I have been hosting a book club at Half Price Books in Humble for over two years. In that time, I’ve managed to procure two consistent clubbers. One comes in person, one joins us by phone. We’ve had others briefly come and go – but Glenn, Thom, and I, we are the club.
Glenn chose The Beekeeper’s Apprentice to discuss in January. It was fast paced and lovely. Glenn had already read it before and was very excited to hear my thoughts. We’ve read 25 books together over the years and enjoy picking things out for each other. We disagree and argue a lot, but in a pleasant way. I’m 30 and he could be my father. Thom is older too, and as I read The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, I kept thinking how fun a parallel it was that Holmes and Watson took a young Mary Russell under their wing. I may be more well read than Glenn, but he has the perspective of age on many topics and discussions which have proven useful.
The day of the meeting, “Mary Russell” responded to a tweet I sent out into the twittersphere and offered to answer any questions we may have regarding the book. I hoped that another customer I had met during the week would arrive because she passionately hated the book, and Glenn and I both passionately loved the book. But Glenn didn’t know how much I loved the book, because we hadn’t spoken of it yet. We only see each other once a month for club.
I sat at the table in the bookstore waiting for his long lanky figure to come striding down the aisle, wearing his hat and carrying his books. His gate is that of a number of tall men, long and lumber-y. He always takes copious notes and wants to methodically go through each point, each thought, and each word that struck his fancy. I speed read through things and like to talk about themes and over all feelings of the story. Thom pipes in on speaker phone with all sorts of knowledge neither Glenn and I have. I look forward to our exchanges every month.
Glenn didn’t arrive.
I stayed and waited, but gave up and went home, thinking perhaps I missed an email or a phone call explaining his absence.
Glenn Ray passed away that evening.
Laurie R. King and Mary Russell will always be simultaneously loved and tainted by the fact that they were the last words shared between me and a man who I had started to believe was my friend.
Title: The Thirteenth Tale
Author: Diane Setterfield
Length: 406 pages
Publisher: I read from the Atria Books Book Club Edition
The first time I read this book it was July of 2011. I was no longer on maternity leave, but my daughter still seemed very, very small. We were a sleepy household then, despite her running around long before her playmates and peers had begun taking their first steps. I remember mostly listening to this book on audio because I had a hard time keeping my eyes open when I was home – but I wasn’t actually napping ever. It was excellent and I adored it. That’s why I encouraged the HPB book club to read it for our August discussion that will take place tomorrow night (August 4th, 2014).
One of my fellow clubbers emailed me already, saying he only gave the book a 5.5 out of 10. He had questions I can’t repeat in a review due to spoilers. I had meant to take this month off and discuss from memory, but his questions and low rating for a book I remember describing as the perfect tale forced me to pick it up and read it again.
And I discovered that I disagree with him…
I feared I would have my mind changed by time and growth. I feared I would have read so many wonderful things since my first reading that somehow the magic wouldn’t shine to brightly and mysteriously the second time around. I feared the ghost story wouldn’t feel so ghostly, knowing the ending.
But my fears were unwarranted, because I still loved it. I loved it all.
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.” – pg. 9
Diane Setterfield has expert hands. She manipulates words deftly. She takes a reader prisoner with her storytelling. Vida Winter winds herself around your limbs like spider silk and will enthrall you. Charlie will render you so terrified you will not move, except to turn the page; Adeline March will pierce your skin, and become a knot stuck in your throat; Isabelle will enter your blood and startle you; Emmeline will numb your thoughts. It is the best, most believable ghost story I’ve ever read.
Also this week, I’ve watched the BBC screen version of the story. Yes, there were a few things changed, much left out, but overall I was pleased with the production. We were able to watch it on youtube.
First of all, it was brilliantly cast with Vanessa Redgrave. I adore her and she is exactly how I imagined someone like Vida Winter to be. She appears in so many of my literature to film favorites, like Atonement, Howards End, and Mrs. Dalloway. She’s such a classy lady. I must say, too, that I think she looks fabulous with Vida’s red hair.
Some people express a distaste for the “name-dropping,” the characters discussing books and how they shaped their lives. There are a lot of Jane Eyre references. If you’ve read my book (The Bookshop Hotel) you’d know that I am not one to find this unfavorable. In fact, that is my favorite sort of book, and it is in this fashion that I have discovered my most cherished reading experiences: from characters who pointed me in the right direction. Characters always have more impact on me than real people. They have no stake in it, I can trust them, they gain nothing by convincing me or failing to convince me to choose a certain book or behave a certain way. For this I love them. For this I respect them more than the living and breathing.
Only a character could get me to listen to a ghost story with an open mind. Only a character can bring to life the fantastical, the magic, the mystery, and the excitement of a ghost story. Only a character could make me see and understand a ghost.
Do you believe in ghosts? No? Read The Thirteenth Tale and Vida Winter might change your mind.
On Wednesday one of my book clubbers emailed me about my reading status. How far along was I in preparation for our discussion for Monday (now tomorrow).
We will be discussing The Histories by Herdotus.
When he emailed me I was only on Book 3 (out of 9), roughly 200 pages into the historian’s account (out of 953).
I sat down, promising myself I wouldn’t go to bed until I had complete Book 4…
I had to stop myself after completing Book 6.
It is not going to be difficult to finish this book by Monday. Now, Sunday afternoon, I’m to Book 9 and I didn’t read anything at all yesterday. You would expect Herodotus to be dry and boring, another clubber said it was like reading the bible. My best friend read the reblog of the North Africa post and said, “I WISH that sounded interesting to me.”
The fact that it doesn’t astounds me.
Ancient History fascinates me I’m riveted. Hooked. I want to know everything. So much that when I stopped to take a bath I took The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides with me. The book and the historian are mentioned tirelessly in the footnotes of the Landmark Herodotus and is chronologically next in line (and Landmark Herodotus isn’t bath tub friendly). I’m looking forward to him… then Xenophon.
Wednesday and Thursday alone, I read through most of King Darius I’s reign. I learned a long forgotten word from some government or history class long passed – oligarchy – and contemplated the reality of governments.
I also did a bit of research on Parnassus and enjoyed pulling my Oxford English Dictionary down to inspect with my handy-dandy turtle magnifying class, and I felt quite studious. These are the things that bring me joy.
In my pursuit for knowledge, and for schooling my own child, I have been pretty diligent about reading as much history as I have the mental capacity to remember. That means I read at least one non-fiction book a month (whether history or not) and I include one non-fiction book per quarter in the Half Price Books Humble Book Club line up.
This quarter we’re planning to discuss Herodotus’ Histories in March. (We meet the first Monday of the Month at 7:30 pm.) This isn’t just a fascinating work to read for book club, it was also on my life long list of books to read before I die. It’s a tome; but it’s important, I think.
Not only is it important, I have a pretty awesome copy (The Landmark Herodotus) that I find completely beautiful as well as an extra ratty paperback copy for scribbling in.
So as I make my way through this book, that could serve as a book press for other books if I ever needed it to, I will share with you the gathered notes of our club members:
THE HISTORY OF HERODOTUS
(Notes provided by Glenn Ray)
Book 1 CLIO
Below are the important kings and many of their exploits from book 1 ‘CLIO’. There are 9 books in all.
The ‘¶’ below is used to represent chapter #’s in this book.
A vertical line ‘|’ on a row by itself means next person down is child of this king.
NOTE: Where there is not a ¶ starting the line, then these are mostly from Wikipedia.
Below are 3 lines of kings, not all ancestral succession:
Lydia (modern day western Turkey) kings: Gyges, Ardys, Sadyattes, Alyattes, Croesus
Mede/Persian kings: Deioces, …Cyaxares, Astyages, Cyrus the Great, … Tomyris of Massagetae (not Mede or Persian) …
(¶8 Candaules was king of Sardis & Lydia before Gyges,
& his favorite spearmen was Gyges;
Candaules shows Gyges his wife (Nyssia) naked)
(¶11,12, 13 Gyges, at Nyssia’s command, kills Candaules, becomes king; but
that vengeance for the Heracleidai (descendants of Heracles (Hercules)) will come upon the descendants of Gyges in the fifth generation [that being Croesus below].)
(Gyges reigned from 716 BC to 678 BC (or from c. 680–644 BC).)
(¶14 led an army against Miletus)
(Ardys II or Ardysus II) 678-629 BC (or 644-c.625)
(¶15 became king of Lydia; and continues daddy’s fight against Miletus)
(629-617 BC (or c.625-c.600))
(¶16 became king of Lydia for 12 years; made war vs Cyaxares – king of Medes)
(¶18 and continues daddy’s fight against Miletus)
king of Lydia (619–560 BC)
(capital Sardis, & controlled all Asia Minor west of the River Halys, except Lycia.)
(fought against Cyaxares – king of Media, during the Battle of Halys, /wikipedia)
(¶18 and continues daddy’s fight against Miletus)
(¶25 reigned 75 years)
Croesus (pronounced ‘KREE-sus’)
(GLR: some info below is from: http://www.ancient.eu.com/croesus/)
King of Lydia 560-547 BC (palace of Croesus was at Sardis.)
(GLR: Croesus, you will see, is one mean grandpa)
(funded construction of the great Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. / http://www.ancient.eu.com/croesus/)
(¶30 asks Solon who is happiest).
(Solon was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet)
(¶53 Croesus is also famous for asking the Oracle at Delphi whether he should go to war against Persia. And… destroy a great empire)
(¶55 Croesus consulted the Oracle & was told …a mule of the Medes shall be monarch…)
(¶69 alliance with the Lacedemonians)
(¶73 marching into Cappadokia to fight Cyrus, who to avenge his brother-in-law Astyages (who was defeated by Cyrus)
(¶79 Croesus’ horses feared the camels of Cyrus and ran.)
(¶84 Cyrus’ man Hyroiades scaled the wall of the citadel at Sardis and Croesus is defeated)
(¶86-7 Croesus in the Pyre)
(¶91 Croesus learns the mule = Cyrus)
Deïokes (or Deioces)
(In the late 8th century BC)
(¶96 – was the first king of the Medes per Herodotus.
(¶97…his decisions proved to be according to the truth)
king of Media 665 – 633 BC)
(Phraortes started wars against Assyria, but was defeated
and killed by Ashurbanipal, the king of Neo-Assyria.)
Cyaxares [or Kyaxares in Gutenberg version]
king of Media 625–585 BC)
(¶73 Scythians serve Cyaxares human meat, and Scythians runaway to Alyattes at Sardis for protection)
(king of Media 585 BC-550 BC)
(ruled in alliance with his two brothers-in-law, Croesus king of Lydia
and Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, whose wife, Amytis, Astyages’ sister,
was the queen for whom Nebuchadnezzar was said to have built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon)
(¶108 dream abo vine from Mandane; ordered Harpagos to kill grandson [Cyrus])
(¶118, 119 Astyages serves Harpagos his own son)
(Bible xref: Daniel 13:65(1). (1)This is per the “Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition” of the Bible, note the KJV stops at chapter 12.)
¶107 Daughter – Mandane married Cambyses from Persia
Cyrus the Great,
king of Persia, 600 BC or 576 BC–530 BC
(¶55, 56 & 91 Cyrus is the mule)
(Bible xref: 2 Chron 36:22-33; Ezra 1:1-8, 3:7; 4:3,5; 5:13-17, 6:3,14, Isaiah 44:28, 45:1,13; Daniel 1:21, 6:28, 10:1,
and 1 Esdras 2. [Note: Church councils rejected 1 and 2 Esdras as non-canonical])
(was the monarch under whom the Israelites Babylonian captivity ended / Wikipedia)
(was prompted by God to make a decree that the Temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt / Wikipedia)
(¶79 Cyrus uses camels against Croesus’ horses (horses fear the camels and ran.)
(¶84 Cyrus’ man Hyroiades scaled the wall of the citadel at Sardis and Croesus is defeated)
(¶141 Cyrus spoke fable to the Ionians and Aiolians, piper played for the fishes in the sea)
(¶155-156 Cyrus takes on his mean grandpa Croesus [who multiple times tried killing Cyrus] as closest councilor)
(¶178-183 Cyrus plans & does to conquer Assyria & Babylon; Describes city of Babylon)
(¶205 Cyrus attempts to conquer Massagetae & their queen Tomyris)
(¶209 Cyrus dreamed Dareios/Darius would attempt to over throw him)
(¶211, captures 1/3 of her army & son Spargapises sleeping)
(¶213 -214, After Tomyris’ son, commits suicide, she defeats & kills Cyrus & give thee thy fill of blood.)
(¶216, Massagetae custom: when a man becomes very old, he is slaughtered, flesh boiled and the family banquet upon it.)
Darius I 550–486 BC
the third king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire
(Reigned 522 BC to 486 BC (36 years))
(Darius is mentioned in the Biblical books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah.)
(¶187 Darius attempts to rob Babylon Queen Nitocris’ grave)
(¶199. Now the most shameful of the customs of the Babylonians…)
I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, I challenge everyone to pick up any ancient history book and learn something about the world they didn’t know before this year. The most fascinating thing to me about it all is that, even though civilizations change and grow and change and grow… people essentially, are always – at their core – pretty much the same. I love learning about the world today through the eyes of our past.
Title: The Bridge of San Luis Rey
Author: Thornton Wilder
Illustrator: Jean Charlot
Publisher: Heritage Press
I didn’t care for Wilder’s work. It didn’t capture me. It left me pretty uninterested. I just wasn’t feeling it. I was, however, feeling the edition.
I read from the Heritage Press edition. Beautiful blue cover, fine blue buckram boards with gold. I love reading books on acid free paper and I really enjoyed the color lithographs.
Lithograph illustrations are gorgeous in general and Jean Charlot’s work was the most enjoyable part of this title to me – aside from a few lovely quotes. There’s no denying that Wilder has a way with words.
“She had a new way of fingering a wine-glass, of exchanging an adieu, a new way of entertaining a door that told everything.” – pg. 97
Monday, Half Price Books in Humble will be hosting a book club meeting. It starts at 7:30 pm and we’ll be discussing this title. It’s fairly short, only 137 pages long, and can be read quickly if you’re interested. I’d love to hear from people who are passionate about this title – always curious to know what makes something classic to the world that simply didn’t move me. After all, it won the Pulitzer in 1928.
It is quite possible that if I were to finish this book in it’s entirety without skimming, I might feel like slitting my wrist by the time I made it to the end. So though I only made it 75 pages in, I’m finished reading The Color Purple. I’m weak, or whatever, I can’t handle it.
Regardless of the fact that it is by far one of the most depressing topics out there, I cannot stand reading the dialect. And I’m from the South. Is this how Brits feel when they read Cockney?
I mean, I get it, they spoke that way then. And some people still do. Whatever. But I can’t handle 288 pages of it, on top of all the incest and baby drama.
So while Celie is praying for God to save her from this horrible life, I’m praying for that saving to involve some kind of literacy that will iron out all the times she says “ast” instead of “ask” and turn all the “dats” into “thats.”
God forbid I say this, being that I am a huge fan of reading and I’ve yet to see either of my examples in production – but maybe some stories are better absorbed via a Broadway musical than in a book. (Hearing dialect and reading dialect are very different things to me.) Some things like: The Color Purple and Wicked, for example.
So, since I can’t stomach the book, I’m going to break a rule of mine and attempt the movie or musical soon. I think a story can be important and still not feel the need to suffer through it in certain formats.
What about you guys? Anyone read or seen The Color Purple? Share your thoughts.
Maybe if I can survive the movie, I’ll try again.
Title: On Chesil Beach
Author: Ian McEwan
I love used books mostly because of the crap you find inside them. Receipts, plane tickets, love letters, movie stubs, money – I’ve found it all.
In On Chesil Beach, a book published in 2007, I found a 1990 Wall Street Journal clipping of a book review written by Richard Locke. It discussed McEwan’s most recent title at that time, Innocent, and compared him and other contemporary authors to Graham Greene.
It was the highlight of McEwan’s novel for me, the only other redeeming quality being McEwan’s excellent prose and the use of the word ‘wafted.’
I’ve read other work by McEwan, Amsterdam and the world famous Atonement, and was eager to find a McEwan title that broke the tie of love/hate for McEwan’s work. I hated Amsterdam, I loved Atonement. Where does McEwan fit in my life on the scale of authors I cherish or disregard?
Where Atonement is equally crass and sexually driven, at least with Atonement there was an epic tale to be told. Amsterdam appalled me in some way, but I cannot recall why because I was so unmoved by the characters or the story, I cannot remember a bit of it. It was boring and the people were none I could sympathize with. On Chesil Beach was just depressing, and not in a beautiful way. Instead, it left me feeling empty and thinking that those two (Florence and Edward) were complete idiots. Atonement was devastating, but in a rich way… beware of how your actions affect others! Atonement screams.
As I told fellow book clubbers, I think Atonement is an atypical novel for McEwan. It highlights all his strengths as a novelist and abandons a lot of the things I dislike about his other work.
I didn’t enjoy On Chesil Beach, but as usual McEwan’s prose was lovely. I just didn’t like the story. I was uncomfortable with two married people trying to figure out how to have sex on their honeymoon for 200 pages. Amsterdam was equally annoying and somewhat dull.
Atonement is truly the equal opposite of the other two titles. It has layers upon layers, I sympathize with characters. Briony, though a sort of villain, is also a rich, multifaceted character. It is a genius piece of work that can be discussed along side the genius of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden without ever wondering why it is sharing shelf space with such a prolific artist of words.
Bryonies are occasionally grown in gardens, sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately so. Some species find use in herbal medicine. Generally however, these plants are poisonous, some highly so, and may be fatal if ingested. – Wikipedia
This time, a fellow HPB Humble Book Clubber pointed out the stunning use of windows, glass, and viewpoints of the characters. As well as Triton being the statue in the fountain that supplied the initial setting for all the confusion… Triton who is a messenger of the sea, and the confusion being that of miscommunications and vivid imaginations. There is a wealth of things to dive into when re-reading the book.
Even if On Chesil Beach offers similar literary gems to dig into, I have no desire to do so. I feel as though Edward and Florence have annoyed me enough already in this lifetime. I debate, even now as I type, whether to keep the book at all. I may give it away, it is in near mint condition and other people enjoy things I do not. But neurotic hoarder in me wants to create a shelf in my library of all books I find featuring the word ‘wafted’ and perch it there along with the rest. It is a good thing I am married. I am sure my husband will cock an eyebrow in that meaningful way that says ‘Don’t be crazy’ and I shall submit to the idea that it makes a better gift than tribute to my odd obsessions.
Lords of Finance Discussion Part Three (to read parts one and two, start here)
Title: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World
Author: Liaquat Ahamed
Genre: Economics/ History
Length: 508 pages
When all was said and done, Lords of Finance was a pleasant (and very meaty) read. It was definitely nice wrapping up the completion of the book with a discussion at Half Price Books among customers turned friends. The discussion definitely went down well with some home made German Chocolate Pie brought by a member.
I was especially intrigued by the dialogue between Senator Mayfield and Senator Brookhart on pages 316-317 regarding Texas wanting to pass a bill prohibiting gambling via the stock market. Apparently, there were a lot of hearings that went on “in an attempt to refine the distinction between investing and gambling.” Upon reading this I immediately wanted to hash out the distinction and research the laws with others. What a fascinating paper this would make for a young economics student to be assigned in order to both understand the inner workings of the stock market and to establish their own world view in terms of monetary ethics and morals. Honestly, have you ever wondered… What is the line between gambling and investing? Off hand, I’m not sure I have a steadfast answer to give. Do you?
At the meeting we talked about businesses that are publicly traded verses those that are not. We touched on Roosevelt and Hoover and what they had to deal with as presidents in comparison to what Obama is dealing with today, and over all what a relevant piece of history this book is. One of my favorite quotes came very late in the book on pages 438-439:
When, in August 1932, a reporter for the Saturday Evening Post asked John Maynard Keynes if there had ever been anything like this before, he replied, “Yes. It was called the Dark Ages, and it lasted four hundred years.”
That line from Keynes about the Great Depression had me smitten with him. When I got to the store, I immediately headed toward the economics section and picked out a book he wrote called The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. He has other titles that I also plan to purchase one day.
It took us awhile to decide who would actually be purchasing the only title by Keynes in the store. Everyone, I think, likes to read titles mentioned in books they read and Ahamed mentioned Keynes work quite a bit. We are in agreement that the books (both Keynes’ and Ahamed’s) should be used as require reading for economics classes, both high school and college. As someone who actively participates in continuing education on a self-study basis, I am interested to see how the end of this book leads into World War II. So many financial agreements were made and unmade, I want to know in detail how things were handled during the war on a financial level. None of us in the group were financial historian buffs and were unable to answer our own questions, but discovering the answers in the future should be exciting.
As for our reading future as a group, we tossed around ideas for the next set of books. This isn’t quite set in stone just yet, but it’s looking like the HPB Humble Book Club reading schedule will look like this:
April: On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan (we will probably also discuss Atonement)
May: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
June: The Princess Bride – William Goldman (the online Half Price Books book club will also be discussing this book in June)
July: John Adams – David McCullough
August: The Color Purple – Alice Walker
Any changes to this tentative reading schedule will be made at the April meeting.
Lords of Finance Discussion Part Two
Author: Liaquat Ahamed
Genre: Economics/ History
Length: 508 pages
“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
Winston Churchill. That quote is really intense! But we’ve all heard it, I’m sure. And everyone knows the name Winston Churchill, has a basic idea of what he looks like, and knows where he belongs in history. Everyone knows he’s great. But beyond one little paragraph of description and some quotes you’ve heard, how much do you actually know?
The second installment of the Lords of Finance posts is in regards to Parts 2&3 of the book. Actually, it’s in regards to the parts in those parts that talked about Winston Churchill. It was during these segments that I realized how much I didn’t know about him at all.
All of my knowledge of the man prior to this book was based in a few intense quotes, a lot of school propaganda, and a few character appearances in Doctor Who episodes. Frankly, prior to reading this book I didn’t feel much inclined to study up on Churchill, I mean could he be any cooler than how he is portrayed in Doctor Who? I doubt the real Churchill had a direct line to The Doctor or any time traveling space alien for that matter. But obviously, one must move on from fictional portrayals and out of context quotes at some point in their life – and Ahamed makes me want to.
While I was reading about the “turbulent pushing busybody Winston” with his silk underwear, champagne, and Havana cigars, I immediately remembered a story I heard about him once. Someone once told me that Winston Churchill read a whole book every night before bed. The two ideas are now inseparable to me… a fat tubby man in silk underwear reading a book with a cigar hanging out his mouth makes me smile! I don’t know if the story is true, and I don’t know how people know that he wore silk underwear, but now I must find out.
So mid sentence, I left my toddler at the kitchen table putting together a completely unrelated paper penguin craft, and took a look at my library shelves. I have one biography and two books written by him. The books look like they belong to a set, a familiar set that I took home impulsively pieces at a time; but now that I am looking at them with curious research eyes they seem completely foreign and magical.
I still have much to read about The Bankers Who Broke the World, but a little visit with The Last Lion would be nice. What do you know about Churchill? Would you be interested in reading up on the great man with me?
Follow this link to read the next installment in the Lords of Finance discussion.
Read Across America Day
Each year, young and old alike celebrate Read Across America Day on March 2 in conjunction with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Join your fellow bookworms at Half Price Books for a special Dr. Seuss Story Time on Saturday, March 2, at 3 pm. The Humble location will be reading Horton Hears a Who and crafting clover pinwheels. Regular story time is every Wednesday at 10:30 am.
HPB Humble Book Club
Looking to expand your reading pleasure? Join the discussion at our HPB Humble Book Club. We meet the first Monday of each month from 7:30 to 9 pm.
March – Lords of Finance
April – On Chesil Beach