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Back to The Classics Challenge

DSCN0947Here’s my stack of Old Books for The Back to the Classics challenge. (Mrs. Aldertree’s selection can be found here). As an added challenge I only picked books from our personal collection (no library loans or book shopping!)

1.  19th century Classic:

The Bostonians By Henry James

Years ago I started reading this book and really enjoyed it, but left it unfinished. I’ve read a portrait of a Lady by Henry James and loved it, I look forward to picking this one up again.

2. 20th Century Classic:

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

This book came recommended by my brother-in-law.  I liked the Quiet American and Travels with My Aunt but I’m not sure what to expect since those two novels were so different from one another.

3.  A Classic by a Woman Author

The Battle of The Villa Fiorita by Rumer Godden

Rumer Godden is fast becoming my favorite Authoress. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a few years now, I suppose I’ve been saving it for just the right occasion.

4. A Classic in Translation

Sappho

Fragments of poetry seemed a fitting addition to the list. Before picking this one I thought of reading a Russian novel or Flaubert  but I like reading a book of poetry along side novels and books of non-fiction.

5.  A Children’s Classic:

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Growing up I avoided Kipling because I thought the movie Rikki Tikki Tavi was awful. (I wonder if this is a common thing for children to do? Mrs. Aldertree avoided The Wind in The Willows for the same reason). But last year I read  His Just So stories and some of his poems and thought they were wonderful.   Also I recently found out that  Henry James held Kipling in High esteem and thought him to be “the most complete man of genius.” I am intrigued.

6.  A Classic Crime Story

Sherlock Holmes A Study In Scarlet

I thought of adding Josphine Tye but I’ve already read one of her books and I’ve never read Doyle. My husband is a fan and is always telling me how wonderful they are. He insists that I start with A study in Scarlet.

7. A Classic Travel or Journey Narrative fiction or non-fiction

Kon-Tiki 

I know nothing about this book besides what the cover conveys of course. Apparently Journey narratives are not my usual fair,  I had to look in my husband’s collection of books to find this one. He is happy I am branching out.

8. A Classic with a Single Word Title

Rebecca

Rebecca

It was really hard to find a Classic with a single word Title. I was surprised, besides Jane Austen’s Emma I think this was the only single Word Title (that met the other requirements) we owned. I’ve read The Scapegoat by her and loved it. My husband recently read this so I can’t wait to be able to discuss it with him.

9. A Classic With A Color in its title

The Red House mystery by  A.A. Milne

I found this the other week at a thrift store and had no idea A.A. Milne wrote a murder mystery. I just had to add it to the challenge. He wrote it for his father.

10. A Classic by an Author that’s new to you:

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

My husband likes the author but I’ve never read any of his books. He’s completely new to me.

11. A Classic that Scares you:

Les miserables by Victor Hugo

The sheer length scares me, but who doesn’t want to brag about finishing Les Miserables? (Bleak House also scares me, as well as Doyle’s supernatural Tales and Turn of the Srew – gulp.)

12. Reread a favorite Classic:

Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh

Maybe it’s the title but it seemed like the perfect book to reread (again). I just love this book! If you haven’t read it yet- go read it!

Mrs. Karl T. Cooper, Jr.

 

 

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Upon Inheriting Books

I recently inherited some old family books. My Aunt who knows I run a little book store, gave them to me to sell: An old book of Plato, selections of Cicero and speeches by Burke. Nothing I was interested in reading myself anytime soon and so I began my assessment of the books. A completely economical glance- at first.

But when I touched them I felt touched by something. Nostalgia? Timelessness?  I  handled the old bindings, opened the copy of Plato and found my Great Aunt’s name inscribed in the front. Old catholic school cursive, similar to my grandmother’s and my mother’s. Workmanlike, neat, but not showy. My Great Aunt came back to me, her amazing jewelry, large rings set with semi-precious stones, gold bangles, plated brooches and an elegant voice to match one that cracked every now and then, deepened with age. Besides the jewelry I remembered the subscription to national geographic she bought my family one year and how I had consumed them. Oh, She was exotic! Beautiful- the picture of sophistication.

Aside from the inscription the interior was clean no marginalia I thought, too bad. How strange to hold one of her books. what other books did she read, enjoy? I had no idea.

I then opened Burke and found my grandfather’s name inscribed inside. As exotic and free as my Great Aunt was my grandfather was familiar and solid. Nostalgia swept over me and regret. Regret for not paying more attention when I was younger!  I tried hard to remember my grandfather’s house. More importantly, I tried to remember his bookshelves. I couldn’t.

But his desk came back to me, filled with papers, rubber-bands, paper clips, bills, a letter opener, an old hole puncher. His black, metal wastebasket that faithfully sat on the floor, materialized in my mind. When I visited, he would hand me some old recycled paper from that bin and tell me, go write! and I’d write. If I got a sheet of paper, I’d use his old typewriter which sat on his dining room table. If it was just an envelope I’d use his red, eraser less pencils.

What books did he enjoy? I don’t know. I remember his old chair and footstool in the corner of the living room, there he would sit, with his reading glasses on, and read the paper and his magazines. He was quite the correspondent. Writing letters to the editor often and he would send me clippings of articles he thought I would enjoy. (Mostly about horses since I was rather horse crazed.) I looked down at his signature again, So much personality and soul remained in those markings!

These unassuming texts had brought such depth to my childhood memories and startled by how much came back to me, I set them down.  Although I probably will end up passing them on, receiving them was a gift. Like finding a lost postcard in the mail from a long ago traveled journey.  

-Mrs. Karl Cooper, Jr.

Spiritual Reading for Young Children

 

The Song of Three Holy Children Illustrated by Pauline Baynes: 

holy

Renowned artist Pauling Baynes, Who is well known for illustrating the Narnia Books and The Hobbit also  illustrated The Song of the Three Holy Children from the book of Daniel. It is a beautiful book, thoughtful and meditative. The song, “O ye Heavens, bless ye the Lord; praise him, and magnify him for ever.”rings out again and again yet each time it seems anew as the text and illuminations inform each other page after page. The illustrations are intricate and the book has a rather serious tone to it that children appreciate.

Small Rain Selected by Jesse Jones and illustrated by Elizabeth Jones 

small

Small Rain is a book of traditional prayers and selected verses from The inestimable King James Bible. The verses are beautiful, the language is high yet the  illustrations are cutesy. The combination works surprisingly well.

Manner’s in God House and My First Missal

Manners in God’s House is a classic. It explains the concept of reverence and its importance in God’s house. It also gives concrete examples of reverence, rules that we should emulate when visiting Christ our King. It is a simple book  instructive but not too preachy. The illustrations are endearing and well done. My First Missal is the second part of the book. It is a Traditional Missal for the Extraordinary Form. It illustrates each stage of the Mass and explains what is happening, comparing the Mass with parts of Scripture. My children love this book and it is in their little “Church Bag” every Sunday.

-Mrs. Cooper

The Drama of Decluttering Books

Any book lover will agree, books are hard to part with. We have a certain attachment to unread books, read books, half- read books, beloved books, good books, okay books, books that have that amazing paragraph, chapter, sentence, books that speak to us not so much in perfect prose but in the dovetailed ideas presented within its bindings.

I recently read an insightful article on Kon Marie and The Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books much of it resonated with me. It delved into the heart of the problem of simplifying a library:

“A book can wait a thousand years unread until the right reader comes along,” said the critic George Steiner, and that’s true. The good ones are incantations, summoning spells. They are a spark, a balm, a letter from home. They contain demons, gods in a box. They are tiny rectangles with the whole universe packed in.

It is so difficult to part with these bound pieces of paper because they are more than just paper, they are microcosms! Each book seems a literary miracle to us. That it should ruminate in the maker’s mind for years, be written down, revised, edited, printed, (if lucky enough) published  and then finally somehow find its way, through who knows how many hands- to us! No wonder decluttering books is a painful process!

But it is necessary. Books maybe be microcosms, incantations, but gathered together they build a whole, a library. Such a living organism needs to be reevaluated from time to time, aired out to avoid stagnation (Otherwise it would be just another hoard and we book lovers selfish dragons.)

As a mother, I assess my children’s library often, is it meeting their needs? Have they outgrown the books? Do we need to replace or repair beloved but tattered titles? Are they being fed quality? Are there gaps in the collection?  (Spiritual reading should not be overlooked, even – especially in a children’s library. I find that this is too often the case.) Children grow quickly! Their minds and needs change, are we keeping up?

I also need to discern my needs and my own library. Am I inspired, comforted, and informed by what’s on my shelf? Or are there dead spaces? books that once spoke to me but I no longer have a need for? Are there books that never spoke to me but I keep out of mere pretense? old textbooks? We will always have our favorites and there is no need to let those go. And it is always nice knowing that there are books on shelf for when the time comes. However, there is nothing like a thoughtful library, curated to truly meet our needs for today. This is what we should ensure.

Much like a garden,  libraries need to be cultivated,  trimmed in some areas so that the whole can flourish. Deadheading is the term gardeners use. The simple technique of pinching off old weathered blooms to make room for new ones. It makes all the difference to a rose bush. It makes all the difference to a library. Yet we will  encounter the same problem as the gardener: should I trim this autumnal bloom? Just past its prime? or leave it for another day? It is still blooming though petals bruised and dogeared. It is up to us to determine when the book should move on. But rest assured, after all the work of sorting and letting go of books, it is exhilarating to find empty shelf space, room, glorious room! For those books that have been calling our name. Who knows? They could be life-changing.

-Mrs. Cooper

 

How To Style Your Bookshelves

 

Step 1. Empty bookshelf.

Step 2. Dust books and shelf.

Step 3. Put books back on shelf.

Step 4. Do you have  lonely, empty space on the shelf?  An easy solution to this problem (it never fails) –  a trip to the bookstore!*

Step 4. Fill in empty slots with new books.*

Step 5.  Let your wolfish eyes select the perfect title from your now stunning bookshelf. Sit back and read.

*one may also buy a cat, which also fills in gaps quite nicely (as pictured above) but most people find more books to be an easier solution.

*or new cat.