Monday, 24 December 2007

Books and Reading

I've always been fascinated by books about books and reading. It is interesting to see what others recommend or prescribe and why. I like the insight into the personality and interests of the author. Also, I love lists. I'm always making them myself, although I don't always stick to them. Here are two books on this topic that I just finished.

Finished December 22
Book Smart: Your Essential Reading List for Becoming a Literary Genius in 365 Days by Jane Mallison
Besides being an avid reader, the author here was the department head of English at New York's Trinity School for more than two decades. Her list is set up by month. Each month has a theme and 10 books that fit that theme. She suggests you read the information she provides about the books and pick one to read that month (not too onerous) or pick a topic that interests you and read all ten (leaving two extra from other topics). The books are thoughtfully chosen and cover both classics and more recent writing. Non-fiction and fiction are included, along with some poetry. She gives historical information where appropriate and sometimes offers additional recommendations on a topic. Some I'd already read, some I've been meaning to read, and some I hadn't even heard of. I would have liked to see more recommendations for further reading and the reasons behind the recommendations. (There are many reasons why one might like a book, and they can lead in many directions.) I have, of course, added to my list!

Finished December 23
Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life by Michael Dirda
This book by noted, and Pulitzer-Prize winning, critic Dirda is a gem. I think that I shall have to get my own personal copy since I've had to return this one to the library. Dirda talks about how books enrich our lives, at work and at home, through good and bad. He includes works for children, basic library lists for those interested in art and music, and books that should be part on one's "interior library" for use when needed. I especially liked the list of books to include in one's guest room (mine is severely lacking in several areas!) and the many quotes he includes from his own commonplace book.
I put his new Classics for Fun on one of my Christmas lists, and know that I've already received it (I was allowed to open a present ahead of time so the giver could be present.) I look forward to it even more eagerly now.

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