Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Books 2013

Two years ago, I made a short post about the books I received as gifts for Christmas. I never got to it last year, although I did note some birthday books. I wanted to do it again this year, so here goes. 

As usual, I will update this page with links to the reviews of the books as I read and write them. 

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

I read this recently (in a library edition) but lacked a nice hardback for my own library. My wife found a used one to match my already extensive collection of The World’s Best Reading editions published by Readers Digest.

2. A Sense of Life by Antoine de Saint Exupéry

Exupéry is best known for The Little Prince, which is the most read book in the French language. Oddly, I do not believe I have ever read it. I have, however, read Night Flight, a novella based in part on Exupéry’s experience as an aviator. (He would later die while flying a reconnaissance mission for the Allies in World War II.) This book is a collection of essays, and promises to be quite interesting. Also a used book find by my wife.

3. Washington Square by Henry James

Another present from my wife, who has a nose for used book deals. This is a Heritage edition boxed hardback. Probably unread. (I never cease to be amazed how many unread used books we find. It’s sad.) I first read Henry James a few years back. (My review of those novellas are here.) This book is based on a story that James heard at a dinner party.

4. Ill Met By Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss

I have wanted to read this book for some time, and was disappointed that it isn’t in our library system. This is a story that would have been considered too improbable for a novel. Except that it really happened. Moss and another officer along with a small group of Cretan partisans managed to kidnap the German general in charge of the occupation of Crete and escape to the coast where they were picked up by a vessel. (Also, bonus points for stealing the title from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.)

5. The Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal translated by Kuno Meyer

This was a gift from my sister-in-law and her husband. One of several Irish seafaring sagas that date back centuries, this was one of the sources that influenced C. S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

I am including a few books here that weren’t technically gifts, but were used book store finds during our recent vacation. Close enough ;) John Heresy is best known for Hiroshima, but he also wrote fiction. I previously reviewed A Single Pebble. I also enjoyed reading Time and Time Again and Life Sketches several years ago, before I started blogging my reading. I have no idea what this book is about, but Hersey is a consistently good writer. 

7. Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery

My wife found this one for me. I loved Barbery’s other book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. This is her first book, about a food critic (think Anton Ego in Ratatouille), who is now dying, and is still seeking for another taste epiphany. If this one is as good as the other, it should be quite enjoyable.  

8. An Editor’s Tales, Tales of All Countries (Second Series), and Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope

Okay, by now, it should be obvious that I love Anthony Trollope. Even though these books violate my usual rule of limiting myself to hardbacks (we already lack shelf space), I went ahead and bought them because they are hard to find anywhere, and cost next to nothing because they were “used.” Not “used” in the sense of being actually read or anything like that, but they had supposedly been previously owned. I am particularly interested in exploring the shorter works.

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