The Eighteenth Five Books of Two Thousand Seven

christmas carol charles dickens book mormon wuthering heights memos purgatory harlan ellison faith scientist henry eyring


090) A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, finished December 23
    When the Big O overheard me telling his mother that there was no way we would finish this by Christmas at our current pace, he sat me down and we read over one hundred pages right then. Voila. Done by Christmas.

    Then we drove over to see a big local nativity originally built by a Sikh man for his neighbors and this year sponsored by the Soroptimists. As we drove we listened to Jonathon Winters perform A Christmas Carol on NPR. I like Mr Winters, but, much like these silly five-day events like Duel and Clash of the Choirs, it just didn't fly.

    So! What I want is this: I want Peter Jackson to make a five-hour, five-day Christmas Carol with Ian McKellan as Scrooge. Tell me that would be awesome. One day for each stave. It would be the best thing ever.

    Anyway. The book. It's good. Still good. I think I smell a holiday tradition.

    The copy I bought for this year's reading was copiously (and well) illustrated and the Big O enjoyed it. Maybe not as much as Peter Pan, but he can run you down the Christmas-Carol story and tell you all about Scrooge's change of heart and he'll tell you he liked the book.

    It was much more successful than when we read him Oliver Twist (a gift from Nemesis--thanks, Nem!). But then . . . he was only about ten days old when we started that one . . . .

    two weeks

089) The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ edited by Mormon and Moroni, finished December 21
    Believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ.

    And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

    And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

    And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day.

    ten months and two weeks

088) Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, finished December 13
    Started reading this like a brushfire, then I had to stop to read some other things for class. Which is a shame.

    Wuthering Heights is a great example of how much our understanding and use of p-o-v has improved since the birth of the novel--almost all its faults are directly connected to trying to filter the tale through the faceless Mr. Lockwood. But the art of the novel was new then and Emily was creative and clever in her attempts to overcome the p-o-v issues she ran into.

    Here are some topnotch words on the novel from Emily's sister Charlotte:

      Whether it is right or advisable to create things like Heathcliff, I do not know: I scarcely think it is. But this I know; the writer who possesses the creative gift owns something of which he is not always master--something that at times strangely wills and works for itself. He may lay down rules and devise principles, and to rules and principles it will perhaps for years lie in subjection; and then, haply without any warning of revolt, there comes a time when it will no longer consent to 'harrow the vallies, or be bound with a band in the furrow'--when it 'laughs at the multitude of the city, and regards not the crying of the driver'--when, refusing absolutely to make ropes out of sea-sand any longer, it sets to work on statue-hewing, and you have a Pluto or a Jove, a Tisiphone or a Psyche, a Mermaid or a Madonna, as Fate and Inspiration direct. By the work grim or glorious, dread or divine, you have little choice left but quiescent adoption. As for you--the nominal artist--your share in it has been to work passively under dictates you neither delivered nor could question--that would not be uttered at your prayer, not suppressed nor changed at your caprice. If the result be attractive, the World will praise you, who little deserve praise; if it be repulsive, the same World will blame you, who almost as little deserve blame.

      Wuthering Heights was hewn in a wild workshop, with simple tools, out of homely materials. The statuary found a granite block on a solitary moor: gazing thereon, he saw how from the crag might be elicited the head, savage, swart, sinister; a form moulded with at least one element of grandeur--power. He wrought with a rude chisel, and from no model but the vision of his meditations. With time and labour, the crag took human shape; and there it stands colossal, dark, and frowning, half statue, half rock: in the former sense, terrible and goblin-like; in the latter, almost beautiful, clothes it; and heath, with its blooming bells and balmy fragrance, grows faithfully close to the giant's foot.

    two and a half months

087) The Faith of a Scientist by Dr. Henry Eyring, finished December 7
    First: note that this is a smaller version of the original book. The essays are unabridged, but there are fewer of them.

    Second: note that Dr. Eyring probably attended church in my building, back when he was getting his PhD in Berkeley.

    Third: note that I am glad this was a smaller version of the original book because it got to be a bit repetitive. It was good, I grant you, but, well, I get it.

    Fourth: note that I read its little tiny pieces during my lunches.

    Fifth: note that I checked this book out of the library belonging to the building noted above; note also that that library has lots of books I hope to eventually read (but no comics, alas).

    Sixth: note that I recommend reading a couple of these essays but doubt you need to read them all in their entirety--just don't miss the moonmen.

    Seventh: note that this book is ridiculously expensive and someone should reprint it. You Eyrings getting this message?

    Eighth: note that this is the penultimate note.

    Ninth: no more notes.

    less than a month

086) Memos from Purgatory by Harlan Ellison, finished December 1
    If you have ever heard me rail against Harlan Ellison then you will be rightly surprised to see this book here--I mean, I've been working on The Other Glass Teat for for four years now and am unlikely to ever even open it again, and here I am picking up--and finishing!--another Ellison book? Explanation?

    Well, it's in my class library, and I just happened to grab it to thumb through it and noticed on the back cover that it was about street gangs and, as I'm always being asked for more raw books, I thought I would see if there was any impressive violence in it. Next thing I knew I had read the last half of the book. Then the first half.

    We own a goodly number of Ellison books and Lady Steed's always asking don't I hate that guy (yes) can we get rid of these books (no). Why? Half because if I ever do grad school I want to have the option of writing the anti-Ellison paper; half because many writers I respect are gaga over him and I can't figure out why.

    A big part of what I hate about Ellison is how didactic his fiction is; he can't pick up a pen without preaching at me, and that drives me nuts.

    Memos is autobiographical (and I believe him, as opposed to, say, Og Mandino). Sort of like Hunter Thompson with the Hell's Angels, Ellison joined a street gang; unlike Thompson however, he actually joined a street gang--he took on a street name and took part in heisting guns and nearly killed a kid in a knife fight. In other words, he did something I would never even half-imagine to do. And no, I don't think that was good or admirable, but I feel like I understand him so much better now than I used to. I don't think I will start liking his fiction all of a sudden, but I did like this book--and it was definitely raw--about the rawest thing I have ever read. Or hope to imagine.

    Stay in school, kids.

    ps: a few days after writing the above, I realized that this book is just as lousy as all Ellison's stuff, for all its merits. Like, notable, how in the end he pulls a moral-to-the-story out of nowhere (he loves morals-to-the-story); he then plops it into a preface as well. this kind of sloppy nonsense (and abject moralizing) is what drives me crazy about him.)

    three days

....previously in 2007....

085) Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, finished November 30
084) The Bat-Poet by Randall Jarrell, finished November 29
083) Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, finished November 29
082) The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, finished November 21
081) One Big Self: An Investigation by C.D. Wright, finished November 19
080) Tintin in the Land of the Soviets by Hergé, finished November 16
079) Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball by Spencer W. Kimball, finished November 14
078) Abraxas And The Earthman by Rick Veitch, finished November 12
077) Gorgias by Plato, finished November 10
076) Bighead by Jeffrey Brown, finished November 7
075) Jack the Ripper: A Journal of the Whitechapel Murders 1888-1889 by Rick Geary, finished November 3
074) Summer of Love by Debbie Drechsler, finished November 3
073) The Borden Tragedy by Rick Geary, finished October 31
072) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, finished October 29
071) Monster by Walter Dean Myers, finished October 26
070) Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, finished October 15
069) Whirligig by Paul Fleischman, finished October 15
068) Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators in The Mystery of the Silver Spider by Robert Arthur, finished October 12
067) Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, finished October 12
066) Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer, finished October 6
065) How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card, finished October 1
064) Downy Duck Grows Up by Adda Mai Sharp and Epsie Young, finished September 30
063) Humans by Robert J. Sawyer, finished September 28
062) Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer, finished September 23
061) Making Comics by Scott McCloud, finished August 20
060) Tales of the Black Widowers by Isaac Asimov, finished September 14
059) The Pearl by John Steinbeck, finished September 11 and again on September 12
058) The Dog Is Not a Toy: House Rule #4 by Darby Conley, finished September 3
057) Brother Brigham by D. Michael Martindale, finished August 29
056) The Foundation Trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov, finished August 27
055) Ode To Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka, finished August 20
054) Polygamy Was Better Than Monotony by Paul Bailey, finished August 10
053) Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, finished August 7
052) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, finished July 24
051) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling, finished July 21
050) The Ruins by Scott Smith, finished July 13
049) Favorite Stories by Margret Rey, illustrated by H.A. Rey, finished July 12
048) Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, finished July 2
047) Flight Volume Three edited by Kazu Kibuishi, finished June 27
046) Nobody Is Perfick by Bernard Waber, finished June 14
045) First Paragraphs: Inspired Openings for Writers and Readers by Donald Newlove, finished June 12
044) The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking, finished June 11
043) Dune by Frank Herbert, finished June 9
042) The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels by Thomas Cahill, finished June 8
041) The Roald Dahl Omnibus by Roald Dahl, finished June 6
040) Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo, finished May 31
039) The End by Lemony Snicket, finished May 23
038) The Complete Peanuts 1961-1962 by Charles M. Schultz, finished May 22
037) The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket, finished May 21
036) The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket, finished May 18
035) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, finished May 15
034) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, finished May 14
033) Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006 by Chip Kidd, finished May 9
032) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, finished May 7
031) The Complete Peanuts 1959-1960 by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 25
030) Devils & Demons edited by Marvin Kaye, finished April 23
029) Talk Talk Talk: Decoding the Mysteries of Speech by Jay Ingram, finished April 23
028) Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman, finished April 20
027) The Long Chalkboard: and Other Stories by Jennifer Allen and illustrated by Jules Feiffer, finished April 19
026) Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, finished April 19
025) Frank by Jim Woodring, finished April 12
024) The Complete Concrete by Paul Chadwick, finished April 3
023) The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde, finished March 30
022) Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, finished March 28
021) Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller et al, finished March 23
020) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, finished March 16
019) Batman: Gothic by Grant Morrison et al, finished March 13
018) Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, finished March 7
017) Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald, finished March 7
016) 50 Professional Scenes for Student Actors: A Collection of Short 2 Person Scenes by Garry Michael Kluger, finished March 6
015) Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda, finished March 5
014) Frindle by Andrew Clements, finished March 1
013) Brain Wave by Poul Anderson, finished February 27
012) The Best American Comics 2006 edited by Harvey Pekar and Anne Elizabeth Moore, finished February 26
011) Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, finished February 15
010) The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ edited by Mormon and Moroni, finished February 7
009) Lisey's Story by Stephen King, finished February 1
008) The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, finished January 26
007) Empire by Orson Scott Card, finished January 24
006) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, finished January 22
005) Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh, finished January 17
004) Superman Adventures Vol. 1: Up, Up and Away! by Mark Millar, finished January 16
003) A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, finished January 12
002) Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, finished January 11
001) Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut, finished January 10

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The First Five (001 - 005)
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The Ninth Five (041 - 045)
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  1. I am impressed that you read real books without pictures out loud to your child. And that he listens and follows along with the story. Is there some secret to that, or does our child just have ADD like I fear?

  2. .

    I can't believe he had any idea what the story was about. He gave no outward indication of listening and every indication of having completely forgotten I was even reading. But he wouldn't let me stop.

    And I bought the copy I did because there were at most five spreads in the entire book that didn't have an illustration.

  3. That movie sounds fantastic.

  4. I think that's the same copy of Christmas Carol that my parents own. And they've never read it! How sad--but my almost 3-year-old nephew does like the pictures.

  5. You're totally not going to make it to 100. I double dare you.

  6. .

    I know.

    It makes me sad.

  7. Patrick Steward recorded a reading of A Christmas Carol a number of years ago that's fabulous. You should see if you can track it down on CD. (While you're waiting for Mr. Jackson to get on the ball, I mean.)