Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Immediate Book Meme

photo by Evan Laurence Bench
There are plenty of memes that want to know all about your book history and your all-time greats and your grand ambitions, but let's focus on something more revealing: the books you're actually reading now, or just read, or are about to read. Let's call it The Immediate Book Meme.

1. What book are you reading now?

The Weeping Time, by Anne C. Bailey
An advance reading copy of a book Darwin was sent to review, about the largest slave auction in American history. Very sobering, and makes the evil and corruption of slavery vivid.

Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange, translated by Malcolm C. Lyons
subtitled: The First English Translation of a Medieval Arab Fantasy Collection. To be honest, I picked up this book because as I walked by it on the library shelf, it looked too beautiful to pass up. These are tales from a manuscript discovered in a library in Istanbul and first translated in the 1930s. The aged manuscript, with a torn first page, is thought to be an earlier collection of some of the tales from the 1001 Nights. The book is as advertised: the tales are pretty marvelous and strange. We tried reading them aloud, but they're rather convoluted, not helped by the fact that some of the pages were too damaged to decipher. It's easier to read them myself than try to make sense of them to the kids.

1a. Readaloud

Victorian Cakes, by Caroline B. KingA delightful memoir about a Victorian girlhood in Chicago, framed through the cakes and other delectables baked in the family's ample kitchen. I tried to get a child to read this herself, but found it easier to read it aloud. The kids are fascinated, and indeed, there's been a spate of cake-baking in an attempt to recreate some of the recipes in the book.

2. What book did you just finish?

I was considering this for my readaloud to the kids, but it had been years since I'd read it myself. After consideration: no, this is not one for the kids. Wilde was one of the Decadents, a movement of writers and artists devoted to outré experiences and the pursuit of sensation without consequences, and there's a unsavory undercurrent to the book. Interestingly enough, Dorian Gray flirts with Catholicism because he's drawn to the aesthetic, sensual elements, but he has the idea of Sacrament directly backward: he believes that the elements of the Catholic sacraments are merely symbolic, though powerful in their symbolism, but that his other obsessions, such as perfume or gemstones, have some kind of sacramental power that effects what they symbolize. He thinks there can really be some magic or alchemy such that a topaz gives long life or a ruby can poison or an emerald enhance sexual pleasure. (I just made up these examples, but the actual text isn't much different.)

Anyway, The Hound of the Baskervilles would have the same feel but be a lot more acceptable for reading to children. 

3. What do you plan to read next?

Five Little Pigs, by Agatha Christie
The girls just watched this on Netflix, so I wanted to read the book to see how Christie told the tale.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

Abandonment to Divine Providence, by Jean-Pierre de Caussade
I took this on vacation with me to copy quotes for my novena, and it hasn't made it out of my bag yet.

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

Middlemarch, by George Eliot
Darwin narrated this to us at the dinner table a few years ago when he was listening to it, and I've seen the Masterpiece Theater version, and I've bought a copy of the book, which sits on my shelf now. But I've never cracked the cover.

6. What is your current reading trend?

I don't know if I have one right now.


Bob the Ape said...

1. What book are you reading now?

Martin Chuzzlewit (Charles Dickens);
Funhouse (Dean Koontz);
High Rising (Angela Thirkell).

2. What book did you just finish?

They just went back to the library, so I don't have all titles/authors:

A biography of Louis Pasteur;
A short biography of Lewis Carroll with an emphasis on his mathematical works;
A biography of Flannery O'Connor;
The Good Guy (Dean Koontz).

3. What do you plan to read next?

I don't know - it's a matter of whim which book I read (or these days, mostly, re-read) next.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

The Anatomy of Melancholy (Robert Burton).

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

See #3.

6. What is your current reading trend?


Darwin said...

My own answers are as follows:

1. What book are you reading now?

Post War by Tony Judt (three quarters done via audiobook)

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins (this is Dawkin's actual biology book -- in contrast to his pop atheism books -- and I'm reading it over to decide if I should include it in Eleanor's high school biology reading course)

2. What book did you just finish?

Crazy U by Andrew Ferguson

Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum

3. What do you plan to read next?

I need to decide. I'm just finishing a self selected reading course on post war Europe (Woman in Berlin; Savage Continent, Iron Curtain; Post War) and I don't have a next read planned yet.

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

I finally knocked off my "meaning to finish" book lately, Verdun by Jules Romains, a well written but easy to put down mid century novel which took me more than a year of waiting room reading to finish.

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

I picked up Simon Tolkien's No Man's Land thinking it would be my next read, but it's been sitting unread on my bedside table for nearly a year.

6. What is your current reading trend?

The above mentioned post-WW2 Europe reading list.

Kate said...

Here's my contribution!

Thanks for giving me something cheerful to write about. I was getting pretty mired in political angst.

Joseph Moore said...


1. What book are you reading now?

A History of Florence and the Affairs of Italy - Machiavelli.
Rock and Roll: the New Madrid Fault System - Stephanie Osborn

2. What book did you just finish?

Riverworld - Phillip Jose Farmer (it's a novella, really)
City of Corpses - # 5 in a series of YA novels by John C. Wright - highly recommended.

3. What do you plan to read next?

Okla Hannali - Lafferty
Locke - Feser

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

Phenomenology of Spirit - Hegel. Want to do it justice, but slog doesn't begin to describe it. Loathsome philosophy as well.

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

Oh, man. War and Peace, which I got maybe 500+ pages 35 years ago, but never finished. Loved it, just too long for my undisciplined youth.

6. What is your current reading trend?

Philosophy and history over here, little SF&F over there, science in smallish doses. A bookshelf of education history and biography sneers at me...

BTW: I really liked Selfish Gene, read it a few times - there are maybe one or two pot shots at religious people in it, but nothing too drastic especially by current standards. Of course, love Origin of Species.

Finicky Cat said...

I've never participated in one of these before!

1. In my personal reading, I am between books. It feels bad. But I am a binge-reader of fiction - I hate putting down an unfinished story - so it's also my usual state. Otherwise I'd get nothing else done.

To the kids, I'm reading aloud four books:

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray (1942) - Newbery Award historical fiction set in England, 1294.

St. Thomas Aquinas by Brendan Larnen, OP, and Milton Lomask (1956) - Vision Books' very engaging bio for children. We really like it...and we're a tough crowd for this kind of thing.

The Children's Illustrated Bible by Selina Hastings (1994) - two chapters daily after lunch with lots of interposed commentary and occasional recourses to The Real Thing.

The Man Born to Be King by Dorothy L. Sayers (1941) - twelve radio plays on the life of Christ originally produced mid-War by BBC Radio. I voice-act all the parts, so tremendously fun and tremendously tiring. This is one of my favourite books and an all-time favourite read-aloud.

In the van, we're listening to Great Expectations on audiobook, our first Dickens besides A Christmas Carol. The reader is excellent, but so far we don't like the story much. Does anybody have a more cheerful Dickens piece to recommend?

2.Personal reading, Innocence by Dean Koontz (2013), finished last night at 11:30. Only the second of his books that I've encountered. An interesting lightweight thriller with a wonderfully Catholic philosophic foundation.

To the family, I recently finished Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang by Ian Fleming (1964) - a family favourite delightful to read aloud, although I wouldn't want a steady diet of his colourless childlike mother-figures - and also The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle (1883). The characters' archaic speech makes it a challenge to read aloud, though not as tough as Shakespeare; it's by far my favourite version of Robin Hood.

3. For myself, specific plans, sadly. Something with a happy ending. Something I can read in six hours or less. Something with enough depth to feel worth six hours of my life and staying up too late, but accessible enough to be entertainment.

For the family, more stories and biographies from the middle ages on into the renaissance. I'd have to go check my chronologically-arranged history bookshelf to see what's up next...and if I get up now, I'll have to make dinner and then I'll never bet back to this list. (Recommendations welcomed for our history study, by the way!)

4. Usually the shelf behind my bed holds a dusty discouraging stack of books that turned out too heavy for my leisure hours, but I put them all away a few months ago and haven't looked back!

5. When sorting out the bookcases a year ago, I discovered we had three childrens' biographies EACH of Elizabeth Blackwell, Thomas Edison, and Helen Keller. I set them aside, meaning to skim through them and just keep the best one, but...haven't gotten to it.

6. For myself, see #3 and #4. For reading to the kids, see #3.

Thanks for the fun, Darwins!

Darwin said...

Joseph Moore,

I'm enjoying Selfish Gene pretty well myself. Someone had said I should try Adaptation and Natural Selection by George Williams, saying it was a book which had held up better. (Dawkins cites it as a major influence in Selfish Gene.) So I'm reading that as well now.

It's pretty good, though I'm concerned it's not as readable as Selfish Gene. Dawkins' style really is quite readable in that book.

Finicky Cat,

It does seem like a lot of Dickens novels start with a hundred pages or more of dreary and abusive childhood. Bleak House mostly steers around that, if you wanted to try that.