October 24, 2007

Drugs for the body. Books for the mind and soul.

I'm often frustrated by the lack of selection in my local book shops. Sadly, my local book shops (Borders, Barnes & Noble) are your local book shops.

"If you want proof that a cultural divide separates Europe and America," the New York Times observes, "the book business is a place to start. In the United States chain stores have largely run neighborhood bookshops out of business. Here in Germany, there are big and small bookstores seemingly on every block."

How do the Germans do it? "Germany’s book culture is sustained by an age-old practice requiring all bookstores, including German online booksellers, to sell books at fixed prices. . . . What results has helped small, quality publishers like Berenberg. But it has also — American consumers should take note — caused book prices to drop. Last year, on average, book prices fell 0.5 percent."

Although I'm not sure I agree w/ Germany's solution to this problem--price fixing--I'm jealous of its selection--Last year 94,716 new titles were published in German. In the United States, with a population nearly four times bigger, there were 172,000 titles published in 2005.

Here is a link to the full article, "German Border Threat: Cheap Books."

October 22, 2007

Now Read This

Here are two new publications worth reading:

BYU Studies special issue on Mormons and Film. Mine arrived today. It includes a 100+ page History of Mormon Cinema and an article by Terryl Givens titled "'There is Room for Both': Mormon Cinema and the Paradoxes of Mormon Culture." In this article, Givens argues that Mormon film has come into its own to a large degree because of its engagement with certain paradoxes in Mormon culture. The article is about how artistic culture is the exploration of “tensions, rather than the glib assertion or imposition of a fragile harmony.” It looks like this article explores themes similar to those in Givens' latest book People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture.

A Secular Age by Charles Taylor. In a world where blow-hard atheists (and antitheists) like Christopher Hitchins dominate the New York Times' Best Seller List, Charles Tayor is a breath or fresh air. I've put his latest offering, A Secular Age, at the top of my "To Read" list. In this book Taylor "takes up the question of what these changes mean--of what, precisely, happens when a society in which it is virtually impossible not to believe in God becomes one in which faith, even for the staunchest believer, is only one human possibility among others."

September 26, 2007

National Book Festival; Arlington Library Book Sale

Washington, DC, is great for many reasons. These are two of them: the Arlington Library Book Sale on September 28 and the National Book Festival on September 29.

September 14, 2007

Book Group: A Discussion of Grief with Lewis & Didion

As you all know, I've had trouble getting our book group off the ground. But I haven't given up. This month I invite you to join me as I read two books on grief--The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.

Grief is a timely topic for our family. I don't think feelings of grief are limited to death and dying. I believe we experience shades of grief anytime someone close to us suffers. We have seen several members of our family suffer physical afflictions lately. This has been a summer of grieving.

As Didion mentions part way through her book, "given that grief remain[s] the most general of afflictions its literature seem[s] remarkably spare." Moreover, I think grief is difficult to discuss in today's culture; we don't confront death as often, or as intimately, as did generations past. As a result, in the few instances in which I have grieved, I have often felt lost and unable to sort through my emotions. I did not understand my feelings or know whether they were normal. These books, if nothing more, helped me understand my emotions. I found comfort knowing that others felt the same things and reacted the same way.

Please join me in reading (or re-reading) The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis. I'll plan to discuss these books the first week in October.

Finally, I'd like to know who would be interested in discussing these books online and/or by phone. To discuss online, I can start a google group that would facilitate discussion by e-mail. To discuss by phone, I have researched several free or low cost conference line services. A conference line would allow us to meet monthly for 1-2 hours by phone. I'm thinking we could pick a Sunday evening. The only cost would be long distance charges associated with the call (2 to five cents per minute, per person w/ a calling card). Please let me know if you are interested in one or both of these options.

Happy Reading!!

September 13, 2007

Happy Birthday, Roald Dahl

Thanks for many hours of happy reading!!

September 04, 2007

Literary Treasures

On Sunday The Guardian published an interesting article asking 50 celebrated writers to nominate their favorite literary treasure--brilliant but underrated novels that deserve a second chance to shine.

So I asked myself, "Of the novels I've read, which would I say is the most underrated?" My answer: Dead Souls by Nicolai Gogol. Flannery O'Connor declared Gogol "necessary along with the light." I couldn't say it better.

So I ask you, "what is your favorite literary treasure?"