When it comes to books, it is difficult for me to be impartial. I love them. Ink seems to run in my veins instead of blood. I still have the very first library card which was truly my own (from the Peters Township Library).
My mother tells me that I could read before I could speak (?) and this led to some awkward pronunciation issues. (I'm afraid that this still happens. I mispronounced the word "braziers" in a talk at a church potluck last week. "Brassieres" are not what I wanted to talk about.)
Since last June, on sleepless nights, I've alternated posting in this journal with reading the books found in the house. Because it is safer to fall asleep typing or reading than stripping paint.
That is one of the original photos of a room containing the books in the house. There were four rooms of books. There were over 1500 books here.
These are a handful of the best late night reads so far.
Folk Tales of Assam: A clever collection of short stories from Lakishminath Bezbaroa's Birhi Air Sadhu (Tales of a Grandmother), translated from Assamese by Jnandabhiram Borooah in 1915. (This is the second edition from 1955). I've read many cultural folk tales and I am familiar with the threads of common themes across them. Most of these stories are fresh and original, which is lovely. The complex illustrations from this 1955 edition added to the narrative (Borooah also added some new stories to this version as well).
Horse and Buggy Doctor (available at Amazon.com): I have no interest in medical texts outside of a fierce curiousity about Oliver Sacks. I couldn't understand how this novel drew me in...the autobiography of a country doctor jumping into his profession in the 1800's. Suddenly, I was peering over his shoulder with great interest and fascinated with his work. Warm, human and with a style of writing that mixing descriptive prose with a gentle education in the highs and lows of a career in the healing arts. If I ever have to travel back in time and be subject to kitchen table surgery, please let my physician by Hertzler.
Rusty-A Cocker Spaniel: Okay, okay, You can laugh at me now. But I really enjoyed this "Good Dog Story" by Colonel Meek from 1938. It appeared on the bookshelf one night when I REALLY needed something light. Boy raises championship dogs. Boy meets Girl. Boy snubs Girl's new puppy when it doesn't meet his expectations of "champion show dog." Girl says, "Phooee! I'll show him what my dog can do." Lively story, strong heroine and very endearing dog. Loved it. That's why they call them "Good Dog Stories."
Yankee Lawyer-The Autobiography of Ephraim Tutt (Available at Amazon.com) In this age of political disillushionment, we all need an Ephraim Tutt. Someone who prizes integrity and upsets the political applecart of many a backroom politician. The quote he selected for his title page gives you some insight into this character: "The glow of one warm thought means more to me than money." (Thomas Jefferson) I kept having to check the date of publication for the book (1943) because this guy's predictions were ON THE MONEY. Way ahead of his time. He leaves a healthy surprise at the end which really makes you think about your ability to discern what is real. No, I am not going to tell you about the surprise. You could probably find it on the internet in another review but don't spoil it for yourself! Read it first.
Kinfolk (Available at Amazon.com) I love Pearl Buck's depiction of the subtleties of Asia, its social struggles and the emotional struggles of the different people who live there. Other nations of the world, in 1949, had different stereotypes that defined the Chinese people. Pearl set out to bust right through them. This adventurous story of four siblings traveling BACK to China from New York after their parents had immigrated demonstrates how "lost in translation" and transition many young people would be in similar situations. There is the constant awareness that they existed between two places and nowhere...all at the same time. A detailed, interesting picture of a complex period in China's history. (Though China's history is never simple.) Very worthy book.
The Royal Road to Romance (Available at Amazon.com): Recent college graduate of the 1920's tilts at his adventures like windmills while living on pennies a day. He shows us a devil-may-care attitude in his diary and a heart which longs for beauty and poetry. A flip of a Lincoln penny or a blind jab at a map dictate his route. His writing is fearless and his humor dry. He is the Artful Dodger of travel, routinely snubbing the "No! Don't! Forbidden" signs he stumbles across, gets thrown into jail in Gibraltar (he even makes THIS sound fun), and slips away every time. The 1925 version has the photographs...the updated 2000 reprint doesn't seem to. Try to get your hands on an old copy. The photographs are amazing. The one of the baby Skushok Lama of Lei (the living incarnation of Bakola) is arresting.
He later published the diary in 1925, lectured, and died with as much fierceness as he lived at age thirty-nine (while pursuing a new adventure). This book ignited my longing for travel when I first read it eight years ago and made a strong case for shouting down the fear of traveling alone in foreign countries. I am rereading him eight years on and finding his writing as new to me as it was eight years ago. (The benefits of losing your memory, I suppose.)
Like this reviewer, I did have to remind myself of the culture at the time the book was written in order to get past some things.