Book Your Vacation

Destination reading.

If I ever take a vacation to the Bahamas, I’ll bring along something appropriate for reading in a hammock beneath a coconut palm—maybe Finnegan’s Wake or The Tin Drum. (I expect to read Finnegan’s Wake at about the same time—and with about the same degree of confidence—that I expect ever to vacation in the Bahamas.) For the time being, however, holidays take me to one of two unassuming suburban homes, one in Southern California and one in Utah Valley. And the only way to read on this kind of vacation is to sample the shelves. Here’s what I’ve picked up so far this week.

BYU Magazine. I leafed through the most recent issue one night before bed. An article on the artists James Christensen, Cassandra Barney and Emily McPhie (the well-known father and his two daughters) was the most interesting piece in the magazine. And its interest, like several of the featured works of art, lay as much in what was left out as in what was included. The story’s clever lede contrasts the father’s sacrosanct no-children-allowed studio with his daughters’ kid-friendly work spaces, but it left me wondering about a lot of things: do the daughters ever wish they had time and space to paint without kids? how has the presence of their children affected their style and method? could they produce better paintings without kids around? on the other hand, if they weren’t parenting their children at home would they have time to paint in the first place?

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. Despite having graduated from BYU with a degree in English, I’ve never read Lewis’s serious works. And I didn’t get too far with this one. I loved the yellowed, defoliating old paperback edition I found, but I couldn’t get past his opening gambit, an appeal to natural law and an attempted defense against charges that the moral impulse is mere instinct. I’m disappointed; I had hoped to enjoy it.

1967 Family Home Evening Manual. I found this on a basement shelf at my grandmother’s home in Sanpete County. I browsed through it, expecting to emerge with delicious morsels of sixties-vintage cultural awfulness, but instead I came away unexpectedly moved by my grandmother’s earnest notations throughout: “Ask Kelly to discuss this,” “Rita and Russell will read,” and, simply, “Joan.” I comply with Church programs, including FHE, but I’m not always very earnest about it.

“Readings for Honors 200 Intensive Writing,” 1992. I took Intensive Writing my freshman year at BYU (sometime T&S commenter Keith was my instructor), but I’ve long since lost the reader. I spotted one in a closet, aging but intact; it was a pleasure to scan the table of contents. It brings together a nice range of pieces and writers, among them Wendell Berry, James Baldwin, B.F. Skinner, Annie Dillard, May Swenson, Alice Walker. I recognized a few real gems: Elouise Bell’s “When Nice ain’t So Nice,” Bruce Young’s wonderful personal essay “The Miracle of Faith, the Miracle of Love,” a trilogy of Leslie Norris’s poems. It was in this reader that I first encountered the Letter from Birmingham Jail, Nibley’s “Zeal without Knowledge,” and the King Follett Discourse.

I’ll be on vacation for a few more days, and I’ve got my eye on my father-in-law’s study: I want to get my hands on The Worlds of Joseph Smith, the proceedings of the Library of Conference conference, some of which I haven’t yet read. And there’s a whole shelf of Lewis; maybe I’ll give the old fellow another chance.

What do you read on vacation? What books have you read in other people’s homes?

74 comments for “Book Your Vacation

  1. hpm
    April 21, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    Your father-in-law’s study is a formidable place. Don’t get lost in all those shelves…

  2. Eve
    April 21, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    A book thread, a book thread! Rosalynde, you may not be able to shut me up on this one.

    In March I flew out to California to see my sister Lynnette in the Bay Area (the perfect weather, the beautiful San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge…nostalgic sighs and longing) and we went through some of Berkeley’s used bookstores. I found Joan Didion’s _The Year of Magical Thinking_ and stayed up until two one night reading it. I’m undecided about Didion. I had heard nothing but praise, but there’s something about her temperment that I find forbidding, almost inhuman. She’s just too cold for me. (Although I must say that this book was a huge improvement on her usual journalistic nihilism. She’s worse than Tom Wolfe and his salacious interest in college students’ sex lives.)

    Once through the book was enough for me, so I swapped it for Lynnette’s copy of Eliot Perlman’s _Seven Types of Ambiguity_, which I read on the plane home, in between bouts of vomiting and then dry heaving (an experience which undoubtedly warped my view of it). It’s a perfect plane read, whch is to say, an overstuffed mystery. It was too long, and the ending was a disappointment. But I read it in that desperate, white-knuckled way you read when you’re trying to keep from throwing up. I read all of _Jesus the Christ_ that way on my mission, and I don’t remember a word of it.

    Then I finished Marilynne Robinson’s _Gilead_, which I had started over Christmas break. I loved it.

    Then school started again. This does not mean that I stop reading for pleasure, it means that I cease admitting to myself that I am reading for pleasure, so instead of plunking down with a whole novel, which would be blatant self-indulgence, I flip through magazines and blog. And listen to books on tape, often Alexander McCall Smith’s, which Lynnette introduced me to. His ones about German academics (_Portuguese Irregular Verbs_, _The Care and Feeding of Sausage Dogs_) are great, but the #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency ones are even better. They’re light and hilarious, perfect vacation/car/exercise/cleaning reads.

    And I had very similar questions about the _BYU Today_ article on the Christensen artists. I couldn’t help but wonder: is that the fundamental difference between fatherhood and motherhood, then–that fathers can block off time and space from their children for their own endeavors, while mothers can’t?

  3. Eve
    April 21, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Oh, and I forgot to say that if I ever took a vacation in the Bahamas, the absolute last book I would bring would be _Finnegan’s Wake_. I would stretch out on the beach with the complete Curious George canon, or some plot-driven mystery without a shred of redeeming moral or intellectual value.

    Undoubtedly, this is but one of many reasons that God has not seen fit to arrange my life so that it involves vacations in th Bahamas.

  4. April 21, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    I attended an art lecture that Cassandra Barney gave at BYU-Idaho last year. I don’t remember if she did or did not mention wanting time to paint without the kids around, but the most impressive painting she showed was a large scale recreation of a collaborative drawing of a house that she did with her kids at church. So, at least as far as I can see, having the children around helps.

    Coincidently (or not) Cassandra’s latest blog post seems relevant.

  5. mlu
    April 21, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    I’m wondering whether you would mind saying more about your disappointment with Mere Christianity–the moral impulse. It’s been years since I read it, but that argument seems actually quite interesting and powerful. I noted that Francis S. Collins (the director of the Human Genome Project) in his recent book The Language of God notes that it was that argument by Lewis that was the most significant part of his conversion from atheism to Christianity. In fact, the main disappointment of that book was that Collins mostly defers to Lewis at key points.

    #2: Gilead struck me as stunningly good. I’ve been meaning to re-read it to see whether it really was as good as it seemed :0

    I find myself reading blogs too much because my time seems too fragmented into small pieces to try getting through an entire book–though I have been working through the Blake Ostler series and enjoying it a lot, at least when the world seems quiet enough for such reading.

  6. Rosalynde Welch
    April 22, 2007 at 12:39 am

    Eve, on a recent (childless!) plane trip, I bought a copy of “Real Simple” magazine in the airport—my brand of fluff reading, or so I thought; in the end I didn’t care for it. I love (or used to love) the the sense of stasis I get in flight—the feeling that for this defined increment of time, I’m out of time, out of place, really, and so all my time- and place-bound obligations are lifted. Needless to say, traveling with children relieves me of both that sense of stasis and the capacity to enjoy ANY sort of plane reading, fluffy or not.

    I’ve been wanting to look at “Magical Thinking,” especially after reading the reviews of its incarnation onstage. Did you really hate “Charlotte Simmons” so much, though? I found it very compelling (then again, I confess my salacious interest in the sex lives of college girls; who doesn’t, though? Also I’ve always enjoyed Tom Wolfe).

    I want to pick up “Gilead,” too, although I couldn’t make it through “Housekeeping.”

    On your question about motherhood and fatherhood: I’d say that the degree of psychic and physical separation from the children desired and attained is indeed a major difference between mothers and fathers, and that lots of other parenting epiphenomena spring from this issue of attachment. I don’t know about “the fundamental difference,” though.

    (Also, did the irony come through on Finnegan’s Wake? I’d read Finnegan’s Wake while vacationing in the Bahamas because I don’t ever expect to do either!)

  7. Rosalynde Welch
    April 22, 2007 at 1:06 am

    Nate, thank you very much for the link to Cassandra Barney’s blog. I enjoyed the post very much, and I certainly admire (and envy) her drive. This issue of the relationship between women’s creative work and their children gets to the heart of some of the most intractable feminist dilemmas, and I find myself riven, as well. The irony is thick: the bearing of children is one of the most accessible and powerful metaphors for human creativity, and men appropriate the language of childbirth to describe their creative processes all the time; on the other hand, the *actual* bearing of children is a serious impediment to women actually creating art, particularly fine art (and I don’t think it’s merely a time issue, though that’s part of it).

    mlu, thanks for your interest. Lewis makes two points about the natural moral impulse: that all humans across time and place have professed largely similar versions of a moral code, and that all humans are haunted by the knowledge that they do not live up to that moral code (this seems to me a setup for the need for an atonement, although I haven’t read that far). I just don’t find either claim empirically persuasive. He then argues that this moral law is cannot be mere instinct because humans sometimes suppress their instincts in accordance with moral law, and thus moral law must be something other than instinct. I don’t follow this at all: humans suppress one instinct (say, the hunger drive) in favor of another (say, the motherly nurturing drive) all the time.

    I haven’t read Collins, although I’m interested in what I’ve heard of his work, and interested to know how he relies on Lewis. Maybe I’ll plow through a bit more of “Mere Christianity.”

  8. Idahospud
    April 22, 2007 at 1:39 am

    Speaking of _Gilead_, my nightstand-pile-of-last-week is here:

    And speaking of vacation reading, I am heading for a week in Australia/NZ next Saturday, which means long, uninterrupted hours of reading on the plane. I’m bringing:

    _A Tree Grows in Brooklyn_–I’ve never read it and it’s about time!
    _Twilight_ and _New Moon_ by Stephanie Meyer. My daughters have read and reread both of these many times and keep telling me I’ve gotta.
    _Dragonfly in Amber_ by Diana Gabaldon. fMhLisa turned me onto this series and I’m hooked.
    _Pastwatch_ by Orson Scott Card–one of the few of his I haven’t read yet

    Then I’m going to get on the library website and download some mp.3 books; don’t know which ones yet.
    And I’ll look in the airport shops for things to read, and once in Oz I’m told that the antique stores are fabulous–I’d like to pick up some books there as well.

    I’ll be eagerly watching this thread for more ideas!

  9. Eve
    April 22, 2007 at 2:45 am

    Rosalynde, oh…irony. Now I get it. Read fast think slow, you know.

    Tom Wolfe. Sigh. I confess I’ve never had the courage to read him, so I’m just shooting off my mouth as usual, but his topics strike me as dull. It’s one of those issues of taste, I suppose–I have little interest in the doings of New York’s glitterati, or college girls’ sex lives, or in anyone else’s sex life, really. (Books by certain men scare me. I didn’t know it was humanly possible to think about sex that much. I mean, doesn’t the brain overload its own circuitry at some point and force the body to go out an forage for sustenance?)
    Sangely enough, I loved _Housekeeping_. What a gorgeous book.

    But I’m always fascinated by people’s different reactions to books, so I’d be interested to know what you thought of _I Am Charlotte Simmons_.

  10. Anna
    April 22, 2007 at 3:05 am

    In general, my reading choices are highly self-conscious: I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction books, and I try to sample a range of topics and styles within each of those categories.

    Then, when I am on vacation, I carry my usual patterns to excess. I think, “Ooooo, all that time just sitting in a car or on a plane; surely I’ll be able to knock off twenty books!!! Or at least ten!!!” I pack a veritable library and plow through quite a few books, but never as many as I had fantasized about beforehand. I end up feeling impatient about all the great books in the world I still haven’t read yet and jealous of people that can read fast and enjoy it.

    So there you have it: Pride, Sloth, Gluttony, Envy. Depending on the content of the books I’m reading, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lust, Anger, and Greed show up too.

  11. Kaimi Wenger
    April 22, 2007 at 4:10 am

    Eve (9) writes:

    “I didn’t know it was humanly possible to think about sex that much . . .”

    Actually, it’s mostly just _male_ to think about sex that much. According to an ABC poll on sex attitudes, “43 percent of men think about sex several times a day; just 13 percent of women do that.” (See ). However, the sometimes repeated corrollary line that men think about sex every seven (or ten, or twenty) seconds is apparently just an urban myth. (See ).

  12. April 22, 2007 at 7:57 am

    When I’m in airports or on an airplane I often take it as an opportunity to read two or three newspapers and a paperback novel.

    I recently was in a bookstore and stumbled across a hardback copy of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” They didn’t have the cheaper paperback version in stock but I’ve pretty much already decided I’m going back to pick it up. They said it’s a book they stock on a regular basis.

  13. April 22, 2007 at 8:59 am

    I love going to someone’s house and picking off their shelves. I stayed with a friend recently and read a biography of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, staying up very late my last night there to finish.

    Every holiday, I get a New Yorker and a London or NY Review of Books. Then I take one ‘junk’ fiction (last time it was Ellroy’s The Hot Kid), one other fiction (I needed to re-read Chopin’s The Awakening to teach it), and one non-fiction (book on twin psychology, All Twins Are Not Alike). If one of the categories is empty on my to-read shelf, I grab from my extensive collection of PG Wodehouse novels, always a nice holiday read.

    I liked Mere Christianity a lot, except where the doctrine of the trinity becomes the focus — that lost me.

    Idahospud — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is great.

  14. Eve
    April 22, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    Kaimi (11), ah! Thanks for the illumination. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear the extraordinarily high number is, in fact, an urban myth.

    Idahospud, I read _A Tree Grows in Brooklyn_ when I was a teenager, and I thought it was OK, but not particularly memorable. That was a long time ago, though, and I might have an entirely different impression now.

    Anna, LOL. I’m impressed that you sample fiction, nonfiction, and a variety of categories. I read completely at random–whatever someone’s recommended, whatever I should read for school, whatever happens to catch my eye. And I too feel just sick at times at the thought of all of the fascinating books that I will never read in this life. Let’s hope and pray they’re waiting for us on a shelf in the next one.

    I struggle knowing how many books to pack. I’ve often done what you describe and packed way more than I can possibly read (partly because what I read depends on my mood, and so I feel I have to pack books for all possible moods). But then a couple of Christmases ago, in an effort not to haul twenty books through airport security, I packed only two or three–and I had finished them all halfway through my vacation! It was a truly horrifying feeling. I’ve decided it’s better to overpack than underpack.

    My sister Kiskilili maintains that one should always, always have at least one book on one’s person because one never knows when one might need it. I sometimes go places without a book, sure that I’ll be too occupied with whatever else, and then desperately wish I had one.

  15. Bruce H.
    April 22, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    >> … that desperate, white-knuckled way you read when you’re trying to
    >> keep from throwing up. I read all of _Jesus the Christ_ that way on my
    >> mission …

    Did it keep you from throwing up?

  16. April 22, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    For years I was under this bizarre delusion when I traveled that I would use the time on the plane to study. It’s only recently that I’ve finally broken myself of the habit of packing academic books in my carry-on under the pretense that I’m going to actually look at them. My current preferred plane fare is a long novel (preferably light, fast-paced, and with a plot that quickly hooks you), and a stack of Sudoku puzzles.

    I used to read at other times of my life as well, but that was before I joined Netflix . . .

  17. April 22, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    c.s lewis is old hat. Move up to N.T. Wright. _Simply Christian_ is the new _Mere Christianity_.

  18. Eve
    April 22, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    Bruce, unfortunately, no, it didn’t. But I won’t blame that on Talmage, I’ll blame it on the horrible flu I had at the time.

    Lynnette, hooray for Sudoku! Sudoku + long novel + Ipod = much happier plane trip.

  19. April 22, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    “defense against charges that the moral impulse is mere instinct.”

    Lewis is replying — without necessarily saying so — to the view put forth in G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica, which was philosophically hot stuff at the time. It got picked up by the Bloomsbury group, which then succeeded in making it hugely popular among English intellectuals between the wars. No longer supported by the intellectual glitterati, the philosophy looks rather silly and spending a great deal of time knocking it over seems rather like beating a dead horse. Strange what intellectual fashions (and their attackers) look like when they die.

  20. April 22, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    I spent my last airplane trip with Fangle’s translation of Homer’s Oddessy, which was really quite wonderful.

  21. April 22, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Eve: I have to confess that Tom Wolfe is one of the few novelists that I really enjoy. I haven’t read the one about college girls and sex, but I thought that both _Bonfire of the Vanities_ and _The Man in Full_ were wonderful. (Especially _The Man in Full_; of course it has a fabulous description of a scene were an imploding real-estate speculator is in contract renegotiations with a commercial bank’s work out group. It was required reading in my commercial law class. Good stuff.)

  22. April 22, 2007 at 9:30 pm

    I read a two-month old issue of Backpacker Magazine last trip.

  23. Mark IV
    April 22, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    a fabulous description of a scene were an imploding real-estate speculator is in contract renegotiations with a commercial bank’s work out group.

    Saddlebags! Saddlebags! Agreed Nate, that is a great scene.

    I just came across this statement by Mark Twain concerning Jane Austen. I know he didn’t like Fenimore Cooper, but, holy cow, he really hated old Jane:
    “I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up out of her grave and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

  24. Matt Evans
    April 22, 2007 at 10:15 pm

    Rosalynde, before you give up on Mere Christianity, you should read his defense of patriarchy. It’s been 12 years since I read it, but my memory is that he believes women, by virtue of motherhood, are too protective of their own to fairly adjudicate issues between their family and others. And of course his chapter “The Great Sin” has been my most influential essay.

  25. Eve
    April 22, 2007 at 11:00 pm

    Nate, me and my big mouth! Now it will turn out that all you T&Sers love Joan Didion too.
    I wonder, though, if the key to your enjoyment and my boredom might not be found in your enthusiastic description:

    it has a fabulous description of a scene were an imploding real-estate speculator is in contract renegotiations with a commercial bank’s work out group…

    Spoken like a true law professor.

  26. April 22, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    Regarding Wolfe–I haven’t read Charlotte Simmons, but I have read Wolfe’s other two big novels, and like Nate enjoyed them both–though I would argue that Bonfire of the Vanities is a superior work of fiction to A Man in Full. Wolfe is far, far more interested in description than story, and the descriptions in Man in Full are tremendous (the prison chapters especially), but still, you really do need a plot, and while Bonfire manages to at least bring it’s plot into for some sort of landing, Man in Full completely collapses with one of the most ludicrous ending that can be imagined.

    And in any case, Wolfe’s non-fiction stands head and shoulders above his fiction. If anyone out there hasn’t read his account of the space program, The Right Stuff, well, please do; it’s simply one of the best extended pieces of English writing put together in the 20th-century. I’d rank it and a couple of other of Wolfe’s pieces comfortably alongside Orwell.

    Regarding Lewis–Mere Christianity isn’t the only work of his that makes use of his ruminations on the natural law; Abolition of Man does also. Some people find it persuasive, but I don’t. I think Lewis is a much, much for thoughtful and powerful preacher and writer when he does not try to make his faith persuasive, but rather uses his deeply learned and honed aesthetic sense to describe and explore the doctrines, intuitions, and implications of faith. Everyone knows The Screwtape Letters, but I’d say The Great Divorce is his true homiletic masterwork; and then there are his numerous sermons, collected his books like The Weight of Glory and others.

  27. Idahospud
    April 23, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Eve–I’m with you on Joan Didion. Both her recent memoir and _Slouching Toward Bethelehem_ got traded in this week.

  28. DKL
    April 23, 2007 at 12:34 am

    Mere Christianity is awful. Pick up a copy of Why I’m not a Christian instead. In spite of the fact that they’re mere popular essays (in the more than 75 books that Russell published in his lifetime, not one of them addressed religion in a philosophically serious manner), it’s cogent in all the ways that Lewis is lacking, and it’s a joy to read in exactly the way that all of Russell’s best essays are.

  29. DKL
    April 23, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Another book I recommend is A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic. The boy-genious started it when he was 23, completed it when he was 25, and published it when he was 26. It is as breathless as it is breathtaking. Weighing in at less than 180 pages, it’s begins with the chapter, “The Elimination of Metaphysics” which tidies up more than 2 millennia of misguided nonsense in a mere 15 pages. And don’t worry that he left anything out. The last chapter is entitled, “Solutions of Outstanding Philosophical Disputes”; 18 pages.

    It’s a preposterous little book, but jaw-droppingly brilliant. Hillary Putnam rightly placed it among the greatest works of 20th century philosophy. Bertrand Russell said of it, “A delightful book… I should like to have written it myself.” Tod Honderich called it, “very reassuring to anyone not fond of philosophy with angel’s wings…. All of it was indeed from a young man with his spurs on, not making accommodations.” You won’t regret reading it.

    Another great book on philosophy is Bertrand Russell’s “The Problems of Philosophy,” and you could probably read it in one sitting. Aside from being a general introduction to philosophy, there is nowhere a clearer description of Russell’s celebrated distinction between knowledge by acquaintance and knowledge by description (which ends up being the basis for his logical/epistemological atomism and injected Hume’s general approach back into the development of empirical philosophy), and its critique of Berkely’s idealism remains the clearest, most succinct ever written.

  30. mlu
    April 23, 2007 at 1:37 am

    Ayers’–another book that it’s been years since I’ve read but still remember. Though if I recall correctly his central argument–a defense of postivism and empiricism–doesn’t end up working, even so I read it at a formative time and his insistence on verification permanently influenced me. The book was awful though, at the level of sentences. Wretched, even.

    I do disagree with you about Lewis. Mere Christianity is aimed at a lay audience and doesn’t do the kind of rigorous argument that Ayers does. I think this is sometimes more difficult though. I think he does does quite a wonderful job of making a case for belief. I also disagree that the “moral sense” isn’t supported by empirical evidence. I rather enjoyed James Q. Wilson’s The Moral Sense –it’s book in which a social scientist says there is consideral empirical evidence from psychology, sociology and biology for belief in a universal moral sense, though rather than finding such a sense in universal rules he finds it in shared sympathies and a sense of fairness and duty.

  31. DKL
    April 23, 2007 at 2:09 am

    Nate, it sounds to me like you haven’t read Principia Ethica, but you’ve read a little bit about it. Principia Ethica most certainly does not look “rather silly.” The full text is available here. The book is no mere fad pushed on an unsuspecting public by mindless elites. It remains to this day a landmark work in ethics, and is an oasis in the intellectual desert that is ethical philosophy — much like Nelson Goodman’s Languages of Art is for the similarly barren field of philosophy of esthetics (another book I recommend for vacation reading).

    If there’s anything dated about Principia Ethica, it is Moore’s propensity to explain the importance of the method of analysis that he is using to answer the questions. This kind of analysis is so commonplace nowadays that it’s easy to forget that Moore and Russell were still in the process of inventing it and formulating it when Moore wrote the book.

    Large portions of otherwise reasonable works are given over to “refuting” Moore’s formulation of the naturalist fallacy that maintains the fact-value distintion; i.e., the notion that you cannot deduce normative claims from factual statements. (MacIntyre’s treatment in After Virtue comes to mind.) The two definitive defenses of the naturalistic fallacy can be found in Carnap’s response to Abraham Kaplan’s essay on value judgments in the Schilpp volume on Carnap, and Ayer’s treatment in Freedom and Morality and Other Essays.

    Strachey’s own Eminent Victorians was certainly no less revered in Bloomsbury than Moore’s Principia Ethica, but didn’t have anywhere near the impact.

    And it’s not quite right to put Lewis’s work on a level with Moore’s. I was going to compare it to William James’ debates with idealists like Royce, where James utterly outgunned the opposition, but the comparison doesn’t really work, because Royce was actually in the same league with James, even if he couldn’t approach James intellectually. If Mere Christianity doesn’t read well (and it doesn’t), it won’t due to blame it on Moore’s landmark work on ethics. The more likely explanation is to be found in the fact that Lewis is a superficial thinker.

    In any case, I also heartily recommend Principia Ethica for vacation reading. Moore is a very good writer.

    (My wife is now making fun of me for this past run of comments, because she thinks it’s a bad idea to admit to actually reading this kind of stuff on vacation.)

  32. DKL
    April 23, 2007 at 2:18 am

    mlu, Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic is not a defense of positivism. It’s an exposition. It’s Ayer’s formal definition of verification that fails, and that’s no more destructive to Ayer’s central thesis than the failure of Kant’s 15 categories to explain all of human cognition. But all that’s beside the point. You shouldn’t read the book to become a positivist. You should read it to learn about a provocative and very influential 20th century school of epistemology. In other words, don’t get caught up on whether you agree with the conclusions; just enjoy the ride. And it’s a wonderful and exciting ride (breathless and breathtaking, as I mentioned) with beautiful writing, right down to the word.

  33. Keith
    April 23, 2007 at 3:08 am

    Ah, the Intensive Writing reader–a kind of greatest hits of the composition teachers of the time. Bruce Young’s essay is, in my view, one of the most honest and insightful things around. The reader also has the Grand Inquisitor doesn’t it? (By the way, I still remember your comments in class about Wiesel’s _Night_.)

    Speaking of Lewis, I think Russell’s comments are dead on. I’d recommend taking a look at _A Grief Observed_ about his experience dealing with this wife’s death. It’s been a long time since I read it, but I still recall key moments of transparency and insight and the personal nature of it is rather different than much of his other writing.

  34. April 23, 2007 at 7:43 am

    One of the first things I did when I got married was sort through my wife’s books.

    I read a great Church history book–the best I’ve ever seen or imagined–at a friend’s house. Now if I could only remember the title…

    If I’m reading a book on vacation, it’s not going to be on philosophy, Christianity, or anything like that. It’s going to be a good fiction book!

  35. Bill MacKinnon
    April 23, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Mark IV (#23) reminds us of Mark Twain (II?)’s hostility toward Jane Austen and her writing. Before accepting that view, think about the comment by Rex Stout, creator of the Nero Wolfe detective series, to his biographer (John McAleer) near the end of his long life (1886-1975). McAleer quotes Stout as saying, “I used to think that men did everything better than women, but that was before I read Jane Austen. I don’t think any man ever wrote better than Jane Austen.” McAleer and Stout used to talk about Wofe as though he were alive and so in his biography McAleer records a visit in 1975 thusly: “It was no coincidence that, when I asked after Wolfe a few days before Rex died, Rex confided, “he’s rereading ‘Emma.’ Rex ranked ‘Emma’ as Jane Austen’s masterpiece. In the last weeks of his life he also reread it. That a book could be reread was to him solid proof of its worth.”
    Rex Stout (through Nero Wolfe) is also a pretty good read for those who like detective or mystery novels. The characters (the 300+-lb. [“one-seventh of a ton”] sedantary Wolfe, his active, hip resident secretary-legman Archie Goodwin, Homicide Inspector Kramer, Sergeant Stebbins, the Alsatian cook Fritz Brenner, and the “orchid-nurse Theodore Horstmann) are magnificent. Those of you who live or have served in Manhattan would also probably like the ambience of Wolfe’s New York of the 1920s-1970s. The 19th-century brownstone on West 35th Street (near Tenth Avenue) in which Wolfe maintains his home-office and collection of 10,000 roof-top orchids is a locale that he almost never leaves and which has taken on the flavor of Holmes’ and Watson’s 220b Baker Street. It’s a different house and New York than that of the old Eastern States Mission (the interior of which was used to film the Tara scenes for “Gone With The Wind” in 1938) but one worth diving into, especially on vacation.Unlike the noir detective novels of the L.A. stripe, there’s no sex, profanity, and gratuitous violence — just enough to launch and carry a murder mystery. Unlike Conan Doyle, Rex Stout also left out the Latter-day Saints and Utah as well as London. Oh, as for Mark Twain and his views of writers, wasn’t he the one (in “Roughing It’) who characterized The Book of Mormon as “chloroform-in-print”?

  36. Bill MacKinnon
    April 23, 2007 at 9:39 am

    For those who like to read around a theme or common thread, I nominate a trio of novels devoted to, among other things, the ethical dilemmas confronting historical and literary biographers as they acquire through various means the papers of their subjects. In these three novels they go about this less-than-prosaic task in quite different locales and in very different eras:
    **Henry James, “The Aspern Papers” (Victorian Venice of the late 19th century).
    **Robert Penn Warren, “All the King’s Men” (Huey Long’s Louisiana of the 1930s).
    **John Updike, “The Ford Administration” (a New England college town of the 1970s).
    I first read “All the King’s Men” in the late 1950s and thought that it was great. “Red” Warren was then a Fellow of my college, and I could have had lunch with him at virtually any time. To my subsequent regret I was too dumb as a 19-year-old to approach him. Ditto for John Hersey.

  37. Nate Oman
    April 23, 2007 at 9:52 am

    DKL: I grant you that Moore is not silly, however, I take it that Lewis wasn’t responding to Moore. Rather, he was responding to popularized versions of Moore’s philosophy filtered into the intellectual lingua franca via the Bloomsbury group. _Mere Christianity_ is clearly not a work of serious philosophy; it’s a defense of Christianity aimed at the middle-brow, Times-Literary-Supplement-reading public.

  38. Nate Oman
    April 23, 2007 at 9:59 am

    RAF: What you say about Wolfe makes sense to me. It is his descriptions that I really enjoy. I admit that I don’t end up caring that much about the plot. In that sense, he strikes me as being similar to Evelyn Waugh. I’ve read one or two of his novels, and I confess that I can’t really remember what the plots were about. On the other hand, his descriptions were so vivid and wickedly funny that they made reading the books worth while.

  39. Margaret Young
    April 23, 2007 at 10:09 am

    My current reads: Just finishing Sidney Poitier’s memoir _The Measure of a Man_. Really enjoying it.
    Next up is _Kite Runner_, at my daughter’s recommendation.
    I haven’t yet read _Mere Christianity_, but the fact that DKL dislikes it so much definitely makes me want to read it. (It’s rather like a recent convert in our stake who talked about his former pastor holding up a Bible and saying, “This is the word of God,” then holding up a Book of Mormon and saying, “and this is not!” The guy thought, “Hmmm. Book of Mormon. I’ll have to check that out.”

  40. Adam Greenwood
    April 23, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Russell Fox is exactly right on Wolfe. Especially on a Man in Full. The workout session is one of the better scenes I’ve read anywhere, but the ending is absurd.

  41. Adam Greenwood
    April 23, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Speaking of Waugh–

    Brideshead Revisited would be a good vacation read, weighty enough that you feel like you’ve done something important but light enough to get through. Same with the Sword of Honor trilogy, though it has some rough spots. I read them both in long, lazy afternoons one summer.

    I think my favorite Lewis work, Till We Have Faces, probably falls into this same category.

    What about Proust? Probably not workable if you have children along on your vacation, though.

  42. April 23, 2007 at 11:33 am

    I liked Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” Nice bit of naturalist reading. I used to read excerpts of it to my wife the first summer we were dating.

    I also like Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire.” The cranks on the bloggernacle got nothin on this guy.

  43. Adam Greenwood
    April 23, 2007 at 11:46 am

    The guy who wrote Charlotte’s Web, whatever his name is, wrote lots of essays for adults that are good vacation reads.

  44. Mark B.
    April 23, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    E.B. White

  45. Bill MacKinnon
    April 23, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    One of E.B. White’s better essays was about life in New York as well as at the “New Yorker.”

  46. Costanza
    April 23, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    Some of Roald Dahl’s short stories, like those collected in _Tales of the Unexpected_, are also great for vacation reading–if you like semi-macabre, twist-at-the-end sort of things.

  47. MDS
    April 23, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    I completely missed the connection between the Tin Drum and the Bahamas. Maybe its because any German literature is forever frozen in my psyche as being properly read and discussed on frigid winter mornings in Orson Spencer Hall, but it just isn’t clicking for me.

  48. April 23, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    mlu: Gilead is that good.

    My current reading is _On Food and Cooking_ by Harold McGee. Good stuff — although his _The Curious Cook_ is even better.

    I\’m still working on Kate Elliott\’s _Crown of Stars_ series — one more book to go. It\’s second or third tier fantasy, but the world creation is not bad and there are two characters that I\’m fascinated by so I\’ve stuck with it.

    I recently read: _White Roses on the Floor of Heaven: Mormon Women’s Popular Theology, 1880-192_ by Susanna Morrill

    _Heat: An Amateur\’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany_ by Bill Buford

    _Food in Medieval Times_ by Melitta Weiss Adamson

    _The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism In The Information Age_ by Philip Meyer

    I have a long commute on public transportation so I get a lot of reading done.

    Next I\’ll probably pick up _Breeding Leah and Other Stories_ by John Bennion. My sister Katherine sent me a signed copy.

  49. April 23, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Eve (#14): “My sister Kiskilili maintains that one should always, always have at least one book on one’s person because one never knows when one might need it. I sometimes go places without a book, sure that I’ll be too occupied with whatever else, and then desperately wish I had one.”

    Amen and amen. This is a rule I also try to adhere to, and I have found that when I always have a book with me, I live a happier life. Waiting in line is no longer a chore, but a joy.

  50. MikeInWeHo
    April 23, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    This string makes me feel illiterate. Principia Ethica as a vacation read?? Oy.

    That said, some great suggestions here.

    I just finished The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. It’s a gripping, dystopian vision of tomorrow. The secular side of me fears he is prophetic. (And no, I do not watch Oprah. I read The Road before she put it on her book club list.)

  51. Rosalynde Welch
    April 23, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks, everybody, for the responses and recommendations. To respond to some, in reverse order:

    William, I recall enjoying “Breeding Leah.” Also, I’m envious of your reading commute. (My husband considers his commute—during which he listens unmolested to books on tape—to be onerous; I consider it a dreamed-of luxury!)

    MDS, there is no connection between _Tin Drum_ and the Bahamas; it was meant to be funny because incongruous, the opposite of a fluffy beach-read. The fault lies in my own tin ear for funniness, not your knowledge of Tin Drum!

    Bill MacKinnon, thanks very much for those recommendations; your little triptych sounds like a great read. In a comic vein of the same stream, and to return the favor, I’d recommend Michael Frayn’s “Headlong,” a very funny novel about a hapless art historian.

    Keith, I was hoping you’d weigh in. I’m flattered that you remember my comments; I wish I could! Thanks for the follow-up on Lewis. I didn’t mean to sound quite so down on him. I have read “A Grief Observed,” and was very moved by it. And yes, the intensive writing reader does have “The Grand Inquisitor”—although I don’t think we read it in our section.

    mlu, thanks for the follow-up on Wilson and the moral impulse. I’m open to arguments like Wilson’s, but I think Lewis makes a hash of his, in part because he needs to prove that the content of the various moralities is largely consonant—not merely that all humans recognize some kind of moral standard. Also, I think it has become more difficult in the age of neurobiology to use an innate ethical sense as grounds for a proof of God’s existence—which is not to say that it can’t or oughtn’t be done, just that it must be done far more carefully than Lewis does.

    On _Charlotte Simmons_: it is not, in fact, only a novel about college girls’ sex lives, although it does contain one graphic sex scene (and great roiling streams of profanity surge through the novel). I found the character Charlotte to be a wonderful feat of imagination, and I identified with her in many ways (she’s more than a little like George Eliot’s Dorothea in _Middlemarch_, my favorite novel ever, and for the same reason of pleasurable identification). And I think Wolfe’s setting on the college campus is an imaginative triumph as well an acute bit of social criticism, economically bringing together the human technologies that call the meaning of the soul into question and the human behaviors that emerge untrammeled where the soul is revoked.

  52. Mark B.
    April 23, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Amen to RAF re: Wolfe. The Right Stuff is a must read–his description of night landings on a carrier is terrific, maybe the high point of the book.

    The plots of Bonfire and Man in Full both peter out at the end, so hang on to the “boys with breasts” scene at the gym (I am shocked! shocked!! that Adam would remember that) and Sherman McCoy dialing home when he meant to be calling his mistress.

    Recent vacation reading includes James MacGregor Burns’ Roosevelt, Soldier of Freedom. 30 years old but still a great portrait of the wartime FDR. And John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War–he just skims the surface, but leaves you wanting much more.

  53. Anna
    April 23, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Rosalynde, I have a little fantasy wherein somebody spontaneously says to me, “You know what? You remind me of Dorothea Brooke. At once ardent and rational.”

  54. April 23, 2007 at 7:19 pm


    It’s the only thing that keeps me sane — I don’t know what I’d do if I had to drive it and couldn’t read (I commute from Oakland to the south end of San Francisco). I must admit, though, that after 10 years, the commute is beginning to wear me down.

    The problem with it, though, is that because I use so many different forms of transportation and also can’t afford a laptop, I don’t have writing time. I’d gladly have a shorter commute and slow down my reading to just one book a week, if it also meant that I could have 2 hours of writing time a week.

    It also means that if I don’t have a book I end up reading alt weeklies and dailies scavenged from the recycling bins. And that kind of reading is just useless for the most part — neither entertaining nor all that informative. I tried listening to podcasts, but the ambient noise on Muni and BART is loud that it’s hard to hear what people are saying.

  55. Bill
    April 23, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    I’ve never had the fantasy of reminding anyone of Casaubon. Or even Ladislaw or Lydgate.

    I remember finding a great book on my grandparents’ shelf when I was a teenager. Mixed in with poetry books and church books and RD condensed books, I found a little beat-up paperback that I still have. It was Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, one of the very few books I’ve read more than two or three times. And since then, I’ve always had the fantasy of reminding someone of Basarov, but I doubt it’s likely to happen.

    William Morris, I just read Clifford Wright’s A Mediterranean Feast, and Nicola Fletcher’s Charlemagne’s tablecloth. Great fun.

    For frivolous summertime reading, I just picked up 740 Park, a history of the famous NYC apartment building.

  56. Matt B
    April 23, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I’ve recently been getting into noir (oh, the horrors of genre fiction!), and have found Dennis Lehane’s stuff to be absolutely shattering; he takes all the best of the genre’s conventions – terse and biting prose and dialogue, grotesque characters, stark settings, implacable but strangely human protagonists – and places it all into vividly gothic plots, with almost melodramatic depictions of good and evil. This technique really revitalizes the paradox of noir morality – simultaneously black and white and gray.

    Am also a Tom Wolfe fan. Perhaps I’m just attracted to the over-the-top in my fiction.

  57. Jim F.
    April 23, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    William Morris and Bill, perhaps we should start a food reading list. I just finished The United States of Arugula,, but I don’t recommend it. It has more to do with the gossip of People Magazine than it does with the history of food. There are good bits, but too much that is not. Some recommendations: Flandrin and Montanari, A Culinary History of Food; Stephen Mennell, All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present; Filipe Fernandez-Armesto, Near a Thousand Tables; Massimo Montanari, The Culture of Food; Margarate Visser, The Rituals of Dinner and Much Depends on Dinner; Michel Onfray, La Raison gourmande; Herve This, Molecular Gastronomy; and Leon Kass, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of our Nature.

  58. Jim F.
    April 23, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Don’t know what made me forget these three: Jack Turner, Spice: The History of a Temptation; Coe and Coe, The True History of Chocolate; and Jean-Francois Revel, Culture and Cuisine. All three of them are very good.

  59. DKL
    April 23, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    Nate, fair enough. Silly, popularized versions of any philosophy or idea can prompt semi-serious or sometimes even serious responses — even (gasp!) positivism.

  60. April 23, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Rosalynde, your defense of Charlotte Simmons is enough to make me put it on my to-read list. My failure to read it thus far, given my affection (if less than complete satisfaction) with Wolfe’s other novels, is entirely a product of its critical reception: it seemed as though all the people who had set themselves up as fans of Wolfe’s fiction were in love with it, and all those who hadn’t hated it, and there was nothing going on in between. And Wolfe himself, in interviews, seemed to play up that division. The idea of spending a week or so wading through a story that had already surrendered itself to the culture wars didn’t interest me. But I probably shouldn’t let a book’s reputation guide me so much.

    Jim: a food reading list, and nothing by M.F.K. Fisher? With Bold Knife and Fork is very good. Also, are you familiar with the food journalism of Michael Pollan? His recent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, may be more political than you’re looking for, but it’s a tremendously insightful study of how we value (or don’t value) where our food comes from all the same.

  61. April 24, 2007 at 12:30 am

    Russell: You’re right, I should have included some things from Fisher. Her work is very good. I was thinking primarily of things more recent, though some of the things I recommended overlap with her later work. So, I bow my head in apology. Certainly, if you’re interested in writing about food, you should read M.F.K Fisher’s work, perhaps How to Cook a Wolf as well as With Bod Fork and Knife. I am embarrassed to say that I’ve yet to read Pollan’s work. I’ve heard him talk about it, however, and I’m interested.

  62. April 24, 2007 at 1:00 am

    Thanks for all the great recommendations Jim, Bill and Russell.

    Spice is the only one of those that was already on my list.

    My favorite part of Heat is where Buford apprentices with a Tuscan butcher. I’m sad to say that it reminded me that I have had very little meat with real flavor to it since my family moved away from Kanab when I was 12. There was some great butchery and charceuterie (splg?) to be found there. Or perhaps that’s just nostalgia, but still –my highlight meat moments list is dominated by Kanab.

    Of course, Romania holds a few places on both the highlights and lowlights lists.

  63. Adam Greenwood
    April 24, 2007 at 1:11 am

    so hang on to the “boys with breasts” scene at the gym (I am shocked! shocked!! that Adam would remember that)

    ??? The workout scene is where the developer meets with his bankers.

  64. mlu
    April 24, 2007 at 1:33 am

    William Morris: I have a pair of $49 noise-cancelling headphones I wear to listen to audio books while I mow my lawn (and that I used to use on small, noisy airplanes). I can’t make out podcasts with regular headphones, but things are quite clear with these. (I also have a two-hour a day commute, but I need to drive so I can’t read, and I’ve found a subscription to invaluable. I listen to more books than I read these days, and like other things, I get better at it with practice. Quite often now I’m sorry when I get to work or get home because I’m enjoying the time so much. I’ve considered looking for a job another hour or so away).

    The last time I “read” the Book of Mormon, I actually listened to it sitting at home in my office in the evenings. I highly recommend the experience. From time to time, it seemed quite like having an angel come to my chambers and speak. . .

  65. MikeInWeHo
    April 24, 2007 at 1:45 am

    mlu: What kind of headphones? Brand?

  66. Bill MacKinnon
    April 24, 2007 at 6:03 am

    The comment by mlu (#65) about “reading” the Book of Mormon via an audio tape or CD was wonderful for its final phrase (“like having an angel come to my chambers and speak”) and a bit startling. Perhaps surprising to you, I hadn’t thought of something like BoM being recorded. I suppose that means that The Bible is thusly available too. Mlu, who was the reader, do you recall? I’ve been thinking about which mere mortal would be appropriate for such a difficult reading. Who would you cast for such a role? As I’ve thought about such an ssignment several names come to mind:
    **Elder Richard L. Evans, who for forty-one years did “The Music and the Spoken Word” on Sunday mornings over CBS-Radio from “The Crossroads of the West.”
    **Alexander Scourby, who did the narration for the 1950s TV series “Victory at Sea” to the accompaniment of Richard Rogers’ music of the same title and archival film footage from the U.S. Navy.
    **David McCullough, whose voice quality and cadence makes a rendering of your local telephone directory captivating.
    For different reasons it probably should not be the late Shelby Foote (whose cameo appearances and voice-over for Ric Burns’ “Civil War” TV series was wonderful but prompted one admirer to describe his Mississippi-rich voice as “like warm sorghum”) or whomever the funereal, conspiratoral guy is that narrates next Monday’s PBS “Frontline” segment titled “The Mormons.”

  67. Bill MacKinnon
    April 24, 2007 at 7:04 am

    For vacation reading or that while rail commuting/flying, I recommend for your consideration J.R. Moehringer’s new (2006) best-seller “The Tender Bar, A Memoir.” In this case “bar” means not barrier/hurdle or marine obstacle but tavern. It’s a little unusual for someone in his Thirties to be writing a memoir so early in life, and for the focal point to be a neighborhood watering hole, but this is a non-fiction coming-of-age story by a fatherless lad in a very unusual community, Manhasset — a suburb on Long Island’s north shore that is still home to a rich stew of Wall Street commuters, commercial fishermen, and a sizeable delegation from New York State’s large Italian and Irish ethnic population. (Even the troops of my air squadron perched atop an estate’s hill in the neighboring coastal town of Roslyn or the staffers enjoying the Soviet Embassy’s weekend retreat in nearby Glen Cove before the USSR imploded knew that Manhasset was the “East Egg” in Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”) Why would adherents to the Word of Wisdom want to read a memoir about a kid who replaced the gaps in his family life with the refuge, companionship, and community he found in a tavern called “Dickens” and then “Publicans” ? I think the answer is that it is a chance to better understand a world in which most of you will never spend time yet one in which a large slice of the American population (which you are trying to influence for religious reasons) does. (As we’ve read elsewhere in T&S, a lot of people who did not serve during WWII and never will be in military uniform are drawn to Vonnegut’s “Slaughter House Five” just as a lot of non-Kansans and non-murderers read Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”) Aside from matters of alcohol, this is a wonderful story not unlike Hemingway’s Nick Adams tales, although the era and setting are very different. This is NOT a depressing, sordid tale of bleary-eyed low-lifes of the sort drapped over the Albany bar ad naseum in William Kennedy’s “Bar-Fly.” In addition, “The Tender Bar” has the best writing I’ve encountered since Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men” and its Louisiana-soaked tale of Willie Stark and Jack Burden, Student of History. The author, J.R. Moehringer, found himself at “Dickens,” somehow went to Yale, grew up, gave up alcohol, and became a Pulitzer Prize-winner for the L.A. “Times” in Denver after an apprenticeship with the “Rocky Mountain News.” This background shows in extraordinary writing in a very unlikely book, especially for a potential LDS readership. Some of my early lessons in life were learned on snowy Friday nights as I — a teenager afoot soon after WWII — forayed into Joe’s Rainbow Grill (my twin brother was my “companion”), a tavern on Schenectady, New York’s Eastern Avenue in a not-always-successful attempt to collect from our paper route customers. Joe’s tough industrial flavor was a definite cut beneath Moehringer’s “Dickens” (the President of the NYSE and Long Island lobstermen did not lounge there), but I saw enough then to know now a good read when I encounter one about this thinly-populated genre. Tellingly, the cocktail dubbed a “Manhasset” is the same thing as a “Manhattan,” but with more alcohol.

  68. April 24, 2007 at 9:52 am

    I haven’t read Michael Pollan, but my crunchy-con wife is a big fan, and she has read me big chunks of both The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire. One of my all time favorite lines is from BofD:

    “Agriculture is something that the grasses have done to us to get rid of the trees.”

  69. April 24, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Heather’s a crunchy-con, and yet you mock Wendell Berry?! There’s a recipe for marriage trouble right there.

    (Tell Heather that Melissa’s running a discussion of Dreher’s Crunchy Cons tonight at the ward’s book group…she and I are pretty curious about how it’ll go over.)

  70. Mark B.
    April 24, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Oops. Different workout.

  71. Bill
    April 24, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Jim F., Thanks for the list.

    The one in that list that I’ve read is Flandrin and Montanari’s A Culinary History of Food, a giant tome more likely to be occasionally dipped into for interesting facts than read straight through. It was interesting to learn for example that in the Middle Ages, many mountain communities in Italy depended on chestnuts for sustenance for large portions of the year. The whole book is strewn with similarly fascinating items.

    Charlemagne’s Tablecloth, a book on feasting and ceremonial meals had an interesting discussion of sin-eaters, a practice with which I was not familiar. Apparently, these were outcasts who, until quite recently (19th cent.), would be paid by the family of a dying person to take the sins of the dying unto themselves through a ritual of eating and drinking at the bedside.

  72. mlu
    April 24, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    MikeInWeHoIt was just a Sony I picked up at Best Buy for less than $50. Most audio stores would have “noise cancelling” headphones. Bose makes better ones but I’ve never listened to them because I want to be satisfied with what I have, and I am.

    Bill MacKinnonI downloaded recordings of all the general works from the Church website. They are there in MP3 format, and I like the recordings–a rather neutral and not too expressive voice, but clean and simple. Here’s the main download page:,18615,5249-1,00.html

  73. April 24, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    RAF: I don’t mock Wendell Barry. I love his poetry. I just think that he is wrong. I am just your typical garden-loving free market wacko. Heather is happy to have me work in the garden and not worry to much about my attitudes toward protectionism and minimum wage laws.

    We had our first garden-grown spinach salad last night with dinner. Gotta’ love Virginia.

  74. Space Chick
    April 25, 2007 at 10:53 am


    you’re supposed to check out the bookshelves BEFORE you marry, not after. Otherwise who knows what carnage might result!

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