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Book Lover’s Day

August 9, 2020

Wayne writes: Happy National Book Lover’s Day! I didn’t know it was, either, until Easton Press mentioned it in an email this morning. To a book lover, isn’t every day Book Lover’s Day?

Speaking of books, apologies to anyone who has come to this blog thinking, from its title, that it has something to do with Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough. And welcome! We have nothing to do with The Donald, but much to do with books, so I thought that we should be saying more about what we’ve been reading – in this post, what I myself have been reading. I started to make a list of titles only at the end of May, after the library director at Williams asked staff, and others at the college, to say what we were reading at that moment, to be the subject of one of a series of Daily Messages emailed to the college community. I replied:

On my table is The Barbed-Wire University by Midge Gillies (2011), about how Allied prisoners-of-war in WW2 kept themselves occupied (other than by escaping). Officers, at least, who generally weren’t required to work, and at least those in Europe rather than Asia, had plenty of time not only to read but also to hear lectures and take courses. It’s not why I’m reading it – I’ve had this book for a while – but POW experiences of confinement, uncertainty, and fear uncomfortably parallel current circumstances. Two books read immediately before this were Humphrey Stone’s 2019 biography of his father, wood-engraver Reynolds Stone, and Tessa Wild’s 2018 William Morris and His Palace of Art: Architecture, Interiors and Design at Red House.

Here, with little further comment, are other books I’ve read since May, more or less in the order I read them:

The Art of Darkness: Staging the Philip Pullman Trilogy by Robert Butler. Oberon Books, 2003. On the Royal National Theatre adaptation of His Dark Materials. I wish I could have seen it.

Restoration Stories: Patina and Paint in Old London Houses by Philippa Stockley. Photographs by Charles Hopkinson. Pimpernel Press, 2019.

Laurits Andersen Ring. National Gallery of Denmark, 2019. Christina and I saw an exhibition of his work at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, just before the shutdown in March.

Louis I. Kahn and the Yale Center for British Art: A Conservation Plan by Peter Kinskip and Stephen Gee, in association with Constance Clement. Yale Center for British Art/Yale University Press, 2011.

John Piper’s Brighton Aquatints. Mainstone Press, 2019.

Winifred Knights, 1899–1947 by Sacha Llewellyn. Dulwich Picture Gallery/Lund Humphries, 2016.

Creating the V&A: Victoria and Albert’s Museum (1851–1861). Lund Humphries/V&A Publishing, 2019.

The Rise of Everyday Design: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and America. Edited by Monica Penick and Christopher Long. Harry Ransom Center/Yale University Press, 2019.

Oxford: Mapping the City by Daniel MacCannell. Birlinn, 2016.

Novel Houses: Twenty Famous Fictional Dwellings by Christina Hardyment. Bodleian Library, 2020. One of the fictional dwellings discussed is Bag End from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch. Gollancz, 2020. The latest book in the ‘Rivers of London’ supernatural mystery series.

Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany. Crooked Lane Books, 2017. The first in the ‘Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery’ series, but the last I’ll bother with, as I found the lead character unsympathetic. In general I’m a sucker for Holmes spin-offs (see below).

The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-earth by John Garth. Princeton University Press, 2020.

Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts. Edited by Diana Donald and Jane Munro. Fitzwilliam Museum/Yale Center for British Art/Yale University Press,  2009.

American Dialogue: The Founders and Us by Joseph J. Ellis. Alfred A. Knopf, 2018.

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison. Tor Books, 2020. Holmes and Watson, as ‘Crow’ and ‘Doyle’, in an alternate-universe England in which angels, vampires, werewolves, hell hounds, ghosts, etc. co-exist with ordinary people. The reader needs to know something of the Holmes Canon to appreciate what Addison has done with it. A bit of character development left me wondering What? How? for half the book, and the explanation, awkwardly left to the end, wasn’t satisfying (I mean, within the frame of the story; I didn’t think of Rex Stout’s notorious Holmesian ‘theory’ until afterward).

The Life and Art of Clifford Webb by Simon Brett. Little Toller Books, 2019.

And now I have to choose another book! What are you reading on Book Lover’s Day?

  1. August 9, 2020 4:40 pm

    “Faster than Normal” by Peter Shankman

  2. David Bratman permalink
    August 9, 2020 8:40 pm

    Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944–1956 by Anne Applebaum (Doubleday, 2012).

  3. Ed Pierce permalink
    August 9, 2020 9:30 pm

    “Resurrecting Easter: How the West Lost and the East Kept the Original Easter Vision,” by John Dominic Crossan. Next up will be the new John Garth book.

  4. August 10, 2020 5:47 pm

    I am transcribing pages from Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis for Book Lovers Day.

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