The Bibliophile's Adventurers Club

Exemplars of bookish delight

Category: books (page 1 of 14)

{finds, reviews, etc.}

A study in scarlet

If ever you get the chance to add this little publication to your library, you simply must do so . . .

AStudyinScarlet

For you see, Beeton’s Christmas-Annual of 1887 first introduced us to Sherlock Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle was twenty-seven when he wrote the tale (perhaps you recall this video). It would receive little more than rejection at first. Even after publication, it wasn’t the most popular. Perhaps readers of the day felt it untoward to read of murder and mayhem around the holidays; perhaps that’s why only a handful of complete copies of the Christmas Annual exist today.

Nonetheless, A Study in Scarlet went on to be published as a book in July of 1888 (Doyle’s father illustrated that version); a second edition made an appearance the following year, and an American version a year after that (1890). Of course, that’s but a start of a myriad of editions, translations, and adaptations–not to mention the countless other stories featuring Holmes and Watson.

If you’d care to read the story that started it all, you’ll find A Study in Scarlet on Project Gutenberg.

“There’s the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it.”  

— A Study in Scarlet

 

 

The Sandman series

sandman-series

Never let it be said that reading can’t catch you a man.  Now, whether or not you want to catch that man (quick, throw him back!) is another story altogether.

Mr. Neil Gaiman, despite being one of my all-time favourite authors, is going to be the death of me, as a large number of his books have been responsible for “rando” men in my life.  This particular instance was brought on by his classic graphic novel series The Sandman.

I recently shared with an acquaintance, a friend of a friend really, that I owned the entire Sandman series, all ten books.  When he expressed his desire to read them, I enthusiastically offered them up–my poor sacrificial lambs.  What can I say? I get excited whenever anyone wants to read, particularly when someone wants to read Gaiman.  When the acquaintance asked to borrow the books a few days later, I imagined a quick swap over a beer.  In reality, the speedy exchange into a gracious, though very unwelcome, sneak date over dinner (his).

But the books . . .

I feel as though they should inscribe the front of each of Gaiman’s book with the following: Aspiring authors, take heed.  Those who wonder how worlds are woven and created, watch the master at work.

Morpheus / Dream / the eponymous Sandman takes center stage in this series, accompanied by his Endless immortal siblings, as they manipulate and tool with humankind in the dream world.  Dreams permeate the waking world more often than we give them credit.  What would happen if you hid things, such as secrets, objects, treasures, in your dreams?  What if, as you dreamt, you could shape the waking world?  What if you could control everyone’s dreams? Within the world of Dreaming, Gaiman creates an entire kingdom of dreams for Morpheus to rule over and for dreamers to love, live, and kill.  There is, as often in dreams, evil and there is goodness, all mixed together.  And when we think about how broad, wide, and all encompassing this kingdom is, we get a little peek into Gaiman’s own head.

So it’s not necessarily a coincidence that Morpheus / Lord Dream looks a bit like @NeilHimself: a dark, lanky, brooding character with masses of unruly hair. Women fainting in his footsteps. Classic Gaiman.

Unfortunately, my fellow comic book borrower was neither dark, lanky, nor brooding and I wasn’t fainting at any point of the evening.  At the end of the book exchange, without thinking, I foolishly told my “date” to enjoy and maybe we could discuss the books when he was finished–to which he responded, “Yes, and we can go out for drinks again!”

Commence thumping forehead against wall.

Second chances

Northanger Abbey was the first Jane Austen novel I ever read. Or more to the point, that old, mass market paperback with a yellowed cover and yellowed pages to match was the first Jane Austen novel I ever picked up.

I made it all of ten pages, before abandoning hope.

That, I figured, was that. No more Jane Austen for me. But time wore on, and friends wore me down. Finally, I agreed to read Pride and Prejudice; it was love at first page.  I went on to read all of Austen’s novels—all except Northanger Abbey.

So imagine my dismay when my book club announced the book of July was none other than Northanger Abbey . . .

Reluctantly, I picked up a new copy; specifically, a Penguin clothbound classic so, if nothing else, I’d have a lovely cover on which to gaze.

Then I started reading.

You know, strangest thing, it wasn’t at all as I remembered it (i.e. dull).  As a matter of fact, it was nothing of the sort.

I thought it charming and witty; and found it especially amusing when she offers the following aside:

‘Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and impolitic custom, so common with novel-writers, of degrading, by their contemptuous censure, the very performances to the number of which they are themselves adding; joining with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if you accidentally takes up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it. Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another—we are an injured body.’

And let’s not forget the fact that it’s basically a parody of gothic novels—something of which I can wholeheartedly get on board.

Needless to say, if you haven’t already done so, I recommend you read Northanger Abbey. The story seems especially fitting for a chilly autumnal evening, when the sky is grey, and you’re in need of good, old fashioned entertainment.

Oh, and if you’ve got a book long abandoned, you might want to give it another try. After all, books, as in life, just might surprise you, if only given a second chance . . .

Summer 2014 books I can’t seem to get through

Summertime is full of reading lists–not that I’m complaining–but before I start in on those, I guiltily have a stack of books that have sat dusty, half-read on my nightstand for 6+ months or so.  I know, I know, there’s the whole contentious debate about whether or not you should walk away from books that you can’t seem to finish, but the three I’ve shared below are worth getting through.  Sometime.  Maybe.

Under the Dome by Stephen King: With every word, every sentence, every chapter, I admire his genius.  No wonder they turn all of his books into TV shows and movies–they practically write themselves.  You could very easily cast the stories yourself and just hand the actors the books to use as the script–easiest job in Hollywood.  Arguably, I think Stephen King is the most prolific writer of our time and his work just keeps getting better over time.  Oh my darling Stephen King, I do love you; but why does this book have to be as thick as a telephone book (remember those)?  I think I’m actually at the point where the TV show has moved along further than I am in your book.  And I’m halfway through!  I need to finish this one before spoilers start revealing themselves via TV commercials for the series.

 

A Feast for Crows (aka the 4th Game of Thrones book) by George R. R. Martin:  I find that people are typically divided in two camps on this one, either they’ve eaten up all of the GoT series as quickly as they can, or they’ve slowly lost interest during the third or fourth one despite the excitement and anticipation during the first few books of the series.  Quite frankly, the premise is getting a bit old for me.  People die, or do they?  People are lost, or are they?  People are bad, or aren’t they?  It’s all a bit much, this emotional and dramatic back-and-forth, and knowing that the series isn’t finished yet allows for multiple cycles of these ups and downs and plot twists to come.  I’m a little bit worried that by the time I get down to really finishing the books, I’ll have forgotten all the previous ones, but thank goodness for Wikipedia summaries.

 

 

The Last Lion by William Manchester and Paul Reid:  I really like this book.  Really, really like it (count them, that’s three “reallys”).  It’s the third in the trilogy biography of Winston Churchill’s life and was completed by Paul Reid, as the original biographer William Manchester died before he could finish this last one.  This veritable tome dives into Churchill’s life in detail during WWII and despite all of us knowing what ends up happening (the pitfalls of historical nonfiction), it still kept me riveted.  That is, until the Allies won the war.  The last 50 pages of this book have been sitting on a bookshelf for approximately a year waiting for me to get through.  I loved reading about Churchill: the bulldog, Churchill: the obstinate, Churchill: the master and commander throughout the war and the London Blitz.  But after that bit, the rest of the book is about Churchill: the old man with failing health and politician.  I really owe it to the novel and to history to finish this one up properly–but how/where to find the motivation?

And yourself? What books do you find yourself unable to finish?

In retrospect: Father Brown

FatherBrown

I’ve long been a fan of G.K. Chesterton. His wit, for one. Perhaps you heard of the time, during WWI, when a lady asked why he was not on the Front. His response: “If you go round to the side, you will see that I am.”

Truly, what’s not the love?

Of course, in terms of literature, I’m most familiar with his apologetics. As a matter of fact, I was only introduced to Father Brown, recently. If you’re like me, and the name rings no bells, let me turn around and introduce you . . .

Father Brown is short, rather stumpy fellow–a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. He’s humble, not the least bit remarkable. He blends quite nicely into the background, which serves him well when it comes to solving mysteries.

Now, if you’re asking how a priest could possibly make a good detective, he would answer, much like he did in The Blue Cross: “Has it never struck you that a man who does next to nothing but hear men’s real sins is not likely to be wholly unaware of human evil?” With an intimate knowledge of man’s heart and mind, he may be the greatest detective of them all.

Of course, unlike Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown relies on reasoning, rather than scientific inquiry. On more than one occasion, he slips off with the criminal to, presumably, hear his confession, though it’s never explicitly expressed as such.

The stories, in their own right, are delightful; but they’re made all the better with Chesterton’s strong writing style . . . proving even mysteries can be literary. Add to that the short story format, and you’ve got perfect reading for lazy summer days . . .

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