Book Report: Awkward Family Pet Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack (2011)

Book coverI bought this book a week ago, and clearly I could not wait to get into it even though the Green Bay Packers did not actually play football last Sunday. As a matter of fact, I wanted to finish a book, any book, while I work my way through another lengthy omnibus edition and continued to toil away at a book on serious philosophy.

Clearly, this is any book, which is not to say it’s a any good book.

You know, I have bought and read books based on Internet sites before (heaven forbid, Bad Cat). Most of the Internet books I get have some textual angle, though, like The Official Darwin Awards or Jump the Shark, which fares better in book form than cat pictures with captions.

This book is a little different from that, though: It’s based on the Awkward Family Photos site, where families with odd props or out-of-date fashions post images of themselves (or get themselves posted) for the lulz. Frankly, I’ve not gotten a lot out of the site itself because laughing at pictures of other people ain’t really my bag, baby (but being amused by textual accounts of their deaths is a different thing entirely, apparently). So when the Web site operators, the nominal authors of this volume, extended the brand to pictures of people with dated fashions and pets as their props. And published at least one book of selections.

I finished the book in an hour or two of browsing, but I’ll probably forego getting others in the series or even books of this type (Internet-site photos with captions) in the future, aside from what I already own, because I don’t enjoy them and I can’t lie to myself and say I learned something from them.

But I’ll still get around to anything like this I already own. And I might revisit the proclamation if it’s coming around to football season, I’m still watching football, and I feel like I’m low on books to browse during sporting events. Because I am nothing if undisciplined.

Book Report: Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus by Karl Jaspers (1957, 1962)

Book coverThis book fits right into the reading I’ve been doing in Eastern philosophies, classical philosophy, and the Christian traditions. It is a part of a longer work (The Great Philosophers Volume I) by Existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers, whom I tend to confuse with either Karl Poppers or Karl Barth. Theoretically, I’ll get to keeping them straight as I read them individually instead of as names in summary textbooks.

The book looks at each of the four aforementioned thinkers, giving a brief biography of each and then teasing out the thinkers’ focuses. Jaspers draws certain parallels between each–for example, that the thinkers themselves did not leave behind many writings, but instead their followers produced the texts associated with the each, which does highlight that the understanding of each is tainted by a hagiographic portrayal by their partisans.

A good, quick enough read and a quick summary view–although the Confucius section bogged me down quite as the primary text did. It can be a good starting point into these thinkers and help familiarize the reader with the various things they thought.

Deeper than this book report, anyway.

It makes me consider reading the whole The Great Philosophers set someday, but to be honest, I’m like a quarter of the way through volume 1 part 1 of Copleson’s History of Philosophy, so I won’t go out and look for it. But if I see it in a book sale….

Book Report: The Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton (1922, 1986)

Book coverI picked up this book because I’ve heard of Chesterton, of course, and because I’m a big fan of the Bill Murray film The Man Who Knew Too Little. So this book is a two-fer: An intro to Chesterton and the knowledge of the source of the trope. It had been facing out of my hallway to-read bookshelves for a while, and I picked it up, hoping to get through a collection of short stories quickly. Oh, but no.

This volume collects eight connected short stories. Horne Fisher is a member of a well-connected British family whose members include several high-ranking government officials. Horne is the odd duck of the family, a dilettante that knows a lot of things and a lot of things about people. In each of the stories, someone gets murdered, and Fisher gets to the bottom of it, but the murderer goes free for the greater good of the country somewhow. Fisher has a confidante in journalist Harold Marsh who hears the crime solutions but also does not take action at his friend’s behest.

The style is a bit stilted, a bit more targeted perhaps to the aristocracy or to the intelligentsia than, say Rudyard Kipling or popular translations of Jules Verne. So I found it slower to read and easier to put down, which is why it took me a while to read the whole book even though it’s only 160 pages. I’d read something else in the interim and then a story in this book. This approach kept it from becoming too tedious.

At any rate, perhaps not the best lead into Chesterton’s work. Less approachable than Christie, and given that the criminals do not receive justice, unsatisfying. I was probably hindered by not knowing the exact period in which this was going on nor the conflicts alluded to. Even watching the entirety of Downton Abbey did not prepare me adequately. And I couldn’t hear Michelle Dockery’s voice reading it aloud (unlike Cotsold Mistress, where my imagining it helped me get through the book).

Still, I can say I’ve read some Chesterton now, which probably makes it worth the fifty cents or dollar I paid for the book. You can find fairly inexpensive editions on Amazon as noted below.

Book Report: Pets’ Letters To God translated by Mark Bricklin (1999)

Book coverI bought this book on Friday, and in that very post I pointed out the lack of recent book reporting. So I grabbed one of the thin, browseable books from that stack and flipped through it even though it’s a bye week for the Green Bay Packers.

This book collects a number of little letters as though they were written by pets to God. There must be some sort of cutesy collection of children doing this sort of thing for this collection to piggyback on, but I’ve avoided it. Probably for similar reasons that I like jokes with talking dogs but not talking children. Which was true even before I had children of my own.

At any rate, the book is about what you expect: something along the lines of I Could Pee On This and with about the same amusement factor. Which is to say some things were amusing, most were not, and I didn’t get dumber reading it.

So worth your time if you’re me. Or if this is your bag, baby.

Interesting note: The author’s bio indicates he is the former editor of Pets: Part of the Family, Prevention, and Men’s Health magazines. Actually, that’s all the bio. One would think a former editor would have weightier things to write about, but I guess not. Or this fills the time and the bank account. Maybe he’s a professional. Unlike your humble host, who mostly writes this as a gift to myself in four years, when I’ll page through these posts and find them amusing in an I Could Pee On This way. If, in four years, I can still access this site given I’m not sure how to convert it to https.

Good Book Hunting, Friday, October 27, 2017: Friends of the Clever Library Book Sale

Friday closed out the semi-annual book sale season here in the Springfield area. The trifecta of the Friends of the Christian County, the Springfield-Greene County, and Clever Library(ies) provide the basic three book sales we hit in the spring and the fall. Things like the Lebanon-Laclede County or Polk County libraries, an hour away, are the outliers.

This season, like so many, we hit all three, with the trip down to the Clever fire station closing it out.

It’s the smallest of the three sales, but I managed to find a couple things.

I got:

  • Teachers Jokes, Quotes, and Anecdotes, something put together to be a gift to a teacher but something I’ll flip through while watching a football game.
  • The Essential Kabbalah, a book on the Jewish mystical tradition.
  • Pets’ Letters to God, a Hallmark humor thing, also for flipping through during football games.
  • Assumed Identity by David Morrell. I’ve read First Blood and Rambo: First Blood Part II and have since collected a couple more by this author, but I’ve yet to read them. But by adding more to my to-read shelves, I’m adding to the statistical chances that I’ll actually pick one up.
  • A Catholic Guide to the Bible by Father Oscar Lukefahr. I’m currently working my way through the Orthodox Study Bible, which is the like the Director’s Cut of the Christian Bible, and this book should give me a traditional Catholic perspective on it. The sale had many books by Father Lukefahr, but I only bought this one.
  • Awkward Family Pet Photos, something to flip through during football games probably based on the Internet site.
  • The Life of Greece by Will Durant. I’m creeping up on a set of his Story of Civilization books. Someday.
  • Mythopoeikon, a collection of paintings, etchings, book jacket, and record sleeve covers by artist Patrick Woodroffe. I’ve never heard of him. Perhaps I’ll recognize something as I flip through the book during football games. Some three or four years from now, probably.
  • Making Bead and Wire Jewelry by Dawn Cusick. Remember those days long ago when I did stuff like this? My book buying remembers.
  • Wisconsin: A Picture Memory with text by Bill Harris. The pictures probably won’t align with my memories, but will kind of rhyme.

Not purchased: Any of the John Sandford Prey novels I might lack; the Tibetan Book of the Dead; a book on competitive running.

I also picked up a couple of DVDs: A four pack of WWII movies including Tora! Tora! Tora! because I’ve seen it memed a bit lately, but mostly because it includes Von Ryan’s Express which I bought during my eBay listing days and sometimes use as test data for this Web site I test. As part of my testing, I learned Frank Sinatra was in the film version, which I now own. I also got Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels because, well, in my recent Jason Statham film watching, I was going to quip on Facebook that I’d even watch Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels if Jason Statham was in it, and lo! He actually is. So I will have to watch it.

At any rate, with a couple of books for the children and, I presume, something for my beautiful wife (although I’m not sure where they went), we spent several sawbucks, but the Clever Library needs all the friends it can get.

So I should probably sit down and read some books here soon. It’s been a while since you’ve seen a book report, ainna?

Book Report: The Marriage of Bette and Boo by Christopher Durang (1985)

Book coverYou could probably have guessed after I bought a couple books while out of town for the night that I’d pick up the shortest book to read in my hotel. And you would be right.

As I mentioned, I saw this play in college. Ah, my senior year: I saw a large number of plays with a number of comely young ladies, none of whom was interested in me. Well, maybe a couple were and I was oblivious to it. I had to attend this play for one of my classes, and I sat next to a young lady who I knew from the writer’s club. After the play, we walked out together, and she straightened my tie. Did that indicate interest? I don’t know. When reading others’ emotions and acting upon them, I’m a chimp at the space shuttle controls: I know something’s happening, and I know I should do something, but I just press the wrong buttons.

At any rate, I remember the play not only because of the young lady but also because the play disturbed me a bit. It’s told from the point of view of an English student reminiscing about his family life and his parents’ marriage which ends while he’s at school. I, of course, had studied a bit of Thomas Hardy at the time (one of the devices of the play is that the narrator talks about analyzing Hardy’s works as he’s analyzing his parents and perhaps their influence upon him). As the child of a broken home (relatively fresh at that, what, with their marriage still longer than the period they’d been divorced), I felt for the kid. Who was older than I was at the time.

So I saw the book, and I remembered almost viscerally the reaction I had to the play at the time, so I bought it and read it again. As an adult (older than my parents when they divorced and almost as old as my father was when he died), I don’t get quite the poignancy that I did then when I identified with the lad, but I do still have a bit of sadness for the characters in the play. I think it’s billed as a comedy, but it’s more a tragedy than a comedy. Even though the moments from the play stuck with me–I’d forgotten a part where a priest imitates bacon, but when I got to it in the book, I immediately remembered the scene on stage.

So it’s a good play, all right.

The edition I have has a lot of end notes from the playwright (who played the main character in the big New York production of it in the middle 1980s) giving a lot of direction for the direction of the play, including some interpretations that he did not care for in some productions. I’ll be honest, that’s a bit of cheating: In my playwrighting class, the professor said to put all that in the words and stage directions, and to put only the bare minimum in to allow for as much interpretation as you can stand. So the end piece seems a little uncricket.

Also, this book is again a book club edition. Which means our parents or grandparents liked plays enough to buy them from a book club. I cannot even imagine that. There aren’t that many people who buy plays these days (or maybe it’s just me), but I don’t remember seeing many of them in the book stores or book sales I frequent–I know, as I buy them. That’s a shame, as they’re often nice, quick reads with impact beyond their word count.

Good Book/Album Hunting, Thursday, October 19, 2017: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

I managed to make it home safely from Leavenworth, and I had a moment to visit the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale way up north. And by “had a moment,” I meant that I passed the venue in the morning on the way home and I COULD NOT REST until I got a chance to return. So I suckered my beautiful wife into an afternoon excursion by dangling before her a lunch at her favorite Italian restaurant first.

So we went.

As you know, gentle reader, when it comes to the FSGCL book sale (I’ve got a government contract, a GC, so know everything is abbreviations, EIA), I like to visit the albums one day and then maybe the more expensive books on half price day.

Well, I visited the albums, and then I went to look for my beautiful wife in the better books section. Where a couple of books fell upon me and waylaid me and kidnapped me to the register.

As for books, I got:

  • The Foxfire Book 2 and The Foxfire Book 3–there were sets of the first three, and I picked the better copies of the last two. Which will come to bite me here in a couple of minutes when I discover I already own 2 and lack 1.
  • The Te of Piglet, which I have been looking for since I read The Tao of Pooh last year.
  • Plain Secrets: An Outsider Among The Amish which I expect to be more on that topic than Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish. I put down another Amish-themed book because it was a small press book called something like The Secrets of the X Amish and looked to be simple agitprop.

As for albums, I got:

  • Anthology of Renaissance Music
  • The Renaissance Clavichord II
  • Praetorius Christmas Music/Schein Two Suites from “Banchetto Musicale”–I pretty much buy anything in a Nonesuch sleeve.
  • Better Days/Happy Ending by Melissa Manchester. I’m not sure if I like her or not or will like her or will not. I’ll take a chance for a buck.
  • Born Late by Shaun Cassidy. Because I work with a project manager by that name, and I’m going to ask him to sign it for me.
  • Sentimental Journey by Boots Randolph.
  • A flute album by Tim Weisberg. Hey, it has “Nights in White Satin” on it. On the flute, presumably.
  • The Many-Splendored Guitars of Los Indios Tabajaras
  • Ellington Fantasy by the Hugo Montenegro Orchestra. The guys who did the music for Eastwood’s The Man With No Name movies and Hang ‘Em High.
  • Incognito by Spyro Gyra.
  • Make It Easy On Yourself by Burt Bacharach. Strangely, there were three copies of this album in the thin selection of LPs.
  • All Time Greatest Hits by the Commodores.
  • M.F. Horn Two by Maynard Ferguson because the cover is cherry, and the platter might be in better shape than the copy we already own.
  • Jackie Gleason Presents Aphrodosia. Which is what you put on after you play Jackie Gleason Presents Music To Changer Her Mind and before Jackie Gleason Presents Oooo!
  • Taking Off by David Sanborn
  • Homer Louis Randolph, III. Spoiler alert: It’s Boots.
  • Kenny G by, well, Kenner Louis Grandolph, III, perhaps.
  • Music for Daydreaming by The Melachrino Orchestra. I only buy the Music for series by this orchestra. So far.
  • Thats What Friends Are For by Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams
  • By Request by Perro Como.
  • Perry Como Sings Merry Christmas Music. I already own a copy with the more common cover (review by yours truly in 2014).

I mean, I bought a variant cover and a duplicate LP with a better cover, but I’m still not a collector. Just an accumulator who likes prettier accumulations.

Also note that my beautiful wife bought a single LP, so when she mentions that we don’t have a good storage system for our records, IT’S HER FAULT.

Good Book Hunting, Wednesday, October 18, 2017: Half Price Books/The Book Exchange, Leavenworth, Kansas

So I had to drive up to Leavenworth on business yesterday (the actual drive time: 8 hours round trip; the actual time spent on the business: 15 minutes). Instead of turning around in the late afternoon and returning home right away, I booked a room for the night.

Which meant I had a little time to kill before hitting the bed. When alone in a strange town, what do you think I do?

This security camera footage captured it:

I’m not actually sure what the book store’s name is. On the map, it’s Book Exchange, and as the photo indicates, there’s a little metal sign indicating the parking in front of the store. However, bigger signs say Half Priced Books. So the name is one or the other. It’s right next to a martial arts school, and while I was browsing the books, I could hear the classes going on. Not just the sensei; I heard the students’ responses.

At any rate, I picked up a couple things mostly to be polite.

I got:

  • Dead Six by Larry Correia and that other guy.
  • A play I saw in college, The Marriage of Bette and Boo.
  • Plato at the Googleplex, which I’ve seen in the library and thought about reading. Of course, with so many books on my to-read shelves, I couldn’t make time to read it as a library book. I HAVE SOLVED THE PROBLEM.
  • Searching for God in America by Hugh Hewitt. This looks to be a companion book to a television series. I already purchased a companion book to a television series about religion this fall (Charlton Heston Presents The Bible, which I bought last month). Hopefully, they will be good reads without the television series.

The other thing I do in when traveling for business: Retire to my room early to read. So which of the books above do you think I dived into first? Answer tomorrow.

Book Report: Obsidian Son by Shayne Silvers (2012)

Book coverAs you might remember, I bought this book in August at LibraryCon. You know, I like to support self-published authors whom I find sitting at tables at conventions and in the library from time to time, but when it comes time to reading the books, I tend to be a little reluctant. A couple of the self-published efforts I’ve tried have been a little lackluster (ahem), and I’ve put them back on the to-read shelves. And I picked up this one.

Well. This was pretty good.

It’s an urban fantasy book featuring a protagonist wizard, the child of great wizards who are also billionaire businesspeople. The book starts right after their murders, where the hero (Nate Temple, for whom the series is named) owns a book store but might have to take control of his parents’ company. He specializes in finding esoteric works, and he’s commissioned to find a book that is drawing a lot of interest all of a sudden. It’s tied to dragons, creatures who generally remain hidden from public view, and Temple finds himself, his friends, and a growing circle of other Freaks working to prevent a power-hungry dragon from seizing power during a solar eclipse.

It’s set in St. Louis, but it doesn’t ride that too hard (you won’t be able to, say, drive a cab based on the text). It has a couple of place names, but that’s mostly it. Not even as much as an Anita Blake novel. Well, an early one, anyway, as I abandoned that series, what, twenty years ago?

You know, I liked it better than the Jim Butcher book I read a couple years ago. Of course, as this is the first of the series, it’s fresh and setting up the urban fantasy world and the team I presume will appear in later books of the series. Which might get as bogged down in Series Business as any series does. But this is the first, so it is without that baggage. Perhaps I should stick with only the first book or two of a series to keep that freshness.

At any rate, worth a look if you’re into urban fantasy. I’ll probably pick a copy up for my nephew, so that will be two copies of this book I will have bought…. boughten? What verb tense is that?

Good Book Hunting, Friday, October 13, 2017: Friends of the Christian County Library Book Sale

So we took the semiannual pilgrimage to Ozark to pick out books from the side room of the Christian County Library. We got there at a little after six, but it was not crowded–dealers were not out in force scanning every book in the joint to find something profitable, which could well mean that the book market is cratering. How would I know? It is not for me.

At any rate, the boys found a stack of books and delighted everyone by continually proclaiming how many they found, and that the children’s books were only fifty cents. Their selections are not depicted in the image below, again, as they made off with them immediately.

I got:

  • Two history courses from The Teaching Company probably for three dollars each: A Brief History of the World and The African Experience: From “Lucy” to Mandela. My oldest son asked me why Africa had an experience instead of the history. Ah, the things one knows but cannot explain logically.
  • Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii, a paperback based on the television series. I think I have another one around here somewhere for when I go on a kick. Or find them.
  • James Wesley, Rawles’ Founders, a novel. I was afraid I’d recently bought this, but I bought How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It in Hot Springs this summer. So when I go on a kick or can find them.
  • Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini as told by the woman who wrote Seabiscuit. This is a nice hardback copy, but I thought I’d recently bought this book. But I did not: instead, I picked up a paperback copy of The Devil At My Heels, Zamperini’s autobiography. So I can read them back to back if I go on a kick. Or can find them.
  • A copy of Ulysses Grant’s memoirs (and selected letters). Gentle reader, the most expensive books I own are probably the first edition two volume set of U.S. Grant’s memoirs that I inherited from my wife’s uncle. I was seriously just recently thinking I want a reading copy of these books so I don’t get Doritos dust in the first editions, and here they are. It’s crazy how you sometimes find what you’re looking for.
  • Lassie, Come Home. I might or might not have a copy of this already–I think I have a worn copy that fell to the children, not that they read any of the books about dogs or horses that I received but did not read in my youth. At any rate, I’ll read this juvenile classic at some point to pad my annual numbers.
  • A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer which I bought because I remember that I read Escape from Reason eleven years ago. Although until I read my own book report on it, I did not remember the actual content of the book. This volume’s title is probably more meaningful.
  • The Devil Wins, another crack at Jesse Stone by Reed Farrel Coleman. I almost put this down several times because I was not pleased with his first try.
  • A Thomas Kinkade Cape Light Christmas book whose title is so meaningful that it’s covered by the library sticker on the spine. The title is actually A Christmas Promise. I’ve already read a Cape Light Christmas book: All Is Bright by the co-author of this book. I’ve been stockpiling Christmas books this year, so perhaps I’ll read more than one at Christmas time.
  • Rabbit, Run by John Irving. I haven’t read any Irving that I recall (Well, Washington Irving, but that’s a way different guy. This is the first of the Rabbit series, so I might as well start here.
  • The Lost Books of the Bible which goes right into my recent reading on the same.
  • How to Restore a Farm Tractor. I’ve been thinking about doing this, maybe. I must be downwind from Republic’s annual old machine festival Steam-O-Rama or something. Of course, I don’t have the time to take care of needed maintenance on Nogglestead, so I don’t know when I’d fit working on this new hobby of my daydreams. I don’t even know how long it will be until I read the book.
  • Mysteries of the Bible, a Reader’s Digest book akin to Mysteries of the Unexplained. Probably short anecdotes that aren’t actual Bible scholarship, but starting points for inquiries.
  • Trash to Treasure. I’ve read a couple in this series (2, 6, and 8, but not in that order) back in my crafty days. Perhaps this will jump start me into doing projects again and clear some of the raw material from my garage. Or perhaps I’ll need to clean out my garage first so I can get to the raw material.

My beautiful wife almost got a stack as tall as mine, but not quite Try harder next time, my dear.

At any rate, it was a fun little jaunt, and you know, I rather enjoy writing these posts and wandering a bit down memory lane recalling books I’ve bought before and sometimes even read. So unfortunately, gentle reader, these self-indulgent posts will continue.

Book Report: Beijing China (ca. 2002)

Book coverI got this book at a later time than the Korea guide books (The New Pearl of the Orient, Bomun Temple in Seoul Korea, and Wonderful Korea, but I kind of thought of them as a genre and similar; however, this volume is relatively recent (post 2002). So it refers to the 2008 Olympics, which is jarring.

At any rate, it’s an interesting browse. The photos are good, with just a hint of lauding the State in some of the building selections, but it does not completely overlook the historical or religious sites of Beijing. As I just bought a book on Rococo style, I can’t help but compare Chinese/Oriental interior design principles to the couple of things I looked at in that book before I bought it. Were I Lileks or Driscoll, I could probably write intelligently about it. Maybe some day, after many Sunday afternoons watching football games with architecture and design books on my lap. Should the NFL last that long.

Worth the buck or two if you can find it.

Good Book Hunting, Friday, October 6, 2017: The Friends of the Lebanon-Laclede County Library Book Sale

I know you’re wondering, “Brian J., did you and your beautiful wife actually drive 58 miles to go to a book sale?” Yes, gentle reader, we did. She spotted the book sale somewhere, and we decided to make an afternoon date of it. So we ate some lunch at Da Vinci’s , which might be the best Italian restaurant in Lebanon, but we have no way of really knowing as we’ve only eaten at one place in Lebanon. And we found the back room of the Lebanon-Laclede County Library, where they hold the semi-annual sale.

It was weird: The books were on shelves, not on tables. Somehow, that just made it feel very odd for us. Browsing books on a table is kind of ergonomic; they’re generally the same height, and you can scan the titles quickly. When they’re on shelves, you have to stoop and reach and whatnot. “But, Brian J., isn’t that just like the used book stores you like to frequent?” Well, yes, but my browsing at used book stores tends to be a little more selective, and my purchases a little more limited.

As it was this Friday.

I got:

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Wait, didn’t I already read that just this year? Can I have forgotten it already? No, this is the Reader’s Digest World’s Best Reading edition, and I collect those. So I had to spend the dollar to get it. As a bonus: I can put it with the others of its type on my read shelves automatically without having to read it again!
  • True at First Light by Hemingway.
  • The First Man by Camus.
  • Pop Art and Rococo: A Style of Fantasy, a couple of art books on styles I’m not overly familiar with. One day, some day, I might sound as smart as Lileks or Driscoll.
  • The Tao of Meow, which sounds like it might be a Taoist book about cats, but it looks to be a collection of humorous verse akin to I Could Pee On This And Other Poems By Cats.
  • History of China which looks to be less an in-depth history than a history and picture book like the Time-Life series.

My beautiful wife got a stack of magazines, a number of Daniel Silva suspense novels, and a cat puzzle that our nine-year-old has already halfway completed on the very table where I took the photo.

I also got four records:

  • 3 by Earth Wind and Fire.
  • Hooked on Classics II.
  • The Best of Dean Martin.
  • The Wiz original cast recording.

The record pickings were limited to two boxes. I suspect I’ll get more at the big Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale in a couple of weeks, but even then, the days of buying tens of records is probably at an end. I’m getting a little more selective in my purchases, as I’ve bought most of what I know I like by now. But then again, they might have a stack of pop records from Italy in the 1970s, and I’ll want them all.

Note, gentle reader, that this is not the furthest we’ve gone round trip for a book sale. Ten years ago, we went sixty-five miles round trip from Old Trees, Missouri, to Greenville, Illinois.

To think, I am still buying books.

Book Report: Slave of the Warmonger by Alex Kilgore (1981)

Book coverI started this book, and I thought, “This is better than some of the Executioner books, surely.” The writing is a little thicker, a little richer than you get in the least of the Mack Bolan books. However, there was some foreshadowing that all was not right.

The first thing was misspelling a Browning Hi-Power as a Browning High Power. I pointed this out to my beautiful wife early on, and she didn’t ask me how I know so much about guns. Clearly, the answer is reading books like this, except for how much books get wrong about guns.

Then, in action, the lead character, who is not only called the mercenary but is, in fact, a mercenary, runs into a fire fight with an M16 in one hand and an M1911 in the other hand, shooting and hitting bad guys. So richer, thicker prose culminating in 80s movie action scenes and a couple of sex scenes. Did I say “movie”? I mean “direct-to-video.”

Still, it’s quick and readable and still better than the worst of the Executioner books.

The main character is a one-eyed mercenary who favors a black cap. I look at him and can’t help think he might have been the inspiration for G.I. Joe’s Major Bludd. Also, I used to know a guy with an eye patch and favoring slouch caps, and I know the challenges he faced with half of his peripheral vision and all of his depth perception gone. I don’t think I would pattern give a superhuman character a missing eye. Nor would I misspell Hi-Power (although I did once change a pistol from a semi-automatic to a revolver and put eight days in a week, but careful (and by careful, I mean repetitive) copywriting caught it).

Book Report: I Could Pee On This and Other Poems By Cats by Francesco Marciuliano (2012)

Book coverI, or someone else, must have given this book of poems purrportedly by cats to my beautiful wife. When she was culling her office books, she was looking to get rid of it (so I hope it was a gift from someone else, because I’d like to think she treasures things I give her beyond their actual worth). So I picked it up as something I could easily browse during football games.

Which means it has a lot in common with Henry Beard’s Poetry for Cats (and Advanced French for Exceptional Cats for that matter).

Unlike Beard’s book, this one does not have a lot of allusion to other poems, nor are they riffs on famous poems (or formerly famous poems). Instead, they’re a lot of free verse musings from a feline point of view. And, if you have a cat, you’re probably familiar with the sentiments expressed within as we (cat owners) tend to anthropomorphize our pets in the same ways.

So it was an amusing bit to browse, especially since the Packers are off to a pretty good start this year all things considered. Were they not, I might be a little harsher on this little novelty item.

Book Report: Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender (1989, 1991)

Book coverYou’re taking a look at my recent reading and note that I bought all of these books within the last two weeks, and you think, “Hey, Brian J., wouldn’t it be better to have only bought these three or four books, read them, and then buy a couple more instead of buying dozens at a crack, dozens of times a year ensuring you have a backlog of thousands of books that you don’t have lifetime enough left to read them all?” I supposed that would be one way to do it, gentle reader. But allow me to answer with a question of my own: Why do you have so little faith in medical science?

But we digress. As noted, I bought this particular book a week ago and jumped right into it. Its title indicates a journey to the Amish and a spiritual journey similar to what you might find in books on Eastern philosophy.

And, indeed, this one might be a little self-consciously similar to those sorts of mid-life coming to spirituality books. It refers a couple of times to Zen philosophy and quotes a Tibetan warrior. So you might think that the author had a spirtual journey book in mind when she started her this particular journey.

The author also comes from a pretty well-to-do background. She lives in New York, but she and her husband pack up to move to California. She starts doing art and whatnot. She has a couple of advanced degrees. She even mentions that the Amish she lived with thought she was rich because she was from the outside world and because she just spent five months in Italy. Um, ma’am, in your world, you might just be working class, but amongst the rest of the world, you are rich.

At any rate, she becomes enamored with Amish quilts that she finds in craft and antique stores and wants to live with them. Which she does. For three weeks. And then she comes back and thinks about it for a while and goes back for a couple of weeks. She doesn’t really want to become Amish nor does she have a particularly religious connection to them (they are a religious community, after all), but she just wants to find some neo-Buddhist mindfulness lessons from them, which she does, which is fortunate, since she has a book about it.

It resembles John Howard Griffith’s experiences recounted in Black Like Me as a bit of self-conscious social anthropology (with a bit of spiritual yearning for seasoning) that is ultimately not very satisfying. Perhaps I’m just particularly cynical.

However, I hope if the author was sincerely looking for something, she truly found it in her brief visits to Amish communities.

Good Book Hunting, Friday, September 29, 2017: ABC Books

So a couple weeks ago, the owner of ABC Books posted on Facebook that they were “drowning” in books and would no longer be accepting books for trade.

So I immediately responded to the distress call and immediately several weeks later sprang into action.

I had planned to go there with my children as they were off school, and it’s one of the trips we take as we spend days together. My beautiful wife wanted to go to spend her Christmas gift card(s), so we waited until she finished her work day and packed off to ABC Books. When we got there, we ran into a pastor from our church and his family. Which is not surprising, as the book store is owned by a couple from church. But it made me feel part of a community, running into people I know about town.

At any rate, you’re all wondering what I got? A couple of books courtesy the gift card I have my beautiful wife for Christmas:

Here’s my list:

  • Strength Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath. My beautiful wife took this test and found it useful, and she found a copy with its Internet code envelope intact, so we got a really good deal on it. I think she might have been planning this for me for Christmas, but I can take the quiz before then.
  • Socrates, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus by Karl Barth.
  • Everyday Zen by Charlotte Joko Beck. Although I don’t plan to become a Zen master, I do enjoy reading about it.
  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Bible which I expect to be very much unlike Asimov’s Guide to the Bible which I read in 2015 but apparently did not review.
  • A nice edition of The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine.

Most notable was the things I put down. I picked up a translation of Confucius’s Analects. Which I I just read. However, this edition broke up the sayings with the original Chinese, so it looked more digestible. I also forwent a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I’ve been thinking about reading this, but I think I have a copy somewhere already. The urge to read it has not been such that I’ve gone looking for it, but it also wasn’t enough for me to buy another copy in case I was mistaken.

I pawed around the church history and books on the Bible section looking for something that distills the evolution of the Bible and why the things that were not included were not included (including the things that didn’t make it into the Protestant versions of the Bible but remain in the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles). You know, I had a pastor there I could have asked, but I did not. Well, I’ll see him in a couple of days and should remember to ask then.

At any rate, my beautiful wife got two books, including one I already own (To Engineer Is Human), but she got her own copy even after I mentioned it. Partly because she likes to mark books up and partly (mostly) because she knows I wouldn’t be able to find my copy for a couple years.

At any rate, that should hold me for a couple of days, anyway. But the semiannual book sales start in a couple weeks.

Book Report: San Francisco photos by Morton Beebe (1985)

Book coverIn the battle between the San Francisco picture books between this book and the other similarly named book I just looked at, this one wins.

It’s bigger in size, it’s thicker, and it’s got higher quality paper and photography. It also relies on locals for the essays within, including Herb Caen, Herbert Gold, and others, so you get a better sense of place and the people of San Francisco. The essays are essays, too, instead of just text blocks around which to group the images.

So if you have to choose one or the other, this is the one to go with. As probably demonstrated by the fact that it has gone into a third edition.

Book Report: San Francisco by Edmund Swinglehurst (1979)

Book coverThis book is a picture book of San Francisco from 1979.

As you might know, gentle reader, I myself have visited San Francisco on two occasions (noted here and here). So I’d like to think that the book reminds me of my trips, and it does a little bit. On our trips, we went to wine country, we went to Yoshi’s (the defunct San Francisco location), and we went to book stores, none of which are depicted here. We did go to Pier 39 and to Ghiradeli Square, so I see some of that, but I didn’t visit in 1979, so the cars and fashions in my memory were different.

But of all the cities in the world, San Francisco is one of the most photogenic and interesting from a photography perspective, so it’s an appealing book to look at. The text within it is pretty boilerplate, and aside from the place names, one could imagine the copy being written for any city. But the copy is not the point of the book.

So, you’re saying to yourself, is it football season already? Yes, yes, it is, so it’s time for picture books and poetry chapbooks to make up a higher portion of my reading (hem) list. Which is why I stocked up a bit in Branson last weekend.

Worth a browse if you’re into this sort of thing and can pick it up for a buck like I did.

Good Book Hunting, Friday, September 22, 2017: Hooked on Books

We had a little time to kill between appointments yesterday, so we stopped into Hooked on Books for a couple minutes.

Which is all I needed.

I got four from the dollar books section and two from the philosophy section.

  • Cat Fear No Evil, one of the Joe Grey mysteries by Shirley Rosseau Murphy, who wrote The Catswald Portal. I thought about checking the series out, and here is one for a dollar. Can’t miss for that.
  • The Maine Lobster Book by Mike Brown. Looks to be similar to The Lobster Chronicles. Which reminds me: When I hunger for this sort of literature, I have a couple of Linda Greenlaw’s other books floating around here somewhere.
  • Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish by Sue Bender.
  • The New Prince which promises or threatens to be an update to Machiavelli’s treatise. This volume is by Dick Morris, the political consultant, so who knows its worth–I will someday, perhaps. I did allude to the original in a book report yesterday, so of course I was primed for this book.
  • The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra. This is the thirty-fifth anniversary edition, and it was right next to the twenty-fifth anniversary edition, which indicates that this has remained in print for a while. Probably more relevant than The Tao of Elvis.
  • Spirit of Shaolin by David Carradine. The actor from the two Kung Fu television series talks about his exploration of Eastern thought and martial arts. The book was written three years after his turn in Warlords.

At any rate, a good couple of minutes. I look forward to reading these books, but unfortunately, I will put them on my to-read bookshelves, where they will be lost for years.