Category: Books and Reading

Lonesome Dove

Classics Club Book #10: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

He had known several men who blew their heads off, and he had pondered it much. It seemed to him it was probably because they could not take enough happiness just from the sky and the moon to carry them over the low feelings that came to all men. Lonesome Dove has been on my to-be-read list for over twenty years. A classic western and a Pulitzer prize winner, I’ve started it at least three times. I’ve even successfully avoided watching the Lonesome Dove TV miniseries all these years...

London Plague of 1665

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

Many consciences were awakened; many hard hearts melted into tears; many a penitent confession was made of crimes long concealed. It would wound the soul of any Christian to have heard the dying groans of many a despairing creature, and none durst come near to comfort them. Many a robbery, many a murder, was then confessed aloud, and nobody surviving to record the accounts of it. When A Journal of the Plague Year was first published in 1722 as the “Observations and Memorials” of a “citizen” who called himself...

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan Cites The Odyssey, Moby Dick, and All Quiet on the Western Front in Noble Prize Lecture

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture is a meditation on the relationship between literature and lyrics. It’s a powerful witness to the lifelong influence great literature can have on a person’s life. Dylan explains that the books he read in grammar school have had a profound influence on his life and on his songwriting: Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, A Tale of Two Cities, but most especially Moby-Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Odyssey. He says the books he read in grammar school gave you...

The Trial by Franz Kafka

Classics Club #9: The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial by Franz Kafka is one of the masterpieces of existential literature. Or so it is said. Since I’m not up to date on my existential philosophy, the book was largely wasted on me. It’s always a challenge to read books that come at life from a different world view than one’s own, but to give them a fair chance requires wrestling with their philosophical underpinnings. I’m not at a point in my reading life or my intellectual life where I’m interested in exploring the existential experiences described...

Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

The best thing I can say about Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm is that it helped me meet the letter “Z” requirement for my 2017 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge. I forced myself to keep reading this dated satire long after I lost interest in it. From the publisher: Max Beerbohm’s only novel is a comic masterpiece set in the privileged environs of Judas College, Oxford. When beautiful prestidigitator Zuleika Dobson gains admittance to the all-male campus, romance is suddenly in the air. But the smitten undergraduates are out of...

The Balrog - Ted Naismith (detail)

The Ring Goes South by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is not so much a review as a progress report. After a fantastic start to my 2017 Reading Challenges, things have slowed down quite a bit. I’m still keeping up with the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong, however, and according to Goodreads I’m still seven books ahead of my overall schedule for the year. I’ve just finished The Ring Goes South, part two of The Fellowship of the Ring in the Millennium edition. I have to say that I’m really enjoying reading The Lord of the Rings in these smaller...

Far from the Madding Crowd

Classics Club #8: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd is 10th on the The Guardian’s poll of greatest love stories of all time. I did not find it as great as that. Yes, Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak are well realized characters, and Hardy’s descriptions are evocative and detailed, but the plot did not grab me at all. I can appreciate a good classic romance now and then, but for some reason Far from the Madding Crowd lost my interest fairly quickly. Maybe it was the fact that Bathsheba kept shooting herself in the foot, so...

The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables by David Bellos

The short answer is that if you love the novel or the musical Les Misérables, then yes, you should run right out and buy a copy of The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables by David Bellos. If you are what Cameron Mackintosh calls a “Les Mis freak,” then this book is definitely for you. But it is also for those who love literature in general, who love a good “behind-the-scenes” documentary, who are fascinated by literary history, or who love reading about how authors work. I couldn’t...

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

I wasn’t planning on reading Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, but when our daughter Teresa was recently cast in the role of Elizabeth for her final high school play, I wanted to reacquaint myself with the story. I’m pretty sure it was assigned reading for me in high school, but I don’t remember if I actually read it or not. Now that I’ve finished it, I can’t wait to see it performed on stage. I was caught up in the story from beginning to end, and found it both...

Tolkien Reading Day

Tolkien Reading Day 2017

It’s almost Tolkien Reading Day! Held annually on March 25th, Tolkien Reading Day is an annual event to celebrate works of author J.R.R Tolkien. According to the Tolkien Society, Tolkien Reading Day is held on the 25th of March each year. It has been organised by the Tolkien Society since 2003 to encourage fans to celebrate and promote the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien by reading favourite passages. We particularly encourage schools, museums and libraries to host their own Tolkien Reading Day events. Why 25 March? The...

The Sapphire Rose Banner

The Sapphire Rose by David Eddings

The Sapphire Rose is the final book in the David Eddings fantasy trilogy The Elenium, and overall it provides a satisfactory conclusion. There were even a few twists I wasn’t expecting. Rather than summarize the book and give away some of the events of the earlier two books, I will simply say that The Sapphire Rose continues to tell the story of Sparhawk’s quest to save his queen from death, while at the same time trying to prevent the evil god Azash from getting loose and wreaking havoc on the...

The Lord of the Rings and Lent

  It’s March 1st which means it’s time to begin reading The Fellowship of the Ring for Brona’s Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Readalong. In yet another interesting coincidence, today also happens to be the beginning of Lent. The synchronicity of those two events is too intriguing to ignore, and as I reflect on both The Fellowship of the Ring and Lent, I find several significant ways they are related. Both Are Journeys First, journey is at the heart of them both. Frodo and Sam set out on a long journey,...

The Ruby Knight, detail

The Ruby Knight by David Eddings

The Ruby Knight is the second book in The Elenium by David Eddings, and it improves slightly on its predecessor, The Diamond Throne.  Sparhawk and his companions continue their quest to save Queen Ehlana from the poison that is slowly killing both her and the knights whose life forces are keeping her alive. The story is a little more focused than the first book, and the light-hearted humor doesn’t seem as forced. Eddings has never had a problem creating likable characters, and his ensemble from The Diamond Throne really come into their...

Diamond Throne

The Diamond Throne by David Eddings

I’ve had David Eddings’ three-book series The Elenium on my bookshelf since about 1995, and for one reason or another have never gotten around to reading it. So when I was putting together a list of books for my 2017 Reading Challenges, I decided it was time to finally knock it off my To Be Read list. The series is comprised of The Diamond Throne (1989), The Ruby Knight (1991), and The Sapphire Rose (1992). After finishing The Diamond Throne, I’m a bit disappointed. Not that it was bad, but it wasn’t as...

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie

“Don’t go,” said Cedric. “Murder has made you practically one of the family.” I haven’t picked up an Agatha Christie book quite a while, but reading 4:50 from Paddington was like easing into a comfortable pair of slippers. It has all the elements I like in a mystery: a startling murder, multiple suspects with interesting back stories, a plot twist or two, and a creepy old English manor thrown in as a bonus. If you’ve enjoyed Agatha Christie before, you’ll like what  you find here. If you’ve never read anything by...