My Library

“Raina: Do you know what a library is?

“Man: A library? A roomful of books.

“Raina: Yes, we have one, the only one in Bulgaria.

“Man: Actually a real library! I should like to see that.”

Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw, Act I.

A few years ago, browsing around on the internet, I came across this “Bookshelf Tag”. It looked fun so I saved the idea for when my books weren’t kept in boxes here and there, on shelves in my closet two rows deep, &c. In short, for that “someday” when my books would all be out neatly on shelves and easily accessible. Well, that day has (more or less) arrived!

1. Describe your bookshelf (or wherever it is you keep your books-it doesn’t actually have to be a shelf!) and where you got it from: I’m actually describing my library, not just one particular bookcase. I have four bookcases, along with books stowed away here and there in other places. I have two open-backed pine bookcases which my mother had made for my sister and me to fit under the (very high) windows in our bedroom at the time. I ended up with both bookcases, one of which my brother modified for me so that it would fit under a different window. I also have a couple of used bookcases a friend generously gave me — one very large, heavy brown bookcase and a smaller black one. Apart from those, I have some overflow stacked on some makeshift shelves in my bedroom, a few stuffed into a cupboard, a collection on top of my dresser, a few stored in a box in my sewing area, some more stashed in a rolltop desk by the dining room, and the rest on a little green shelf by my bed where I keep the books I’m currently reading and those borrowed through the local library.

2. Do you have any special or different way of organizing your books? I organize my fiction by author in three groups — American authors, authors whose works were translated into English, and British authors. Included in these groups are occasional autobiographies, poetry, and other non-fiction by the same authors. For example, since I have C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books with my fiction, I also keep God in the Dock, Mere Christianity, et al. on the same shelf, though they are not fiction. Since my volume of Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe contains his poems and essays as well as his short stories, they are all necessarily stored on one shelf.

Separate from these are my collections: Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Märchen, Beatrix Potter, Lewis Carroll, German. Non-fiction is roughly categorized by subject, poetry is together, reference materials together, and a section of biographies and history. I have a small shelf devoted to education. Children’s books are currently stacked higgledy-piggledy, still awaiting proper shelving and organization. Sewing books and any relating to fashion or costume are in a box in my sewing area. Cookbooks are together in the rolltop desk — at least those that fit. Further organization is yet to come, as I weed out superfluous books — now that I can actually see and get at what I have! I really need to go through them. I have many books which somehow crept their way into my collection, some I don’t need or want anymore (such as some I was given way back when I graduated) and others I never even plan on reading, which should be expunged.

3. What’s the thickest (most amount of pages) book on your shelf? It used to be The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy which has 2833 pages, but I gave that to my mom so I don’t have anything so spectacularly long anymore. Now my longest book (in terms of number of pages) is The Defender’s Study Bible which has 1620 pages.

Other books I own with over fourteen hundred pages:

Cassell’s German-English, English-German Dictionary — Deutsch-Englisches, Englisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch – 1580 pp.
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary – 1563 pp.
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary – 1532 pp.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Garden City, NY: Garden City Books, 1936) – 1527 pp.
Holy Bible (Philadelphia: The National Bible Press), used to be my grandfather’s – 1525+ pp.
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, illustrated by Topolski, Feliks – 1430 pp.

I was going to list all my books with over a thousand pages, but it turns out I have about thirty of them and I decided that would be tedious. And though truly, for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find in my heart to bestow it all of your worship — yea, an ’t were a thousand pound more than ’tis — still, I’d prefer not to bestow too much of it upon myself. [See Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare, Act 3, Scene 5, if you don’t recognize that reference.] In case you are unaccountably curious, they include more reference materials, Bibles, and compilations of Shakespeare’s works, along with compilations of Jane Austen’s novels, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, poetry compilations, and The Life and Works of Flavius Josephus.

4. What’s the thinnest (least amount of pages) book on your shelf? That is hard to say without going through a selection of my books and actually counting the pages. I have an assortment of them without numbered pages, many of which are small, children’s books and so may be supposed to have relatively few pages. I also have a handful of pamphlets with fewer than 30 pages, as small as ten or eleven pages, but those don’t really count. Probably the book with the fewest pages that I have is the board book The Wild Waves Whist, which has 20 pages counting the insides of the front and back covers.

5. Is there a book you received as a birthday gift? Probably several, though I’m more likely to get them as Christmas gifts. My grandfather took me to a used book store (Sleepy Hollow Bookshop) one birthday and bought me a couple of books I picked out — a copy of Our Mutual Friend with a beautiful cover (Boston: Perry Mason & Co., 1884) and a copy of Oliver Twist illustrated with “Photographs from The Liebler Company’s Centenary production of J. Comyn Carr’s Adaptation of the Novel”. I have The Defender’s Study Bible from my parents. A lady I used to clean house for gave me a gift certificate for Barnes and Noble for my birthday once and I used it to buy a copy of Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Those are the ones I know were birthday gifts.

6. What’s the smallest (height and width wise) book on your shelf? My smallest books are my Langenscheidt’s Lilliput English-German and Deutsch-Englisch Dictionaries, measuring in at 1-5/16” wide and 1-7/8” tall. If you want to be quite particular, the Deutsch-Englisch dictionary is about 1/16” thinner than the English-German dictionary and so is officially the smallest.

7. What’s the biggest (height and width wise) book on your shelf? If we’re talking in terms of volume, I have no intention of even attempting to figure that out. However, I’ll give you the frontrunners in each of the three pertinent dimensions.

• Tallest: Monet: 25 Masterworks — 16” tall, 11-1/2” wide, between 1/4 and 3/8” thick.
• Widest: Battle of the Beasts, by Diz Wallis — 14” wide, 11” tall, 3/8” thick.
• Thickest: American Dictionary of the English Language, by Noah Webster — 3” thick, 11” tall, 8-3/4” wide.

8. Is there a book from a friend on your shelf? Probably.

9. Most expensive book? In terms of value, I have not the faintest idea. In terms of what I paid for them, I can actually ascertain that. Although the bulk of my books are either gifts (and therefore free to me) or bought from book sales (almost without exception ranging in price from 25¢ to $2), I do occasionally splurge and buy myself something more expensive. To date, the most I have spent on a book is the $34.72 I spent on my first copy of Mansfield Park — by Jane Austen, illustrated by Hugh Thomson, Macmillan’s Illustrated Standard Novels (London: Macmillan and Co., 1897), hardcover — back in 2006. That price did include shipping and handling.

10. The last book you read on your shelf? The Turmoil, by Booth Tarkington.

11. Of all the books on your shelf, which was the first you read? I have no idea. It would probably be one that I received when I was a baby. Possibly The Christian Mother Goose, Giant Treasury of Peter Rabbit, Giant Treasury of Beatrix Potter, My Jesus Book, My Book of Bible Stories, or The Velveteen Rabbit— all of which I received within the first three years of my life and all of which I remember reading as a child. However, I really could not say for certain.

12. Do you have more than one copy of a book? Emphatically, yes. I collect books. I have at least three copies of each of Jane Austen’s novels (five, if you count my two volumes of her complete novels). I have four sets of the complete works of Shakespeare (excluding the play The Two Noble Kinsman, of which I have only one copy). I have multiple copies of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I have the complete works of Beatrix Potter in one volume and am in the process of collecting individual copies of her stories. Besides these, I have the occasional novel of which I have multiple copies, usually because I can’t decide which cover or binding I like best. Or I have a copy that I love, but is in delicate condition, so I have another cheaper or hardier copy for general use.

13. Do you have the complete series of any book series? I have all of McGuffy’s Readers. I have all seven of the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I have all of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I have Jeannie K. Fulbright’s Exploring Creation series. I’m not sure if there is a differentiation between sets and series in this question, but I also have a ten-volume set of the complete works of James Whitcomb Riley, a three-volume set of the works of George Eliot, and probably some others — irrespective of the sets of Jane Austen’s and William Shakespeare’s works I own.

14. What’s the newest addition to your shelf? The Marble Faun, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

15. What book has been on your shelf FOREVER? The Christian Mother Goose Book, Volume 1, by Marjorie Ainsborough Decker — a Christmas gift from my grandparents the year I was born.

16. What’s the most recently published book on your shelf? The Wild Waves Whist: An Ageless Story from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, words by William Shakespeare, story by Erin Nelsen Parekh, illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini, copyright 2019.

17. The oldest book on your shelf (as in, the actual copy is old)? I have Church Psalmist; or, Psalms and Hymns, published by Presbyterian Board of Publication (Philadelphia) in 1847. I also have The Life and Works of William Cowper, Complete in one Volume (London: William Tegg and Co.), which has the date 1849 in it.

18. A book you won? I did actually win a book once in a blog giveaway, but due to a glitch in my emails, I never received it. As far as I can recall, I didn’t “win” any of my books.

19. A book you’d hate to let out of your sight (aka a book you never let someone borrow)? I probably wouldn’t let anyone borrow my first copy of Mansfield Park. Soon after I graduated from high school and began spending my own money, I decided to acquire a copy of each of the novels of my favourite author — Jane Austen. I decided to find hardcover copies illustrated by Hugh Thompson. I ended up getting a copy of Mansfield Park published by Macmillan and Co. in 1897. Not only am I very fond of this copy of what became my favourite novel, it is in a somewhat fragile condition, so I would be loth to lend it, lest it fall apart. I am also very partial to the volume of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion I acquired about the same time. It was also published by Macmillan and Co., this time in 1926. It has lovely red binding, feels lovely to hold, and is also in rather delicate condition. Ditto with the copy of Our Mutual Friend my grandfather gave me for my birthday one year.

20. Most beat up book? I have a number of books that aren’t in good condition. I have some children’s books that young children obviously got to and several books that were my grandfather’s that are well past their prime. I think the mice got to one before I did. I think the most beat up is one of those, Dr. Chase’s Recipes, which is lacking any cover at all and a great many of its pages. How many I couldn’t say, since I don’t know how many it is supposed to have, but it begins with page 65 and ends at page 384.

21. Most pristine book? I have a lot of books in beautiful, like-new condition. I don’t think I have a frontrunner in this category.

22. A book from your childhood? For my second Christmas, my parents gave me a Giant Treasury of Peter Rabbit and a Giant Treasure of Beatrix Potter.

23. A book that’s not actually your book? I usually have a shelf of books obtained through my local library. I have six of them right now, including The Gormenghast Novels by Mervyn Peake, When I Was a Soldier by Valérie Zenatti, Cure Tooth Decay by Ramiel Nagel, and The Tunic Bible by Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr. It is to be hoped that everything else on my shelves actually belongs to me.

24. A book with a special/different cover (e.g. leather bound, soft fuzzy cover etc.)? I have a copy of The Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that has some kind of suede or suede-like binding with a design impressed on the front. I also have a copy of Keats’ poems with a very pretty cover.

25. A book that is your favorite color? I don’t have a favourite colour. I do have some beautifully coloured books, however.

26. Book that’s been on your shelf the longest that you STILL haven’t read? I’m not sure. Maybe Utopia or The Innocents Abroad?

27. Any signed books? Behowl the Moon: An Ageless Story from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, words by William Shakespeare, story by Erin Nelsen Parekh, art by Mehrdokht Amini, signed by William Shakespeare. Just kidding! It’s signed by Erin Nelsen Parekh.

I think another good question for this tag would have been, How many books do you have on your shelf? However, it wasn’t asked and I have no intention of telling how many books I have in my library. It is an embarrassingly high number. Suffice it to say, I have way more books than is in any way necessary. Another good question (at least in my case) would be, How many of your books have you read? I haven’t ascertained that for my entire collection, but from my fiction section, I have read approximately two out of three of the books.

“Catherine: You are a barbarian at heart still, Paul. I hope you behaved yourself before all those Russian officers.

“Petkoff: I did my best. I took care to let them know that we had a library.”

Arms and the Man, by George Bernard Shaw, Act II.

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Books I Read in the First Half of 2018


Behind a Mask, or A Woman’s Power, by Louisa May Alcott (under the pen name A. M. Barnard) — I felt like reading something that wouldn’t take any brain-power. This worked. It was interesting to get a glimpse of Alcott’s early works. The subject may be different from her more domestic stories, but the style is the same.

Northanger Abbey: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by Susan J. Wolfson — This book was one of my Christmas gifts. The editor doesn’t quite approve of Henry Tilney. She thinks he bullies Catherine. My favourite annotations were those which discussed the Gothic literature of Jane Austen’s (and Catherine Morland’s) time.


The Abbot’s Ghost or, Maurice Treherne’s Temptation, by Louisa May Alcott (under the pen name A. M. Barnard) — Another of Alcott’s sensational and sentimental tales.

Belles on Their Toes, by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey — I finally got around to reading this sequel to Cheaper by the Dozen to my youngest siblings. Like the first book, it was a hit.

Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation, by Susan Williams — The true story on which the movie A United Kingdom (2016, with David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike) was based. I didn’t manage to quite keep track of all the individuals involved, but I was still able to follow the story. It was an excellent book and a fascinating story. I liked the movie, but the book covered so much more and followed Seretse’s entire life. I’d like to read this one again.


The Seagull, by Anton Chekhov (New York: Hartsdale House, 1935) — I have no idea who translated my copy of The Seagull. Nearly everyone in this play seems to want what they can’t have and the one or two who do get what they want find that it doesn’t make them happy. If I understood more about the time in which this play was written, it might have made more sense to me.


Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope, read by Nicholas Clifford for — I’ve read this before, but I wanted something easily gotten onto my iPod to listen to during an airplane trip in April. I finished it while doing various housecleaning jobs.


The Simple Path to Wealth, by J. L. Collins — A fairly simple book about investing in stocks. The book is a compilation of articles from the author’s blog:

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin, read by Patrick Lawlor (Tantor Media, 2006) — Not a very well-written book, but a fascinating story. Honestly, I do not believe I would have finished it if I hadn’t been listening to the audiobook, but I’m glad I did. Mortenson is the son of missionaries and grew up in Africa. When he was 15 years old, he and his family moved back to the states. After he graduated, he went into the army for a couple of years. Then he became a nurse and a mountaineer. His sister had meningitis, probably developed from a vaccine she was given, and died of a seizure. Mortenson decided to climb K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, in her honour. He failed, but after taking a wrong turn and becoming ill, he ended up in a village in Pakistan called Korphe, where he was taken care of. Seeing the dedication of the children there to learning, despite only occasionally having a teacher, and having no schoolhouse or paper but writing their lessons outside in the dirt, even in inclement weather, he promised to come back and build them a school. It took a lot of time and work to finally get it built, but he did. He got funding from Jean Hoerni, who founded the Central Asia Institute to support Mortenson’s work so he could build even more schools. Mortenson views his work as a peaceful way of fighting terrorism. He was in the Middle East on September 11, 2001 and offered an interesting perspective on the events of that day.

— — —

I didn’t accidentally skip April — I didn’t finished reading any books that month.


Paintings: “Alice in Wonderland” (circa 1879) by George Dunlop Leslie (1835-1921) & “La devozione al nonno” (1893, roughly translated “Devotion to the grandfather”) by Albert Anker (1831-1910).

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Today is the official first day of summer! (Really, though, I think that with temperatures that have been in the 90s°F, summer has been in full force for a while now!) It was a lovely day in my area — sunny, breezy, temperatures in the 70s°F. I spent the afternoon picking strawberries and doing other outdoor stuff. The already cut hay in the fields surrounding my home got flipped early in the afternoon and then baled in the evening. Here is the view from my bedroom window, morning and then evening:


The tree is fully leafed out, now. It was lovely to watch as the leaves grew visibly day by day during the spring.

May 2nd:


May 4th:

May 5th:


May 6th:


May 8th:

May 15th:

May 19th:

And now it is a month later, and a far cry from this (April 3rd):

I’m so glad it is summer! There is green everywhere and it is beautiful.


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Books I Read in the Second Half of 2017


Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, by Jane Hawking — An autobiography largely about the challenges of life with a severely disabled spouse. In addition to these challenges, Jane Jones (after her divorce from Stephen Hawking, Jane married Jonathan Jones — I imagine she used the name Hawking on her book for its recognizability) also had the struggles that come with having a genius for a husband (he was, among other things, a theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author) and her autobiography is also, to some extent, a defense of her own mental capabilities, which were not insignificant.

The author’s work to care for her family and give her children as normal a life as possible is admirable. She faced overwhelming difficulties and yet continued to persevere despite great discouragement. The fact that she did become discouraged and depressed is not surprising. It is unfortunate that, as a Christian, she looked for comfort from another man. Her indignation at her in-law’s suggestion that her third child might not be their son’s falls a little flat when she does eventually commit adultery.

Travelling to Infinity is an updated version of the author’s book Music to Move the Stars: A Life with Stephen. Time changed her perspective of those years to a certain extent and she changed her book accordingly. Among other things, the new book ends with her again being on good terms with her first husband, Stephen Hawking. Since I read the book, Stephen Hawking has died (January 8, 1942 – March 14, 2018).

I Am a Star: Child of the Holocaust, by Inge Auerbacher — A short autobiography covering the time the author spent as a child in Germany during the rise of the Nazis and then in the Terezin, or Theresienstadt, concentration camp in Czechoslovakia during World War II. At one point during her imprisonment there, the Red Cross visited and, in a propaganda film, the Nazis presented the camp as a model Jewish settlement. In preparation for this, parts of the camp were cleaned up. “Some people were given new clothing and good food to eat. A few children received chocolates and sardine sandwiches just as the commission walked past them. I was not one of the lucky ones.” The book is interspersed with poems by the author.

My Louisiana Sky, by Kimberly Willis Holt — A novel for young adults. Twelve-year old Tiger Ann Parker (I love her name!) lives in a small town with her mentally challenged parents and her grandmother. The story isn’t exactly a “coming-of-age story”, as it doesn’t follow Tiger to adulthood, but it does focus on her growth as a person — her values, her relationships, the way deals with the death of her grandmother, &c. I enjoyed the novel. I did find the ending a bit too sweet (not quite the word I want — perhaps a better one would be “self-indulgent”?), though.

The Painted Veil, by W. Somerset Maugham — I was expecting this book to be, at least partly, a love story between a man and his wife. It is not a love story. The story is about Kitty, the wife, and her growth as a woman. She begins as a spoilt young woman, who marries a boring (to her, at any rate) young doctor, Walter, to prevent her younger sister from getting married before her. She soon begins a love affair with a more exciting and experienced, but also married, man, Charlie. When Walter discovers the affair, he agrees to divorce Kitty (or, rather, allow her to divorce him) if her lover will agree to divorce his wife and marry her. Kitty quickly discovers that Charlie has no commitment to her and that Walter realized this from the beginning. Walter then takes Kitty to a cholera-infested place in China, where he works tirelessly among the sick. It is here that Kitty’s growth really begins, as she learns how better to judge people and how to be a useful person herself, not merely living for her own gratification. Her husband eventually falls ill with cholera and dies. She returns to England where she is taken in by Charlie’s wife. Although she has nothing but contempt for Charlie now, he is able to seduce her once more. Disgusted with herself, Kitty returns to her father a stronger person and dedicates herself to him and to giving her child (she discovered she was pregnant before the death of her husband, though unable to tell him whether or not he was the father) a better upbringing than she had.

While I do not recall the novel being overly graphic, it does go into enough detail with Kitty’s sexual desires to qualify it as an adult novel. I was disappointed that Kitty, although learning better judgment, continues to view her husband as petty for being bitter about her adultery and to think that it didn’t really matter. (He had his own set of issues, but that doesn’t excuse her.) Another issue I found unpalatable was Kitty’s views on the appearance of the Chinese babies she, under the direction of some French nuns, is allowed to help care for. These aside, it was an interesting novel.

The Chosen, by Chaim Potok — A novel about the friendship between two Jewish boys, Reuven Malter and Daniel Saunders. The story is told by Reuven, who attends a modern orthodox school and wants to become a rabbi. Danny is, on the other hand, from an ultra-orthodox background and wants to become a psychologist. Together they grow up and face the aftermath of the Holocaust in America and the struggles of Zionism (a subject on which their families take opposite sides). Danny’s father only talks to him when they study the talmud together. Though he is only supposed to study talmud, Danny sneaks to the library where Reuven’s father anonymously recommends literature to him, something he is able to take great advantage of, despite his limited time there, because of his photographic memory.

I actually had no idea what the storyline of The Chosen was before I read it. Perhaps that was a good thing as, although the bare storyline may sound a little dry, the book was fascinating.


Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston, read by Ruby Dee — A story in which the heroine, the very beautiful Janie Crawford, goes through three husbands, finally finding love with the third. Her first husband was a much older man she was coerced into marrying by her grandmother for the sake of security and protection. Although her husband is fond of her, he doesn’t communicate that to Janie, instead treating her more like a housekeeper who doesn’t do enough around the farm. As a result, she runs off with the more flashy Joe Starks. (Apparently the process of running away qualified as a divorce, hopefully for Janie’s husband as well as herself — either that or she commits bigamy.) Joe is an ambitious man who builds a general store in a small town which quickly begins to grow. He is very successful and is soon elected mayor. However, he basically treats Janie as a trophy wife, is very controlling of her, and publicly criticizes and humiliates her. When she finally lashes back at him, his pride is so hurt he refuses to see her again. He soon dies, leaving Janie a rich widow. She eventually meets and falls in love with a younger man, Tea Cake. Janie leaves the town and the two get married. Tea Cake and Janie truly love each other, treat each other as equals, and are happy.

Though of her three husbands, Tea Cake was the only one to really respect her, he certainly isn’t perfect. Beating your wife (even if you aren’t really hurting her) is not an appropriate way of showing your possession, I don’t care if you are jealous or not. Though Janie finally finds the love she has dreamed of, the story has a sad ending.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, by Dai Sijie, translated from the French by Ina Rilke — A novel about the power of stories. In the process of showing this, the book shows also the importance of choosing carefully the kinds of stories one fills one’s head and life with. Like The Painted Veil, I would categorize this as an adult novel.


The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts, by Richard Peck — I’ve read this before. This time, I read it aloud to some of my younger siblings who found it hilarious, of course!

The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende, translated from the German by Ralph Manheim, read by Gerard Doyle (Tantor Audio, 2012) — I read somewhere that this was a book about the art of storytelling. It turned out to be a long fantasy novel for children. Some of it was interesting, some of it was boring. I think it went on too long — rather a danger with a book having the word never-ending in its title! The main character is Bastian Balthazar Bux. He is a fat, fearful little boy who loves books. He begins reading a special book whose story turns out to be happening as he reads. The story concerns a boy named Atreyu who is sent on a mission to find the one person who can save the life of the Childlike Empress. Unsurprisingly, this person turns out to be Bastian. When Bastian enters the story he is reading, he saves the Childlike Empress by giving her a new name, which I thought was an interesting concept. The author had a lot of interesting ideas, but I think they fizzled out at the end. Also, the book felt like a string of stories: one would end and I would have to get interested all over again in a new one. Some of the stuff towards the end about stories vs reality and lies and such was ridiculous. Honestly, I probably only finished reading this because I had it on audiobook along with a long, quiet job scrubbing wallpaper glue off walls.


Invisible Cities, by Italo Calvino, translated from the Italian by William Weaver — “Futures not achieved are only branches of the past: dead branches.” That is one of my favourite quotations from Invisible Cities. It is an intriguing novel, but that has nothing to do with the plot, because it doesn’t really have one. Nothing really happens beyond Marco Polo describing cities to Kublai Khan. Part of its interest comes from its structure and the names of the cities.

I didn’t always appreciate the view of women presented. Still, one of my favourite cities, I think, was Zobeide, along with Thekla. Even better than the descriptions of cities, though, I most enjoyed the intermittent conversations between Marco Polo and the emperor. The quotation above is from one of these conversations. So is the following:

I have also thought of a model city from which I deduce all the others …. It is a city made only of exceptions, exclusions, incongruities, contradictions. If such a city is the most improbable, by reducing the number of abnormal elements, we increase the probability that the city really exists. So I have only to subtract exceptions from my model, and in whatever direction I proceed, I will arrive at one of the cities which, always as an exception, exist. But I cannot force my operation beyond a certain limit: I would achieve cities too probable to be real.

An Accomplished Woman, by Jude Morgan — Once in a while, I end up reading some Jane Austen novel continuation, re-write, or imitation. I am almost invariably disappointed and this time was no exception. An Accomplished Woman is set during the Regency period and obviously borrows characteristics and situations from Jane Austen’s novels, but without her wit, consistency, and good sense. The heroine, Lydia Templeton, is every bit as self-deluded as Jane Austen’s Emma Wodehouse, but without her cleverness, despite that apparently being the quality everyone ascribes to her. She is very fond of drinking, though, which perhaps accounts for her mental confusion. Still, if you want a harmless novel to read that doesn’t rely too heavily on logic — perhaps when one is in bed with a head cold — you could do worse.


Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook, by Shel Silverstein — A book of the author’s poems published posthumously. As the title suggests, the book is full of spoonerisms. Some of them are better than others. I think my favourite was “Runny Bakes a Tath”:

“Runny had to bake a tath
Before they’d sive him gupper.
He got so tungry in the hub,
He ate the rat of mubber.
He chewed his dubber rucky up,
He gulped boap subbles, too.
But what upset his mamma most
Was shrinking the dampoo.”

Runny Babbit’s mamma sometimes has to leave him “Rittle Leminders” like: “Stop faking maces”, “Rean up your cloom”, “Hash you wands”, “Don’t mew with your chouth full”, “Don’t sight with your fister”, “Use your slapkin not your neeve”, “Don’t nick your pose”, “Take those looks to the bibrary”, and “Shake a tower”.


Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen, read by Johanna Ward — As I have an entire blog devoted to Jane Austen’s novels, specifically Mansfield Park, I won’t say anything about the novel itself here except that it is about the greatest novel ever. (I might be slightly biased by the fact that it is my favorite novel.) However, I will say that Johanna Ward read it beautifully! I think that, of all the audio renditions of Mansfield Park I have listened to, this is my favourite — despite the fact that Ms. Ward inexplicably referred to Edmund Bertram as Edward the first time he was mentioned.


Paintings: “Claude Monet (The Reader)” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) and “The New Novel” by Winslow Homer (1836-1910).

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Wild Waves Whist

“Come unto these yellow sands,
    And then take hands;
Curtsied when you have and kiss’d,
    The wild waves whist …”
— William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I, Scene II

If you like Shakespeare as much as I do, you may be interested in Erin Nelsen Parekh’s new Shakespeare for Babies project. Last year, she came out with the beautiful Behowl the Moon board book, featuring a passage from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and charming illustrations by Mehrdokht Amini. Now she is using Kickstarter to fund another book using text from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. If you are interesting in being a part of this project, the fundraising is on until May 19. You can read more about it, see some of the lovely illustrations, and make a pledge on the Kickstarter page: “Shakespeare for babies: real literature to read on a lap”. Those who participate can come away with some fun rewards — copies of the book, notecards, art prints, etc. You can even be part of a scholarship to send out copies of The Wild Waves Whist “to a school, library, or kid that needs a break.” Behowl the Moon turned out delightful and, from the looks of it, The Wild Waves Whist will be just as captivating.

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Books I Read During the First Half of 2017


Phineas Finn, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — Phineas Finn was not so bad in the book as in the TV series. He is not so whiny and is more upright. I did not like Lady Laura, who purposely antagonized her husband and tried to make him feel guilty when he was concerned about her.

Lady in Waiting, by Rosemary Sutcliff — A historical novel about Bess Throckmorton and Sir Walter Ralegh. The title describes both Bess’s position in Queen Elizabeth’s court and her life as Ralegh’s wife.

Central Park, by Debra White Smith — I read this because it is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. For a “Christian” novel whose main characters are committed to sexual purity, this books is oddly obsessed with physical attraction. You’d think they could find something else with which to occupy their minds. It is largely occupied with details about the exact length of the skirts, how much make-up the characters wear, what size their hips are, their brand of perfume, what their jackets are made out of, their favorite candle scents, &c.


The Eustace Diamonds, by Anthony Trollope, read by Simon Vance — Lizzie Eustace is an entertaining antiheroine. She is not a bright woman, who spends her time lying and conniving. Her shenanigans receive an amusingly fitting reward. I did not much like her cousin Frank. I am of the opinion that a man shouldn’t ask a poor woman to marry him until he has decided which means most to him — love or money.

Shakespeare’s Daughters, by Sharon Hamilton — This is not a book about Shakespeare’s biological daughters, Susanna and Judith Shakespeare, but a study of father-daughter relationships in several of Shakespeare’s plays. It is divided into various categories, such as obedient daughters, rebellious daughters, &c. The author’s perspective on a number of the women in Shakespeare’s plays was interesting. For example, she opined the idea that one of the reasons Desdemona (one of the rebellious daughters) ended up dead was her father’s rejection of her and her subsequent isolation.


Phineas Redux, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — More about Phineas Finn. In here, he is accused of murder. Lizzie Eustace is again a character and, in the end, it is rumoured that she is about to marry Lord George de Bruce Carruthers, who thought about marrying her in The Eustace Diamonds, but ultimately decided she was too hot to handle.

Sam the Sudden, by P. G. Wodehouse — One of my favorite Wodehouse novels. I read it aloud to a couple of my younger siblings (aged twelve and fifteen), fellow Wodehouse enthusiasts. Naturally, they enjoyed it immensely.


The Prime Minister, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — The Duke, Plantagenet Palliser, becomes Prime Minister, much more to his wife’s delight than his own. Unfortunately, when he most needs her comfort, she prefers to vex him. I liked her better in Can You Forgive Her? The slimy Ferdinand Lopez is introduced and poor Emily Wharton learns that you shouldn’t marry a man whose profession you don’t even know.

A Month in the Country: A Comedy in Five Acts, by Ivan Turgenev, translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett — I had this on my computer and read it to pass an idle hour or two. Everyone is in love with the wrong person, but I’m not sure I would categorize it as a comedy anyway.


The Duke’s Children, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — The last of Anthony Trollope’s Palliser novels. I made it through the entire series! As the title suggests, the novel is largely about the Duke’s dealings with his children. Poor Plantagenet, nothing goes the way he wants. The American Isabel Boncassen was fun. I liked Lady Mabel Grex for a while, but ended by disliking her. I don’t approve of anyone trying to marry someone while in love with someone else. And then she tried to make Silverbridge feel guilty for not marrying her. Not nice.

Autobiography of Anthony Trollope, by Anthony Trollope, read by Jessica Louise for — Anthony Trollope covered quite a variety of topics in his autobiography: an overview of his life and circumstances that shaped it, a defense of the novel, the art of novel-writing, his opinions of his own novels, his opinions of various contemporary novelists, a sprinkling of his political views, &c. He seemed to be a hardworking, good-humoured, sensible sort of man. I particularly enjoyed reading his views on Charles Dickens. I must partly disagree, however, with his assessment of the merits of George Eliot’s novels — while he seems to favor the character Tito in Romola, that particular novel and its characters are among my least favorite of her works.

One interesting tidbit that was included in a chapter about his family is this: “Then my brother Tom and I were left to [my mother],—with the destiny before us three of writing more books than were probably ever before produced by a single family. My married sister added to the number by one little anonymous high church story, called Chollerton.” (Ch. 2) Further on in the chapter, Anthony Trollope records the number of volumes his mother produced: 114 (“of which the first was not written till she was fifty”!). Counting from a bibliography of his works, Anthony Trollope wrote 47 novels, 12 collections of short stories, 17 works of non-fiction (including his autobiography), and 2 plays, for a total of 76 volumes, if you don’t count the plays and irrespective of his various articles and his letters. According to one source, his brother, Thomas A. Trollope, wrote 60 volumes, in addition to his periodic and journalistic work. Those, combined with the sister’s novel, make for a total of 251 volumes. That is, indeed, a sizable contribution to literature from the Trollope family!


The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, The Purgatoria, & The Paradiso), by Dante Alighieri, translated by Charles Eliot Norton, read by Pam Ward — I think I would have gotten more out of this if I had been reading an annotated edition explaining who all the mentioned historical people were. It wouldn’t have flowed as well, however. I found Hell and Purgatory more interesting than Heaven, largely because I could understand what was going on better.

“O human race, born to fly upward, wherefore at a little wind dost thou so fall?” — Purgatorio, Canto XII, lines 95-96.

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, read by Michael York; Once Upon a Fairy Tale, produced by Karen Kushell of the STARBRIGHT Foundation, told and performed by various artists; and Lord Emsworth and Others, by P. G. Wodehouse, read by Nigel Lambert — I went on a very long car ride with five children. We whiled away the time with cookies, muffins, and audiobooks. Alice in Wonderland is a favorite in my home. Once Upon a Fairy Tale was new to the kids. It isn’t very long, but is very well done. It consists of four fairy tales retold by various artists. For example, “Little Red Riding Hood” features Glenn Close as Red’s mother, Robin Williams as Wolf von Big Baden, Bruce Willis as the Woodcutter, Oprah Winfrey as Red’s grandmother, and Lisa Kudrow as Hannah Milner Primrose Red Brown. All four tales are delightfully funny. Some of the “nine glorious episodes” in Lord Emsworth and Others, by P. G. Wodehouse were new to me. The first story, where the Efficient Baxter gets shot numerous times with an air-gun, was the general favorite. Nigel Lambert did a remarkably good job rendering Wodehouse’s genius.

Cheaper by the Dozen, by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey — I read this aloud to my youngest siblings. They enjoyed it and are begging me to read the sequel to them. Even one of them who won’t usually sit through the books I read to them, stuck around for almost all of it.


Paintings: At a book by Marie Bashkirtseff, circa 1882, and Reading a Story by James Jacques Joseph Tissot.

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“But indeed I would rather have nothing but tea.”

“I had a little tea party,
This afternoon at three;
’Twas very small,
Three guests in all,
Just I, myself, and me.

“Myself ate up the sandwiches,





While I drank up the tea,

’Twas also I Who ate the pie





And passed the cake to me.” — Jessica Nelson North





A couple of months ago, I was visiting my sister and cousins, and they gave me a tea party. We had cucumber sandwiches (because, what is a tea party without cucumber sandwiches?), lemon berry scones, tarts, and, of course, tea.

The cucumber sandwiches were on freshly made bread. The lemon scones were filled with a mix of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, turning them pretty, marbled pink and purple colors. The crusts for the tarts were cut with a flower-shaped cutter, giving them adorable scalloped edges. Half of them were mint chocolate custard with whipped cream, the others were savory onion. I don’t know what the name of the tea was, but I believe it contained lavender. It was accompanied by creamer and sugar bowl. We partook from my aunt’s lovely tea service.

Quotations: Poem “Three Guests” by Jessica Nelson North, first published 1912 in St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks. Title (“nothing but tea”) from Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, chapter 19. “The solemn procession” quotation from the same novel, chapter 34.

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Books I Read in November & December 2016

In November I read:

The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan — I read this one aloud to some of my siblings, who enjoyed it immensely. It is funny and exciting. It is something of a mystery story, too, and we entertained ourselves coming up with possible outcomes. We also ended much more familiar with Greek gods and goddesses, &c. than we began.

One thing I didn’t like was the occasional attempt to twist reality into the alternate world the author created. For example, in the underworld, a sham preacher is punished and one of the characters wonders how the preacher feels faced with something so different from what he claimed to believe. The answer is that, since “he believes in a different hell”, he probably isn’t “seeing this place the way we’re seeing it [meaning, the way it is] … Humans see what they want to see.” There were only a very few scattered instances of this, so it wasn’t really a problem, just an annoyance.

young-woman-reading-alfred-stevensCan You Forgive Her?, by Anthony Trollope, read by Simon Vance — This is the first of Anthony Trollope’s six “Palliser” novels. I decided to read it before finishing the “Barsetshire” series because it was published before the last of those. The Palliser novels shift from the clerical scene (of the Barsetshire novels) to the political scene. I already knew the storyline of Can You Forgive Her? from having watched the series The Pallisers. From the movie, I made the assumption that the book would be about Lady Glencora and was surprised to find that the “Her” of the title is actually Alice Vavasor. Besides Alice, the story is largely about the marriage of Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Glencora (their wedding is briefly mentioned towards the end of The Small House at Allington).

Plantagenet and Glencora were realistic people, both with their admirable and likable points, but neither in any way perfect. Glencora’s struggles and Plantagenet’s obliviousness were sympathetically portrayed. Glencora had been in love with a rake, but was prevented from marrying him. “Alas, she had loved him! It is possible that her love and her wealth might have turned him from evil to good. But who would have ventured to risk her,—I will not say her and her vast inheritances,—on such a chance? That evil, however, had been prevented, and those about her had managed to marry her to a young man, very steady by nature, with worldly prospects as brilliant as her own …” (chapter 24) I was reminded of Doctor Thorne and the title character’s desire that Sir Louis Scatcherd find a wife. In Can You Forgive Her?, however, Anthony Trollope came down more solidly against the idea of marriage as a means to reform a dissolute man.

Anthony Trollope liked to have more than one storyline going at a time and he managed to keep them all interesting. When he switched from one set of characters to another, though I sometimes wished I could stay with the one set, it wouldn’t be long before the current storyline had me interested again.

— — —

In December I read:

The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — As the title suggests, this is the last of Anthony Trollope’s six Barsetshire novels. It is peopled with many of the characters of the previous novels. Lily Dale and Johnny Eames (from The Small House at Allington) were back, just as annoying as they were before. With them, in fact, it was largely a replay of the last novel, with Lily unable to make up her mind to accept Johnny, and Johnny getting himself involved with another woman, despite being warned against it. I wouldn’t blame Lily for being sick of the name Johnny, though, as every one, whether they’ve met her before or not, seems to make it their business to talk of him to her.

lady-in-blue-alfred-stevensMark Robarts and his wife, Lady Ludlow, and all that set (from Framley Parsonage) made their appearance. Mrs. Thorne (Miss Dunstable from Doctor Thorne) marries off a cousin. Dr. Grantly (from The Warden and Barchester Towers) is back in full force. Even Mr. Harding makes a few appearances. The main couple of the story, Grace Crawley and Henry Grantly, were both introduced as children in the previous books. I wasn’t sure whether I would approve of Henry Grantly, but I ended up liking him.

The story could be looked at as a mystery. Mr. Crawley (Grace’s father, a character from Framley Parsonage) is accused of stealing a check for twenty-pounds. He himself doesn’t know how it came into his possession. It was not difficult to guess what happened, however, and the interest of the story comes from the people, not the plot.

I liked Grace Crawley. However, I reject the idea that, with a father accused of theft, she is no longer fit for marriage to a decent man and must, as far as any of them could tell, remain a spinster in consequence. I can see how she might want to wait to engage herself until things had been settled one way or the other. Such a cloud over her family would certainly lessen her joy in making plans for her own future.


Paintings: Young Woman Reading and Lady in Blue by Alfred Stevens (1823 – 1906).

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Birds of a Feather


“Birds of a feather flock together.” My family has quite a variety of chicken breeds, but these Silver Laced Wyandottes do like to stick together.

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Books I Read in September & October 2016

In September I read:

rubens-pieter-paul-1577-1640-simon-the-zealot-copyDoctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope, read by Nicholas Clifford for LibriVox.orgDoctor Thorne is the third of Anthony Trollope’s “Barsetshire” novels. Subsequent to these novels, Anthony Trollope wrote his six political “Palliser” novels. There is some overlap, however, and Doctor Thorne introduces the Duke of Omnium, Gatherum Castle, and Silverbridge, all of which go on to play greater roles in the “Palliser” novels.

Unlike Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope didn’t find it necessary to make his heroines meek plasterboard saints. He created them to be feminine, spirited, and active, and although his writing isn’t perfect, I much prefer his characters to those of Dickens. I’m thinking now of the episode in Mary Thorne’s childhood in which she insists (rightly) that the Greshams’ French governess, and not their servant-girl, was guilty of a theft. Again, although Mary Thorne thought too much of rank, she still stuck to her promise to Frank, despite having been almost convinced by his mother’s arguments against their engagement.

I do think that Frank, having decided to marry a poor girl, and therefore necessitating his earning a living, should have started preparing for a profession, instead of going abroad as his parents desired. Also, I disapprove of Sir Roger Scatcherd and Doctor Thorne’s desire to have Louis married. It might have been the making of him, the saving of him, but they didn’t have the right to sacrifice any woman to that chance. The Doctor’s hypocrisy in this matter is shown by his unwillingness to even consider his own niece’s being married to Louis.

My favorite characters were Miss Dunstable and Doctor Thorne. I also like Frank and Mary. Miss Dunstable had good sense, honesty, and a sense of humor, making her likable and entertaining. I was amused by the way she handles one of her suitors, as she tells Frank: “Mr Moffat has turned up again. We all thought you had finally extinguished him. He left a card the other day, and I have told the servant always to say that I am at home, and that you are with me.” (Frank was supposed to also be a suitor of Miss Dunstable’s and had beaten Mr. Moffet for jilting his sister, which I disapprove, but which Miss Dunstable turned it to good account.)

I enjoyed Doctor Thorne. Nicholas Clifford’s reading of it was excellent, as well. It was clear and pleasant. Not all LibriVox recordings are equal, but I can recommend this one.

Titus Groan, by Mervyn Peake  — This is an odd book. It has much more description than it should, but it definitely succeeds in creating its own atmosphere. The characters are interesting, and, overall, I enjoyed the book, though I wouldn’t want to read it over again. I liked the poems Mervyn Peake included.

A freckled and frivolous cake there was
     That sailed on a pointless sea,
Or any lugubrious lake there was
     In a manner emphatic and free.
How jointlessly, and how jointlessly
     The frivolous cake sailed by
On the waves of the ocean that pointlessly
     Threw fish to the lilac sky.

Framley Parsonage, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for — The fourth of Anthony Trollope’s “Barsetshire” novels. I liked Mark and Fanny Robarts, especially the latter. She was my favorite character. Those two make the story worthwhile. At first I also liked Mark’s sister Lucy a great deal, but, despite starting out well, her romance fell a bit flat by the end, greatly through her own fault. Also, although I was gratified by my two favorite characters from Doctor Thorne being united in matrimony, I felt a bit cheated by the manner in which this was accomplished. It was too prosaic. Given the characters, I felt like there should have been more humor and open, decided affection in their courtship.

— — —

In October I read:

Although I started two or three other books in October, I have only finished one so far.

rubens-pieter-paul-1577-1640-saint-thomas-copyThe Small House at Allington, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for  — The fifth of Anthony Trollope’s “Barsetshire” novels and my least favorite so far. Belle Dale and Doctor Crofts were about the only characters I liked. (Earl De Guest and his sister weren’t bad, but they were minor characters.) Johnny bugged me by his flirtations with Amelia, the Squire was mean (his hidden inner feelings don’t excuse the way he treated people), Lucy’s attitude toward Crosbie after he left her rather disgusted me, and Crosbie didn’t make enough effort to make his wife happy.

I agree with Fanny Price: “I cannot think well of a man who sports with any woman’s feelings” (Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen). Johnny Eames didn’t have the right to kiss Amelia and tell her that he loved her when he knew full well that he didn’t and that he, in fact, loved another woman. Anthony Trollope makes the best excuse he can for him:

“O ye mothers who from year to year see your sons launched forth upon the perils of the world, and who are so careful with your good advice, with under flannel shirting, with books of devotion and tooth-powder, does it never occur to you that provision should be made for amusement, for dancing, for parties, for the excitement and comfort of women’s society? That excitement your sons will have, and if it be not provided by you of one kind, will certainly be provided by themselves of another kind.” (ch. 51)

Although I agree with Trollope’s statement here, I do not find in it sufficient excuse for Johnny’s behaviour. I also don’t think Johnny should have beaten Mr. Crosbie. Yes, Mr. Crosbie had treated Lily very badly, but I believe in a man’s right to walk down a street (or train platform) unmolested by assault.

And on that subject, I think Crosbie was right to break off his engagement with Lily, painful to her as it was. A man should not marry a woman unless he thinks he will be happy with her and that he couldn’t do better. Lily was made very unhappy by losing him, but I think she would have been even more unhappy when she found out, as she would have, that Crosbie hankered after his lost comforts and felt he had done himself an injury and come down in the world by marrying her.

Lily Dale reminded me a bit of Marianne Dashwood, especially in the way she gave herself so wholly to the man she loved. In one respect she was stronger than Marianne. She determined to not let her grief get the better of her. On the other hand, Marianne admitted the truth, that Willoughby had jilted her because of his own selfishness, and didn’t continue to fill her heart with him. Lily, in contrast, continued to think Mr. Crosbie worthy of her affection. Although I don’t think she should have engaged herself to John Eames (he was right, it was too soon), I was repulsed by the reasons she gave him and her mother, declaring that she could never marry another man:

“I still love [Mr. Crosbie] better than all the world. … I should be disgraced in my own eyes if I admitted the love of another man …. It is to me almost as though I had married him.” (ch. 53) “If [his wife] died, and he came to me in five years time, I would still take him. I should think myself constrained to take him. … In my heart I am married to that other man. I gave myself to him, and loved him, and rejoiced in his love. … There are things that will not have themselves buried and put out of sight, as though they had never been. I am as you are, mamma,—widowed.” (ch. 57)

Considering that Mr. Crosbie is, at this point, a married man, Lily’s attitude towards him is not right. Of course, she could not just suddenly change her feelings towards him, but she didn’t even determine to overcome them, but, rather, considered herself bound to him. Though she called herself a widow, a widow can remarry, and Lily felt that it would be a sin for her to marry another man.

Aside from the story, I have one complaint about Anthony Trollope’s style in general. I don’t like how he addresses his readers as if they were, by and large, delicate young ladies. It tends to come across as condescending. This is a minor complaint, however, and doesn’t affect his books much overall.


Paintings: Simon the Zealot and Saint Thomas, by Pieter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640).

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