“The Consolations of Illiteracy” by Phyllis McGinley

There are
books that one needs maturity to
enjoy just as there are books an adult
can come on too late to savor.

So wrote the poet Phyllis McGinley in her wonderful essay published by The Saturday Review in August 1953.

You can read McGinley’s delightful musings on the upside of her “bad education” here (with the tail-end of the article here, where you will need to scroll down a bit to find it).

My eternal thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Patrick Kurp, for bringing my attention to this marvelous writer – and, in particular, to this charming (and often amusing) essay of hers. Kurp provided the links to the essay at his always-excellent blog, Anecdotal Evidence.


How Much of Your Reading is Re-Reading?

Nobokov's Lectures on Literature cover

We’ve all heard about, or read about, readers who’ve repeatedly read certain books – even readers who claim to read a certain favorite at least once a year.

On the other hand, other booklovers – perhaps oversensitive to the the tragic arithmetic resulting from the “So Many Books, So Little Time” predicament of all readers – choose against reading again any book they’ve already read, regardless of how much they enjoyed reading that book the first time, or how profoundly it affected them.

Like so many other avid readers who were also writers, Vladamir Nabokov encouraged readers to spend more of their reading time revisiting certain books – usually those books that are widely considered classics.

According to Nabokov, “A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.” He beautifully explained his reasoning in his introduction to Lectures on Literature (1980). This essay is not a quick read, but it’s a persuasive one.

Read Nabokov’s essay.

Found via Patrick Kurp’s February 7, 2020 blogpost at Anecdotal Evidence

The Books Most Esteemed by Book Writers

Top Ten Books Cover ImageJ. Peter Zane, author of The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books (2007) and Remarkable Reads: Writers and Their Adventures in Reading (2004), has created a website that continues the work of publicizing the favorite books of over one hundred American and British writers.

The website includes the annotated lists from the 2007 book, as well as lists garnered from authors since then. The site also includes a master list of every title mentioned in any of the lists, a list of every author cited, a list of titles divided into categories (for example, “The Top Ten Books by Russian Authors”), and top-ten lists selected from the site’s readers.

Zane’s website – especially because each reading recommendation is annotated – could be a handy tool for booklovers wanting guidance for picking their next book, and especially for the subset of booklovers who have decided that the most rational solution to the “too many books, too little time” dilemma is to focus their reading solely on classic or at least highly-recommended titles. Although you’ll find many citations of The Usual Suspects on these writer-recommended lists, you’ll also find passionate recommendations for titles you’ve never heard of.

Mary Kalfatovic recently posted to The Committee Room blog her fascinating article about Zane’s project to gather and publish writers’ favorite titles.

Because we think Zane’s website is so potentially useful for booklovers everywhere, we’ve added a link to his site under the heading “Reading Recommendations” in our Booklover’s Toolbox.

Found via a Facebook post written by booklover (and Atlanta bookstore manager) Al Cotton

Atlanta’s Robert Burns Cottage

Did you know that the only replica of Robert Burns’ house in Scotland is located in Atlanta – and that it’s been here since 1911?

In the late 1800s, Robert Burns was a lot more popular than he is today. The Burns Club of Atlanta was the 58th such club to be established worldwide, with dozens more formed later.

Who would’ve guessed that The Burns Club of Atlanta is the city’s oldest surviving literary institution?

The “clubhouse” is located in East Atlanta’s Ormewood Park neighborhood. It’s not open to the public, but it’s still being used for the club’s monthly meetings. (Club membership is limited to a hundred people – which is as many as the clubhouse can accommodate at once.)

Another interesting factoid: the Burns Cottage was built on property bought by one of the Club’s co-founders, Joseph Jacobs – the same guy whose drug store introduced Coca-Cola to the world.

For more information about the Club and its clubhouse, you can read (among other things) Georgia Tech professor Nick Marino’s account of his December 2009 guided tour; Frank R. Shaw’s essay; the profile posted by the National Park Service (the Burns Cottage is on the U.S. Historic Register); and/or the Wikipedia entry.

The photo above was taken by Ken Alpern, who posted it to The Atlanta Time Machine.


What to Read Next?

Booklovers everywhere can find themselves vacillating between two poles: the pole called So Many Books, So Little Time – and the pole we could call Whatever Shall I Read Next That’s Going to Be As Wonderful as This Book I’ve Just Finished?

Our anxiety about finding a really good next read can cause us to forget that other readers have read – and loved – some really great books! And while there’s no accounting for taste when it comes to what you, specifically, might enjoy, another bibliophile’s fave can pan out to be one of yours.

The Internet, of course, is one source of reader recommendations. For example, you can find FlavorWire’s list of ten famous writers’ favorite books here. There are thousands of similar book lists on the Internet, which Mr. Google can help you find.

There are also plenty of books devoted to valorizing particular titles, such as the 2007 title whose cover is featured here. This book features summaries of 544 different titles cited by 125 different writers. A compilation of simiar book-recommening titles can be found sprinkled throughout the Atlanta Booklover’s Blog’s  “Books about Books” section. You don’t have to buy these books: you can borrow them from your local library.

Finally, there are databases available that try to identify books with similar locales, writing styles, time periods, etc. One of the best is NoveList, available  to anyone with an Atlanta-Fulton Public Library borrower’s card. (You’ll find a list of databases on the library system’s website.)

With all these resources – plus whatever you may have scribbled down onto (or input electronically into) your own personal TBA (To Be Read) list – we hope you’ll never have to wait too long between One Amazing Read and The Next One.

No More Printed Britannica

Most Americans have probably already learned that earlier this month Encyclopedia Britannica announced that the current printed edition of the encyclopedia will be the final one. Mr. Google will point you to a host of news articles and commentary (like this one from the blog of The New Yorker).

Britannica is neither the first nor the last familiar encyclopedia to abandon the codex for the computer. The rationale for digitizing time-sensitive reference works like encyclopedias is ever more irresistable, and it’s hard to argue with the sheer ecological argument of refusing to fell additional trees for subsequent editions of an encyclopedia that’s required numerous revisions since it was first published in (wait for it:) 1768.

Still, we felt it somehow necesssary to register here at the Booklover’s Blog this heartbreaking-if-inevitable turning point in the history of the book, if only because for many bibliophiles, perusing (in addition to referring to) Britannica is among the fondest memories of our early reading careers.

Britannica’s nostalgic value among readers (well, readers of a certain age, perhaps) is so strong that we predict that booklovers (and second-hand bookstore owners) are going to be snarfing them up from library book sales any time a public library divests itself of whatever edition it happens to own. (Lucky the booksale browser who stumbles upon a discarded set of the highly-regarded 11th (1911) edition!)

In any case, the death of the printed Britannica feel like another omen of the End of An Era (in this case, the Gutenberg one). Let us hope the marketing gods keep the licensing fees for the Britannica’s electronic versions within the range of public library budgets.

4/18/2012 Postscript: Britannica put together this nifty compilation of the media coverage of its announcement: