Thursday, June 27, 2013

What's On Your Bookshelf?

 I loved reading from an early age. Charlotte's Web, Madeline, A Little Princess, The Wind in the Willows, A Child's Garden of Verse, Grimm's Fairy Tales. As I got older, there were poetry books and a scarlet leather-bound edition of the complete works of Shakespeare which held more interest for me than any fashion magazine. When my classmates were reading The BoxCar Children and Pippi Longstocking I was reading the works of Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein and a whole other way of thinking opened up to me.

But reading is for me not just intellectual but embracive. I love the way the spine of a book feels in the crook of my fingers. The smooth, hard end boards snug on either side of the pages sewn together, their edges flush and perfect. The smell of ink, the texture of a page as my fingers gently turn it, sitting there in the easy chair late in the evening. As I open the page, I draw in breath, like a swimmer taking in one last draw of air before diving from a great height.  As the words begin to flow, they seem bigger than they are, as a shadow is larger than that which casts it.

I often lose track of time, as the words rush slow and effortlessly above the sound of the wind, above all the world that lay outside.  I take a sip of old Scotch and turn another page, the din of the world beyond these windows, nothing but diminishing noise, a soft sound of tearing silk.
Even during times of travel I always have a book tucked into my bag. Even if I'm in a crowded terminal, when I pick up a book, time retreats as the story itself clears away the noise and clutter, providing me a space where thinking is possible. There are so many that I've read multiple times, Robert Ruark, the early Robert Parker (though like Wilbur Smith, finding his best ones in his early work) - Looking for Rachel Wallace, Catskill Eagle, the pages dogged eared. I think what I like most about Parker's character Spenser is his belief in personal responsibility and the concept that there is seldom honor without difficulty.

The best moments are when I  I'm reading a new book and come across something, a thought, a way of looking at the world, an emotion, which I thought was unique and particular to me, and now here it is, set down by someone who's probably been dead two hundred years. Powerful stuff. So, as I return back to duty, a few books for your perusal from my library here at the crash pad.
Books I Planned to Read But Probably Never Will:
Emma by Jane Austen. I had a teacher who so wanted me to read it. Look, it's 400 pages of nothing much happening before the heroine grows up and marries some old guy and lives happily ever after. Make everyone a vampire and it's the same book you find on any teenage girl's shelf. Nothing blows up, young girl lives happily ever after . . . yawn.

The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon. This was the biggest book in the library as a child and for that reason only I was challenged to get through it. It's not really all that long by adult standards, but Barkley and I both lost interest pretty quickly.

SPARC Architecture, Assembly Language Programming, and C - for Dummies. A relative of mine wrote the original book -non dummy edition. Every time I open it I feel so beyond stupid I just put it down.
The Books You’ve Been Looking For,  For Years, Without Success:
The Beer and Bacon Diet. Lose 30 pounds in 3 days. Still looking for it.

Bad Cow Puns - by Terry Bull

The Books You Want To Own Because They're handy.
The complete Jane's Books of Aircraft. I want the real shelf-hogging McCoy, not the ones on compact disc. I want big books of planes I have to move with a dolly.

Books That Might Be handy But You Really Don't Want to Own.

The Books To Put Aside To Re-Read This Summer:
Safe Return Doubtful - The Heroic Age of Polar Exploration by John Maxtone-Graham. Until the early 20th century, both the North and South poles remained alluring unknowns shrouded in a biting cold mystery that demanded resolution. Only a century ago, intrepid men dreamed of conquering the planet's last continent with tools unfit for purpose. For those men, heroism alone sufficed.

The author really does a fine job in exploring the fraternity that experienced not only heartbreaking defeat, but even death. Salomon Andree and his Arctic balloon vanished, Ernest Shackleton called it quits only ninety-seven miles from the elusive south pole, and his countryman Captain Robert F. Scott succeeded, only to cruelly perish retuning to base. Yet, with his death pending, Captain Scott wrote these words. " Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every every man, these rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale. . . "
Articulate grace in the face of death. Courage to even begin the journey. Such are what drives the courageous, the visionaries. Those that earn their names know what risk is, and they elect to it anyway. They pursue, without ambivalence, one bright shining goal, be it exploration of a new land, or promotion of an ideal that should be heard. Walking headlong into the swirling mist of the unknown, they serve a hidden flame and sacrifice what is theirs for what is good. Such are men of courage.

The Books That Fill You With Bemusement:
Book of Etiquette, by Emily Post. I am only a generation or two past those things, taken as matter of fact now, previously considered positively scandalous. For example, in the edition released when I was a baby, it says that public airings of buttocks, cleavage and multiple piercings were not acceptable at a Cotillion (gasp).

Books that will give Big Brother the wrong idea. (Yes, he bought it.)
Books Read Long Ago That It’s Now Time to Re-read:
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold By John Le Carré There are few things quite as entertaining on a brisk fall night as the well-written thriller. This, one of many novels set in the Cold war, will certainly make you shiver. It chronicles the life of Alec Leamas, on his last spy mission, burned-out, seeking a redeeming end to the journey. Rendered with the symmetrical, mathematical precision of Bach, I still get goosebumps on reading the line, "And suddenly, with the terrible clarity of a man too long deceived, Leamas understood the whole ghastly trick."
Uysses - By James Joyce. Ulysses is an epic that loosely follows The Odyssey, but within it dwells the heart of modern people with all their foibles and misdemeanors. It's so intricate- that I had a little trouble delving into it at first —but something struck a chord in me when Joyce talked "ineluctable modality of the visible." You shut your eyes, open them again, and find the world continues without your witnessing it. Seasons shift, people we love leave, yet the world continues on with beauty and wonder. It's a beautiful reflection on time and change and where one stands in the scheme of things we can not control.
The World As I See It - By Albert Einstein. A collection of softly brilliant essays by one of the great minds of the past century. "A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving".

What's On Your Book Shelf tonight?


  1. I won't give a detailed list, just a few recommendations: the Brother Cadfael books by the late Ellis Peters; the Captain Alatriste books by the Spanish novelist Arturo Perez-Reverte; Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books; and The Alchemist by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho.

  2. Speaking of reading, I enjoy the daily read of your blog!

  3. I feel the same way about Wilbur Smith's writing. I haven' t read one of his last dozen or so efforts.

    With the unfortunate passing of Vince Flynn recently, I'll miss the further exploits of Mitch Rapp.

    For some reason, I've been put off reading lately. Probably because I devoured so many over the winter. I really need to go to the library again soon.

  4. Almost 2 years ago, on my blog, I gave a walk-thru of our house.

    Still mostly the same, EXCEPT ...

    Except that following my Dad's passing, I moved Mom out to a senior community, and acquired a whole load of additional books from the house where they had lived for 40+ years. Most (but not all) of these are still in cardboard boxes in the hallway and in the guest bedroom.

    What came up to my house was only a fraction of the books my parents had. I was able to sell a few, and some of Mom's artsy-fartsy coffee table type books were placed into storage, but most were given away to a Goodwill/Salvation Army type local thrift shop of a local charity near Mom's old house.

    This week is the last week of teaching for the Summer Session, so after I give the final exam I will grade the exams and term papers, submit the grades, and then catch up on the work I have not been able to do. Hopefully, there will be time to get back to some good, old pleasure reading.

    And high on my list is a re-read of Gulliver's Travels. I first read it in junior high, and have re-read it every 4 - 10 years thereafter. Each time, some new nuance strikes me.

  5. I have just discovered the novels of Alan Furst, and like them a lot. They are set in Eastern Europe and France in the period 1933-45. They are wonderful espionage novels, with evocative descriptions of places and people, engagingly flawed characters, and lots of suspense. Best to start with NIGHT SOLDIERS, the first in the series, I think.

  6. Window with the ace curtains ... Nice pic. Funny how simple works so good. Like the movies Clint Eastwood directs. He knows. So do you.

  7. I've my Blaster's Handbook, green cover. Vince Flynn died? Where the hell have I been?

  8. American Gun by Chris Kyle
    The Twilight Warriors by Robert Gandt
    (Okinawa Battle)

  9. Gravity's Rainbow. Pynchon is a little weird. But it makes for good re-reads out in the woods.

  10. Working through David Weber's Honorverse at the moment. Working being, waiting for next installment. Also part way through Clayton Cramers My Brother Ron.

  11. Just got finished reading the 5th book of the Dresden Files, and now I'm reading Carl Hiassen's new book, Bad Monkey. With your sense of humor, I can highly recommend Mr. Hiassen. He writes books set in south Florida...mystery/crima drama's that are very dark, very strange, and very funny. He actually wrote a very excellent book named Strip Tease that go turned into a very unsatisfying movie.

  12. Any of John L. Moore's books. "The Breaking of Ezra Riley" in particular.

  13. My current night stand stack:
    Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind
    The Cornered Cat
    Women of the West
    Viper Pilot
    The Prairie Keepers
    Hannibal and Me
    The Magical Stranger

  14. Current:

    Cory L. Doctorow's "Makers". I also have his "Eastern Standard Tribe" for our trip to the beach next week.

    Doctorow's debut, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" still ranks as one of my favorites. Download for free and find a way to compensate the author if you like the book.

    I didn't pick the name of the website. And The Mansion as originally conceived *is* perfect ... but, okay, I'll admit that the new Hitchhiking Ghost effects are cool.


    "World War Z" - The name is just about all the book has in common with the movie.

    Books That Kick My Butt Every Time I Try:

    "Mason & Dixon"
    "Gravity's Rainbow"

    Book That Makes Me Feel Stupid:

    Sipser's "Theory of Computation". I spent two semesters reading the text and still don't understand much beyond Chapter Three.

  15. American Guns- Chris Kyle. One nit, he has the legend of the ping of the M-1 as being a give away in battle... sigh Other than that, damn good book!

  16. I mention John L. Moore's books, in part, because he is a rancher in Montana, in addition to being an award winning writer and shares your view point on many things. I keep thinking you would love his books.

  17. Book I've Tried To Read But Crashed Miserably Every Time:
    "Godel, Escher and Bach; The Eternal Golden Braid." I'm not as stupid as a lib-rul but this one kicks my mental ability and takes it's lunch money..

    What I'm Re-reading Now:
    "Sunburst - The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power 1909-1941" Why things were done that way in the Imperial Fleet.
    "Monster Hunter Alpha" I'm in it, silly....

  18. Alphonso Rachesl's Book Weapon of ASS destruction on Kindle.. I really like the videos he makes "ZoNation" if you want to google.

  19. At a recent defense job I had a copy of Kathleen Meyer's book, "How to Sh*t In the Woods" in a folder labeled FM 21-10.

  20. Always enjoy your posts! Currently I'm finishing The Language of Science and Faith by Giberson and Collins.

  21. Always enjoy your posts, B. I'm currently finishing The Language of Science and Faith by Giberson and Collins.

  22. Always enjoy your posts! Currently I'm finishing The Language of Science and Faith by Giberson and Collins.

  23. Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. Who else could drop the f-bomb in the middle of a vichyssoise recipe and get away with it?

  24. Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. Who else could drop the f-bomb in the middle of a vichyssoise recipe and get away with it?

  25. I grew up on English literature, thanks to my mother the Anglophile. My book collection would make a librarian dizzy with the eclectic mix of genres, so I won't bore anyone else with it.

  26. Current reading: "The Winter Harvest Handbook" by Eliot Coleman and just finished "98.6 Degrees" by Cody Lundin.

    I have plenty of fiction by Dale Brown, Tom Clancy and WEB Griffin. Rather than do my required "Great Gadsby" reading in high school, I was reading "Hunt for Red October"...

  27. I'll third the motion for _American Gun_ just on what's been said about it. My unopened copy is in the back of the car (why does buying a book that's said to be really good always seem to cause a workload eruption?).

    Keegan's synopsis of WW2 has been on the nightstand for a while. If you've been suffering from excessive sleep and pleasant dreams, there's no cure like reading about the Eastern Front at bedtime... It's also a good book to co-read with more-detailed histories of specific campaigns or battles.

    Competing with it: Tidying up the shelves, I may have found one last Tony Hillerman Navajo-cop novel that I haven't read yet, a bittersweet proposition given that there will be no more... There seemed something elegaic about his last few books, as though he meant to leave things in a satisfactory situation just in case, and to me he comes in second only to John D. MacDonald for closing out a series on just the right note.

    Thanks for the reminder of _The Spy Who Came In From The Cold_. Maybe I'll get to read it over the 4th, when we usually visit my wife's father (born on almost the 4th of July, which would almost be a good title for something), though I always seem to grab _Surface at the Pole_ off the same shelf when we're down there. I've never had a chance to get far into it -- wasn't _Cold_ the one that in some parallel universe could have been a Smiley novel (they went by his office but he wasn't in)?

    So many books, so little time...

  28. I just finished one that will be right up your alley. It has flying, hunting, fishing and gunning down miscreants who show up in force to steal your stuff. And a dog. "The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller. There's some gorgeous prose in there, too. It struck me as something Lex might have written, had he had the chance to dabble further in fiction.

  29. I just finished one that will be right up your alley. It has flying, hunting, fishing and gunning down miscreants who show up in force to steal your stuff. And a dog. "The Dog Stars" by Peter Heller. There's some gorgeous prose in there, too. It struck me as something Lex might have written, had he had the chance to dabble further in fiction.

  30. Oddly enough, I have a copy of "Bombproof Your Horse". We (my somewhat opinionated Appaloosa mare and I) are members of the local MSAR volunteer unit, and she has to deal with stuff that, for a horse, is just totally beyond the pale.

    But watching her stand fast while a firetruck, complete with lights and sirens, rolls by, or a Medivac chopper whips past 20 feet overhead, makes up for all the aggravation.

  31. The only time I've ever seen my daughter cry (she'll be 20 next month) was when she was 6 or 7 and was reading Charlotte's Web with her mother. I walked past and saw tears streaming down Sarah's face. Her mother was just sitting quietly, looking lovingly at her. Baffled, I asked what was wrong. I had to ask several times before Sarah finally choked out, "Charlotte died".

    I have yet to read that classic by E. B. White. In fact, the only thing by him I've read is his other classic, The Elements of Style.

    Thanks for this poignant memory, Brigid.

  32. Hmm...latest reads were Corriea's Grimnoir books, and the book about the SEAL K9 dogs.

    Le Carre is my favorite spy genre author by far. And the BBC did two fantastic adaptations of Tinker Tailor, and Smiley's People....worth seeing after you have re-read the trilogy.

    And I have some books you might be interested in reading that I would be willing to loan you. Look up Sir Frederick Treves--I have most of his stuff, most in ancient hardbound.

  33. So many, many good choices here! I've got a little list going to hit a book store when I'm free.

    B - on dinner break with eebook.

  34. I could use a copy of "How to Bombproof your Horse". Horseflies came to the farm with the horses, and they have been jumpy the last couple of days.
    I read so much that I can't list them all. Over the past couple of days, I have read:

    The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit from It: Make a Fortune by Investing in Gold and Other Hard Assets, by James Turk and John Rubino

    Miniature Horses -- A Veterinary Guide for Owners and Breeders, written by Rebecca L. Frankeny, VMD.

    IT'S A DISASTER! ...and what are YOU gonna do about it? (5th Edition)
    by Bill Liebsch and Janet Liebsch

    Thank you for such a terrific blogpost AND pictures.

  35. My bookshelf is somewhat simplistic compared to yours I'm afraid. First up in paperback on the night stand is "Thunder Below" the story of the USS Barb in WWII.

    Any Boat commander that wanted rockets to fire on a comm station (he did) and the first and only to land American troops on Japanese held territory? Took out a section of railroad? Yes he did.

    Smuggled beer on board and after success on sinking a ship issued the time honored British command to "splice the main brace"? Where did we get these Men from?

    On the Kindle the books are backed up. Murphy's Law clued me in to Bud Day and I read the first book and now working on "Bury Us Upside Down". The FAC in Vietnam. Again where get we get these people?

    Lastly we have these paperbacks. I will read them again. "Blind Mans Bluff" and "Spy Sub". The Cold War was very hot to some. I will read them again as people risked everything and yet no one else knew and they could not tell anyone about the bravery and sacrifice in service to the Country. That's for Big Bro. I hope he is well.

    I have a dear friend that I have known for a quarter century plus. Navigator on a Fast Attack Boat back in they day. He will still say NOTHING about any of that.

    Books that I can hold are much more comforting than the Kindle. It is more comforting when I pull a 30 or 40 year old one out. They seem like old friends.

  36. I'm, home, so many, many good stories and books here.

    Sher Kahn - welcome! I will definately look for one of that series. Thank you so much.

    Retired Spook - I have only owned one horse. I sort of inherited him with a small farm. I named him Elmer. He spent his whole life trying to die and I spent all of my money trying to keep him from dying. We had an arrangement. I didn't ride him. He didn't bite me. I cried when he finally died.

    Twodogs - thank you so much! That sounds like something I would really, really like.

    Mike M - tactical son in law cooks and I bet he would love that one as well. Thanks.

    Off to bed, I worked a full day in a walking boot for the fracture and I'm pretty pooped. Thank you again, for taking the time to respond and share with this good group of folks.

  37. You have seen our library....At least the part that isn't classified and hidden in a bunker

    Some of the best though:


    The lensman seriesetc.

  38. I really need help; I got so excited a few years ago when I found "Jane's Freight Containers' 1976-77" in a used bookstore. It's an addiction, collecting these.

  39. I started in high school collecting Jane's books. I knew when I bought "Jane's Freight Containers 1976-77" it was an illness; Now I need a rider on my insurance policy for all my books.

  40. Sons Of Zeus by Noble Smith:
    Sons of Zeus is an intense story filled with intrigue, shocking cultural interactions, and descriptive pankration battles, wrapped in historical events from ancient times. Using the significant historical events from the conflict between Athens and Sparta, Noble Smith creates an atmosphere of a realistic “Game of Thrones meets Spartacus”. I loved the character growth of the main character Nikias and his noble grandfather, Menesarkus. Of course, the power of the pankration battles added to the action and brutality! Sons of Zeus was a gratifying read!


I started this blog so the child I gave up for adoption could get to know me, and in turn, her children, as well as share stories for a family that lives too far away. So please keep it friendly and kid safe. Posts that are only a link or include an ad for an unknown business automatically to to SPAM..