/be longer works!). The second is far more reliable, so I'll (nearly) always enjoy a collection by a favorite author.

The former...I keep getting anthologies of award-winning, or nearly-award-winning (The Long List Anthology) stories, and I find that I enjoy the stories by authors I know (even if they don't belong to established universes) and I'm meh on most of the others (and a few I truly dislike). Theoretically I like short stories by new authors, actually reading an anthology is usually more of a chore than enjoyable.

Shared-world anthologies are another category - there the stories all fit (more or less) into one universe, but each author is pursuing their own line. Those are all over the place - there's ones like Thieves' World or Liavek where many of the stories cross paths or share characters, there's ones like the Valdemar anthologies which are more like collections of serials (an author will have a story in each anthology following their characters - and if you miss an anthology you're kind of lost). Plus a few stand-alones in each, which I often enjoy more than the serials.

Put it this way - I think I should enjoy short stories, but mostly I don't unless they're side stories in universes I already know by authors I enjoy.

And I usually find experimentation annoying - I proofread as I read (can't help it) and form a strong image/map of where/when things are happening. Creative spelling/typography, or scrambled timelines, or most of the forms of experimentation I've come across, throw me straight out of the story - and a short doesn't have enough weight to pull me back in. I may finish reading, but it's words-in-a-row rather than immersion into the story.

And to slightly contradict myself - new Penric! yay! The Physicians of Vilnoc is just out. Though this fits into the category of "stories by authors I already love". (and I think it's a novella, anyway - though "shorter than novel" is all one category in my head)

toukokuu 15, 2020, 7:50pm

I love to read short stories. I've even written one or two. I don't like to read collections or anthologies straight through, though. I find that by the end the stories tend to run together in my mind if I do that. So, to quote myself from my 50-Book Challenge thread introduction . . .

I like to read anthologies, collections and other books of short entries one story/chapter at a time instead of plowing through them all at once. I have a couple of stacks of such books from which I read in this manner between the books I read from cover to cover (novels and histories, mostly). So I call these my "between books." When I finish a "between book," I add it to my yearly list.

I also have a giant stack of old magazines in my closet that I'm gradually going through. There's always one in my "between books" stacks. Many of them include two or three short stories, and it's fun to read stories from the 1930s, 40s or 50s by authors I've never heard of. I always look them up on Google, and it often turns out they were fairly well known at the time, even if their names and works haven't remained known to this day. Just as an example, my "between books" stacks currently include these short story collections:

Cape Horn and Other Stories From the End of the World by Francisco Coloane.
The Death of Methuselah by Isaac Singer
Foreign Shores by Marie-Hélène Laforest
Great Irish Tales of Horror: A Treasury of Fear edited by Peter Haining
Living in the Weather of the World by Richard Bausch
A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
Argosy Magazine - April 1958 has three short stories

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 16, 2020, 6:12am

Q21: Short stories

There's a simple two-word argument for reading short stories: Alice Munro!

...but she's not the only writer you'd miss out on if you didn't read short fiction: I take a lot of pleasure in writers like Herman Charles Bosman and Henry Lawson who were writing in times and places where there wasn't much of a market for novels, or Katherine Mansfield who never got around to writing a novel, or Kipling who did write novels but wasn't very good at it (except Kim).

And then there's Chekhov, Jorge Luis Borges, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Roberto Bolaño, Robert Walser, Maupassant and many, many more...

Some writers better known as novelists also wrote short stories which gave them the chance to do more experimental things: even P G Wodehouse goes out on a limb from time to time in the short form (e.g the more surreal Mr Mulliner stories). One writer I almost missed as a short story writer was Elizabeth Taylor — it turns out that she was a major New Yorker contributor in the 50s and 60s when American magazines were still paying seriously big money for stories. There's a lot of very good stuff in the collection You'll enjoy it when you get there.

I don't read a lot of multi-author anthologies, but they are useful from time to time to discover writers I didn't know about. I have most of the Men on men collections of gay short fiction from the 80s and 90s, for instance, though I haven't looked at them for a while.

Our book club has been reading one or two individual short stories a week while we've been in lockdown: that allows us to sample all kinds of interesting and varied stuff in a manageable form, even if we don't have time for a novel.

toukokuu 16, 2020, 8:53am

>215 thorold: "Some writers better known as novelists also wrote short stories . . . "

Two writers whose short stories I enjoy although I don't like their novels are Henry James and D.H. Lawrence.

toukokuu 16, 2020, 9:37am

>216 rocketjk: Nathaniel Hawthorne is a master short story writer. His novels are dreadful, imo.

I'd argue that Flannery O'Connor's shorter works are more accessible than her longer works.

toukokuu 16, 2020, 10:01am

Of course, short stories vary wildly and some will work better for any one reader than others. But, when I read them, and they work for me, I tend to really like the openness that comes with them, the impression of a larger story we’re sampling.

As someone who has lot of trouble starting books and figuring out how to get into them, short stories do present with a bit of a challenge. Starting a new story every time I sit down to read is not ideal. So I don’t randomly read isolated short stories (weakening their ability to introduce me to many new authors). But I can manage this when they are in a collection, and I’ve become very fond on “the collected stories of” single authors. Then I can use the analysis of the authors evolving writing aspects or variations of themes, or just the story commonalities to overcome that book-starting issue.

When I think of collections, I think of the literary magazines I used to read (but haven’t been able to lately), and Grace Paley and Flannery O’Connor. Also Gabriel Garcia Marquez and now distant memories of Checkhov and Isaac Bashevis Singer. I just recently bought Willa Cather’s collected stories and I’m really looking forward to them.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 17, 2020, 1:11am

My 6th grade teacher had us reading short stories all year: O'Henty, Saki, Poe, Twain, Later read Chekov.. Went on to reading sci fi shorts by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clark Kurt Vonnegut, Neil Gaiman. Lately Ken Liu is my fave short story writer. I enjoy short story analogies like the Best American Short Stories series that are colllections of stories published in magazines. I am drawn to novels more because I can sink myself into the story for a long amount of time. But then a short story I read in the NYer by Alan Garganus haunted me and stayed in my head for days

Thieves World was great! Ive read some similar books put together by different authors that were interesting.

toukokuu 17, 2020, 9:43am

>215 thorold: Our book club has been reading one or two individual short stories a week while we've been in lockdown.... That's a really interesting idea.

toukokuu 17, 2020, 10:41am

Question 21, short stories:

The science fiction I favor gets much of its DNA from the US magazine market of the 1920s-1970s, where stories had to be short, so that several might fit into a single monthly volume. No surprise then that I've always read short SF. Some major writers have all or nearly all their best work in short fiction, and get overlooked these days, when novels are emphasized over short stories. I think that plagues Ted Chiang currently, whose entire career so far fits into his two collections. James Tipree, Jr. (pseudonym for Alice B. Sheldon) wrote a couple of novels, but they're much inferior to her short stories, mainly her novellas. Harlan Ellison, Fredric Brown - lots of short-fiction specialists.

I go about equally for single- and multi-author books. I used to buy the year's-best compilations by the late Gardner Dozois, but tended not to read everything in them; am considering switching to Jonathan Strahan as the best current substitute.

Does a sufficiently large collection count as a tome? My 13-volume set of the collected stories of Theodore Sturgeon looms on the bookshelf, and I really must get to it soon. Likewise the big anthologies of Jeff and Ann VanderMeer, of Science Fiction and of Weird fiction.

When I was young, many of the stories I read had a fair bit of O. Henry in them - a need to end on a twist or turnabout. Except for horror stories, that seems to be less common now. I think I'm glad, for all the starts those twists sometimes provided.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 17, 2020, 11:16am

Fwiw, I used to read or find recordings of short stories for my college lit students. It was pretty clear that many of these students had never been read to very much as children, and hearing Basil Rathbone read Young Goodman Brown or Vincent Price The Telltale Heart was both a pleasure and a real discussion starter!

toukokuu 17, 2020, 11:26am

Related topic - essays. just sayin :)

toukokuu 17, 2020, 11:29am

Vincent Price could read from a phone book and I'd listen! Theres a reason why he was picked to read in the Thriller!

toukokuu 17, 2020, 11:45am

>220 avaland: Feel free to try it! We have a short weekly video-meeting, about an hour divided between gossip and the story. It seems to be a good idea to pick at least one story so short that the deadline-challenged can still manage to skim through it in the time it takes the rest of us to log into the meeting.
The only mistake we made was to establish Sunday evening for our slot: that is prime Netflix time, and a couple of our members have had to pull rank in the family to get their share of the bandwidth.

toukokuu 17, 2020, 1:21pm

>225 thorold: I used to have a compilation of Saki stories I would read at lunch time. All very short.

toukokuu 17, 2020, 2:03pm

>226 nohrt4me2: Yes, we should do a Saki story, he hasn't come up yet.

I've still got Kawabata's Palm-of-the-hand stories on my TBR shelf, as well — none or those is more than about two pages long.

toukokuu 18, 2020, 1:50pm

It always seems a little weird to me that fiction is so dominated by novels, and that a lot of people regard short stories as inferior or less interesting or something. To my mind, a good story is a good story. And not all stories are meant to be the same length. Certainly not all of them are meant to be novels. Plus, there's something to be said for a short, sharp, self-contained stab of idea or emotion, which isn't something novels can give you. (Not that all short stories give you that, of course, or even try to. But you're definitely not getting it out of a full-length novel.) I think the important thing is that a work of fiction be the right length for what it is and what it wants to do.

The best short story collection I've read in recent memory was The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.

toukokuu 18, 2020, 7:51pm

>228 bragan: I agree with your thoughts on this. I have read quite a few novels that could easily have been decent short stories, and eliminated a lot of wordiness.

I do not often read short stories, but my favorites are anthologies of Agatha Christie stories, such as Masterpieces in Miniature. I like to read short stories when I am traveling, particularly flying (which I have not done lately!) since I am a nervous flyer. I like something that I can finish during the flight, and that keeps my mind occupied.

toukokuu 19, 2020, 11:29am

>224 cindydavid4: Thanks for the laugh. I totally agree. I will re-watch any movie he is in.

I read short and long books and magazines.

toukokuu 19, 2020, 3:48pm

Going back to q19 I just read Emily Dickinson's fasicle 25, and thought a few may enjoy the first poem therein:

though maybe what she says, whilst sensuous at times doesn't have to be about the physical, though no other for her, maybe the mind, but very concerned with the physical past too

toukokuu 19, 2020, 5:29pm

>231 tonikat: Thank you for sharing that! I don't feel the need to be around *my* old books, and have given away or recycled them. But I do see a value in being able to look at books and manuscripts from another age. Seeing the print smudges or brush strokes in letters is like getting up close to a Van Gogh and seeing how he layered on the impasto. There is something very human and intimate about these things.

toukokuu 20, 2020, 4:14am

>232 nohrt4me2: very true, like machines that speak, recordings of thinking and being, prompts to share that

toukokuu 20, 2020, 1:59pm

>231 tonikat: Thanks for sharing that lovely bit of writing. Very appropriate.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 22, 2020, 2:47pm

Question 21 short stories....

I enjoy short stories as I do most forms of fiction. It's just a different form of storytelling. I think a certain flexibility of mind is useful when reading short fiction, maybe that's why I don't often sit and read more than one or two in a sitting. Not every author is adept with the form, but sometimes I like a bit of adventure. I don't really think I came to really appreciate the form until the 1990s.

Sometimes, I will binge on short stories, but in the last few years I have read more single author collections than anthologies. I do have a small bookcase full of anthologies, many of which are themed by country; books like: Secret Weavers: Stories of the Fantastic by Women Writers of Argentina and Chile, Loud Sparrows: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts, and The Inner Courtyard: Stories by Indian Women (yes, many are focused on women writers). I have other general and themed anthologies (Norton...etc), SF or Gothic, women's writing ...etc.

As for single author collections, I agree Alice Munro is the queen, the collections I've read of hers tend to be evenly fabulous. But, there are many others I have really enjoyed. . Sometimes, I am reading a collection from an author whose novels I'm familiar with (such as, Barker, Butler Djebar, Morrow...etc) and other times it's author unknown to me. I found Jabari Asim, Bonnie Jo Campbell and Jason Brown via reviews somewhere (probably PW) and subsequently have looked for more of their work.

Here is just a smattering—a wide variety—of collections I have liked (based on memory and my ratings). I have not been consistent about rating or reviewing short story collections because I find it oftentimes really difficult to do so (especially the translations).

A Taste of Honey by Jabari Asim
Tropical Fish: Tales From Entebbe by Doreen Baingana
Heading Inland by Nicola Barker
Vintage Bradbury by Ray Bradbury
Why the Devil Chose New England for His Work: Stories by Jason Brown
Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler
American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell
The Bloody Chamber and Other Adult Tales by Angela Carter
The Tongue's Blood Does Not Run Dry : Algerian stories by Assia Djebar
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Country of the Pointed Firs and Other Stories by Sarah Orne Jewett
Think Like a Dinosaur: And Other Stories by James Patrick Kelly
Black Juice by Margo Lanagan
Everything in This Country Must: A Novella and Two Stories by Colum McCann
Mothers & Other Monsters by Maureen McHugh
Love in Infant Monkeys: Stories by Lydia Millett
Bible Stories for Adults by James Morrow
Sourland: Stories; By the North Gate; Dear Husband (so many I could list here) by Joyce Carol Oates
Tiny Deaths by Robert Shearman
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories by Kevin Wilson
The Mountain: Stories by Paul Yoon

I won't belabor this post further with a list of anthologies.!:-)

toukokuu 22, 2020, 2:59pm

>227 thorold: Update: Kawabata has to be added to my list of favourite short story writers. He does amazing things, usually in under four pages.

>235 avaland: Oh yes, I was forgetting The bloody chamber! That must have been nearly as influential as Katharine Mansfield’s books.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 22, 2020, 4:52pm

Question 22: Classic characters

Lois asked me to post this week's question: it's based on a newspaper paragraph from October 1938 I came across in passing:
Readers of The Observer were recently asked to name six characters from novels of the present century most likely to be remembered fifty years hence. Those that received the most votes were Soames Forsyte, Jeeves, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Jesse Oakroyd, Father Brown and Peter Pan. Sherlock Holmes only just missed being included in the six.

That probably demonstrates how difficult it is to predict these things. Despite the 1980s TV version of The Good Companions, I don't think there would have been many — even in Yorkshire — in 1988 who put Jesse Oakroyd ahead of Sherlock Holmes. Let alone nowadays.

- Who do you think the readers of The Observer should have picked as the most memorable characters from fiction published in the period 1901-1938?
- Who would they be for the 20th century as a whole?
- Are there fictional characters from the 21st century who already stand out to you as characters people will remember in fifty or a hundred years from now?
- Fictional characters from stage, film, TV, and even radio played a huge part in 20th century culture (even Peter Pan from the Observer list appeared in a play before he was ever in a novel; Holmes was portrayed in dozens of films) — how much difference do you think appearing in other media makes to a character's longevity? Are there characters from films or TV who will outlive characters who have only been on the printed page?
- The Observer 6+1 were all men. Are women (and minorities) really marginal in the memorability stakes?

The Observer readers were mostly British, of course, but we are worldwide, so don't let yourself be restricted by borders!

toukokuu 22, 2020, 5:09pm

wow, this is going to take some thought. Need links to the best sellers of each year, or maybe the pulitzer for each year.....

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 22, 2020, 5:40pm

Re: your question about who they should have picked for the period 1901-1938 . Here are some suggestions:
Scarlet O'Hara? Rhett Butler? (1936)
Pollyanna (1913) The character's name has become immortalized as a term meaning: "Foolishly optimistic" but does that mean the character herself is remembered?
Jay Gatsby (1925)

Yes, I think the more media treatment of the character, whether that means plays, movies, television...etc (and don't forget the commercialization --mugs, T-shirts, you know what I mean) re-enforces characters in our memories, although many would not be remembering the characters from the original book/s.

toukokuu 22, 2020, 5:14pm

Question 21: Short Stories

At their best, short stories are novels distilled, perfectly crafted pieces that hold all the power of a much longer work in just a few pages. At their worst, well, they're quickly over. Some novelists are even better short story writers (Curtis Sittenfield, Ernest Hemingway) and some excellent novelists are not great short story writers (Jeffrey Eugenides).

Favorite collections include:

I Cannot Tell a Lie, Exactly: And Other Stories by Mary Ladd Gavell -- Gavell was never published in her lifetime but, boy, do her stories hit like the best of John Cheever.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah -- You'll know after the first two stories if you're going to love this collection, a mix of speculative fiction, satire and rage at American racism.

A Lucky Man: Stories by Jamel Brinkley -- the strongest stories in this collection are the one centered on boys growing up. I Happy Am will still be being read a century from now.

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine -- Fajardo-Anstine sets most of the stories in this collection in a working class Latinx neighborhood in Denver that is slowly gentrifying.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado -- odd and fairy tale-tinged, if you like Angela Carter, you'll like Machado.

I could add another twenty to this list.

toukokuu 22, 2020, 5:43pm

>239 avaland: Oh, did you slip that Angela Carter reference in there for me? :-)

Psst, go ahead and add another 20...why not?

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 22, 2020, 6:11pm

Hard to believe Elizabeth Bennett was not on the 1938 list. Or Huckleberry Finn. Or Heathcliffe.

Characters invented since 1938 who might be remembered in another 80 years (if there is justice in the universe)? Billy Pilgrim from Slaughterhouse Five, Annie Wilkes from Misery, Offred from The Handmaid's Tale, Arthur Dent from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Olive Kitteridge from Olive Kitteridge.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2020, 4:20am

Q22: Classic characters

My immediate thought — conditioned by the British slant of the original responses, I suppose — was that Mister Toad (book 1908, play 1929), Kim (book 1901) and Richard Hannay (books 1915-1936; films from 1935) should have been in the original set. (Mowgli first appeared in 1894, otherwise he'd be in as well. And I forgot Winnie-the-Pooh)

But then I thought about Tarzan (1912); Hercule Poirot (1921); Lord Peter Wimsey (1923); Miss Marple (1927); Tintin (1929); Sam Spade (1930); Maigret (from 1931) ...

In serious literature there perhaps aren't that many characters who stand out over and above the books they appear in. Jay Gatsby (mentioned in >239 avaland:) is obviously one of them. Stephen Dedalus, Molly and Leopold Bloom (1922) also probably have rather more fans and re-enactors nowadays than the Forsytes or the Good Companions. Otherwise, what about Josef K. (1925)?

It occurs to me that (amongst others) the heirs of Ian Fleming and P G Wodehouse have commissioned new writers to add to the series that they earn their living from. It would be hard to imagine the Thomas Mann estate commissioning a third-party series of Hans Castorp stories set in prestigious clinics around the world, or the Camus estate putting out a tender for "Meursault in Ibiza/Fire Island/Phuket" — those are characters who simply don't have any reason to exist outside the books they originally appeared in. The same probably goes for Mrs Dalloway ("Clarissa and the Fascist Menace"? — I don't think so!).

Wondering about the gender imbalance in the original list got me thinking about Dorothy L Sayers: Lord Peter Wimsey is a ridiculous, two-dimensional, fantasy figure most of the time, whilst Harriet Vane is complicated, nuanced, and believable. In Gaudy night Lord Peter barely has a walk-on part, Harriet gets all the action and reader interest, but we still think of him as the memorable character...


For the "rest of the 20th century", James Bond is obviously going to last, however much we may hate him(!). Maybe George Smiley will provide a bit of balance, but he's a long way behind.
Philip Marlowe (1939) only just missed being created in time for the first list.
Harry Flashman was of course originally conceived in the 1850s, but his 1960s reincarnation is what counts.
I'm a big fan of Horace Rumpole, but I'm not sure if John Mortimer's view of the legal profession will still seem relevant a few decades from now.
Harry Potter seems to be fading a bit already, but he's made such a big impact on a couple of generations of kids that it will take some time for him to disappear altogether.
Asterix seems to have much more staying power than General de Gaulle.
Holly Golightly seems to be one of those rare cases where a great character comes out of a forgettable book, although she probably wouldn't be anything like as memorable without Audrey Hepburn.

Maybe Hilary Mantel's version of Thomas Cromwell will turn out to be the big literary monument of the first couple of decades of this century?


A few more lists:

toukokuu 23, 2020, 9:01am

Oops, I never weighed in on Question 21: Short Stories yet.

Anyone who knows me knows that I loooove short fiction—I read a lot, review short stories often for Library Journal, and have helped judge the magazine's Best Short Stories of the Year award for the past few years. I think it's a really tough art form to get right, just because the author has so much less space for exposition, action, denouement, character- and world-building. They want economy and a real regard for language to be done right. I was also enamored of the O. Henry twist as a kid, and the intense sf short story world-building immersion as a teen (I was a Fantasy & SF subscriber for years), and the kind of atmospheric "New Yorker"-type stories, where nothing happened but you were transported somewhere, as a young adult. Now I like to see a combination of all those, but plot is important—and I think that's the hardest thing to do right in short fiction, honestly.

I love all the deep favorites—Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, Anton Chekhov, Mavis Gallant, Deborah Eisenberg, Tobias Wolff, Flannery O'Connor, Lucia Berlin, William Trevor, John Updike, Lorrie Moore, Katherine Anne Porter, Grace Paley, Breece D'J Pancake, Joy Williams, Denis Johnson, Rick Bass (in no particular order, and I'm sure I'm leaving another 50 off the list).

A few other recent collections I've liked in the past year (I see a big overlap with RidgewayGirl), or at least that I've listed here because I'm too lazy to go look up older book lists:

This Is Not an Accident by April Wilder
Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman
Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman
Thunderstruck and Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken
The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol
The Dog by Jack Livings
Beasts and Children by Amy Parker
There's Something I Want You to Do by Charles Baxter
You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
A Lucky Man by Jamel Brinkley
Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell
Rag by Maryse Meijer
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Fly Already by Etgar Keret

But that's a pretty random list, and the second I post this I'll no doubt remember a bunch more.

I do like best-of-the-year collections—Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, Best New American Voices, O. Henry Prize, etc., and I'm looking to expand my reading to more foreign-language and under the radar anthologies (by which I mean I have a bunch on my shelves and more good intentions than time).

toukokuu 23, 2020, 9:53am

QUESTION 21: Short Stories

I am a true believer when it comes to short stories. I have never understood those who feel they are a somehow lesser form of fiction. Presenting a complete story with all the components of good fiction in a concise form is a difficult exercise indeed, requiring incredible skill.

There are so many short story writers I admire. A few would include:

Robert Louis Stevenson
James Kelman
Ivan Bunin
Aleksandr Pushkin
Somerset Maugham
Su Tong
Hilary Mantel
Zhang Ailing
Ernest Hemingway
T C Boyle - I'm surprised no one has mentioned him
Italo Calvino

Okay, closer to a dozen than a few, but you get the idea.

It occurs to me that many of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries are written in short story format, so for a baker's dozen, add Arthur Conan Doyle.

I read both collections and anthologies. One of the benefits of anthologies is that they introduce the reader to writers who might otherwise have remained unknown. I also like anthologies centred around a theme.

As far as anthologies go, I think one of the best anthologists is Alberto Manguel, a multilingual devourer of fiction, passionate about Stevenson, Borges and Kipling. How could you not love him?

In this essay on anthologies, he reminds us among other things, that The Arabian Nights is an anthology of stories from several centuries:

From his website, here is a list of his anthologies: Sorry the link does not go directly to the page, but if you look under 'Works', then 'Anthologies', you will find them.

Completely off topic, but I would just add that one of my favourite reference books is his Dictionary of Imaginary Places

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2020, 12:12pm


I suppose Jim from Lord Jim is technically too early a character, as the book was published in 1900 and the original list started at 1901. Still, I would put him, now, on any list of lastingly memorable fictional characters of the early 20th Century. Conrad's Marlow, too.

20th Century as a whole: Holden Caufield, Yossarian, and Nathan Zuckerman come to mind for me. Otherwise, off the top of my head . . .

I guess T.S. Garp is fading (or has already faded) from public consciousness.

Has anyone mentioned Johnny Tremain?

Due to the miserable (in my opinion) movie based on the brilliant novel, Roy Hobbs (The Natural) might go on a list of characters who will last.

ETA: Whatever one may come to think decades after originally reading On the Road, I think that book may well continue to resonate going forward for some people, Americans at least, as they reach their late teens and early 20s, say. So I will nominate Dean Moriarity as a character who will last in American popular culture and consciousness.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2020, 3:12pm

>244 lisapeet: was also enamored of the O. Henry twist as a kid, and the intense sf short story world-building immersion as a teen , and the kind of atmospheric "New Yorker"-type stories, where nothing happened but you were transported somewhere

Heck I still like those kinda stories which is why I like that mag.

>245 SassyLassy: Completely off topic, but I would just add that one of my favourite reference books is his Dictionary of Imaginary Places

Something very similar :encyclopedia of mysterious places and its companion tome also illustrated by Robert Ingpen encyclopedia of things that never were When I am looking for something in these books, I end up sitting down and getting distracted by other pages!

Interesting that Ingpen names Arthur Rackman and Edmun Dulac (early illustrators of children book) as his inspirations for his drawing style

serious tho I want to see ths someday

Early in 2018 Robert Ingpen completed ‘The Magic Bookcase’ mural which is now donated by him to the National Library of Australia under the Cultural Arts Program of Australia. The painting is on seven panels each 900mm x 1200mm, painted in egg tempera on marine plywood. The large painting depicts a bookcase without any books. Instead, the shelves are filled with characters from classical stories who, through the imagination of the illustrator, are borrowed from the pages of books where they traditionally belong. The literary characters are gathered to be identified, enjoyed and believed by young people as they mature in imagination and belief with the help of great literature.

another topic: illustrators of children books in the golden age (1880-1920s)

toukokuu 23, 2020, 3:35pm

Q 21 short stories

This is me, from the original post with the question: Inspiration for this question comes from a post by Nickelini on her own thread (used gratefully with her permission) Short story collections are difficult. The reader is constantly figuring out and building new worlds, and then stopping and starting again. There are almost always some duds, or some I don't understand, or some I just don't like.

I came to that conclusion about 10 years ago when I was reading a lot of short stories but finding they made me very tired. Since then, I've heard many literary discussions and read about short stories and why, in the 21st century, they're a hard sell. Despite the exhaustion, I still try to fit in short stories here and there. Some of my favourite on the more literary side are Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton.

One of the best anthologies out there (and one that was recommended to me as definitive for understanding the form) was Points of View.

A favourite from my late teens was Night Shift by Stephen King.

An unforgettable collection is The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl

A single-author book where I enjoyed almost every story: Horse Flower Bird, by Kate Bernheimer

The master of the very short short story is Jenn Farrell with The Devil You Know.

Daydreams of Angels by Heather O'Neill is excellent

Thomas King's short stories are hit and miss, but the hits are amazing.

I like >214 rocketjk: and the idea of the "between" book. I have 2 very old anthologies on top of my dresser for exactly that, but the only time I pick them up is to dust them :-( (Must try to remember!)

toukokuu 23, 2020, 3:43pm

Q 22

Who would they be for the 20th century as a whole?


how much difference do you think appearing in other media makes to a character's longevity? Are there characters from films or TV who will outlive characters who have only been on the printed page?

I'm going to throw it out there that NO character will be remembered from a book if it doesn't also appear in a TV show or film.

The 20th century is going to have a lot of characters with longevity. Too many to begin to name, but I'll throw out the characters from The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2020, 6:53pm

I'm not fond of short fiction, so I am choosing to skip that question.

As far as characters go, Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe must be included. I feel stupefied with the question, as there are just so very many names which deserve inclusion. I also think there are names that were well-known at the time, although not published between those years. I give as an example for that Long John Silver and Robinson Crusoe. Those books were widely read and admired during that time. For my money Phileas Fogg would be another example of that type, as well as Captain Nemo, but I know the first one would not be that popular a choice.

Of a certainty--Zorro!
Tom Sawyer
Atticus Finch
I agree on Tarzan and Tintin
For the 20th century we have to include John Galt for the immense loyalty of those fans.
Comic strips give some memorable ones, like Charlie Brown and L'il Abner.
Tom Swift? from Radio--The Shadow.
Charlie Chan
What about Raffles? Anne Shirley?

I give up. I agree that what you might call literature gives few examples. Popular culture is fertile with them.

Editing to add "Little Nemo" to the Comic Strips entry.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2020, 7:22pm

Arthur Dent
Tyrone Slothrop
Holden Caulfield
Franny & zooey

and the way reality is going all those pop / rock myths of the 60's and 70's, that whole impossibility

owen meany

earlier - Lucy Honeychurch? the schlegels? :O Leonard Bast!

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 23, 2020, 9:26pm

Question 21: Short Stories

Generally I like short stories every now and then, and usually prefer an anthology that has a collection of different authors. Sometimes reading the same author's stories in one volume can be a bit much.

I'd say the only volume of stories by one author that stands out for me (and I haven't seen mentioned here) is The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. In a way they are thematically based, and several stories are a re-telling of the same events from a different person's point of view. These were powerful stories.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 24, 2020, 12:16am

>251 tonikat: Lucy Honeychurch? the schlegels? :O Leonard Bast!

I was thinking about them, because Forster’s books are so key to the way I think about that period, but I didn’t really feel any of those characters has an identity that reaches outside the book. We probably wouldn’t recognise Bast if we were sitting next to him at a concert...

Holden Caulfield does, though. He pops up in all sorts of places. (Die neuen Leiden des jungen W., for instance!)

toukokuu 24, 2020, 12:21am

The Cat in the Hat
Horton the Elephant

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 24, 2020, 7:25am

>249 Nickelini: Having gone back and looked at prize winners and bestsellers for early in the century; I'm inclined to agree with your statement that "no character will be remembered...if it doesn't also appear in a TV show or film" ...or perhaps is required reading in school or university?

Don't characters survive if they somehow resonate with subsequent generations? And should characters of some books that are racist, misogynist...etc be remembered?...unless they can be updated in media? Tarzan is a good example; his character spoke to a different world. Here's a piece about him: (personally, I don't see updating Tarzan viable)

>243 thorold: But how many of those characters will be remembered as characters in books? As an avid reader, I'm a bit sad to see characters 'freed' from their literary roots, but we live in a different world now, don't we? My 37 yo daughter and I had a lovely discussion about Anne Shirley when the latest television adaptation ("Anne with an E") appeared. She read the books when she was a girl, so that's more than a 100 year lifespan for Anne Shirley.

And it occurs to me upon re-reading your first post, that we live very much in a global world these days...and how does that affect the longevity of characters going forward? Or does it? With the exception of Sherlock, I read many of those British detectives after being introduced to them via television (btw, I agree re Lord Peter & Harriet).

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 24, 2020, 9:47am

>253 thorold:

I wondered something similar, but wondered about Miss H and the Schlegels if maybe it was as they took so many everyday forms, it is hard to know which is the definition. As to Mr Bast - the world is still full of them, silent and unknown, always unique and doomed (?? was my wondering, though maybe saved from being saved and so doomed, occasionally)

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 24, 2020, 9:48am

- Are there fictional characters from the 21st century who already stand out to you as characters people will remember in fifty or a hundred years from now?

>255 avaland: "But how many of those characters will be remembered as characters in books?"

I guess one question is: remembered by whom? People who love books will remember them as characters in books. People who don't read will remember them as characters in movies or TV. After all, the original list in post #237 was assembled by readers of the Observer. I would take a wild guess that even at that time, it would have been a tougher task assembling such a list by asking the average person on the street.

toukokuu 24, 2020, 10:50am

>255 avaland: >257 rocketjk: But how many of those characters will be remembered as characters in books?

Maybe that isn't so important in the long run. If we call someone a Lothario or a Don Juan, or a Falstaff, or an artful dodger, or quixotic, we're ultimately doing it because someone created a memorable character in a book (or a play), but we almost certainly don't have that consciously in mind when we say it.

toukokuu 24, 2020, 1:47pm

>252 kac522: That book was amazing. I grew up during the war and thought I knew, but I didn't.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 24, 2020, 1:59pm

>258 thorold: Maybe that isn't so important in the long run. If we call someone a Lothario or a Don Juan, or a Falstaff, or an artful dodger, or quixotic, we're ultimately doing it because someone created a memorable character in a book (or a play), but we almost certainly don't have that consciously in mind when we say it.

Totally agree. I do love how culture takes these famous characters to fit their needs. Think of the Teenage Ninja Turtles. I had my students go look up who the real Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo were and what they were famous for. Lots of fun!

There are also the characters from the Italian Commedia de Arte during the Renaissance. that we still use today: Harlequin, Pantalone, Pulcinella (Punch), Pierrot, Scaramuche (Scaramuch from Bohemian Rapsody), Prima Donna

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 24, 2020, 3:31pm

I really enjoyed reading the lists in the links in >143 thorold:, but I'm hesitant to add my own list, partially because all the ones I really wanted to add are already named either above here, or in those links. And partially because I don't know where to go separating cinema from books, comic books from other books, children's books from other books...or non-fictional and semi-nonfictional memoir characters from truly fictional ones. (Norman Maclean, Edward Abbey and Bruce Chatwin all loom large to me - in their literary forms). For whatever reason, the 20th-century names that linger _after_ reading all those lists are Tarzan, Tintin and Holden Caulfield.

toukokuu 24, 2020, 6:29pm

>258 thorold: "If we call someone a Lothario or a Don Juan, or a Falstaff, or an artful dodger, or quixotic, we're ultimately doing it because someone created a memorable character in a book (or a play), . . ."

Or if we call somebody a grinch! :)

toukokuu 24, 2020, 8:00pm

Yes!!! or 'A Romeo'

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 7:17am


It's likely that all of us have had many, many books assigned to us in school during our adolescence. Of course, books commonly assigned in school might vary by the era in which they are assigned; the country (even regions within) that you live in, or by aspects of the individual teacher assigning. Do you remember many of the books assigned to you when you were roughly 12 - 18 years of age? Are there choices that stay with you even to this day? (either because you loved them or disliked them) Were there controversial assignments? Did the choices ever have a local bent? Did the teacher assigning the book make a difference? It's not necessary to answer these specific questions but please think back to those adolescent assignments; tell us about your experiences with them and your attitude towards them now.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 8:56am

Maybe a silly question, but what exactly does it mean to have a book "assigned"?

I think it must be a specifically American idea, I don't remember that we ever got a book formally imposed on us in any way at school, except for the "set books" that were on the syllabus of the examination boards for the external exams we did ("O" and "A" levels at that time). For the exam courses there were usually alternatives available, but the school decided which ones we were going to do, we weren't consulted. I assume they picked according to the state of the book-buying budget.

Teachers would give us things to read for specific lessons, of course, but it was rarely a whole book, more often a short story or part of a play. Sometimes a chapter from a novel. We had theatre companies and local poets coming in from time to time, of course, or we went to local theatres, but I can't remember now which of those would have been "lessons" and which were things we just did for fun.

For the Eng Lit "O" level (when I was about 16) we had three set books: Far from the madding crowd, which was great, I still love Hardy; Death of a salesman, which made little sense to any of us: it was a lot easier for us to understand the social nuances of Hardy's Wessex than Miller's 50s America (with hindsight it makes no sense at all to give teenagers a play about middle-aged despair); and there was a poetry collection, which I think had Hardy, Frost, Yeats, Dylan Thomas and some of the WWI poets in it.

Otherwise, I can remember Pliny's Letters (yawn!); Aeneid IV (sex in caves!); Catullus (fun!); The birds of Aristophanes (totally forgotten now), and I think Xenophon's Anabasis. We didn't have a lit paper in either French or German at "O" level, and I did sciences at "A" level, so I never got to read Der Schimmelreiter or Le rouge et le noir , which I think were the popular choices at the time. (I've read both since then, of course.)

In the last couple of years at school we had something called "general studies", which was an excuse to do interesting things that didn't fit into the syllabus. The head of English gave a fantastic mini-course on the history of the novel in eight weeks — it started with Don Quixote and ended with Ulysses, IIRC, although of course we didn't have time to read more than short extracts from most of the books. And I remember reading Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum for a German mini-course, and a Simenon novel for French. But I think those were more the type of courses where you went away to read what you liked and then came back to tell the rest of the group about it.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 10:46pm

I was just thinking about this recently! I think because Lord of the Flies has been in the news a bit.

The books I remember being assigned at senior school were:
Lord of the Flies
To Kill A Mockingbird

For GCSEs (which took over from >265 thorold: O levels) we read Silas Marner, plus two other texts which I don't remember. One must have been a Shakespeare but which one?

For A levels, we read Sylvia Plath, TS Eliot, Portrait of a Lady, A Winter's Tale, King Lear and again there must have been others which I can't remember.

I really didn't like Silas Marner, I remember finding the morality and 'karma' very mechanistic.

The A level texts were tough, but I am really glad that we read them, as if I had read them on my own I wouldn't have been able to persevere, and come to understand and appreciate them.

I remember arguing with my teacher when she said that one of the themes of A Winter's Tale was time. I compared it to Silas Marner and she said, yes, if we were doing Silas Marner for A level we would have talked about time as a theme in that. That blew my tiny mind as it hadn't occurred to me that we were looking at the books in a different way as we became more experienced.

The GCSE and A level ones would have come from the exam board, as >265 thorold: says, so there wouldn't have been much flexibility for the school or teacher.

We also read Troilus and Cressida during A levels before a school trip to Stratford where we watched King Lear, Troilus and Cressida and The Alchemist.

For my French A level I specifically asked to read some literature as the school was not planning to teach it. The relevant exam board had several 'themes' each one with three or four books? The only theme I remember was 'family', which included Vipère au Poing (from what I remember, a devastating book about a terrible relationship between a son and a mother), and a book with a long title which was about a family with lots of children and in retrospect I think was probably quite a reactionary book, as it seemed to be about how terrible it was that families on social services kept having children.

It would be interesting to work out what it was that have made some books memorable and others less so. Sadly as I can't remember the ones I can't remember, it's hard to work it out... Perhaps it is the ones which I had a reaction to - I can remember emotional responses or particular scenes from a few of the above.

ETA: other people's comments have reminded me that Women In Love (which I hated) was also an A level set text.

We also read Journey's End, although I don't think this was for an exam.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 10:18am

>266 wandering_star: I'd forgotten Lord of the flies — yes, that was a novel we read in full, too. Probably fairly late in school, because I remember there being a discussion about Golding's famous mistaken understanding of optics.

Another play we read, that just came into my head for some reason: Robert Bolt's The Mission, a play I've never come across anywhere else since. Plus lots of bits and pieces of Shakespeare, like >266 wandering_star:. The only Stratford trip I remember from school was to see Glenda Jackson as Cleopatra, which must have been 1978. But that wasn't a set book.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 10:20am

We definitely had books assigned in the U.S. in high school (ages 14-18 roughly). We would have certain chapters assigned each week and discuss as we went, talking about writing style, themes, historical references, vocabulary, etc. At the end there would be a paper or presentation.

I was always in Honors english classes - selections would be different for lower levels:

In 9th grade (age 14) we read A Separate Peace, David Copperfield (that did not go over well

In 10th we did plays, I remember Medea and lots of Shakespeare, particularly A Midsummer Night's Dream.

In 11th we did American Lit. This was a pivotal year for me. The class was assigned several books to read over the year and split into groups to do a year-long research project ending with a week of teaching the book to our classmates. My book was The Sound and the Fury. Others were The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, Red Badge of Courage. Can't remember the others. We also read Billy Budd that year which I didn't like.

In 12th we went back to Shakespeare, I definitely remember Hamlet and we were given a list of books and had to choose one for a paper. I chose Emma randomly and my love of Austen was born. I think we also read Wuthering Heights that year.

This was all in the 1990s, I'll see when my kids get to high school if it's the same system now. But, yes, we were assigned lots of books that we read and explored together as a class. And they made a huge impression on how I read books (understanding themes especially) and the thought that books had scholarship attached to them at all.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 11:13am

>265 thorold: I seem to remember from reading way too many boarding school fiction in Enland that books were required reading. For me that is the same thing as assigned.

You realize that it has been half a century since I was 13!!! So my memory isn't that good. Plus by jr hi I had often read most anything they would have assigned. I remember reading Saki, O'Henry and Twain at the time. And thanks for the reminders above, We did read Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Red Bad of Courage, Call of the Wild, A Separate Peace,

In HS we were reading Silas Marner, Les Mis, Jonathan Swift, Marcel Proust, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Im sure many others but they are all mixed in with what I was already reading I don't know what was required and what was chosen by me.

I took an AP Lit class on utopias and dysutopias that I remember very well, because it led me to a lifelong love of sci fi and fantasy and lead me to political action later on. The books that I remember included Lord of the Flies Green Child 1984 brave new world Animal Farm Utopia (which I remember hating, and honestly remember nothing from it) Time Machine IIRC the teacher was excellent in leading discussions.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 11:12am

We definitely had assigned reading for each level of high school. I was in Honors classes, so other kids not in Honors would have different reading assigned.

We had a literature textbook plus we read other full length books. Courses were divided up according to grade levels 9 through 12--General Literature, American Literature, English Literature, World Literature. We also had a summer reading list that we were expected to have completed upon return to school in the fall. Here are some that I recall, and still own:

Lord of the Flies
King Lear
Romeo and Juliet
Red Badge of Courage
Huckleberry Finn
Tom Sawyer

I also took a drama class, and we read a lot of plays and performed parts of them in Readers' Theater style. I remember The Importance of Being Earnest, Hedda Gabler, and also a very dramatic reading of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, performed by our clergyman teacher. I loved that drama class.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 11:19am

I was in drama as well and we read lots of one acts and scrips of plays. The Little Foxes was one of my favorites, oh and yes anything by Oscar Wilde! Also french plays by Moliere The Misanthrope, The imaginary invalid, Tartuff, School for Wilves.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 12:24pm

Oh yes, you're all triggering my memory.

Add these to my list: >268 japaul22:
Lord of the Flies
Animal Farm
Canterbury Tales - at least part of it

toukokuu 29, 2020, 12:28pm

>269 cindydavid4: Don't forget that the boarding-school stories we read when we were children must have been written by people who went to school in the 1930s or before! :-)

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 1:52pm

Ha! True, that!

Im not sure if we read canterbury tales in HS or colllege. I do remember tho there was a musical made of it (not very successful) and our theatre class learned the choreography for part of it

(the song we did here; go to 8:45) The whole sountrack is fun.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 1:57pm

Unfortunately, my experiences with assigned books in high school were often really not great. I always deeply resented having to put down a book I'd chosen and was actually enjoying to read what someone else thought I should be reading. And in many of my classes, I got the very definite feeling that what the teachers wanted was simply for the students to parrot their own opinions and interpretations of the books back at them, which I objected to in principle, especially as I often disagreed with them. Plus, honestly, a lot of the assigned books were things that I now think I might well have enjoyed and appreciated if I'd come to them on my own later in life, but which I just was not remotely able to properly relate to as a teenager. Overall, I can't help thinking it all did me more harm than good. For instance, an especially bad classroom experience with Emma successfully put me off Jane Austen for life. (I know, you're shocked and dismayed. Everyone is shocked and dismayed. Try to resist the urge to talk me out of it, though. Everyone has. It's never worked, and it only irritates me further. Blame my English teacher, although I'm sure she'd be even more dismayed than everyone else, as it was avowedly her favorite book, and she was sincerely trying to force us to love it. Which was her first mistake, really.)

Works I did manage to enjoy despite having them taught at me, I generally have made a point of re-reading later in life, free of attempts at pedagogy. It's much better when you can just concentrate on the book itself without, say, worrying about memorizing trivial plot details so you can dredge them up for a quiz later to prove you actually read the thing. And, fortunately, there were quite a few such works, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Hamlet, and Cyrano de Bergerac. Hell, just a few years ago, I finally re-read Ethan Frome. I was the only person in my entire class who liked Ethan Frome. I think it's because I could rate to Ethan. On the other hand, everybody else seemed to like The Great Gatsby, which I just found annoying. Would I get more out of it if I read it now? Who knows? I probably never will, because even decades later I can't quite get the taste of that classroom experience out of my mouth enough to be able to bear the thought of picking it up again.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 2:06pm

>275 bragan: a lot of the assigned books were things that I now think I might well have enjoyed and appreciated if I'd come to them on my own later in life, but which I just was not remotely able to properly relate to as a teenager.

I agree with you totally. I remember us reading Age of Innocense and while I could read it, I was not interested. Reading it as an adult it gave me a much better perspective. Another ridiculous one was Wuthering Heights; never liked romance or gothic, and thought each character should be slappe silly. In this case reading it as an adult did not help, still think slaps were necessary.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 5:48pm

Lord of the Flies, still a favorite.

Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, chosen as our town was in the midst of an ugly battle over a proposed nuclear power plant.

The Scarlet Letter must die. Hawthorne can make even adultery, illegitimacy, and Puritan punishments boring.

The Canterbury Tales, not assigned, but handed to me in detention by my English teacher who cautioned there was some "raunchy stuff in here" if I could puzzle out the Middle English. God bless her.

I liked poetry. Dulce et Decorum Est. Taught that in my own out classes right to the end.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 3:28pm

>276 cindydavid4: Every so often, even now, I'll read some classic or important work of literature and maybe I'll love it and maybe I won't but I'll have interesting and worthwhile thoughts about it, and I will find myself feeling this moment of deep gratitude that it wasn't forced on me in high school, because I know I would have hated it then, got little to nothing out of it, and been put off of it forever.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 4:11pm

I spent my school years doing as little assigned reading as possible to still stumble through with a somewhat decent grade. So everything, more less, was read in parts and with much resistance. I was not a reader until very late in high school (the last semester if senior year).

I remember Animal Farm because we read it in 6th grade, which shocked all the parents as they thought us kids were too young. And I remember The Great Gatsby because I liked it. Jane Eyre was assigned the last semester of senior year. I finished it...over the summer after graduation. I remember not reading Julius Caesar or various other things. ( I seem to remember Huck Finn, Red Badge of Courage, Ethan Frome, The Scarlet Letter, Romeo and Juliet, Bartleby the Scrivener, but I doubt I truly read much of any of them. ) In college I never took a literary class.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 30, 2020, 6:44am

oh - my - goodness there is such a lot to say / get over myself about

at Primary school we kept reading cards of our own reading, teacher looked at them a bit, so I tended to do some things I knew she'd approve of onto it - I wish I still had it - it was only in last few years that I really remembered I had read the phantom tollbooth and also the little prince oh and the iron giant, which I read in class in an afternoon (or two?) as I remember. As a kid the first two stayed with me ad helped for some time.

But at senior school it was what we read in class and little old me, so quiet, tended to be on a mission not to read any of these things at home at all - like read it in class is enough, my memory is so good for stories - a madness that brought disaster in the end. My o level notes were so much/many I never dared read them, only shredded last year, still unrevised. For O level we did a volume of WW1 poets (which I'd still like to identify), and Pride and Prejudice (spent all my time in a boys school trying not to seem too Liz B) and The Merchant of Venice. I liked them all though the Merchant does not sit well in my memory - there were so many notes in the book it made me wary of just reading Shakespeare for myself. For various reasons my excellent memory was caught by the exam -- which led amongst other results to me doing sciences, which is one stupid decision -- I have memory envy for how I could have read with good teachers and colleagues and not got as lost as I got due to this moronocy.

I was very envious of other classes doing Ted Hughes and I thought also seamus heaney and other contemporaries - but may have imagined that more than it was.

I think in senior school I was a bit of the view that reading my own things at home would let me take in more - films and tv too - but my own reading lost some focus, being a boy - besides, we did homework big time, that i rebelled a bit over too (Latin). I wish I had read things that might have been a bit schooly and also that some may have seen as old hat and or arty. I still feel this division when I have to read something, especially for work instead of following my nose / heart.

I also have a sense sometime when books are set, that it feels its fetters my heart or imagination* just to run free and go as fast or slow as I like -- that the reading has to be beholden to others and norms and standard sense, got to do all the basics before any flight - and people are going to stamp their views on my memory, or else spend time showing me how wrong i am (friends).

My first few years of just reading, as I remember, in class were also upset by some illnesses that meant missing chunks, which probably explain a few things I don't quite understand later.

Only recently did I remember in 1st year we read 12th night - and how much Sir Andrw ague cheek reminded me of me when bluffing and not listening to someone I'm not connecting with (school full of them)(quite a confession), but I think I missed some of it. (or was it Antonio?) Missed the whole of the next book which I still kind of wonder about. The class did refuse to read Great expectations, but we read it the next year, me missing a large chunk, stupidly, ill. Was great to read the other year, wish I hd not missed it then - might have helped some more stupidity / re-writing it in my life.

ah yes, did Tom sawyer and Huck finn too -- and a christms carol - think i missed due t some disease maybe another Dickens.

I loved reading some D. H. Lawrence short stories at one point and still mean to do that a bit. if the rainbow a short story, also i think prussian officer??? - they were a bonus cos we finished something before term ended. I remember a sense of them & others as deeply satisfying. 3rd yr?

Also loved Animal Farm which I am sure also biased me towards Trotsky in other studies.

I do love how reading these things brings back memories of all that - there's bits of me I'd quite forgotten about, bit like I keep regenerating.

Main memories from second year - Kes! (v. blokey), The machine gunners and The Invisible Man (did we do war of the worlds I remember it, preferred it to Mr Invisible who creeped me out, maybe that was 3rd year.

2nd or third year we did Julius Caesar. We might have read Antony and Cleopatra and we definitely read Macbeth (maybe in 4th year). Any of which preferable in my memory to the pound of flesh - far fetched mcguffin that it is. Maybe did a history play too, can't remember, seem to remember coming across Falstaff. Ah yes, I think also romeo and juliet which i missed big chunks of but really wished was my o level text.

I think we read The chrysalids at some point, not sure, maybe the midwich cuckoos.

We defo read The Lord of the Flies and the whole year went to see the film (a story itself with other schools) -- and I still don't believe evil is that inherent (though not cos of cinema trip). I read an article recently about someone who thinks same and found evidence of a civilised group of boy castaways in the 60s. Not the writing but that sureness about that put me off reading Golding until recently. I still think of Piggy in terms of one schoolmate (never told them or anyone).

Should have re-read P&P and tMoV and done A level - that I did't affected courses I could take a uni and all of it still prospects in english, kind of annoying as a writer.

But then again, that line by line analysis did/does my head in - though it might have been helped if i had read it/them for enjoyment myself. Have met lots of Lit grads put off english lit by studying it.

Oh in Latin we did de bello Gallico and Aeneid, the book on the fall of Troy - I was useless, but enjoyed them from everyone else (almost) having more clue.

* the sense I'm going to have to linearly explain the obvious to doubters, and to do so bore myself silly and maybe not impress myself in removing magic from magical beasts

- yes, also death of a salesman, which also baffled me for relevance to me in any way. Did enjoy Journey's end, but another reason to be hacked off got 1st war poets (kid thinking)

- and to kill a mockingbird, forgot - missed some of it. Also Treasure Island (missed a lot) and Kidnapped - it's great remembering all this. Feel like posting on my personal reading.

- having books selected for me instantly increased possibility I could see them as a chore. There was also a whole load of stuff we were supposed to do for ourselves that no one ever checked on, books, times tables beyond 12 etc. etc.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 4:16pm

>280 tonikat: Great Expectations is another I didn’t really read.

Also, I forgot. In 11th grade our teacher assigned A Wrinkle in Time in a desperate effort to find something we might be interested in. I think I actually read it.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 5:01pm

I look back with the fondest memories to English literature classes at school and some wonderful assigned books that have stayed with me all my life. Back in the 1960's I went to a huge comprehensive school in London (the class system was in full operation then as now and so I couldn't go to a grammar school even though I had passed the exams). The thing about a comprehensive school was that if you survived the first four years then the remaining three years were excellent with so many opportunities to do different things.
I took English literature and the first years books were D H Lawrence selected short stories and essays, Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare, Silas Marner by George Elliott all of which I loved

The final two years were a little harder

T S Eliot - selected poems
Chaucer The prologue and the clerks tale
Shakespeare - Othello and the Tempest
James Joyce - Portrait of the Artist as a young man

A fabulous selection although I was really out of my depth with T S Eliot as was everybody else. I remember the teacher would read one of the poems and then dictate to us the notes we should have been writing had we understood it. I still have all the books with my scrawly writing all over them. I have written all over my books ever since. There is no doubt that school classes cemented my love of literature. I didn't do any foreign language classes having failed French at O level standard - no way back after that.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 8:42pm

I was a reader long before I was in school, and reading stuff well above my "grade level". So the only books I'm sure I was assigned are the ones I hated and would not have read on my own. I may have been assigned The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Animal Farm, The War of the Worlds...or I may have read them off my own bat. I know I was assigned Tess of the D'Urbervilles and HATED it - I can not now remember exactly what my objection was other than too much sex and bad decisions (repeated bad decisions, at that). There were other books that I lumped in with fact, that may be a large chunk of my still-current abhorrence for "literary" books. I don't think I was assigned Moby Dick - I know I've read parts of it several times but not all of it. Various Shakespeares, though since my father is an avid amateur actor I'd seen or read many of them before they were assigned at school - I did a class on Shakespeare in college, and the results were annoying enough* I decided I didn't want an English major. Oddly, I don't remember ever being assigned either To Kill A Mockingbird or Catcher in the Rye, which most people my age have read - possibly I was moving around and missed them.

Often, when the teacher assigned a book, I'd already read it (and could hold my own in the discussions of it, without an immediate reread). So I'd get to go read something else, either in class or at home.

*There were several "sections" on types of plays - tragedies, comedies, histories... I liked the tragedies and wrote a complex paper comparing them to each other and to other sources. I got a C+ (barely above average). Then we did comedies; I found them mostly boring so skived off most of the semester then wrote a quick BS paper - possibly I quoted the teacher a lot, so I wouldn't have to actually think. I got an A. Argh!

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 10:10pm

Q 23 assigned reading

Vancouver, Canada, 1970s (graduated in 1981)

I was an avid reader from about age 8, but no book bored me more than an assigned book. In elementary school (10-12 yrs old), novel-studies were:

The Secret World of Og, which I liked because of it's oddness, but still found boring (and was the only Canadian book in all my schooling, so local flavour? Noooooo)
The Phantom Tollbooth
Island of the Blue Dolphins
Charlotte's Web (reread as an adult, still boring)
A Wrinkle in Time (I reread this as an adult and still found it dull but my daughter read this on her own and loved it)

And high school (ages 13 - 17) -- I should probably mention upfront that I was entirely bored with everything we did in high school, and I was always too cool for school. That all changed when I went to university as a mature student and raised two straight honour roll students (shh, don't tell them their mom was bad):

Of Mice and Men (grade 8, both my daughters read it in grade 8 -- they found it horrifically sexist)

Lord of the Flies (grade 11 -- a few years ago I was chatting with a high school English teacher friend and she was looking to finally swap this one out because she was getting too many complaints from female students. My younger daughter had this assigned, it would have been around 2015, and she really liked it. I remember liking it and it may have been one of the few school assigned books that I actually finished. I reread this at university and still like it, although I was hoping things would go better for Piggy the second time around.)

To Kill a Mockingbird (grade 10 -- both my daughters had this in grade 10 also, and neither of them particularly liked it. I reread it with my older daughter in 2012 and I don't think it has a lot of relevance for kids in western Canada in 2020. )

A Separate Peace (grade 11 -- I remember almost nothing about this book except my best friend wrote her essay on whether the two main characters were gay, which in 1980 was a way out there topic)

Julius Ceasar (grade 10) (Pretty sure I didn't get past page 5 on this one and did all my assignments on my best friend telling me what it was about. An English lit degree later, I still don't like reading plays!)

There were other assigned books, but I probably never took them out of my locker.

Although I rarely read the assigned books, in grade 9 I devoured The Outsiders and the other SE Hinton novels, which I found at the library. My daughters were assigned The Outsiders in grade 9, as was the Year 9 character in the Australian comedy series Summer Heights High. I guess it's a grade 9 book! I reread it with my older daughter, and like To Kill a Mockingbird, I think it's time to find fresh novels, at least for our demographic. I find it interesting how many of the same books they're still teaching -- I went to a large public school in a nice middle class area, and my daughters went to a private school one-quarter the size, but not one that is elite.

toukokuu 29, 2020, 11:15pm

>277 nohrt4me2: Oh I forgot all about Scarlet Letter! Another book that seems weird giving to kids who I don't think they have any idea what its about.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 29, 2020, 11:35pm

>284 Nickelini: I remember reading Of Mice and Men in Jr hi. I had already experienced John Stienbeck on my own with Grapes of Wrath , so this one seemed really minor to me (that was not assigned; read it on my own)

Actually Grapes of Wrath was an eye opening experience for me, I think it was the first novel I read that made me aware of how heartless the world could be, and how painful it is for others who have so little. I remember being so upset with it at one point that I came to dinner sobbing. My dad took the book from me and later chatted about it, and was able to continue ti read it But wow that was rough.

my parents never censured what I read, tho my dad in particular took an interest in what I was reading. thought I was so clever keeping him from noticing I was reading valley of the dolls, hiding it under my mattress. So he's walking by my room talling me he wanted to read it after I was finished. Um, Okay dad.

I missed out on Phantom Tollbooth, slipped passed my radar, until it was assigned to us in our 'Kiddie Lit' class in college. Oh my - still one of my favorite books to read and often will gift it to a child of a certain age.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 7:52am

I am really enjoying this discussion. So interesting to see how literature worked into our various school systems and how different or not it was.

This thread has sparked some discussion between my husband and I as we compare what we were required to read during our adolescent years. He did high school in Lexington, Kentucky in the mid to late 60s and I did it in southern Maine in the late 60s to early 70s. I was surprised he was also required to read the epic poem Evangeline (Alas, poor Longfellow, I knew him well). He read A Separate Peace and I did not (he says it is just as well as I wouldn't have liked it). And as I read new posts here, a title will come up, and I'll ask if he had to read X and we'd be off again.... Kind of fun for lifelong readers. But we both agreed that we were far more affected in our young lives by the books we chose for ourselves (i.e. I was far more affected by Siddhartha than, say, The Lord of the Flies). And we both would have read far more outside of school than inside.

That said, I remember having to read the following during the junior high (late 60s, I was 13-14): My Antonia, Call of the Wild, Johnny Tremain, The Light in the Forest, Alas Babylon, and Red Badge of Courage.

And in high school (early 1970s, and we had no AP--advanced placement--classes in our school) of those I can remember : Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice, Evangeline, Tale of Two Cities. Of Mice and Men , Stories of Cheever & Updike, Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, and The Scarlet Letter. Of this list, the Shakespeare, Dickens and Hawthorne were the best-enjoyed. I really disliked the Salinger and the Golding, and found Updike & Cheever boring (although I read more Updike later on).

My freshman year we did Romeo & Juliet and then made a bus trip to Boston to see the Zeffirelli film which was still running in a theater there (we were rather culture-starved). It was such a big deal. I used to memorize passages from R&J and later The Merchant of Venice just for my own pleasure.

I have always been more accepting of my junior high reading but there was something about high school and it's required reading that often dissatisfied me and I could never put my finger on it at the time. Now, I know it's the innate sexism & racism. Even Antonia and Hester Prynne don't get to tell their own stories. But my disquiet/dissatisfaction was nothing like the righteous anger that arose in 1997 when my oldest daughter showed me the required reading list for an AP English class: I don't remember all but here's the three I do remember: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dogs of March, and Catch-22. There were two more, all were written by men and about men; any women characters were either nonexistent, background or antagonists.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 30, 2020, 9:30am

Well, here's where I come clean about being a total stoner and deeply uninterested student in high school—also, because this was late 1970s private school, having a lot of teachers who should have been put out to pasture years before and who were more interested in drinking and sleeping with each other and the students than sparking our love of literature. Or... maybe I just don't remember. To my own credit, I was reading constantly, and good stuff, too—the Beats and Joan Didion and Raymond Carver and E.L. Doctorow and Julio Cortazar and John Irving all sorts of poetry, and had no interest in putting that down to read whatever I was being assigned. I did read what I was supposed to, for the most part, but very little of it made an impression. So many dead white guys, so much phoning it in from teachers waiting to retire, when I was very well aware that there was SO much good stuff out there.

I did get a thorough grounding in Shakespeare and how to read him in both middle and high school, and for that I thank whichever teachers managed to get that across. Other books I remember: Catcher in the Rye (if only because I related to Holden Caulfield in those days), Lord of the Flies, Jude the Obscure, Germinal, Animal Farm. But I know there were more that didn't even merit a blip on my radar. The thing is, I could probably read (or reread... cue up the joke about being able to hide your own Easter eggs) them now and get a lot out of them. I remember plodding my way through The Iliad senior year and not retaining a word, but I'm very into mythology now and am SO hot to get a hold of Emily Wilson's Odyssey translation. Ditto some of the Russian authors—I snoozed through Crime and Punishment but would very much like to read it now, as an adult with some kind of moral compass that I have a feeling I lacked entirely as a teenager. And while I think I actually faked having read Catch-22 beyond the first chapter in 10th grade, I read it in my 40s and got a big kick out of it.

When I got to college, that's when the exciting assigned reading started—but of course those were mostly elective classes. And even the one core English course I took was with a woman who had been a Jack Kerouac hanger-on back in the day so she brought in a bunch of great guest authors, Jim Carroll and an ancient but interesting Brion Gysin. But in general, early-'80s art school was fat with great theory and semiotics and Kathy Acker. We had one instructor for an expository writing course whose MO was to teach as much edgy stuff as possible, Lolita and The Story of the Eye, etc., and I remember having fun with that class.

Looking at what my son had to read in high school, and what I'm seeing now via the library world, there are much better choices being made (at least in my urban east coast bubble). Centering women, authors of color, LGBTQ writers, off-the-beaten-track poets, and asking kids to think about how literature relates to world events and politics, is how you build good literate citizens. I'm 100% disappointed in the education that I received, even though I've managed to fix that on my own for the most part.

I still don't get why any high schooler, ever, should have had to read Death in Venice.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 30, 2020, 11:33am

I had the benefit of some great English teachers and some great assigned reading. Even when I was mostly checked out of high school (did somebody say "stoner"?), I was still "checked in" on my English classes and my history classes. So I guess I always liked stories.

In particular there was one great English teacher (Mr. Krasner)/curriculum in 10th grade: Catcher in the Rye, MacBeth, The Sun Also Rises, and Huckleberry Finn are the books from that year that come to mind first. In senior year, there were a series of elective English classes we could take. That same teacher taught a Jewish American Authors class. We read The Natural, and Mr. Krasner demonstrated how Malamud had taken the forms of Greek tragedy and applied it to baseball. Naturally, to do that, he had to teach us about the forms of Greek tragedy, too. (Of course, you won't get that from the wretched movie.) Other assigned reading that I recall with fondness includes Treasure Island, As You Like It, 1984, the Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 30, 2020, 5:17pm

In third grade, my teacher, Mr. Shinbein, who had caught me reading Nancy Drew books in class when I should have been doing my work often enough that he gave me a copy of Little Women. It was an abridged version with a vibrant pink cover and I loved it. So maybe from then on I was primed for assigned books to be good? With the exception of A Tale of Two Cities, which turned me off of Dickens for a good few decades, I don't remember disliking an assigned book and I certainly loved many of them.

I don't think I would have ever enjoyed Shakespeare, except my 11th grade English teacher's enthusiasm and encouragement were contagious, he also had us reading Dante's Inferno and loving it. My senior year English teacher introduced me to Thomas Hardy through the very weird Jude the Obscure, but I'll admit I just skipped reading Look Homeward, Angel from the same reading list.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 4:11pm

I feel I should mention my 10th grade language arts teacher who offered, as extra credit, reading any books off her sizable bookshelf. I think it was 300 pages a semester. We had to read the book and then talk with her about it just enough for her to be convinced we actually read it. I remember reading Logan’s Run, The Once and Future King, 1984, The Count of Monte Cristo. As otherwise a non-reader, I read my 1200 pages that first semester, and, having hit my quota, stopped. But I remember those books.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 8:59pm

Interesting and, as a former English teacher, heartening, that many people remember the things their teachers suggested for fun reading as much as the assignments.

toukokuu 30, 2020, 9:08pm

I asked my mother about this and she could remember reading Antony and Cleopatra and Mansfield Park, although she said that neither of them really made any sense to her until many years later when she was living in the UK (she's from Singapore).

toukokuu 31, 2020, 2:06am

As usual, my story is pretty different from the average story in America. I had the unfortunate experience of going to three different high schools in four years. It was fairly disastrous. My parents felt it was a duty for me to go to Catholic Parochial School in grade-school and high school. Unfortunately, they couldn't really afford to send eight children to all that private school, so there was a problem when it was the end of my sophomore (second of four years) year of high school. They couldn't pay the bill, and the school wouldn't register me for Junior year, or issue a report card. My parents were embarrassed (as was I) and agonized over how they would do it. It didn't help that the school was my father's mother's Alma Mater, and I really wanted to continue to attend. Nevertheless, my parent's suffering over this was such that I told them I wanted to transfer to the public high school for my Junior year, although it wasn't true at all, and it cost me something to pose as someone who wanted to switch schools when I wanted to still attend the Catholic school. My parents didn't understand (thank goodness) but said if it was so important to me they would agree.

When I arrived at the new High School the next year, I made the mistake of being snotty to the English teacher, who interviewed me to determine a schedule for me, since I came without a transcript. By that time I was simply disgusted with the whole problem, and when she tried to help by assigning to me different titles to read for English class, since I explained that the list of assigned books consisted of things I had already read. I did explain that I was in the gifted group, and the list of their Junior class assigned reading was stuff that was not new to me, and some of which I had read multiple times. She was the teacher for Junior English, so she assigned me to her own class. When the first paper was graded and given back, mine had on it this explanation for the grade of D-. (I was accustomed to A's for papers) "You are not better read, nor does your work convince me you that you are 'gifted'.") I knew the first part wasn't true, and I doubted the second part too. I became disenchanted with school, and got three D- that year. I strongly considered suicide that year after my first earnest love affair ended in my being rejected because I wouldn't have sex with him. He was a mature 14, and I was 16, and I didn't think it appropriate.

The last year, in another high school again, because we moved, I got all A's. When I was in a Business Law class the principle of my grade came to personally bring me my SAT scores (college placement exam), with the explanation that they were the highest he had even seen. He was very excited. Total mortification! That was also the year that I had the run-in with the Christian evangelist who tried to cast devils out of me.

The point of all this is that I ended up with no assigned reading in High School. We did translate some speeches of Cicero's in Latin class.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 31, 2020, 6:45am

I went to an American public middle and high school in Texas.

Middle school reading:
The Diary of Anne Frank
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Animal Farm
The Old Man and the Sea
Lord of the Flies
To Kill a Mockingbird
A Midsummer Night's Dream

We read a lot of short stories like The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

High school reading for English class:
Black Boy
Native Son
Bless Me, Ultima
I know why the Caged Bird Sings
Their Eyes were Watching God
Watership Down
The Chosen
A Separate Peace
The Catcher in the Rye
The Great Gatsby
All the Pretty Horses
Romeo and Juliet
The Scarlet Letter
A Tale of Two Cities
Heart of Darkness
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Things they Carried
Tess of the D'Ubervilles
Wuthering Heights
Jane Eyre
Wide Sargasso Sea
Obasan - book chosen as private project (I always chose the shortest and Japan related books)
Thousand Cranes - book chosen as private project (I always chose the shortest and Japan related books)
M. Butterfly - book chosen as private project (I always chose the shortest and Japan related books)

High school reading for History class:

High school reading for Spanish class:
Celebration in the Northwest
La Casa de Bernarda Alba
San Manuel Bueno, Martir
Borges' Labyrinths
One Hundred Years of Solitude

toukokuu 31, 2020, 9:07am

Almost everyone who went to an American school has mentioned A separate peace, which struck me because I've at least heard of almost all the other school books people mentioned above, but that one was completely new to me.

That seems to suggest that, whilst universal-in-America, it isn't a book people who've read it at school feel called upon to talk about later, unlike Catcher in the rye, Of mice and men or Lord of the flies. (I looked it up: from what people say about it, it doesn't really sound like a book I'd want to read as an adult either.)

toukokuu 31, 2020, 9:18am

>296 thorold:

I really disliked A Separate Peace as a student and now I couldn't tell you one thing about what it's about. In fact I also hated The Chosen which I also don't remember what it was about and basically those books have fused into one in my mind.

toukokuu 31, 2020, 9:24am

Oh, I loved the Chosen and the Promise however fI was not required to read them, and having a jewish background helped, Still I tried to read them as an adult and was not overly thrilled but ymmv.

toukokuu 31, 2020, 9:37am

Re The chosen: In the fifth form (aged about 16) we had one lesson a week that was nominally "Religious Education" with the Headmaster. He wanted to be able to say that he'd taught everyone in the school at least once, but it turned out that that year he was chairing an important committee in London, so we only saw him very occasionally, and there was no sort of plan to the rare lessons we got. Once, completely out of the blue, he spent a whole lesson talking about visual representation and Judaism in My name is Asher Lev, a book none of us had read or even heard of. I don't remember the thesis he was trying to expound to us, but that's the image that always comes into my mind whenever I see Chaim Potok mentioned...

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 31, 2020, 11:11am

>295 lilisin: Wow! That's a comprehensive list and you reminded me of several books I read in junior high and high school that I hadn't recalled for my earlier post. To Kill a Mockingbird, A Separate Peace and The Chosen were among those.

>296 thorold: Whatever the glories of A Separate Peace might be for an adult reader, as a student the book seemed nice but innocuous to me. It was just the sort of book you would give to an English class, an obvious choice, so I read it and basically forgot it. The Chosen I'm pretty sure I read in that American Jewish Writers class I mentioned above, but I could be wrong about that. As a Jewish kid going to a public high school that was about half Jewish (the students, not the building), the book was of interest to me. I was a suburban kid, mostly assimilated but I had gone to Hebrew school and knew a lot about the religion (we went to a temple that was Conservative, which in Judaism means about halfway along the spectrum between orthodox and reformed). Still, the issues that might arise between the Hasidic Jews and the merely orthodox in the midst of New York City were just close enough to me (I was just across the Hudson in New Jersey) but still alien to be of interest all in all. For kids who weren't Jewish, it was a good introduction to some of the problems confronted by especially religious people making their way through a secular world. Anyway, that's how it struck me then, or at least that's my perception now of how it struck me then. I haven't read it since.

toukokuu 31, 2020, 11:16am

I had to do book reports every 6 weeks and chose my books. I graduated in 1956. I

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 31, 2020, 11:25am

>294 sallypursell: I moved countries between sophomore and junior year and it was a shock, too. I was luckier in my teachers although the guidance counselor who set up my classes in the new high school was terrible. He told me I couldn't take advanced English because it would be far to hard for me (despite having been in advanced English in Canada), that my Canadian and World History class didn't count as my world history requirement, that my having attended a French-language school and having taken French for fluent speakers in high school meant I would be in the regular French class and that I'd have to take the regular chemistry class. My French and World History teachers got me out of those classes quickly (although the history teacher was unpleasant about moving me to AP American History), the guidance counselor had to pull me out of the chemistry class when the district told him that my two previous years of chemistry meant the only chemistry class I could take was AP and my English teacher caught me reading The Name of the Rose in class and forced them to move me to honors English. But all that moving around could have been avoided had the guidance counselor listened to me.

In retrospect, I was such a pretentious snot that I wonder if the teachers were all eager to move me into a class that they weren't in for their own reasons.

toukokuu 31, 2020, 11:51am

>302 RidgewayGirl: English teacher caught me reading The Name of the Rose in class and forced them to move me to honors English

That is such a strange sentence. Was honors english a punishment for reading challenging books? And how did this person force them? Sorry I dont doubt your story at all, just the very idea...aiaiai but year, they might have wanted you out of there, being a teacher, I soooo get that!

toukokuu 31, 2020, 12:08pm

Did the teacher assigning the book make a difference?

In 8th grade, which was the second year of junior high school in my school system, my English teacher was an older, very conservative woman from the South (this is in the U.S.). One day we were assigned to go to the school library, choose a novel to write a book report on, and then come back to the classroom for silent reading the rest of the period. I chose Catcher in the Rye, which I had heard of but knew basically nothing about. I was sitting in class reading for about two minutes when I heard my name called quite sternly. I looked up and my teacher was scowling at me. "You cannot read that book in this class," she said. "Bring that back to the library and get a different one." I obediently complied,* though I have no memory of what the substitute novel was. Two years later we read Catcher in the Rye in English class. So, yeah, the difference between Mrs. Merrill and Mr. Krasner was fairly significant!

* This would have been 1968, and I would have been 13. By the next year, I would not have been so compliant, but would instead have probably taken myself to the principal's office and demanded, "This book is in the school library. Am I allowed to read it or not?" Or at least so I tell myself now. :)

toukokuu 31, 2020, 9:30pm

>300 rocketjk:

It was easy to compile as I have the two tags #readmiddleschool and #readhighschool. :)

>303 cindydavid4:

The difference in difficulty between regular and AP English is so significant that I'm sure Ridgeway's teacher saw her reading of the book as a sign that she'd be very bored and under-served in a regular English class. So instead of a punishment, it was recognition that the AP class was more suited to her English level.

toukokuu 31, 2020, 9:53pm

Oh I know I was just riffing on hoow Ridgeway described it;and yeah that probably was the teachers intent. Hope so anyway!

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 2, 2020, 8:35am

People might enjoy looking at the Books You Read During High School (for school) LT list.

I went to school in France in the eighties/early nineties. In middle school, the majority of our French classes were spent studying grammar/spelling and not literature. For some reason (well, probably because I spent less time on them), I only have the vaguest recollection of the works I read for book reports, even though they were the ones I *chose* to read. Depending on the teacher, they were from a suggested list, or you had to have them approved beforehand, or you were totally free to choose. I remember doing a Zola one year with a couple of friends, but I can't remember which one. Maybe Au bonheur des dames (The Ladies' Paradise)? I do remember however that the *next* year, the teacher refused us Zola because she thought we were too young for him...

On the assigned reading front, we studied a number of Molière plays (Tartuffe, Le médecin malgré lui, Le bourgeois gentilhomme and Les fourberies de Scapin - we did Le malade imaginaire in primary school), Le Cid by Corneille, and that's it for French classical plays. Most people at the time studied more of them.
We also read Gulliver's adventures in Lilliput, an abridged version of The Travels of Marco Polo, Le Grand Meaulnes (you can't go through French middle school and not study it), The Romance of Tristan and Iseult, The Princess of Cleves by Madame de La Fayette, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, The Marriage of Figaro by Beaumarchais, 949550::Le K by Dino Buzzati - the only recent-ish book in this list with A King Alone by Jean Giono-, Les Chouans by Balzac, Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo, and various poems and extracts. Only one female author. I remember finding all these books OK to great at first read - we were supposed to have read them in their entirety before the start of class study - and hating them all by mid-course.

More recently, my daughter was assigned La Curée by Zola, Phèdre by Racine, Alcools by Appolinaire, Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan, Pierre and Jean by Maupassant, Cyrano de Bergerac... For her baccalaureate *litterature* class (the one in the last year of high school that only pupils in the humanities stream take), she studied à la lumière d'hiver by Philippe Jaccottet (poetry), All the World's Mornings by Pascal Quignard, Gargantua by Rabelais and... 4112006::Mémoires volume III by Général de Gaulle. Teachers weren't happy about that last one! They're free to assign whatever books they want in all years - and pupils are free to add any book they like to their *French* exam list - but the *literature* exam is set nationally. Each book stays on the list for two consecutive years.

ETA: I fixed the link, but now, I can't get the touchstones to work. Nevermind...

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 1, 2020, 12:06pm

>307 Dilara86: That link is not working for me, would be very interested in reading it

On the assigned reading front, we studied a number of Molière plays (Tartuffe, Le médecin malgré lui, Le bourgeois gentilhomme and Les fourberies de Scapin

One of the joys of my HS years was learning about Moliere. We did Imaginary Invalid and Tartuff,in High School and I ended up reading several of his othrs. Wish we could see more of those productions here (US)

I know I read Gulliver Travels, Treasure Island but think they were by choice, not assigned. The Princess of Cleves interests me, is it translated in english? ETA thought this was about Anne of Cleves, nope wrong country

I say Cyrano de Bergerac with Derek Jacobi. Absolutely sublime!

kesäkuu 1, 2020, 1:17pm

>308 cindydavid4: That link is not working for me, would be very interested in reading it
Fixed! Apparently, I can't do html anymore...

I don't mind Molière now, but how I hated it in middle school! Well, mainly, I hated having to memorise scenes and perform them badly in front of the class or watch others do the same...
The Princess of Cleves is available in English. If you're still curious about it despite the fact that it's not about Anne of Cleves, there's an English translation on Project Gutenberg

kesäkuu 1, 2020, 1:34pm

>303 cindydavid4: No, not as a punishment, just a realization that I didn't need help with learning the parts of the sentence. She fought for me.

>307 Dilara86: For a French class, we were assigned to read Les Lettres Persanes, which was unbelievably boring, but a few of us decided to read Les Liaisons Dangereuses as well, which was a great deal more fun.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 1, 2020, 3:08pm

>310 RidgewayGirl: She fought for me.

Thats good to hear!

After being blown away by the movie with glen close and John Malkovich, I knew I had to read the book. Oh my. That was excellent! Also saw the national theatre live performance.

>309 Dilara86: yeah jr hi is not a good time of life to be put in front of the class and perform, so I get that. Thanks for thi info on Anne of Cleves, I'll check out the translation)

kesäkuu 1, 2020, 11:53pm

I'd forgotten the sequence on Black women writers - Their Eyes Were Watching God was one, there was another...that I only remember as the milkman book. A very unpleasant scene (unpleasant for me to read then and to remember now) about a woman nursing her son who was...5-6? Pre-teen? Much too old for nursing, anyway. Someone saw them and he got the nickname the Milkman. I don't remember any more of the book but I remember hating it. The Color Purple, too, I think. And a couple more. I disliked all of them.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 3:19am

>312 jjmcgaffey: the milkman book — That was Song of Solomon! — it was my first experience of Toni Morrison too, but I met it much later, on a university course. A shock at first, and not one of the books on the course I'd been looking forward to, but I soon found myself enjoying it.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 7:12am

Yeah, that's it! Glad you liked it - a lot of people think those books are great. Not for me. Way too depressing.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 2, 2020, 10:55am

>282 baswood: You may be the one young person who enjoyed Silas Marner... My dad hated it so much in high school that's he's basically still refusing to read Eliot, though I know he'd love her writing.

I went to a below average small-town American middle school, but we had some great books assigned to us and I think I actually enjoyed all of them, though we found the Beowulf adaptation fairly odd. Favorites were Homecoming (by Cynthia Voigt), Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, The Giver, The Pearl, Maniac Magee... I will still happily read Homecoming any day of the week and felt semi-traumatized by The Giver. I never reacted negatively to being assigned a book. I liked reading and was happy to give basically anything a go.

I then switched a very above average tiny Quaker boarding school for high school. We had humanities classes, so combined English and History, which worked better or worse depending on the teacher. We had some more typical assigned reading freshman year as the teacher was fresh out of college: Midsummer Night's Dream, Catcher in the Rye (which we all disliked), Animal Farm, and somewhat less common for my generation Cry The Beloved Country. Also Angela's Ashes.

After that it was less typical, probably because the teachers were older and more confident. It says something about my love for non-fiction that those are the titles that stick with me. I know we read fiction as well, but I think those were also more likely to be books we chose ourselves (usually with approval) or short fiction. We read In Pharoah's Army, The Things They Carried (more common as summer reading now), Battle Cry of Freedom, The Serpent and the Rainbow (god save me from that book), Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The philosophy there was to focus more deeply on particularly eras and issues and give us a grounding in critical thinking, rather than rushing through a lot of white-washed history that they'd re-teach us in college anyway (we didn't have standardized tests to deal with).

We also had a couple months junior year doing an intensive project on longwall mining in the local area and then a good chunk of senior humanities was taken up with are graduation essays (25-page research papers required to graduate, topic of our choice with approval), both of which cut down on the assigned reading.

It was really interesting to see the lists of summer reading when I worked at my local bookstore. There was definitely at least one book by a West Virginian for each grade level.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 10:59am

>312 jjmcgaffey: & >313 thorold: Song of Solomon is my favorite of Morrison's novels, at least of the half dozen or so that I've read. I read it as an adult, though.

kesäkuu 2, 2020, 11:40am

Over 300 messages. Can we have a part 4 now?
Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: QUESTIONS FOR THE AVID READER, Part 3.