hidden hit counter
From the Latest Entry...
The holiday season is that time of year when the lists of the year’s best books begin to appear. The New York Times just published its annual list of the 100 notable books of the year. Looking for holiday gifts, or just a good read yourself? I usually find a few suggestions each year from…

Notable Books of the Year

The holiday season is that time of year when the lists of the year’s best books begin to appear. The New York Times just published its annual list of the 100 notable books of the year. Looking for holiday gifts, or just a good read yourself? I usually find a few suggestions each year from the Times compilation.

image

Posted by Joel on November 22 2017 • Books

Remarkable Manuscripts

image I’m beginning to create a winter reading list and a new title is high on my list. It’s called Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher de Hamel, a longtime Sotheby’s employee and Fellow and Librarian of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Recently published in the United States, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts looks to be a wonderful read for bibliophiles and history lovers alike. I’d recommend buying the actual hardcover book, as it is filled with many maps, photos and reproductions of some wonderful one-of-a-kind artifacts. Here is a portion of the publisher’s description of the book:

“The idea for the book, which is entirely new, is to invite the reader into intimate conversations with twelve of the most famous manuscripts in existence and to explore with the author what they tell us about nearly a thousand years of medieval history - and sometimes about the modern world too. Christopher de Hamel introduces us to kings, queens, saints, scribes, artists, librarians, thieves, dealers, collectors and the international community of manuscript scholars, showing us how he and his fellows piece together evidence to reach unexpected conclusions. He traces the elaborate journeys which these exceptionally precious artefacts have made through time and space, shows us how they have been copied, who has owned them or lusted after them (and how we can tell), how they have been embroiled in politics and scholarly disputes, how they have been regarded as objects of supreme beauty and luxury and as symbols of national identity. The book touches on religion, art, literature, music, science and the history of taste.

“Part travel book, part detective story, part conversation with the reader, Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts conveys the fascination and excitement of encountering some of the greatest works of art in our culture which, in the originals, are to most people completely inaccessible. At the end, we have a slightly different perspective on history and how we come by knowledge. It is a most unusual book.”

For other treasures check out this story from Atlas Obscura: The Oldest Treasures from 12 Great Libraries. They ask each library to highlight the oldest item in their collection.

Posted by Joel on November 05 2017 • Books

Churchill and Orwell

image Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Ricks has written a new book that I believe will be another best-seller: a dual biography of Winston Churchill and George Orwell. From the publisher’s description of the book: “No one would have predicted that by the end of the 20th century they would be considered two of the most important people in British history for having the vision and courage to campaign tirelessly, in words and in deeds, against the totalitarian threat from both the left and the right.” Churchill and Orwell both believed that freedom was the important issue and that “a government that denied its people basic freedoms was a totalitarian menace and had to be resisted.”

Also from the publisher’s description: “In the end, Churchill and Orwell proved their age’s necessary men. The glorious climax of Churchill and Orwell is the work they both did in the decade of the 1940’s to triumph over freedom’s enemies. And though Churchill played the larger role in the defeat of Hitler and the Axis, Orwell’s reckoning with the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984 would define the stakes of the Cold War for its 50-year course, and continues to give inspiration to fighters for freedom to this day. Taken together, in Thomas E. Ricks’s masterful hands, their lives are a beautiful testament to the power of moral conviction, and to the courage it can take to stay true to it, through thick and thin.”

I’m looking forward to picking up a copy. Watch an interview with the author from CSPAN here.

Posted by Joel on June 11 2017 • Books

Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman

imageThis looks to be an interesting read from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Miriam Horn: Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland. The book was also recently made into a documentary, narrated by Tom Brokaw. From the book description:

“Many of the men and women doing today’s most consequential environmental work—restoring America’s grasslands, wildlife, soil, rivers, wetlands, and oceans—would not call themselves environmentalists; they would be too uneasy with the connotations of that word. What drives them is their deep love of the land: the iconic terrain where explorers and cowboys, pioneers and riverboat captains forged the American identity. They feel a moral responsibility to preserve this heritage and natural wealth, to ensure that their families and communities will continue to thrive.Unfolding as a journey down the Mississippi River, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman tells the stories of five representatives of this stewardship movement: a Montana rancher, a Kansas farmer, a Mississippi riverman, a Louisiana shrimper, and a Gulf fisherman. In exploring their work and family histories and the essential geographies they protect, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman challenges pervasive and powerful myths about American and environmental values.”

Posted by Joel on April 30 2017 • Books

New York City's Book Row

A nice video tribute to New York City’s famed Book Row which ran along 4th Avenue.

Posted by Joel on January 28 2017 • Books

Best Books of the Year

What was your favorite book you read this year? Many great best-of-the-year lists are out, including My Bookshelf, Myself and the year’s 10 Best Books from the New York Times as well as 16 Favorites from Brain Pickings and the Smithsonian’s Best Books about Innovation and Science. Bill Gate’s always highlights his favorite reads of the year in a video. This year he picks a few that will soon be on my list:

image Recently I have enjoyed well-written biography more than anything else. A talented biographer not only tells a very personal story, but she also carries the reader through the time period in which the subject made their impact on the world. The reader learns about philosophy, history and science while following a captivating narrative. More biographies are already on my list for 2017.

This year, I read two very good examples of the craft: American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin; and Emerson: The Mind on Fire by Robert D. Richardson.

Kai Bird is a wonderful author, and the news has it that he is at work on a biography of Jimmy Carter during his White House years. I would like to end this post with a quote from another favorite president: Barack Obama. It’s included in another book I’ve nearly finished, Thomas Friedman’s Thank You for Being Late. The quote is about story and its power to shape our culture.

“What makes our species unique is that we are not bound by genetic code to repeat the mistakes of the past. We can learn. We can choose. We can tell our children a different story, one that describes a common humanity, one that makes war less likely and cruelty less easily accepted.”

Happy Holidays!

Posted by Joel on December 21 2016 • Books

Bookish Fools

image“Since the invention of the cuneiform system of writing in Mesopotamia around 3500 BCE and of hieroglyphics in Egypt around 3150 BCE, the serious reader of texts has enjoyed cultural acclamation,” writes Frank Furedi in Aeon."In Roman times, starting in the second century BCE, books were brought down from heaven to earth, where they served as luxury goods that endowed their wealthy owners with cultural prestige. The Roman philosopher Seneca, who lived in the first century, directed his sarcasm at the fetish for grandiose display of texts, complaining that ‘many people without a school education use books not as tools for study but as decorations for the dining room’. Of the flamboyant collector of scrolls, he wrote that ‘you can see the complete works of orators and historians on shelves up to the ceiling, because like bathrooms, a library has become an essential ornament of a rich house’.”

Owning books is not about the appearance of sophistication. Nevertheless, bookish fools exist. Furedi asks, “Is book ownership still a sign of public cultural distinction in the digital age? It’s not the performance, and not the optics that really matter, but the experience of the journey to the unknown.”

Posted by Joel on November 11 2016 • Books

God of the Modern World

imageAnthony Kronman’s upcoming book, Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan, looks to be an important subject for our times. David Brooks recently wrote about the important tome in his most recent column: The Beauty of Big Books. In his column, Brooks notes the former Yale Law School Dean’s journey toward understanding our modern world. “Since I first began to think about such things in even a modestly self-conscious way,” Brooks writes, quoting Kronman, “I have been haunted by the thought that destiny has placed me in a world with a unique historical identity and been anxious to know what this is.” Brooks is certainly correct in saying it’s a big book too. The volume comes in at more than 1,100 pages. Nonetheless I’m looking forward to reading it.

Here is the book’s description from the publisher: “We live in an age of disenchantment. The number of self-professed “atheists” continues to grow. Yet many still feel an intense spiritual longing for a connection to what Aristotle called the “eternal and divine.” For those who do, but demand a God that is compatible with their modern ideals, a new theology is required. This is what Anthony Kronman offers here, in a book that leads its readers away from the inscrutable Creator of the Abrahamic religions toward a God whose inexhaustible and everlasting presence is that of the world itself. Kronman defends an ancient conception of God, deepened and transformed by Christian belief—the born-again paganism on which modern science, art, and politics all vitally depend. Brilliantly surveying centuries of Western thought—from Plato to Augustine, Aquinas, and Kant, from Spinoza to Nietzsche, Darwin, and Freud—Kronman recovers and reclaims the God we need today.”

Posted by Joel on October 16 2016 • Books

Joseph Ellis at the University of Minnesota

Joseph Ellis delivered a speech at the Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota on September 28, 2016. His speech was titled: “The Second Founding: Four Men Who Created a Country.” The speech was part of a series called Friends Forum: A Series for Curious Minds. Check out the remaining events on this year’s calendar.

Posted by Joel on October 06 2016 • Books

Bill Moyers with Poet W.S Merwin

This one is from the archives of Bill Moyers’ wonderful show. Here he speaks with one of my favorite poets, W.S. Merwin, about his 50-year-career. You can find this show and other information at Bill Moyers’ blog, which is still kept up to date, even though the television show is no longer on the air. I miss you Bill.

Posted by Joel on September 11 2016 • Books