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Good morning, readers and booklovers! Oh, man, do I really have to cook breakfast? I’ve only just got up from the sickbed where I have been lying, pale and chastened, for the past week. Believe me when I tell you I haven’t been this sick since I had the swine ‘flu in 1959, before most of you were born.

Oh, well, here we go. Today we have pancakes with blackberry sauce made with actual blackberries! So sticky, so delicious. And we have French Vanilla Almond Mocha Wossname coffee to go with them, so help yourself--it's quite tasty.

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As always, I must be allowed to observe that no one has offered to contribute a diary to this series! I do hope the Overlords aren’t going to shut down this forum because of that. It’s meant to be participatory, you know, not just a place for me to tease you with questions every week and make your blood sugar crash with all this sweet stuff.

But I digress. Let us wander into the salon, sink thankfully onto the cushions therein, and begin.

Back in the Jurassic I lived in Tulsa with my family and attended Thomas Edison High School. Owing to my father’s change of employment, we’d moved from Little Rock to Tulsa one month into my senior year. There was another new girl in my class, but she, being petite and blonde, was immediately clasped to the bosom of one of the sororities. However,  I--too brainy, too unattractive, and definitely not wearing the latest, greatest clothes--was mostly ignored, except in class.

With no social life outside school, I did what I’d always done, which was to seek refuge in books. It happened that I developed a longing to read some books I hadn’t already read in Richmal Crompton’s William series.

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Of course, being in Oklahoma, miles away from England and the kind of bookstore that would sell such books, my chances of obtaining them might have been thought to be nil. However, my father, an Anglophile and bibliophile himself, knew the agony of wanting to read a particular book and the ecstasy of obtaining it. He agreed to order some “William” titles for me from Foyle’s of London.

How excited I was when the parcel arrived!  The whole family clustered round as my father carefully opened it and drew forth…not a William book, but a just-published novel by Nancy Mitford, called Don’t Tell Alfred. We hadn’t ordered it. We’d never even heard of it although, of course, my mother and I had read Mitford’s The Blessing. My Aunt Margaret introduced me to The Blessing in 1958 when I was sent up to Darien to stay with her after the governor of Arkansas closed the public schools. “You might like this book,” she told me. “I liked it because it doesn’t have any swear words.”

Nothing loath, I read the book and was amused—no, captivated—by Mitford’s unusual characters, their outrageous remarks, and their unconventional behavior.  Unconventional, that is, by American and British standards. Such behavior was apparently regarded as perfectly normal by the French.

There were several other books in the parcel which did turn out to be the longed-for William books. So why was the Mitford book included? Did some Foyle’s clerk, living up to the bookshop’s reputation for eccentricity, decide that those Yanks across the sea needed a good laugh and popped the just-published book into the parcel to cheer us up? Or was it simply a mistake? (Foyle’s was notorious for its haphazard bookkeeping and fulfillment procedures.) We shall never know.

However, my parents, my sister, and I all read the book and laughed our heads off. Indeed my father, a man not easily impressed by best sellers, went around repeating choice phrases from the book for days, as did my mother.

In those days I was so steeped in British culture (having attended a British school in Singapore, as I’ve already related), that Mitford’s blatant anti-Americanism didn’t bother me. I’ve since revised my opinion. I still think she was extremely witty but regard her values as highly questionable. Anyway, it’s of no consequence—she died more than 40 years ago after a rather sad life.

So for my family and me, this serendipitous acquisition brought a great deal of pleasure into our lives. But what about YOU?  Have you ever acquired a book in this way and been surprised and delighted by it? Really?  Tell us about it—we’re all ears!

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I really wish to comment and share, but I have (12+ / 0-)

    to think about it; there have been so many books and so many occasions on which this or that book surprised and delighted me.

    I also have to go to work.  :-(

    Will check back later!  Thank you for your lovely story.  I grew up with an utterly Anglophile mother and can relate...

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 05:07:52 AM PDT

  •  Hmm.. (15+ / 0-)

    I found a first-edition, first-printing of Household's Rogue Male, the thriller from the 1930's on sale in a book store in Philadelphia.  I think I paid like $3.99 for it or something.  I remember being excited about that at the time.

    I was (am?) obsessed with John Milton when I was younger.  While on my first visit to London I saw a old three-volume set of "Complete Works" on one of those trolley-shelf carts they wheel outside of a bookstore.

    Just sitting there, unwatched and unwanted for people to scan over as they walk by.

    I bought them for a few pounds because I thought they looked old and cool, dark blue hardcovers, a worn brown label on the spine with a few water-stains and the patina of age.  Plus, I thought it was cool that I was buying English Literature in England.

    When I got back to my hotel I saw that there was a written inscription on the fly-leaf,  "Merry Christmas Elizabeth" written in a flowing script.   ..and dated "1801".

    I still have them.

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 05:15:51 AM PDT

  •  I don't think I have one like that (10+ / 0-)

    Both of my parents had graduate degrees in literature. All they had to do to get me NOT to read a book was to suggest it, and if I ever suggested a book to them my father would regale us at the dinner table with plot summaries of what he had read.

    So I guess this is about the books I liked more than I expected to. John Steinbeck, The Short Reign of Pippin IV (1957), wherein Steinbeck tries to imagine what would happen if a) the Capetian monarchy was restored and b) the heir was an ordinary American family man, and Adam Smith, Powers of Mind (1975),  wherein the financial writer George Goodman experiences each of the popular psychology self-help movements of the 70s (EST, Arica, the I Ching, Rolfing) and tells us about his experiences.

    Nothing in common but good writing.

  •  Many of my reading pleasures are serendipitous... (11+ / 0-)

    Whether at the library or at a used bookstore, I tend to shelf-read for cover art. If the cover art "speaks to me," then I'll give the book a go whether or not I've heard of the author. The 1980s Vintage paperback publications of Tom Sharpe's books (Wilt, The Throwback, The Great Pursuit, et cet.) were found in this manner, and revelatory.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 05:32:31 AM PDT

  •  I was digging through the dusty back-shelves... (12+ / 0-)

    in a little 'used 'n rare' bookstore outside Woodstock Vermont run by two septuagenarian sisters about 20 years ago, when I stumbled upon a modest 1906 copy of Antigone. When I opened it I was surprised and delighted to discover that the printing and typography were exquisite. The typeface was Bruce Rogers' rough yet elegant Montaigne, his rarely seen first attempt at a recreation of Jenson's humanist Roman type. And it was deeply impressed into a soft hand-made paper. For a type-dork like me, it was Nirvana.

    I think I bought it for all of $12.

    •  Ralphdog, what a find! (8+ / 0-)

      And what a great story--two septuagenarian sisters in Woodstock, Vermont. Love it.

      What an exquisite book your copy of Antigone sounds! I possessed a book like that once--Janet Sebring Lowry's In the Morning of the World, a retelling of the Greek myths for children. To this day I remember the luminous illustrations and the smell of the ink on the printed pages.

      Your story reminds me of T. E. Lawrence's involvement in the publication of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He wanted Caslon Old Type, and a particular kind of paper, and he didn't want to see any "rivers" in the typesetting. He cared deeply about the appearance of the words on the page.

      Thank you for sharing your serendipitous acquisition with us!

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:03:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Here's another relate: (5+ / 0-)

        T.E. Lawrence was quite the character; not only was he enamored of "Eastern" and Arabic wisdom, and a genuine dashing war hero, but also a highly educated multilingual scholar who wrote a very well regarded translation of Homer's Odyssey.

        When it came to printing his version of the Odyssey in 1928, Lawrence ended up engaging the bookish and cerebral Bruce Rogers, who printed a gorgeous volume using his elegant Centaur type. And despite the great difference between their personalities, they became close friends until Lawrence's untimely demise.

        •  Thanks for that interesting sidelight, Ralphdog (5+ / 0-)

          I was obsessed with T.E. Lawrence for years. Went to see an exhibit in the Imperial War Museum in 2006 about his life.

          I was touched to see that his mother (a really fearsome woman by all accounts) had preserved a lock of his hair when he was a toddler. It was a blond curl arranged on a black velvet cloth. She even saved a little suit of the clothes he wore when he was three.

          Sigh...history, so fascinating. One could get lost in it. :)

          "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

          by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:31:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I probably have about 30 books designed... (6+ / 0-)

        or printed by Bruce Rogers in my collection at home. There is reputedly a complete bibliography in the works cataloguing his output, but it hasn't seen the light of day yet to my knowledge.

        The Antigone is probably the most unique. A copy of More's Utopia is the showiest, with very elaborate typographic ornaments on the title page. A copy of Ralph Herne is probably the most widely admired by type dorks, for its subtle typography using Caslon. But my favorite is probably the two-volume Federalist Papers, because Rogers very deliberately employed a rigorous 'neoclassical' design and typography to fit the subject matter.

        Rogers regarded the entirety of the book as a unified work of art, from the paper and the specific tone of the ink (from bluish black to warmer brownish black) to the actual smell of the ink/paper as well as the typography. Great stuff.

        The biggest problem for me is that these gorgeous books have spoiled me. I pick up even the most expensive modern books with a sigh of disappointment when I see the bland, crude digital typesetting and dull design.

        •  This speaks to me: (5+ / 0-)
          Rogers regarded the entirety of the book as a unified work of art, from the paper and the specific tone of the ink (from bluish black to warmer brownish black) to the actual smell of the ink/paper as well as the typography. Great stuff.

          Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

          by angry marmot on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:43:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thank goodness for serendipity, Ralphdog, you've (4+ / 0-)

          just given me an idea for a future open forum. What about the book itself--the physical book--as an art form? Is that something we're going to lose as e-books begin to outsell physical books?

          Many people, including moi, love the tactile feel of smooth, cool pages and the sight of beautiful fonts with perfect leading on a page.

          Thanks for your comment!

          "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

          by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:02:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Exactly my thinking. (3+ / 0-)

            I read constantly. And my enjoyment of reading is greatly augmented by the physical reality of a well-printed book, from the subtle contrast of ink against paper to the proper margin size to the typography itself.

            I had the great privilege of a conversation a few years ago with Eleanor Morris Caponigro, one of the greatest living book designers. She expressed her firm conviction that carefully printed letterpress typography pressed into the paper was simply more ergonomic, less of a strain on the eye than offset ink sitting on top of the paper. Not to mention far more of an aesthetic delight.

            She also mentioned that her vast skillset was no longer in demand, as publishers simply don't care about typographic or design quality anymore, in an age where 90% of hardcover book sales are absymally printed best-seller tripe.

            •  I used to go to a lot of Harry Potter conferences (4+ / 0-)

              There was one elegant elderly lady from Canada who gave a presentation on the different renditions of Harry around the world. She had a personal collection of Harry Potter books from every country should could get.

              Even the Canadian vs UK editions were slightly different. The covers were mostly the same, but the Canadian printings were all on recycled paper so the volumes were physically thinner.

              Yes, DailyKos DOES have puzzles! Visit us here Saturday nights @ 5:00 PDT (easier puzzles) and Sunday nights @ 5:00 PDT (more challenging) for a group solving. Even if you just pop in and comment while watching the fun, everybody is welcome. uid:21352

              by pucklady on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 08:33:21 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  One thing that makes me crazy... (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Diana in NoVa, pucklady, Limelite

                is the depressingly awful quality of typography in trade hardcover books these days. About 90% of them are printed in one of a handful of the most common text typefaces (Times Roman, Goudy Oldstyle, Adobe Garamond, some pirated variant of Palatino) with brain-dead computer generated margins and a complete absence of attention to typographic refinements like text versus lining numerals, proper f-ligatures and small caps. The resulting books are the bibliographic equivalent of a Soviet era apartment block, or a Yugo. Barely serviceable but awful to use.

                And it would cost less than a nickel a book to do really excellent digital typesetting and design.

  •  I've always had books so like many others (10+ / 0-)

    it's tricky to think of special, serendipitous ones that stand out.

    But I'll try.

    I think the first was going to a library book sale (books were 25 cents!) when I was 10 or 11, and reaching into a box to pull out a blue book with a yellow spine. It was Pride and Prejudice. I flipped through and saw sweet illustrations of women in Empire gowns and men in frock coats, and decided it would be mine.

    An adult had reached in just a split second behind me for the same book, and clearly communicated non-verbally that she felt it was wasted on a child.

    I still have it and read it at least once a year.

    The second was a joke gift from a college friend who knew I enjoyed pulpy nurse novels. She found Sue Barton, Student Nurse at her library's sale (probably 15 years after my Pride and Prejudice purchase, but I'll bet it cost a quarter as well). I still have that crappy paperback, and have since purchased the re-issues of all the Sue Barton books, classics of their kind.

  •  I once worked in a bookstore (10+ / 0-)

    A rather funny bookstore since it was really a "stationers" shop as well (this was before Office Depot and Office Max drove all the itsy bitsy guys out of business) where we sold ledger books (!) and pen nibs (!) among other things. We had a very old, well-to-do clientele who used to special order their books and my boss would drive to a book wholesaler every week to pick up the orders and to also stock our miniscule, yet oddly vibrant selection for the retail book section in the store.

    Anyway, one day a regular client who I thought was the funniest, dryest, drollest man I ever met came in to pick up his special order of Make Way For Lucia, which was an omnibus volume of all the Lucia and Miss Mapp novels by EF Benson. "My dear," he said to me, "Do yourself a favor and get this book for yourself and NEVER EVER lend it out."

    I followed his advice. It was and remains one of my most revered possessions. It can be read an reread any number of times with absolutely no dilution of the initial pleasure of discovery of these amazing characters: Lucia, doing her morning calisthenics to begin her day of croquet, piano playing with Georgie, and passing off her pseudo Italian language skills on her (mostly) gullible courtiers. And then there's the adventure of Miss Mapp and Daisy fighting over who originated the idea of poppy appliques on tea frocks, and all the rest of the cast of characters who made Riseholme and Tilling my alternate dimension residence. To this day in homage to Lucia, I say "au reservoir" when leaving someone, the sign of being a member of the Riseholme 'in club'.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:01:39 AM PDT

  •  "The Chrysalids" by John Wyndham (7+ / 0-)

    Which was originally pubished in the US (in edited form) as "Rebirth", back around 1960.

    This is a novel set many hundreds of years after a nuclear holocaust, in a society that believes that the devastation of the war was "the tribulation", sent by God to wipe out an evil civilization that had deviated from His plan for the human race.  It is also a society that places a high premium on conformity, and which abhors mutations.

    So the story, naturally, is told from the viewpoint of the mutants.  Specifically, a group of mutant children who have the ability to communicate telepathically with each other, and who instinctively realize from an early age that they must hide who they are, and they must hide their extra abilities lest they be rejected and persecuted by society.  One of the group of children has also dreamed of a place of high civilization and technology where people like them are accepted -- but he and the rest of his group assume that this is just a dream (maybe of the time before tribulation), and not a real place.  The story follows a number of close calls which sharpen their awareness of the need to hide -- and what happens when they are eventually discovered.

    If any of this reminds you a bit of "X-Men", keep in mind that this book predates "X-Men" by several years.  

    In any event, I have many important books to choose from, so why this particular book?  Well, the image of a group with an invisible difference that they must hide, surrounded by a society that would reject them if that difference is discovered...it's the sort of thing that would resonate with a gay kid growing up in the seventies...and it did.  I first read this book shortly before hitting the age at which I started becoming aware of my own sexuality, and I think that reading about others who were in a situation similar enough that I could identify with is something that did help make a difference and helped me deal with my own feelings.

    Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

    by TexasTom on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:09:33 AM PDT

    •  TexasTom, thank you for your wonderful comment (5+ / 0-)

      Wow, you've given a spot-on description of Rebirth. I read it when it was first published in this country and it knocked me for a loop. I never, ever forgot that book.

      I hadn't thought of it as a metaphor for growing up gay in a het society until you mentioned it just now, but it makes perfect sense. That book haunted me for years. Even 50 years later I find myself thinking of scenes from it.

      If this forum were called "Books That Influenced My Thinking" (as suggested by our long-time friend and regular Phoebe Loosinhouse), that would be one of mine. I think the message for me was how absolutely futile it is to judge others by their outward appearance, and how religious dogma stifles innovation, creativity, and even kindness.

      Glad you stopped by--have a cup of coffee!

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:23:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Be aware... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Diana in NoVa

        ...that if you red it under the title "Rebirth", you read a slightly abridged version.  I picked up a new copy from Britain a number of years back and was surprised to find unfamiliar sections of text in a book I've reread many times.

        Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

        by TexasTom on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 12:42:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Jefferson Airplane (6+ / 0-)

      Did you realize that Grace Slick's song "Crown of Creation" was about that book?  

      I read an interview once where she said that she didn't read many books, but every book she read she wrote a song about.  ("White Rabbit" is another example.)  She must have been inspired by Rebirth/Chrysalids, because the song is about a group of new people supplanting the old, and several of the lines in the song are direct quotes from the book.  (E.g., "In loyalty to our kind we cannot tolerate their obstruction.")  I figured this out a long time ago -- I wonder if anyone else ever made the connection?

      "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

      by RenMin on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:43:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

      I could not remember the title or the author and have been giving a synopsis of what I remember to many people, hoping they will lead me to the book.  Well, if this is not serendipity, I do not know what is.

      Diana, I have said this before:  the conversations around the topics you choose are just as interesting as someone writing about a particular book.  No need to worry about the series when your "fill-ins" are so tantalizing.  

      R.I.P., Amy Winehouse

      by jarbyus on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 03:26:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (6+ / 0-)

    I was sidetracked by this:

    There was another new girl in my class, but she, being petite and blonde, was immediately clasped to the bosom of one of the sororities. However, I--too brainy, too unattractive, and definitely not wearing the latest, greatest clothes--was mostly ignored, except in class.
    I just happened to be reading Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, by Anita Loos.  I loved the movie version, but I didn’t even know it was a book until I stumbled across it recently, so I guess there is serendipity in that.

    Loos was inspired to write the book when she was with a group going to Hollywood to work on a movie.  There was a blonde among them whom the men fussed over:

    If she happened to drop the novel she was reading, several men jumped to retrieve it; whereas I was allowed to lug heavy suitcases from their racks while men sat about and failed to note my efforts….  Obviously there was some radical difference between that girl and me.  But what was it?  We were both in the pristine years of early youth; we were about the same degree of comeliness; as to our mental acumen, there was nothing to discuss; I was the smarter.
    Loos finally concluded that the difference was that the other woman was a blonde while Loos was a brunette.  So she decided to write a book about such a woman, Lorelei Lee, a scatterbrained gold digger, in the form of that character’s diary. Lorelei despairs over her friend Dorothy, a brunette, who is always falling for men with no money.  As Lorelei say, “When a girl really likes a guy, it puts her at a disadvantage, and no good can come of it.”
    •  LOL, disinterested spectator! (3+ / 0-)

      Hope you're enjoying the Loos book.  Yes, she nailed it!

      Many, many years ago when I was young and tolerably attractive (contact lenses and makeup can do a lot for a female person), I bought several wigs as an experiment. My actual hair was brown with red highlights, but when I stuffed it all underneath a blonde wig, there was instant, absolutely incomprehensible reaction from the opposite sex.

      Once, while wearing the blonde "Janey" wig, I bought some groceries and one of the store clerks was loading them into the trunk of the car for me. His manager came running out of the store, elbowed the clerk aside, and loaded my groceries into the car himself, grinning all the while.

      There's just no accounting for it--blonde hair does things to people. ;)

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:38:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mine was "Snow Crash' by Neil Stephenson (7+ / 0-)

    I had moved to Germany on a whim, with nothing but a suitcase and a guitar. You see there was this girl.... Twenty-five years later we're still together.

    Anyway, I went to a community-wide rummage sale at the American Embassy community in Bonn.  State Dept and Military families were always moving around and people wanted to travel light.
    At the time I spoke no German and I was going out of my mind for lack of reading material.
    I bought a whole box of paperbacks without even looking what they were. They're in English?  Good enough.
    "Snow Crash" was the first one randomly selected and I absolutely loved it.
    Since then I've read everything by Stephenson but that first one, particularly in the context of my situation, will always be special to me.  

    I can see Canada from my house. No, really, I can.

    by DuzT on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:24:07 AM PDT

  •  Too many to mention, though one that stands out (8+ / 0-)

    in memory wasn't the book but a bookmark.

    I'd been in a production of MacLeish's "JB" and enjoyed the play, but not been able to keep the script. When I found a copy in a used bookshop, I picked it up.

    Reading the play again, I found inside a letter from MacLeish to a drama teacher who'd written to him asking about a scene in the play. She'd thought it didn't scan well. He'd written her back, saying her complaint was valid, that he'd originally written it differently.

    It's not the only lagniappe I've found between the pages of used books.

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:26:04 AM PDT

  •  WAY too many to even remember, (4+ / 0-)

    But I got a first edition of John Updike's Couples for a dime in a junk store in northern Ohio.  That was pretty cool, as my paperback of Couples was in tatters.

  •  I hope you get your strength back soon ... (5+ / 0-)

    and I wish you a thorough recovery.

    I have never followed the booklover's group. Each time I read the title: "Books that changed my life ..." I can't help thinking that no book changed my life and what a pity that is... :)

    I wished a book had the power to change my life. Really.

    Now, I know I am obnoxious, but I just had to say this once, because I don't know, why this title causes this stupid reaction in me.

    I guess it's because I am ashamed that I haven't read so many books and I constantly feel sorry for myself not having read enough or if at all rarely any fiction. My books are all on the shelf, but I haven't had the strength in the last two decades to read them. Sounds so melodramatic, but it's true and I really feel that way. I feel a little betrayed by my stupid life.

    My sister already mocks me that I start to resemble my mother, who had late in her life, when she couldn't walk that much anymore, a bunch of books in front of her, reading a little, and napping a little, but then she was already half-blind. I can't forget this image of her, wanting to read and not be able to do it anymore. I don't want that to happen to me.

    Now I wonder, if that will change, when I stop working full-time. I hope so and then I follow this group as well. It must be so nice and will be fun.

    Just saying.... Good morning, booklovers.

    •  Thank you for your good wishes, Mimi, this is (5+ / 0-)

      the first day I have actually got out of bed and stayed out. Even got dressed, if you please.

      You know, if the title of this forum causes that reaction in you, it might have the same effect on other people. I'm not sure whether I'm empowered to change the title, but as our friend Phoebe suggested, "Books That Influenced My Thinking" might be a much less intimidating title.

      Just to reassure you, a book that has influenced your thinking doesn't have to be fiction. People have written about such diverse subjects as the I Ching, cosmology, and even children's books. It's all grist for the mill.

      And don't forget, if you haven't the strength to physically hold a book, there are always audiobooks. Many people swear by them, so you might find them helpful too.

      We'll always be delighted to see you when your schedule permits you to stop by and say hello. And we all wish you a good morning as well!

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 06:54:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  oh, thanks for you kind response (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Elizaveta, Diana in NoVa
        ... book that has influenced your thinking doesn't have to be fiction.
        then I have had read many books that influenced my thinking or better formed my thinking, none of them fiction though and I read them all quite a while ago. So I look forward to re-read ... and actually this morning I started a book, as I had to wait 3 hours in the MVA ...

        We will see, my sister reads almost only fiction. The next time I see her I let her choose something for me. And if I finish it, I come back here and show off with it ... 'yeah, I have read a book' :)

        I need to make a trip by train through the US and Canada. I bet I will read the whole time...

        •  i had the same trouble when I was working FT (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mimi, Diana in NoVa

          I did read, but read lighter stuff - scifi, fantasy, historical fiction, self-help. I didn't have the concentration to read anything more challenging. A few years after retiring, I was invited to join a book club, and as a result have added some serious fiction to the lighter stuff. Don't let the widely read intimidate you. We each must find our own way.

      •  I hadn’t intended to comment, but (0+ / 0-)

        since it’s come up, I will say that my visceral response to Books That Changed My Life is What an odd idea!  I realize that it describes an experience that many have had, but it still strikes me as odd.  I expect that just about everything that I’ve read has left some trace and so had some influence, some more than others, but I find it very hard to imagine one book having a truly noticeable influence. (Then again, I’ve had my nose in one book or another for the last 60 years; it’s hard for anything to tower over the rest.)  Here I just try to look past it to the current question.

        Speaking of which, my most serendipitous book acquisition might be the first edition Encyclopædia Britannica that my mother gave me out of the blue some years back.  I don’t know how she got hold of it; I suspect that she latched onto it when she was in charge of the local annual library book sale in the small town where she lived.

  •  so many but (5+ / 0-)

    my current read is pretty important: John Searle's Making the Social World (2009)

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:12:27 AM PDT

  •  John Lennon (6+ / 0-)

    Just a piece of trivia I've picked up along the way, I can't source it, but I remember reading an interview where John Lennon said the Just William books were his favorites as a boy.

    "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

    by RenMin on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:32:00 AM PDT

    •  Glad to hear this, RenMin! (3+ / 0-)

      The "William" books are in large part responsible for my extensive vocabulary. Not for Richmal Crompton this tiresome, word-limited "See Spot run" business!

      No, her characters were very much part of the real world in the sense that the grownups had occupations and used the terminology of those occupations. I remember getting the word "theodolite" right on a test because one of the people William annoyed was a geologist.

      Sigh. I gave away almost all of my"William" books when I left Oklahoma forever. I presented them to the Tulsa Public Library, thinking they might evoke a yearning in the young people of that city to travel to places other than their home town. Wish I'd known then what I know now about libraries.

      If I could find some books in readable condition in that series, that didn't cost too much, I'd buy them like a shot.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:40:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That makes sense (4+ / 0-)

        I haven't read the William books and didn't realize about the vocabulary and use of odd words, but it makes perfect sense that John Lennon would be attracted to that aspect of them -- just look at his books and songs, how he uses words in an odd way, puns, and creates neologisms.

        "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

        by RenMin on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 08:03:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Closest I can come to this (5+ / 0-)

    Several years ago, I mentioned to my wife that I would enjoy a biography of George Orwell that had just come out for a Christmas present.  When I opened my package on Christmas morning, there was a shining brand new autobiography of . . . Lee Iacocca!  Not exactly what I requested.  I don't know if she made a mistake or the store got the wrong book, but there it was.  I'd like to be able to say that I read the book and it was a life-changing revelation, but in truth, it's still sitting in my library unread.    

    "[W]e shall see the reign of witches pass over . . . and the people, recovering their true spirit, restore their government to its true principles." Jefferson

    by RenMin on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:37:27 AM PDT

  •  So who-all among you-all is going to write a (4+ / 0-)

    diary for next week? Goodness, I don't even mind if you write about how The Kama Sutra changed your life, as long as you get it to me by Thursday afternoon.

    C'mon, readers, they'll take this job away from me if you don't start contributing.

    'Nuff said.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:43:16 AM PDT

  •  There is a used bookstore/cafe I like to go to (6+ / 0-)

    when visiting my daughter. There I found a British textbook published in 1911 that covered raising sheep and preparing the wool for use. Not a history, an actual textbook to teach aspiring textile professionals. (Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name and Daughter is incommunicado at work.)

    The reason this is serendipitous - Daughter is a spinner and weaver and knitter. Normally, I hand her a book and she groans because I am giving her "the best EVER book about thermodynamics - you'll love it!" ;-) But I scored a winner with this one. She LOVED it.

    And while looking through the book, we found a bookmark with pre-WWI advertising. Double serendipity.

    Bliss for only $3.00.

    "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

    by Most Awesome Nana on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 07:57:57 AM PDT

    •  Great story, Most Awesome! (3+ / 0-)

      Love it. :) So much fun to find those bookmarks! My father found one in Singapore when he bought a used book. It was the return half of a railway ticket bought at Waterloo Station in London in 1842.

      Your daughter does weaving and spinning, eh? Somehow that makes me think of a possible short story.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 08:22:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does a book on tape count? (4+ / 0-)

    I was at my (now defunct) books on tape rental store and noticed one that was narrated by Jim Dale. Having memorized all his reading of Harry Potter, I knew I had to hear this book, too.

    The fact that it was written by Dave Barry, whose humorous newspaper columns I'd loved didn't hurt.

    The book turned out to be Peter and the Starcatchers, a retelling of the Peter Pan story from the origins of Peter perspective.

    It was not exactly an obscure book and is now a book series and headed to the big screen, but I loved it a lot and turned all my family on to it also. They all got the audio version because we all adore Jim Dale.

    Not as exciting a tale as some of the others here, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

    Yes, DailyKos DOES have puzzles! Visit us here Saturday nights @ 5:00 PDT (easier puzzles) and Sunday nights @ 5:00 PDT (more challenging) for a group solving. Even if you just pop in and comment while watching the fun, everybody is welcome. uid:21352

    by pucklady on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 08:22:07 AM PDT

  •  Wisconsin Death Trip (3+ / 0-)

    Not a typical book. I was dating a girl from Wisconsin, and my mother, who always gave books for presents, and always procrastinated, chose it because it was the only book with Wisconsin in it she found while looking.

    For me it was an amazing book and as a small history buff it resonated with me in many ways. Really laid waste to the notion of the good old days, so to speak. I occasionally see it on some book lists or referred to as a "cult classic." Probably my most memorable book gift. (My girl friend did not know what to make of my mother associating her being from Wisconsin with a death trip, but came to understand my mother was not a normal person well before we got married.:)

    •  KYrocky, that's fascinating, and I'm glad to (0+ / 0-)

      hear you say that about "the good old days." Were they, in fact, so good? Illness, accident, or some other form of death seemed to swoop down and carry off whole families, whole villages, even.

      Hey, sounds as if your serendipitous book is also tied in to romance. I am loving these love stories! :)

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 09:26:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary...my most serendipitous book (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Limelite, Diana in NoVa

    acquisitions were due to a death in my family.  My uncle passed away in his 50s and left me all his books, recordings, and sheet music - was about 12.  He had been an aspiring composer (wanted to be the next Cole Porter) and was a very good pianist.  Amid the sheet music, which led me to play most of Mozart and Chopin, there were some books I never would have encountered.  The one that changed my life was The White Goddess by Robert Graves.  I was already an instinctive feminist because I so admired my mother and my father was slightly feckless.  The White Goddess gave me a historical/mythical intellectual justification for feelings I already had...
    And then there was Selected Writings of the Marquis de Sade...with the dirty parts en francais but I was studying French.

    Armed! I feel like a savage! Barbarella

    by richardvjohnson on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 08:49:04 AM PDT

    •  What a wonderful story, richardv (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Limelite

      The legacy your uncle left you influenced your life in two ways then, music and literature. You were truly blessed.

      Will you please do a diary for this forum on Robert Graves' The White Goddess? I've heard about this book for years but haven't yet read it. Would adore for you to share this with the group!

      It is so easy to write a diary for this series--I have a three-paragraph template that I'll send you. Filling it out is as easy as one, two, three. "So easy you'll be laughing," as a friend of mine used to say.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 09:49:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Long ago... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AJayne, Limelite, Diana in NoVa, texasmom

    I was a kid in NY-State, living near Poughkeepsie. Not a happy time in my life...lots of family stress.

    The local library was selling off some hardback stock. There were these books on the table in a cloth binding, a startling blue/green. The titles were on the spine in gold. I grabbed one almost at random -- "Hornblower and the Hotspur". I bought it for a quarter and hurried home on my bicycle. After reading it in the night, I hurried back to buy the rest of the set. Unfortunately, all but a few had gone. I picked up 'Atropos,' Lieutenant' and 'Midshipman'.

    I learned from Hornblower that it was okay to feel like you were an imposter -- he suffers from the syndrome -- so long as you continued to do what you had to do.

    A year or so later, I was exiled to my grandparents' house in the middle of Missouri because nobody knew what to do with me. It was still not a happy time. My grandmother was one of the most miserable people I've ever known. But on the shelf were 3 new/old friends.

    The Captain Hornblower books! Different binding...from 1939. They'd never been read. I think someone must have given them to my grandmother while Grandfather was serving in the Navy. They were immediately appropriated by me...and all the copies remain with me to this day. I had to buy a new Midshipman a few years ago when the spine separated.

    So, besides a little philosophy, how did they 'change my life'?

    Well, I had a daughter 20 years ago. She read them, adored them, has her own copies.

    She's also chosen Naval History as her career...and I think Horatio Hornblower (and C.S. Forester) is a good part of the reason why.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue The Eno the Thracian Fantasy Series by C.B. Pratt. Epically amusing. #1 on Amazon.

    by wonderful world on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 09:10:40 AM PDT

    •  Oh, marvelous, wonderful world! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wonderful world, Limelite

      Thank you for sharing this story from your past. We lonely teenagers went to sea with Horatio Hornblower, didn't we? We felt the sting of the lash, the sting of the salty waves washing over the deck, and the sting of our empty stomachs as we contemplated the "lesser of two weevils" crawling out of the hardtack.

      Glad to hear HH provided you and your daughter with such delight, and how amazing that she chose Naval History as her career!

      One can't choose one's relatives but thankfully, one can choose one's friends, real and fictional.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 09:54:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The public library here has a standing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Limelite, texasmom, Diana in NoVa

    book sale where hardcover fiction books are five for $2.00 and paperbacks are 10 cents apiece. I've found a lot of good books there but here's my most recent serendipitous acquisition:

    I've been wanting to read Tami Hoag's The 9th Girl ever since it came out last year--but since hardcover books are expensive  would have to wait until it came out in paperback. So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I found it on the shelf at the book sale! I grabbed it and paid much less for it than I would have had to pay for a paperback.

    So many books--so little time. Economic Left/Right -7.88 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian -6.97

    by Louisiana 1976 on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 09:10:42 AM PDT

    •  Good for you, Louisiana! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      texasmom, Limelite

      That is indeed serendipitous. Once I knew a man who constantly muttered, "Some days even a blind squirrel finds a nut." We were all mystified by this remark, as in, "What on earth does this have to do with the project we're working on," but he never explained.

      However, when the budget is tight sometimes a gift does fall into our hands--so maybe this is your "nut." ;)

      Thanks for commenting!

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 09:57:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Problem Is. . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, texasmom

    I'm trying to think of how many books I've acquired on purpose?  I just sort of go out and engulf books; I don't so much select as I ingest.

    Like others have mentioned, I too, am off-put by trying to understand how any book I've read has changed my life.  In fact, I don't think my life has "changed" because of anything other than my post-secondary education and life's usual milestones.  My life sort of caroms from day to day.  So, it's difficult to distinguish when a day isn't life-changing or serendipitous.

    I guess this entire topic boils down to this: Opening the covers of almost any book I stumble upon is, for me, serendipity of the moment.  They are all in the class of "the unlooked for good thing that comes my way."

    Great series -- and I'm a fan of the open forum format as much as the considered topical installment.  Hope it never changes and never goes away. The Overlords be dam_ed!

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 09:29:41 AM PDT

  •  My best serendipitous find (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Elizaveta, Limelite

    was in a used bookstore near the UT/Austin campus in 1971 - a magnificently thick (over 1000 pages!) novel for a few dollar bills.  It turned out to be Austin Tappan Wright's Islandia  which was absolute heaven to a 14 yr. old who still preferred reading in a big pecan tree.

    It was the first utopian novel I read and occupied me through much of that summer.  I still have that well-worn copy, but purchased another in the late 1980's to read while home with newborn babies.  I find it very "setlling".

    I'm still not sure what drew me to that book, but the moment I held it, it spoke to me.

    The truth always matters.

    by texasmom on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 09:51:11 AM PDT

    •  My kind of tale, Texasmom! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      texasmom, Limelite

      Thanks for a great story. Haven't read Islandia, but have read other biggies of that nature and been similarly swept away.

      I'm from Texas too, and when I was eleven my favorite place to read was a tree in the backyard of the duplex where we lived. I'd take a book and an apple, climb up, and spend hours there, crunching and reading. It was bliss.

      Wish I could have been in that pecan tree with you. Texas pecans...'mmm.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 10:05:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My most serendipitous finds (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Limelite

    are used bookstores, rather than books. Especially if I find a book that's been on my list at an affordable price. I can't think of one title in particular, but I enjoy finding hole-in-the-wall book traders when I travel.

  •  I was in New Delhi... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Limelite

    ...on the first couple of days of a research stay in India (I am an ethnomusicologist specializing in Indian vocal music). Jet lag woke me up early in the morning just as the sun was rising.  I left the guest house where I was staying and took a walk down one of the dusty city streets.  It was around 5 AM and the street vendors weren't in operation.

    The whole scene was about as deserted as a New Delhi street can be.

    Up ahead I saw a newspaper vendor pulling the tarps off his little stand.  As I got closer I saw that there was a shelf of used books along with the usual newspapers and periodicals.

    I walked straight up to the stand.  In between the the battered potboilers familiar to anyone who's spent time in India (what the HELL do they see in James Hadley Chase, anyway?), there was a nondescript beige hardcover with Hindi lettering on the spine, far too small for me to make out.

    Propelled by some obscure inner impulse, I pointed at it, and after some back and forth, the vendor pulled it off the shelf.  Remember that I couldn't read the writing on its spine, so I had no idea what I was looking at...until he handed it over.

    "Khayal Gayaki Mein Vividh Gharane" ("The Different Traditions of Khayal Singing") by Shanno Khurana — a study of stylistic variants in the area of Indian music where I have spent my entire professional life.  

    You know how a book calls to you?  This one apparently called to me over a mile's distance, in Hindi.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 11:15:49 AM PDT

  •  Mapp and Lucia (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Limelite

    To those upthread recommending these gems, thank you!  I can't even think about  some of the scenes without giggling and snorting.  
      We  were once in Rye in an Indian restaurant listening to the proprietor chew out his distributor over the phone (What do you mean you can't deliver the lager today?!!),  when two elegantly attired gentlemen in period dress came in and sat at the bar and ordered, you guessed it, lager, after which the waiter had to explain there was no lager.

    I asked the owner,  Who were those men?
    Oh, he explained, they are filming Mapp and Lucy in the village.  
    Later we saw "Lucy" being driven away in a magnificent old Bentley.

  •  When I was 13, the cover art on a library book (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Diana in NoVa, Limelite

    caught my eye.  I opened it and read the first paragraph.  Pride and Prejudice has been my favorite book ever since.

    It is my personal opinion that the first sentence is the most masterly summation of human nature I have ever run across.

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 12:09:16 PM PDT

    •  It's incomparable, isn't it, loggersbrat? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Limelite

      Austin was the absolute mistress of the novel of manners. More than a century later Nancy Mitford also proved her skill as a writer in that genre, but the spitefulness that runs like a thread through her writing was not present in Jane Austen's novels.

      "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

      by Diana in NoVa on Fri Mar 28, 2014 at 01:41:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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