Friday, February 1, 2008

...and BOOKS!

"Money spent on books is never wasted." -- Sidney S. Goldish, Journalist

Uhm, Hi. My name is Dale-Harriet, and I am a Livreholic. (French- pretty fancy, non?) However, it is the unalloyed truth.

When I did learn to read (in first grade in those days), I read anything I could get my hands on, and I was encouraged and enabled by the above-quoted Mr Goldish, whom I knew familiarly as "Daddy". After dinner in our house, Reading was done - Daddy read the paper, Mommy read "Ladies' Home Journal", big sister read whatever big sisters read.

Reading was always encouraged; I was aware early on that WORDS are like little gems, treasures, and were putting food on the table. Books were to be respected, enjoyed, savored - and the cover of a book is the doorway to wherever the imagination can conjure up. That was what was infused into me, virtually from birth.

Dad and I played a game for a number of years in which he'd leave a piece of paper with a word on it next to my bed before leaving for work (which he did before I got up). I would find the word, and when he came home for dinner I had to pronounce the word, spell it, define it and use it in a sentence. There was the occasional stumper (of course the ever-popular "antidisestablishmentarianism" was one) but it was a great vocabulary builder. (see Free Rice!) I always excelled at spelling, got top grades in English, got extra credit for reading extra books. (Sucked at Math, but hey - the Good Lord invented the little bitty calculator as a Personal Gift to me.)

My house is full of bookcases which are full of books. We have a new narrow six-shelf bookcase in the front hall - in its box, because we don't have anywhere to put it up. (!?) I love kids' books; I have a decent library of books about bears, both wild and teddy. I have some cookbooks, I have a small collection of etiquette books (What's that she says? Etty-cut? That some'at from the last century?)

Sorry. Got carried away.

Out of all the books I have read,- there are a few stand-outs. A couple of books I love so much I think everyone in the WORLD should read them; to that end, I actually have "loaner copies" to share. "Once burned, twice shy" - I try to not bemoan the books I've loaned and lost.

By the way, I'm not linking any of these; half the fun is searching them out. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Nevermind.

Among those:

Kristen Lavrandsdottir by Sigrid Undset.

Actually a trilogy, it's the story of an 11th century Norwegian girl from age seven, through her life, marriage, childbirths to her death; it seems to me to be an accurate depiction of the life and times and is the most evocative book I've ever read. You can smell the food cooking, feel the sea spray and hear the voices. My copy is a single-volume hard-cover; it's available in paperback from several publishers (and the Library surely has them too) My loaner copies are separate paperbacks.

Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

These should be required reading for any true Wild-Eyed Book-Gobbling, Word-Reading person. They're absolutely enchanting and describe an innocent time. In the first, Helen McGill up and leaves her author-brother on their farm to buy Parnassus, a horse-drawn library, from Mr Roger Mifflin (the small, red-haired and wiry). Mifflin has been a "book tinker", carrying fine literature to the rural citizens of America. As a 38-year-old spinster, Helen's ready for something new. "The Haunted Bookshop" continues the chronicle, when - having married, Helen and Roger McGill trade Parnassus for a little bookshop in Brooklyn named "Parnassus at Home". Their lives revolve around books and reading, and it's as pleasant a little tale as can be found between two covers. I re-read them occasionally to remind myself how much I love books and bookstores. The "bookshop" of the title is a place we'd all love to go -- dusty shelves of books with that delicious old-book smell . It has a bit of romance, a wee mystery, and absolute charm.

Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon

WARNING: They made a movie out of this: do NOT, I repeat do NOT! see it. OK, that's my opinion; the whole book-to-film flap can be discussed later. The movie's dreadful, the book STERLING. I like this kind of book, read the genre fairly often, and I did not see the twist ending coming at ALL. (Admittedly I make a point to not overthink these, as the ending's more fun if it is a surprise.) I literally read this book every late August, and love it every time, even though now, of course, I do know how it ends.

The Wicker Man by R Hardy and A Shaffer

NOTE: They made a movie out of this: I DO recommend the original movie with Edward Woodward and Britt Eckland (and "Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle"). The authors were in on the making of this film and it is, to my mind, the very book come to life, softened somewhat for the easily-embarrassed. There was a remake of this film with Nick Cage - do NOT, I repeat do NOT see the remake. Sorry Cage. You're cute, the movie's awful.

When Mr Dearling and I were first courting, we got together to read aloud, and the first book we read was this (he hadn't heard of it; it was already my favorite). We differ in our viewpoints about it, but I find it fascinating. I'll say no more (I hate "spoilers") but if you read it I'd be interested in your thoughts. What I will say is - Mr Dearling calls it a horror story; I see it as a cautionary tale for rigid, inflexible people.

Now - if I were going to list ALL my favorites and give reviews - well, you'd quit reading and I'd be pretty well fried. So I'm just going to mention a few; suffice it to say, reading is one of my Life's Greatest Pleasures, and crone that I am, I have no interest in "e-books" or that sort of thing. I like the heft, the feel of a book, the smell of old books, the anticipation of pages to turn. better than ProComm Plus. Nevermind.)

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. When I had my Terrible Eye Infection I literally had to keep both eyes covered, and I spent two weeks in as total dark as possible; the second day of this Mr Dearling came home with a big bag of books-on-tape and handed me my walkperson. The highlight of the deal was the audio book of CCF, which I listened to about three times. When I recovered, Lovely Daughter pointed out that a movie had been made of this too - and when I could see again I got that. Here's the deal: I now OWN the audio book, the film AND the regular book, and I go back and enjoy each (this is a case of "terrific movie - well adapted from book".

The Birchbark House and The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich. These are kidbooks and could easily be bound in a single volume; I suspect that would make it too imposing-looking for a 4th grader. (Seems like a whole genre sort of fancies itself for middle-elementary-school-age.) This is about a Metis child who lives in northern Wisconsin with her fur trader "Deydey" and Ojibway mother, and is a rich depiction of fur trade life in, I would say, early 19th century. The second moves ahead seamlessly from the first. I recommend this to every 4th grade class I see at the Museum. NOTE: Erdrich has written many adult books too - I have trouble getting through them.

"His Dark Materials" by Philip Pullman: The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass . I heard the first touted on NPR with the mention of "sentient BEARS"; needless to say, I went to get it. Imagine my dismay - uhm - consternation delight to discover it was the first of a trilogy. Not an easy read, this is from that new genre that is sophisticated fantasy/fairy tale/science fiction and is right up there with my All-Time Favorites.

OTHERWISE! I adore the Laura Ingalls Wilder books; I like a lot of the American Girl stories; I like a lot of the "Dear America" series. I adore diaries and journals of pioneer women, Indian women, colonial women. I read Shakespeare for the sheer richness of language. I have a variety of cookbooks (especially historical ones) which I adore and occasionally cook from. I have a variety of dictionaries, a good thesaurus (Roget's, are there any others? and not the wimpy "dictionary style" either). Lots of books about Vikings and medieval life, quite a few books on occultism and Wicca - &c. I still have my library of calligraphy books (I taught for years; now my "benign tremor" sort of sticks that up). I have a few books on writing (I do have some children's stories & short stories I've written, just no knowledge of marketing, business &c).

I'm very susceptible to illustration and remember illustrations from childhood books perfectly. Picture books illustrated by K.Y.Craft are worth gazing at over and over for hours - literally. I love ALL Jan Brett's books (in fact, check out her homepage for a real treat, and if you a) have children; b) teach; c) tell stories; d) babysit; e) have grandchildren; f) enjoy arrested development your second childhood...there is a TON of stuff for you on Jan's website. NOTE: when you go to Jan's homepage now, a little trail of hearts follows behind your cursor, I love it!

Matter of fact - I believe I'll do a whole post on children's illustrators whose books I adore beyond reality (Gyo Fujikawa, Trina Scharf Hyman, Nancy Eckholm Burkert). But for now, 'nuff said.

Editor's note: for some reason this took me DAYS to write! I apologize for the delay, no idea why it was so hard. Could stopping to reread stuff figure in?


Deb said...

Wow - that's a lot to consider, bookwise. My dad and I played a similar game. I still remember "condiment" and "encumber"

MollyBeees said...

What a great post! You and I have a lot of great books in common! We also agree on the original version of Wicker Man. See you tonight!

Marty52 said...

I'll have to check out some of these books... they sound verra interesting. If I may, I would like to recommend Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. She has six books in the series out and is working on the seventh. The series has time travel, Scottish history, pioneer living and lots of love. I think you would enjoy it. Currently I'm rereading the whole series for the 4th time... I'm addicted!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Kristin's been too long, I must reread that soon. I'm a big Louise Erdrich fan too, although I haven't read the kidbooks, but I love her novels.

Ever read Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell? Amazing book.

janna said...

I nee to read the Christopher Morley books - there's an absolutely charming bookstore here in Iowa City named The Haunted Bookshop after it. (

Anonymous said...

I love books, too, whether printed or audio. (not ventured into the ebook realm yet)

My book group read Kristin Lavrandsdottir but it was during tax season so I did not partake. Someday.

Thanks for the reccy on the Christopher Morley books. I shall look into them.

I read Harvest Home years ago an liked it. When I read my first Stephen King book (The Shining) I said to myself, He doesn't write as well as Thomas Tryon. Too bad Tryon died so young.

The rest, I had not read except for the Philip Pullman trilogy. Like you, I found The Golden Compass hard going, but eventually I wised up and got the audio version. Excellent, although I found books 2 and 3 not quite as compelling as book 1. Must see the movie.

My favorite book of all time, which you may or may not like yourself, is a nonfiction book: Winterdance: The Fine Magic of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen. It is both hilarious and spiritual, as well as graphic about the, um, nasty bits about dogs and dog racing. Seek it out; perhaps it may enchant you as much as it did me.

Jane said...

Oh my goodness, I read A LOT and the only ones one your list I've even heard of are the Golden Compass books, Wickerman (which I did not know was a book) and Cold Comfort Farm. Oh and Laura Ingalls, of course. I love Jan Brett's illustrations, too. When I was working as a kindergarten aid, the teacher adored those books, and that was how I met them. I'm saving this post so I can spend time later this weekend looking up new books to order from Amazon! Thanks for a wonderful list.

Iron Needles said...

Well done and well written! Agreeing with you on many levels.
We had very, very little when I was growing up, but my mother always believed books were well worthy the money spent. To this day, I justify everything I spend....except on books!
Hope you are keeping warm.

knitnzu said...

Hey I was at the library looking for something this morning... will bring your list next time. I've only read the kristen book and phillip pullman's books (loved those!). Came home mostly with small books because I just finished the 5th of those outlander books (you know, 1000 pages long...). I still think the first was the best. Have you read 'The Zoom Trilogy', a kid's book by Tim Wynne Jones? Great imagination stretcher for the preschool/early school crowd.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's why I like you. Between the knitting and the books and the snow, we're sisters, almost. That part about the historical cookbooks, I love the ones you can get from churches, or old clubs, like the Moose Lodge or stuff like that. My sister and I have one, we just call it "The Gray Cookbook". I got our mom's, and she got our grandma's, so we each have one, I have no idea how old they are. But, let's just say there's directions in there for making head cheese, and what to do with innards, and how to cook chicken gizzards! Whenever we get to talking about how to do something, the other one always says, "Go check the gray cookbook, I bet it's in there". And it always is. Except if you want to know how long to microwave something. Odd, there's no chapter in there about microwaves. Hmmmm.

Nora said...

I swore I wasn't gonna start reading ANY MORE BLOGS. Now look what you've done! And you've gone and made me put more books on the "to read" list. (Love His Dark Materials, BTW.) Great blog. I'll be back...